The fame of Adjuah Amissah, a native of Cape Coast [modern Ghana], is still kept fresh in the memory of the natives, by the songs which they sing in honor of her death. People are still alive, who remember the great beauty which hurried her to an early grave. She became the object of a devouring passion on the part of a young man of Cape Coast. Her relations, considering that her charms authorized them to expect a better alliance, refused to admit his addresses. This rejection so preyed upon the mind of the disappointed lover, that his life became insupportable, and he determined to sacrifice himself to his passion. He resolved, however, that Adjuah Amissah’s family should dearly rue having spurned his suit, and in the spirit of an inextinguishable vengeance he shot himself, attributing his death to his unrequited love, and invoking his family to retaliate it upon his murderess.
It is the principle of the Fantee law, to visit the cause of such a calamity with a similar retribution, and when a person puts himself to death, “upon the head of another,” as they express it—that is, attributes the cause of his act to another’s conduct—that other is required to undergo a like fate. The family of the unhappy girl endeavored to avert this fate by offering to pay a large sum in gold; but nothing but her death would satisfy the vengeance of the youth’s relations, and they appealed to the native authorities to vindicate their laws. All the mercy which could be extended to Adjuah Amissah, was to allow her a few days to lament with her friends her untimely end, and to have a silver bullet put into the musket with which she was compelled to deprive herself of life. She employed the few days of respite, in singing with her young friends her farewell dirge, and completed the cruel sacrifice by shooting herself.
[#8] Fante: “Killing Oneself ‘Upon the Head of Another’: The Tragedy of Adjuah Amissah,” from Brodie Cruickshank, Eighteen Years on the Gold Coast of Africa. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1853; reprint, London, Frank Cass, 1966, vol. 2, pp. 210-212.