family and child The naming of a child in Ewe/Fon/Mina, culture is one of the most important social and spiritual events, that mark the beginning of a child's destiny here on Earth. From the moment of conception, when the mother-to-be first discovers that she is pregnant, all significant events surrounding and affecting her life and the life of her unborn child begins to take on a much greater significance.

          From the tending to daily chores, to how she is approached (and by whom) in the market, to walking to fetch water, are of great significance--for these seemingly innocuous activities and daily interactions reveal, (however subtle), the "Se" (soul/spirit) of the unborn child, and offers a glimmer of the personality, and even the ancestor who might be accompanying the child at birth.

          To mark these important events, names are given to the child at birth. For example, name are automatically attributed to a child based on the weekday1 that they are born. The child is also examined very carefully for hints of the dzoto (ancestral soul) that might be with him/her at birth. It is known in Ewe cosmology, that all children are born accompanied by an ancestor whose job it is to assist the new soul to accomplish their primary destiny her on Earth. From this sacred knowledge, the child is then told which foods it must avoid eating, and is given amulets to carry about their arm, neck, and hip, so that the spirits do not disturb him/her.

          The newborn child is also examined for how they exit the mother's womb. Once born, they are then examined carefully for birthmarks, any malformations of limbs, their body size, etc., and even to how they cry (or don't). All of these signs taken together, will determine the nature of the child's personality and Se, thus, revealing some hint at their future destiny, not only in the family, but also in the greater Traditional Extended Family Unit.

          Names also automatically bestowed based on what order of birth a child might be born. For example, a boy who is born third in the family is called "Mensah", or "Anani" if they are birth fifth in the family. A girl might be named "Mania" or "Masa" if forth, or "Mansa Abla".

          All children are also given names of a particular Vodou that might accompanied them at birth, or whose nature they most resemble. Children too who are born under exceptional circumstances are also named after a certain Vodou. For example, children born with malformed limbs, visual impairments, shortness of normal size, etc., are named "Tohosou", the ancient ancestral spirits of Dahomey.

          Children born under unusual or simply humorous circumstances, might also be name according those circumstances. For example, A if a mother goes into labor on the road, on her way to the market, if a boy, he might be named "Alifoe" (man of the way), or "Alipossi " if a girl.

          Additionally, a boy whose father has died before he is born, might be named "Apedo" (the house is empty), or "Apedomessi" for a girl. (apeto meaning "breadwinner") Also, if he is the last born, he might be named "Agosu", and "Agosa" (Agosi, Agosivi) if a girl.

          If a child is born to exceptionally poor parents he might be called " Lavagnon" ( things will get better) or, "Agbesi" (between the hands of God), or "Agbebavi" ( is for life that we cry) . Childern who are born with a propensity to attract negative spirits might be called "Abalo" or "Aboki" ( move away the bad spirits).

          Finally, once the child is presented to the Bokono, he is then presented with the name of the spirit (family totem) of his blood lineage.2 Traditionally, in Ewe culture, it is the grandmother or grandfather who bestows the name upon the child, but today anyone who might feel inspired may do so.

          Just as in African-American culture today, (where more than 3 million Ewe were brought), though the spiritual tradition of naming ancestors and divinities was suppressed, the general tradition of attributing names of children to unusual circumstances, days of the week, the child's personality etc., still remains.

          Included in this ongoing page, will be listings of various examples of some of the sacred names bestowed upon the a child during key developmental stages of their lives, and their spiritual significance (if applicable).

          Please return for periodic updates!

          Names of Ewe Male & Female Children According to Day of Week of Birth.1

          Ewe Name
          (day of Week)
          English NameName for MalesName for Females

          Exmples of Ewe Initiation Names of the Vodou2

          Name of VodouInitiation name for MalesInitiation Names for Female
          AgeAgeklu Akesi(vi)

          ©Mama Zogbé. All Rights Reserve

          1. Reference: Riviere, Claude: Mythes Et Rites De La Naissance Chez Les Eve. Annales de L'Universite Du Benin. Traditions Togolaises, No. Special 1979.

          2. Photo by Swayne Hall