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Some are history. Sorry some places. Sorry some places. The forbidden name of Whedon's day a program on the serious ways of mankind presented under the supervision of water meant anthropologist of the University of California Los Angeles by the National Association of educational broadcasters a series designed to show how human beings live together in different times and places. The forbidden name of Whedon's day is one of a series of six programmes prepared to show you how the universal problems of law and justice are met by different people throughout the world. In this case the kingdom of the Ashanti on the Gold
Coast of Africa the forbidden name of Whedon's day. Not all of these things happened many years ago when we Ashanti were still lords of the Gold Coast of Africa. Our people lived in the great forests and beside the rivers and on the plains and hunted the elephant in the envelope on the great black water buffalo. And we planted gams and plant Danes and cultivated the land all the land was made into territories. And whatever territory the people had placed the chief who set on the stew with the stools of his ancestors behind him and dispensed even handed justice praising some one blaming others ordering some to pay and others to be killed. The spirit of the Ashanti was strong in those days and riposte in the Golden Stool of Kamaishi where the king of Ashanti Lord of all the chiefs gave justice over all the land in those days when to be a chief in a shanty was to be a great man with power over his people. I was one of the spokesman for the chief of as I'm a god the captain of the left wing. When the Ashanti
march to battle. It was the duty of myself and of other court officials to conduct the hearing of trials even at the moment of which I speak. In the town of COIE who a quarrel had begun. Greetings my uncle. Reaching his nephew. I hope I see you happy. Not so uncle. I have a quarrel with this bad man pin a man when a man is a very proud man. The monkey struts about like a conceited man but its bottom is scarlet all the same. Well then what has been a man done to you. He has told tales about me has he. This is a very shameful thing to do. Nobody should tell tales about a man even if they are true. And even if they do him no injury and Ashanti is not to be made the subject of gossip. What did he say. He told a friend of his that I kept gold dust in a pot in my hot. Now everybody knows that's the way news spreads. Friend Friend I will tell you a secret. Therefore I came to you my uncle as head of our family to help me settle the injury that Penniman has done to me. If he were a boy he would be flogged for telling tales. But for a grown
man the proper punishment for a medlar is ridicule. His face should be smeared with charcoal. He should hold a live chicken between his teeth and march through the town beating on a guard pin a man will not consent to this. Then perhaps he will pay some money Uncle I have been done a wrong. Something must be done. Very well. We will make ready and you and I will go and call on the man. Now it is not for nothing that we call ourselves the Ashanti porcupines. And Shanti is a proud and upright man and it is dangerous to touch him. He is entitled to be private if he wishes but it is a serious matter to tell something about another man. When our chiefs are placed on this story they swear an oath not to tell things about their subjects and to us someone else's business be here right or wrong is never your business although it is sometimes proper to tell a relative. That is why the young man went to his uncle the head of his family. But how did I know all this you was the explanation is easy. The uncle came and
told us that there was a dispute between his nephew and this man. This is the situation. Now my nephew is a proud man and so is good man. Well this is a matter which could well be settled by paying a looking for trouble payment. True but I am afraid one of these hearty young men will swear an oath and then things will be different. Therefore I come to ask the chief to send a representative along with me in case there is trouble. A wise idea go in and see the chief. He was sitting in his house. Thank you I will do so. Now in the old days it was a terrible thing to swear an oath to mention one of the forbidden words. Every family had its own forbidden word. Very often it was the day in which a great disaster had befallen sometime in the past. But when the forbidden name had been mentioned by two quarreling men then it was no longer their private quarrel. They had broken the rule of the tribe and they were arrested and dragged before the chief judgment. Of course if a man wanted to come before the chief he could easily do so by mentioning a forbidden name. But
very often in the heat of a quarrel a man might swear an oath that he did not really mean. Then he was in trouble unless the chief had sent his representative for the representative could close his eyes if he was paid the proper fee and then he knew nothing about the old. And of course if the Chiefs representative knew nothing about the oath then nobody knew about it. You will see what happened when these two began to quarrel for the chief agreed to send me along as his representative. Now Kinnaman You see I have come to see you. I see you have come and I see others with you. To what do I own this visit to dispute this man is the spokesman of the chief. Greetings been a man greeting spokesman and this is my nephew buddy now who has something to relate to your charge. Why is he interfering with me. Let him keep to his own family. When a bird has a long bear it uses it for eating on its own side of the river not for stretching across the water and interfering with others o rooster leave off being puffed up with pride remember your mother was only an egg shell. Let there be peace now. What have you to say that this man has done. He
