This article exposes the meaning behind the names of the 13 Months of the Eʋe people.
The monthly calendar of the Eʋe people is lunar as well as traditional. Among the Eʋe people, the month is referred to as “dzinu,” which means moon.
The Eʋe calendar is described as traditional because it is not structured along the Julian line. In the Julian, twelve months make a year; however, the conventional Eʋe calendar has thirteen (13) months, with each month having twenty-eight (28) / except the second month, which has twenty-nine (29) days.
1 & 2: “Dzove” and “Dzodze”, are the first two months on the Eʋe calendar. The period is generally characterized by intense dryness, heat with high temperatures during the day, desiccating solid winds and cold and chilly nights. Most vegetated materials dry up and are highly combustible.
The general features of “Dzove” become intense in “Dzodze” the second month. The name “Dzodze” is a truncation of the expression “dzo dze gbe” literally meaning, ‘fire has visited grass.’
3 & 4: The third and fourth months of the Eʋe calendar are “Tedoxe” and “Afɔfiɛ”. Tedoxe, it is said, brings a lot of relief to people, animals and the generality of the environment. This is as a result of the first rains after the long hot and dry conditions of the first two months. This first rain covers those yam mounds that had been left ‘open’ from the previous harvest a situation which has informed the naming of the month as “Tedoxe”, literally meaning, and ‘yam-hole-sealed’.
The fourth month “Afɔfiɛ” produces a lot of heat that burns the bare feet of the people, hence the name “Afɔ fiɛ”.
5 & 6: The fifth and sixth months on the traditional Eʋe calendar are “Ɖame” and “Masa” respectively. These months are marked by heavy rainfall. The environment obviously responds with lush, greenery and freshness. Farmers who could not plant during the preceding third and fourth months for whatever reasons have the opportunity to do so at this time.
7 & 8: The seventh and eighth months on the calendar of the Eʋe calendar are “Siamlɔm” and “Dasiamime”. During the period, a mild famine is experienced as food is scarce. This is because crops planted in the previous months though near maturity are not ready for harvesting.
The name, “Siamlɔm” is derived from this continual process of drying and gathering whatever is dried, especially cereals. “Siamlɔm”, is a combination of two stems, siam (dry me) and lɔm (gather me).
The name “Dasiamime” (which means “put hand into oil”) is an amalgamation of “de” (put into) + “asi” (hand) + “ami” (oil) + “me” (inside). According to explanations, “Dasiamime”, has two interpretations: firstly, it is held that impatient and ‘hungry’ children inadvertently wash their hands in palm oil instead of water for meals; secondly, palm oil is used in most of the meals prepared at the time. The fingers are thus, literally constantly smeared with oil during the period.
9 & 10: “Anyɔnyɔ” and “Kele” are the ninth and tenth months. New yam is harvested in the ninth month, “Anyɔnyɔ”, and the major traditional festival of the Eʋe, Yam Festival (Tezã), is celebrated at this time. The month is characterised by incessant drizzles but it does not prevent the people from working on the farm or going to the market. A drizzle of that nature is referred to in Ewe as “nyɔnyɔ” hence the name, Anyɔnyɔ.
“Kele” which is the tenth month, on the other hand is marked by destructive storms. A special kind of shrub which the people generally refer to as “kele” grows abundantly tall and thick during this month. It is the name of this shrub that is given to the month as Kele. Harmattan is imminent and the weather conditions are not conducive for serious or major farming activities.
11: The eleventh month is referred to as “Adiemakpɔxe”. Foggy and misty conditions are the major characteristics of this month. Also, fruits are abundant and this attracts a lot of animals and birds out of their hideouts. Hunters take advantage of this situation. However, because of the poor visibility, hunters find it difficult to locate and hunt birds especially. The name, “Adiemakpɔxe”, is therefore derived from “ade” (the hunter) + “mâ” (cannot) + “kpɔ” (see) + “xe/xevi” (bird).
12: “Dzome” is the twelfth month on the Eʋe traditional calendar. In this month, no major farming activity takes place because harmattan conditions are severe. Dzome, dzo (fire) +me (inside) connotes the excessive enervating heat, biting dryness leading to the general suffering and discomfort experienced in the month. This suffering is not limited to humans alone; indeed, all creatures suffer discomfort and sometimes death.
13: The last and thirteenth month on the Eʋe calendar is called “Ƒoave”. In this last month, the conditions in Dzome, the previous month, are intensified resulting in the shedding of leaves, drying up of rivers and streams leading to scarcity of water. The harsh weather conditions literally decimate the vegetation; especially, the thick forests. The name, Ƒoave is a combination of the verb “ƒo” (to clear) + “ave” (forest).
Credit: Thanks to our sisters Gladys Akyea & Vincent Aziaku for their extensive research and insights.
Writer: Mac-Jordan Elikem Degadjor
Akpe na mi 🙏🏾 🙏🏾 🙏🏾
First published on Informed Teachers Network