After study in England, he served as a Primitive Methodist missionary for a short time in Basutoland modern Lesotho , and then from to in Northern Rhodesia modern Zambia among the Baila-Batonga. In he returned to England, eventually putting his linguistic abilities to work at the British and Foreign Bible Society, first as an agent in Italy, and later by giving editorial supervision to Scripture translations in many languages. He published several scholarly works on the Ila language, most notably his Handbook of the Ila Language , which for 50 years was considered the standard, and The Ila-speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia He also played a principal role in the translation of the New Testament. Smith was an outstanding anthropologist, and his publications and lectures led to his becoming president of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland in and to serving from to as editor of Africa, the journal of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures now the International African Institute. Indigenous African religious beliefs were little understood until Smith demonstrated through The Secret of the African and African Belief and Christian Faith that the whole life of the African people was permeated by religion.

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According to oral tradition, Okomfo Anokye, a High Priest and one of the two founders of the Ashanti Confederacy, conjured the Golden Stool, decorated with golden bells, and caused it to descend from the sky where it landed at the feet of Osei Tutu I, the first Asantehene King of Ashanti.

The Stool, made of gold, stands 18 inches high, 24 inches long, and 12 inches wide. It was never allowed to touch the ground and was considered so sacred that no one was allowed to sit on it. Each new Ashante king is lowered and raised over the Golden Stool without touching it.

No one could be considered a legitimate ruler without the Golden Stool, which usually occupied its own throne next to the Asantehene. The Ashanti maintained the Golden Stool as their most prized possession. Before they went to war, their war chiefs consulted it. As time progressed and as the Ashanti scored more victories over their rivals, turning their kingdom into an empire, the Golden Stool became even more revered. The intense fighting led to the death of more than 2, Ashanti and 1, British and Allied troops.

Both totals were higher than the deaths from all previous Anglo-Ashanti wars combined. The war ended, however, after six months. Hidden by the Ashanti, it was discovered by a group of African railroad builders in They stripped it of its gold ornaments and were tried by the Ashanti and sentenced to death.

British colonial authorities intervened, however, and they were exiled from the Gold Coast Colony. After realizing the importance of the Golden Stool to the Ashanti, the British gave assurances that they would never interfere with it again. Restored to its ceremonial place, the Golden Stool continues to be used in rituals crowning the Asantehene, although he is now considered a traditional ruler without political power or influence. Nonetheless, the Golden Stool remains a cherished symbol of the former Ashanti Empire.


The golden stool



Research reveals: "Golden Stool" -- Edwin W. Smith |


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