told a story about me. Was it true what does that mean. You are not a relative of mine. My business is not your business. You have no right to tell anybody anything about me no matter how true it is. And this is not the first time Penniman has done this sort of thing. He has a bad reputation as a child he was flogged for telling the stories about people but the flogging did him no good. When the rain beats on a leopard It wets him but it does not wash off his spots now hear me. All this is force take a thousand years to go a journey. Yet he who speaks the truth follows him over takes him in a day. What am I supposed to have said about you that I had some gold dust in a pot in my heart. That seems a very miserly thing to do. No wonder your wives complain that you are far too careful of your money. Be careful young man when you place your tongue in pawn you cannot redeem. I can watch my own tongue old man the elephant can walk whichever way he wants not after the elephant comes a greater animal the hunter listen to me all of you for this is the truth. Now I am really going to speak the truth says the monkey. This is too much. I speak the great forbidden. Name of
Wednesday that I did not tell tales about her and I don't think of her the name of Wendy that you did over my eyes cover my eyes cover my eyes. Service this is headstrong and foolish. It is very lucky for you that the Chiefs representative is here that his eyes may be covered and this oath you have sworn not have effect. Which of you really wishes to go before the chief with this matter spending much money and perhaps one of you paying for it with his life. A spokesman of the chief here is the proper sum of money for the closing of your eyes so that it is as if the forbidden name had not been spoken. Then there's the proper SOP. I heard no big name. Later we will settle who is to pay this money for this too will become part of the dispute. Now let us begin again more reasonably. Both of you are wise young men and you have shown as you are able to quote many proverbs in support of your views and to show what you think of your opponent. But let us argue this dispute like men and not
like beasts. For many hours the young girl tried to reach a wise solution of this difficulty. Truly it is said but the words of a wise man are better than charms or amulets. And I did my best to help in the matter. But the evening drew in at last and since they both seem to learn the lesson about swearing an oath I returned to my chief's house and went before the chief bending my right shoulder and standing on my sandals as a mark of respect. Greetings my spokesman. Greetings Grand Chief I have a turn from this quarter. Did you return with payment. The one who was accused of telling the tale mentioned a forbidden name and the other one responded to the oath. The money was then paid to close my eyes. Unities I laid before you all of it. Deducting nothing except the part that is my right for treasurer to take this money although those who live by court fees are often anxious for disputes to be brought into the court of the chief and even into the court of the king of Ashanti. The wise
men will think it good that men should settle in private quarrels between themselves without bringing them before all the tribe and causing heavy judgement to fall but the next morning I was very surprised to see the old uncle standing before the chief's house on the one hand his nephew body and on the other the young men pinned a man. Greeting spokesman of the chief brought the young man here. We talked late into the evening after you left. Then tempers grew hot once more and the great forbidden word was spoken and responded to. I was there to hear it. And therefore as is my duty I wrested them and bring them before the chief. They have sworn the oath and made this a public trial. I claim the fee that they must pay me for acting as their jailer I will cause them to betray their logs at once. Why did you swear the oath again after you had once closed my eyes to it. This time it was not I who spoke the word it was boring. You spoke it. I did let the chief and his elders judge between us it is not always he who swears the oath first who is the innocent
party say we are mixing it for the ears of the chief. Both of you are now in custody on your side who arrested them. A response before that appearing before the court orders you to will begin to feel the penalty as if you had spoken the great thought didn't they. This I know and I accept it. So now by swearing the oaths the private case had become a public one. We Ashanti regarded the speaking of forbidden names as a deadly offense bringing upon the nation the wrath of encysted us it was punishable by death. Except that the innocent man would be a thank offering for being released with his life and the guilty one might if the chief permitted by a bank his life from the executioners. But you know and been a man were chained to the logs and looked after by a psycho who had arrested them for this was the law on a given day the Chief called on his elders and all his court officials. His talking drums sounded speaking their proud message in a shanty. And the
