I was yesterday in Otwereso, a community near Akim Oda in the Eastern Region, to sympathize with a brother who had lost a father, a native of that area, but on the sidelines, I witnessed a very fascinating scene. A section of the Kwaniakwa stream just close by the community has been declared since time immemorial as a taboo for man to fish from since a particular catfish and its descendants are considered the gods of the stream.
Curious as I was, I went to the stream to have a glimpse of this magnificent catfish, that I was told, even has a golden ornament on its head, but without my shoes, a normal practice, because of the reverence the natives have for the fishes in that part of the Kwaniakwa stream. I was even fortunate to have a few photo shots of the fat and healthy catfishes.
Though I did not see this much talked about magnificent catfish because it usually came out for public viewing on special occasions and under the persuasion of the fetish priest of the river god, I was extremely satisfied with the spectacle of the other catfishes, supposed descendants of the giant catfish, I saw. Looking at the shallow nature of the stream compared with the number and sizes of these catfishes, you cannot but just agree that the catfishes have some mystical connotation.
However, upon further probing of the natives and other frequent visitors to that spot of the stream, it was revealed that in the other parts of this same stream, just meters away, that it is not a taboo to fish, one hardly finds even fingerlings of catfish.
The questions then are: Is it true that there is a mystical gigantic great-grandparent catfish with gold on the head that produces these catfishes? On the other hand, are these fat and healthy catfishes in this shallow stream always readily available for viewing by visitors because their natural habitat has not been destroyed and that they are not disturbed by the destructive activities by man through fishing? Could it be also that the ancestors of this community just used this taboo as a covert conservational measure to preserve the ecology, specifically, the natural habitat of these catfishes for posterity?
Examples of this taboo abound in many of our rural communities, especially, where Christianity is not pervasive. Most Christians in their quest for spiritual salvation abhor taboos. Nevertheless, are we not supposed to practise the Christian precepts that would lead us to the spiritual salvation in this physical world? If the ecology is totally destroyed by the actions and inactions of man, certainly, man would meet his hell on earth before meeting the creator.
Taboos were the sciences of the times of our ancestor to preserve the world for our generation. If we abhor them today because of our spiritual believes, then we should as a matter of urgency, device other universal conservational means to preserve the little left after strangulating the earth’s ecology with our greed so that posterity would not curse our generation before the creator punishes us for annihilating his creation.