Adinkra Symbols (Funeral Symbols)

Adinkra (sometimes, andinkra) symbols are the small symbolic pictures used by fabric designers in Ghana to decorate a special colorful patterned cloth . Designs are made by cutting patterns into pieces of calabash gourd, then stamping them on fabric with black ink made from iron oxide pigments.  The fabric is woven in varied colors and patterns, and used for funerals, weddings, and other special occasions. Adinkra cloth is not used for everyday purposes because it cannot be washed.

The name Adinkra comes from the legendary King conquered by the Ashante people,who, according to legend, wore luxurious patterned fabrics. Adinkra means “goodbye,” and the special cloth was reserved for funeral garments.

Adinkra fabric is now used for a variety of special occasions, and there are dozens of adinkra symbols used to impart a variety of meanings to the finished cloth. Many symbolize virtues, folk tales and proverbs, animals, and even historical events.  Most are very old, having been passed down through generations of craftsmen.

The list below shows some of the more popular symbols and their meanings. Adinkra was not developed as a divination system, but like the Celtic Ogham, it lends itself easily to the purpose.

Symbol: Name: Meaning:
Aya, fern
defiance, independence, resourcefulness
Kojo Baiden (rays)
Cosmos, omnipresence
Gya Nyame Presence of God, or “God alone” (Not, as some have suggested, “Only God can judge me”)
Fihankra, house Security, safety
Osrane ne nsoroma (Ram’s horns) Wisdom, learning, humility
Ohene (king) Foresight, wisdom
Kuntenkanten (arrogance, pride) Humility and modesty
Bin nkabi (None bite another) Do not seek revenge, avoid conflict
Krado Law, authority
Funtunfunafu (crocodiles sharing one stomach) Need for unity, working together
Gyawu (Hair of the hero Kwatakye) Valor, Respect, leadership
Akoko Nan (Chicken’s claw) Protectiveness, loving discipline
Sankofa (return and get it) Mistakes can be rectified, look to the past for solutions. Sankofa is also depicted as a backwards-looking goose.
Duafe (comb) Feminine virtue, everlasting love
Odenkyem (crocodile) Defense, protection
Adwo Peace, calmness under pressure
Akoben (war horn) Willingness to take charge
Nkyinkyim Endurance, grace under hardship
Wawa aba (Wawa seed) Overcoming barriers, movement, progression
Osrane Nsorama (Sun and moon) Marriage, fidelity, patience
Kramobone One bad makes all look bad
Pagya (flint for fire making) Bravery, striking out
Nkontim (hair of the Queen’s servant) Loyalty, Readiness to serve
Owuo Atwedee (ladder) Fate, inevitability

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Religious Symbol Dictionary |
October 7, 2009 at 2:00 pm


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Jennifer July 11, 2018 at 5:00 am

It looks like a stylized valknut of even and angular triskelion.

jersey outlaw June 6, 2012 at 8:55 pm

i am very interested in hoodoo religion. any good books to help me learn the religion in its purest form would be apprechieated.

Anonymous November 2, 2016 at 9:21 pm

Hoodoo is not a religion it is folk magic.

JACKI February 2, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Hoodoo is not a religion nor is it folk magic. It is African Spirituality with Christian influence. You will not find true Hoodoo in a book. It is Voodoo that adapted rituals from Christianity.

Anonymous December 5, 2018 at 2:02 am

Lol, research!

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