Herald repeated what the drums had said Listen to what the porcupines are saying in regard to this case of law in the Chief came forward with his stool carried behind him. He wore a special robe of mourning as a delicate reminder that the prisoners had both violated the rule against speaking the forbidden name and one of them might very possibly lose his life for it. The elephant hide was spread on the ground and his stool was placed upon it. Then the prisoners were led forward still chained to their logs and the old Uncle advanced to the chief bed his right shoulder and stood on the sender's as a sign of respect. SPOKESMAN Yes Greenstock treif tell this man to open the case again speak to the chief from the endless why we are here this morning on a certain day two or three weeks ago. This man very near my nephew brought me a private complaint against this man. We tried to settle the complaint privately but then I being present this man by Reno spoke a forbidden name and
this man responded to the forbidden name. I then arrested them and brought them here and looked after them ever since. For which I claim my fees. Tell this man he will receive his fees grandsire chief tells you that you will receive your fees. I thank you. If the hair don't call silence let the drums call silence silence. Silence. Silence. While always being made ready. I prepared to ask but do you know who first swore the oath to speak. He was not required to swear by a God that he would speak the truth. But when a man is on trial for his life he must speak as best he can. Furthermore if he swore by a god and then it was clear he was lying. The chief would want to punish him and he would not be able to do this until the God had taken his revenge. And sometimes gods are very slow in such matters. So all things considered the principals in the case were never required to say what they had to say and run no dispute the truth although they would
repeat the oath of the forbidden word since they had sworn it already anyway. Tell about me not to speak but you first spoke the great. I did then state your case. This man told a story about me. Although he is not a relative of mine. Forgive my nervousness. It is not an easy matter to speak face to face with an elder. He told people that I kept some gold in a part in my heart which was my business and not his. This was wrong. He has done it. If the statement I have spoken is not the truth and if I have made up anything then I stand to bear the penalty. But I have spoken the great forbidden name here. His words ill does now Ask been a man to speak in a manner. You responded to the great forbidden word. Yes. Then state your case. I have no wish to spread stories about a man I mind my own business. What I did as a boy has nothing to do with what I do as a man. Everything the Barina has said is force and
lies. If this statement which I make is not the truth and if I have made up anything then I stand to bear the penalty for I have spoken the forbidden name of Wednesday and I have spoken the great forbidden name here. His words elders elders hear his words. You have said that this man told people that you kept some gold in a pot in your house. Since he is not your relative he was telling things that were your business and not his business. And for this you complained against him. Well those are the words from your mouth so do I lie. Those were the words from my mouth in Amman. You have said that you have no wish to spread stories that what you did as a boy has nothing to do with what you do now. And everything Bettina said was false. Were these the words from your mouth. Do I lie. Those were the words from my mouth. Those were the words which they have spoken. Now the elders conferred with the chief. He had a very proper sense of what was
right and never questioned prisoners directly or did any of the things that a spokesman ought to do. Also since the Chiefs when asked to listen to the advice of his elders he was very careful about finding out what everybody thought before going on with the case in a moment. He had a question to us. Spokesman asked pin the man what it was that he did as a boy and why he keeps mentioning it. You know on our grand chief wishes to know what you did as a boy that you keep mentioning it. Lord I did nothing. But as a boy I was accused of telling a man that my father had called with one of his wives. So I was accused of telling tales and flogged but it was a false accusation and in reality I did nothing. Men who are on trial are much beset with these false accusations they come thronging round truly when you are suffering from poverty and happened to fall into cold water it's cold you leave for that once. Spokesman is grant it is time we had the witness ask these men if they wish to name any men as the
witness to support them but an eye witness that what you spoke is true yes. In Amman have you all witnessed when last I had an excellent witness. But since I was first imprisoned he has gone away to another place. But do you know who is your witness gets you call of qual who is the man that Jude at me for keeping golden apart in my heart saying you heard it from all lines. I ask a man if he will accept this gassy call of Chua who asked the witness to settle the truth between them. No. Jessica was known to be a friend a very nice uncle he is a friend of the other family. What he would say would not be true. He would speak under oath and I'm sure that he's not so much of a friend that he would break an oath for ballerinas sake. Very well. I accept it is here. Yeah he is not here he is at choir who where he works who is a turner of ivory tower had to be sent to fetch him here spokesman where they had to swear him by the God and the great forbidden name.
