Only Certain Women Could Perform This Traditional African Spiritual Warfare

dancers in festive clothing
Graciella Ye’Tsunami
November 27, 2023

The Abidji women of Côte d'Ivoire were known for their mighty power. Fierce warriors, spiritual practitioners, and leaders within their community, these women commanded respect.

But they weren’t born with this power. They received it after a very specific rite of passage.

The Abidji women’s most revered were elders who had gone through menopause. Menstruation was seen as something to be done privately, away from community.  

Once menopausal, Abidji women could lead battles or initiation rites. Postmenopausal, it was believed women’s powers were stored within their wombs and vulvas, and they were living altars connected to the spirit world.

Exercising their “Female Genital Power” became a form of spiritual resistance, known as Egbiki. During Egbiki, postmenopausal women would pound the ground and dance to rid the land of bad spirits and wrongdoers

Then they would bathe their genitals and use this water to bless the land from any evil until rites of passage ceremonies were completed.

Anti-Blackness has shamed menopause, pushing the narrative that women past childbearing age are no longer desirable or useful to society. This is directly tied to women – and especially Black women – being defined as sexual & reproductive objects throughout history.

Our bodies are powerful and worthy of love at all stages. 

Like the Abidji women, let's celebrate them knowing we embody ancestral wisdom.

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