Rape-- Forced sexual intercourse, common in many trokosi shrines. Priests and shrine elders alike regularly force themselves on trokosi slaves, claiming to be representatives of the gods. The priests take no responsibility for the children born as a result of this practice.
Reasons for servitude -- Shrine slaves (trokosi, vudusi) are taken into servitude for several reasons. The most common is that some male in the family is accused of an offense and it is believed that a female virgin of tender age is needed to atone for the alleged crime. Other reasons include: 1. sickness. If cured by the shrine, the girl must become a slave of the gods. If she desists, it is believed she will lose her healing. 2. fertility. If a woman consults the shrine and later bears a child, it is believed that this child must become a slave of the gods or it will die.
Rehabilitation of Trokosi-- A process of rebuilding the broken lives of former shrine slaves. This takes place following liberation, usually with the help of NGO's or churches and includes counseling, teaching and vocational training, possibly including micro-credit.
Replacement -- The practice of taking in another trokosi whenever one dies or runs away, on the basis that every crime must continue to be atoned for until the end of time.
Rituals -- Practices by which the gods of the shrines are worshipped and invoked, including prayers, libations, animal sacrifices, incantations, specialized drumming and dancing, and spirit possession, as examples.
Ritual Servitude -- The practice of taking shrine slaves, usually to attempt atonement for the real or alleged crimes of a male family member or ancestor.
Schnapp's -- A hard liquor used in some traditional rituals as libation, or a poured-out offering to the ancestors. It is frequently required as partial payment for the services of the shrine. For instance, the Afrikania Mission has claimed that all the American Kennedy family would need is a bottle of Schnapp's, and they could easily find out who was responsible for all their family tragedies (by consulting a traditional shrine).
Secrecy -- A key element in enabling the trokosi slave system. In the past, those who experienced the horrors of the trokosi system were sworn to secrecy under penalty of death if they divulged the secrets of the shrine. Secrecy today is a big part of the opposition to the liberation of trokosi promoted by the Afrikania Mission, which commonly requires shrines to consult them before even speaking to visitors, and then regularly denies such permission. A key part of the program to abolish the practice is the breaking of secrecy and the dissemination of information for public scrutiny.
Shrine -- A place where one of the lesser gods of African traditional religion is consulted, worshipped and served. The god is usually represented by some kind of image or object in the shrine. Many shrines of African Tradtional Religion are very humble--just a little hut or even a shelter. Often there is a restrictive fence around the outside of the shrine to limit access to those willing to follow the rules supposedly set down by the god of the shrine. Further out are found the houses where the priest or priestess lives, the homes of the shrine elders, and the quarters into which the shrine slaves are crammed.
Shrine Slavery, Shrine Slaves -- Women or girls forced without their consent to serve in shrines of African Traditional Religion. They are forced to worship and serve the gods of the shrine, forced to have sex with the priest or elders of the shrine, and usually forced to endure long days of hard physical work like cultivating the fields of the priest with a hoe, yet without pay and without enjoying any of the benefits of the harvest. Also called trokosi, fiashidi, and vudusi.
Shrine Owner -- A family usually owns the idol of each shrine, often by inheritance. The shrine owner may live in another place separate from the shrine. The shrine owner is a part of the negotiation process when shrine slaves are freed.
Slaves -- Those who are forced to serve another without benefit to themselves. Former trokosi who have been liberated feel that they were used as slaves in the shrines.
Slavery, Slavery Today -- The practice of forced labor and /or confinement. Trokosi is considered a system of slavery because the victims are forced into serving the shrines and have no choice in the matter. They are forced to work for the good of the shrine while receiving no personal benefit, and are often confined to the shrine or limited to places where they are sent by the priests.
Starvation -- Withholding even the small amount of food allowed the trokosi is one of the ways in which the priests of trokosi shrines keep their slaves under control, also used as a punishment for any slight offense in the shrines. Starvation is rarely total--that is, trokosi are rarely starved to death, but it is used to the point of invoking great suffering.
Swearing Place -- A part of some traditional shrines where people invoke the help of the shrine gods to curse someone thought to have harmed them. This initiates sickness and death in the family of the one cursed and often results ultimately in a young virgin girl being given into a life of slavery at the shrine as a trokosi.