Let the Chiefs head out step forth. I am here. You want to go to the town of Corfu and bring this man to get Sico as a witness before the chief and the onus swear by the God that you will not speak about this case at the place to which you go. The tunnel I raise my hand and made the god can kill me if I talk about what I have heard speak the great forbidden name saying that of the place to which you are going the towne of Corfu. If you talk about this case so that any one should hear about it then you have violated the great name. Are you speak the great forbidden name saying that I will not talk about the case of the place to which I am going. And if I do then I stand to bear the penalty for I have spoken the great forbidden name. Then the chief adjourned the court stamping first with his left foot and then with his right hand slapping his knees as he did so.
Some are starting some pieces moving. Somewhere else or something. Somewhere sorry. Some place is moving. Right. Now although it was not sensible to swear the principals in the case. We always took great care to swear the head on and the witness when he was broke making sure that he was sworn an oath of our choosing and not his. For a man who is not wishing to tell the truth will naturally swear an oath under God who doesn't have any power or who can be propitiated or who does not even exist. But this was always circumvented. It was the court that named the oath the witness was to take and thus we could be short of truth. All these careful precautions were necessary because the whole result of the trial would rest upon
the testimony of this one man. Before the day was over the Herald returned bringing with him the C-code the witness and the chief and the elders were soon sitting on their stools once more. I have brought him here observing my oath in the meanwhile treif we are going to set the main support the foundation of the house. You made City business here this. If this man gets the clothes since he was told this to my opinion on then you are guilty. If he comes and says that he was not told the thing by pin him and then you are guilty. Agreed agreed. Let the witness be brought in. Let's see what the porcupines are saying in regard to this case up law. Is your name. Yes swearing by the god can call upon the God and swear that you will speak the truth about the matter concerning which we shall ask you. Oh I should speak what I know to be true. If I do not speak thus
truthfully make the cops kill me. This man will bear witness if he does not speak that which you know. Or if he tells lies then you must kill him. Go now speak the great puppet name saying that you will speak the truth. I speak the Great Britain name saying that I would speak the truth and if I do not let me bear the penalty. But I have spoken a great forbidden name ask him what he knows. What do you know with regard to the case between these two people. Nothing I don't know who or what is your boat. But do you know that pin a man told tales about him saying that he get gold in his heart. You told me he said so I did you tell her you know that when a man had told you a tale. No of course not but you did. Then pin the man did not tell you what you know he didn't tell me. I foretold in truth there is no deceit. I ask him if he. Could tell about the arena's go. Did you hear these men tell about but he knows gold.
Oh yes he told my brother all about it. I was sitting right beside him. Why didn't you say so what first. I have sworn sacred truths. He did not tell me. Then you should have explained I did not dare to explain or change a story in any way. I were speaking under the eye of the gods and under the penalty of the Great for PETA name this man is foolish but he knows the peril of a witness under oath. He banshees evidence then against pain and I'm you see then that you did hear opinion until they state. Yes I did. In Amman you have heard what the witness has said. Had you not come here that we might take good ears to hear your case then it would have been as if you had taken and lifted some stick unplugged all the court officials killing them as if they were a brute beasts. You give to.
