Golden Stool of the Asante

The Golden Stool of the Asante is the throne of the ruler of the Asante kingdom and the ultimate symbol of power in Asante society. As legend has it, a high-priest late in the seventeenth-century caused the stool to descend from the sky and land on the lap of Osei Tutu, the first king of the Asante Confederacy. Thrones are symbols of rulership in many societies; they allow the ruler to sit while his subjects are forced to kneel or bow. Yet the Golden Stool of the Asante has particular powers. It embodies the spirit of the Asante people — both the living, the dead and the yet to be born. As a sacred object it may never touch the ground and must always be placed on a blanket, and it can only be handled by the ruler himself. On particularly solemn occasions the throne is itself seated on a throne.

As one would expect, the Golden Stool has been the cause of conflicts and wars. When the English colonial governor insisted that he be allowed to sit on it, it mysteriously disappeared. It was later recovered and has been used in royal ceremonies after independence. This despite the fact that the Akan, descendants of the Asante, now constitute only one, albeit the largest, of several ethnic groups in Ghana. The power of the Stool is intact and no one but the current king and his closest family and advisers, know its location. Copies of the stool are made and used for ritual occasions. Tourist can even buy cheap replicas in the market of Kumasi, the Asante capital. It makes for a nice souvenir.

External links:

History of the World in 100 Objects: “Akan drum”