Swearing place at a traditional shrine
Temporary Release -- A technical term used to describe a condition in which a trokosi slave is given permission to leave the shrine and live apart from it under certain conditions. She is by no means free, for she still has to come whenever called and bring expensive gifts to the shrine. She can marry, but this and all other decisions of life are under the control of the shrine. While most former trokosi describe temporary release as much better than living in the shrine, most also spend their whole lives scraping together the expensive gifts required by the shrine. It is virtually impossible for a girl to get ahead on temporary release, because any profit she makes will be consumed by the shrine. Temporary relase is also a serious misnomer, for the condition lasts a lifetime or until liberation.
Togbe, Togbui -- A title of respect, literally meaning "grandfather". Commonly used in addressing traditional chiefs and priests.
Togo -- A country of West Africa between Ghana and Benin, where shrine slavery is practiced in some traditional shrines. It is called vudusi there (with many variant spellings). The vudusi of Togo have yet to be freed or even counted.
Taditional Religion -- See African Traditional Religion.
Tro -- A lesser god or idol god in the Ewe language, a god or spirit worshipped in shrines of African Traditional Religious groups. Supporters of shrine slavery say Tro is a god that adopts children. However, such "adoption" is far different from the normal sense of the word. Opponents of shrine slavery say a Tro is an idol god that demands young virgin girls as living human sacrifices to become shrine slaves in an attempt to atone for the sins of male relatives or ancestors.
Tro-Horvi Council -- composed of some but by no means all representatives of trokosi shrines, this group supports the trokosi system and opposes liberation of the slaves. See Trokosi Council
Trokosi -- The practice of involuntary ritual servitude, especially the practice of demanding young virgin girls as living sacrifices in an attempt to atone for the real or alleged misdeeds of (almost always male) relatives or ancestors. In some shrines it is also common for the shrine to cast an illness on someone and then demand payment of a girl in order to cure the illness. Still others specialize in helping women conceive, and the child so conceived is owed to the shrine. It is believed the child will die as soon as he or she stops serving the shrine.
Trokosi Abolition Fellowship --
An NGO based in Ghana that disseminates information and raises public awareness of the trokosi problem, working for its abolition.
Trokosi Council -- A group of shrines and priests, animated by the Afrikania Mission, that has proclaimed themselves to be the only true spokesmen on traditional culture relating to the trokosi issue. Any trokosi shrine that chose not to join the Council was declared by them to not be a true trokosi shrine, even though trokosi was practiced there. In reality, the council represents only a portion of trokosi shrines, and even some shrines within the group have liberated their trokosi. The council frequently publishes their highly questionable claims in Ghanaian newspapers, always speaking with a tone of assumed authority that does not hold up in reality.
Trokosi priest, priestess -- One who serves in a traditional shrine to consult the spirits by divination and to offer sacrifices to keep them appeased, such a priest who takes in human slaves called trokosi, often young virgin girls before or at the age of puberty. His sexual organs are dedicated to the gods of the shrine he serves, so to have sex with him is considered a sacred rite. Consent of the girl is not sought, and human affection is not shown during the act. Such priests do not take responsibility for the children their sexual activities generate.
A traditional priest who has freed his trokosi slaves.
Trokosi Shrine -- A traditional shrine in which ritual servitude known as trokosi is practiced.
Troxovi -- The traditional Ewe spelling or orthography for "trokosi."
Voodoo or voudou or vodun or vudu or many other variant spellings -- Refers to both the gods worshipped in traditional shrines and to the worship itself. Primarily a French word used in Togo, Benin, and Haiti. The Ghanaian Ewe equivalent for the gods is tro. In Ghanaian English they are called fetish, in Christian vocabulary, idols.
Witchcraft Pot -- A common term for the calabash (dried, hollow gourd or gourd shell) in which certain personal items are placed when a trokosi slave is initiated, in order to spiritually and psychologically bind her to the shrine. Some trokosi have burned their witchcraft pots upon liberation without any harm coming to them when it was done in the name of Jesus Christ. This was done to show that their break with the shrine is complete.
Former trokosi ready to destroy the witchcraft pot that bound her psychologically and spiritually to the shrine