An old bring white clay and sprinkle it on the back of Purina as a token that he has been acquitted. Also collect from him his thank offering fee to the stool of the chief that he be allowed to go free. After speaking the forbidden names it is the fee. Let Pinto man be taken away and let him incur the penalty. I fully enjoy myself to you and I just grandsire the justice of the cause. Pray let me buy back my head let me buy back my lines take him away let me buy back my head and it will be decided later in consultation with. And after the messenger has been sent to find out the wishes of the king of Ashanti that the trial is no end. I was very pleased that the trial it ended as it did for the spokesman of the chief is always pleased when there is no appeal from the Court of the chief or the Court of the King of their shanty. You see we are shanti thought so much about roads. But if a man wish to
appeal he could only be because of great dishonesty. Therefore he who is found guilty but wish to have his case heard again by the king of Ashanti swore the great forbidden name against the spokesman of the chief who had convicted him. Then he and the spokesman would journey before the king of Ashanti and though two might make that journey it was rare that more than one return. But in this case all was well. The man did not wish to appeal and the chief after consultation with his elders as was the law allowed him to buy his hate. Thus it was in the old days in the shanty but a private quarrel between two men of interest only to themselves might buy the swearing of the forbidden names. They made a quarrel in which the whole tribe took an interest and which was settled by the chief through the due procedure of our laws and of the people and enforced by the same authorities. For it is a noble and wise Ashanti saying when a chief is going to compel you to do something he does so by a thought at they
of the people. Now any state must have a centralized authority. Ashanti is one of many kingdoms of Africa that had a political structure like the European of a few centuries ago. There must be an orderly procedure for adjudication of disputes when they arise between men in a shanty and work like this. If a man thought himself to be wronged by another he might try to settle things himself. Demanded payment for the punishment of the offender in seeking justice in this direct way. He could get help from his family is bringing a dead. They could not resort to force. Most disputes were settled in such a manner by a private agreement. The other way was for one of both parties to dispute to commit a crime an offense against the state of an oath for such a crime. Now it becomes the responsibility of the king through his chiefs to punish this offense against him. Anyone hearing the oath had to take the matter to the Chiefs or else himself be considered guilty of the
offense. We may view this as a legal fiction. It gives access to the courts to assure justice to a person with a proper grievance. The king's justice was a harsh one. Another legal fiction was it the guilty party had committed a crime and a sin and must be given the death penalty. In reality however he could buy back his head. That is fine appropriate to his act and if the chief of the elders did not meet our proper justice there was the privilege of an appeal to the king so that the king had ultimate responsibility for maintaining order. We may find the Ashanti legal system somewhat odd and may feel that judgments were harsh but the system contains the basic elements of any judicial system in a state. A distinction between private and public offenses. The right of citizens for a hearing before the court. The rights of appeal. Punishment of offenses. Rules of Evidence. A court sanctioned by the religious beliefs of its people.
Most important the actions of the court were taken by authority of the people of Ashanti. Dr. Walter Goldschmidt of the department of anthropology and sociology of the University of California Los Angeles has concluded the forbidden name of Whedon's day a program in the series ways of mankind. The forbidden name of Whedon's day one of six programs prepared to show you how the universal problems of law and justice are met by different people throughout the world. It was written by Lester Sinclair and produced by Andrew Allen in the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Toronto. Dr. E. Adamson Holbrooke professor of anthropology at the University of Utah is special consultant for the series on Law and Justice. These programs are presented by the National Association of educational broadcasters and are made possible under a grant from the fund for adult education. An independent organization established by the Ford Foundation.
Ways of mankind II
Forbidden name of Wednesday
Producing Organization
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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This program, "The Forbidden Name of Wednesday," focuses on the Ashanti tribe and their concepts of law and justice.
This series is an exploration into the origin and development of cultures, customs and folkways in various parts of the world. The second series of Ways Of Mankind is concerned with a specific subject area and with two specific cultures.
Ashanti (African people)--History
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Funder: Fund for Adult Education (U.S.)
Producer: Allan, Andrew, 1907-1974
Producing Organization: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Sarrel, Philip M., 1937-
Writer: Sinclair, Lister
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 53-36-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:28
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Chicago: “Ways of mankind II; Forbidden name of Wednesday,” 1964-04-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 23, 2021,
MLA: “Ways of mankind II; Forbidden name of Wednesday.” 1964-04-11. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 23, 2021. <>.
APA: Ways of mankind II; Forbidden name of Wednesday. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from