Overlooking the Southern portion of the Koforidua township is the Obuotabiri Mountain, which is one of the highest peaks forming the Akuapem-Kwahu scarp.
Apart from its magnificence, which attracts both residents of the town and outsiders, the Obuotabiri Mountain also serves as the spiritual hub of the residents, especially the New Juaben Paramountcy.
This is because there is a shrine — the Obuotabiri deity on top of the mountain.
In view of that, the people, under the guidance of the paramount chief and the sub-chiefs, visit the shrine at specific periods of the year to consult and pay homage to the deity and its priestess, popularly known in local parlance as Obuotabiri Komfo (Obuotabiri Priestess).
The Obuotabiri Shrine hitherto belonged to the Akyems, before the migration of the people of Old Juaben in Asanteman to their present location in Koforidua due to a civil war.
The Akyems allowed the migrating Asantes to settle on their land, starting from Suhyen in the north to Koforidua in the south, which is now the New Juaben Municipality of the Eastern Region.
The New Juaben area is made up of towns such as Suhyen, Jumapo, Oyoko, Asokore, Akwadum, Effiduase and Koforidua, the biggest township, which is now the headquarters of the paramountcy, as well as the capital of the region and the municipality.
Upon their arrival from Asanteman, the Juaben people, according to history, took over the administration of the Obuotabiri Shrine since they believed that it could offer them protection and guidance.
They sought protection during the numerous inter-tribal wars and to also ward off any attempt by their compatriots from the Asanteman army pursuing them after they had fled from Old Juaben.
The new settlers took over the worship of the Obuotabiri deity because the Akyems (those from Kukurantumi) led by their then-chief, Nana Kwasi Obrantie, seemed to have abandoned the shrine.
According to the Aseniehene of New Juaben, Nana Yaw Annor Boateng II, a historian who also maintains law and order at the Yiadom Hwedie Palace, the traditional headquarters of New Juaben, the name Obuotabiri consists of two parts, Obuo, a rock and Tabiri meaning to carry.
He said it, therefore, connoted that the rock was being carried on the mountain.
“Tabiri in Akan means to carry and so the deity carries the mountain.
Our people also call it rocks and the deity Tabiri.
“The Obuo (the rock) depicts the physical nature of the deity,” Nana Boateng told the Daily Graphic.
He said apart from the imposing nature of the mountain, the people believed that mountains were deities and that spirits resided in them.
Nana Boateng said the people, therefore, communed with God through the deities.
One could, therefore, consult the deity on the mountain because they were on the mountain and closer to the sky, which is considered to be the habitat of God.
“In the olden days when going to a battle in time of calamity and epidemic, the people had to consult the deities, so they are special because they can determine the turn of events, either in a joyful or sorrowful manner,” Nana Boateng stated.
He said apart from that, the people believed that the Obuotabiri deity had the power to make barren women bring forth, as well as cure diseases, which according to them were not caused by God.
According to an indigene, Kofi Mensah, he had been married for 20 years without a child but after consulting the Obuotabiri deity his wife conceived and had a baby boy he named Okyere Mensah.
Another resident, Margaret Ansah, said she had been married for 15 years without a child and was only fortunate to have a baby girl she named Beatrice Ansah, after consulting the deity.
Good harvests, Nana Boateng indicated, could also be attributed to the Obuotabiri deity; as such, the people —who were mostly farmers — visited the shrine during farming periods for guidance and blessings.
He said as the people’s wishes were granted any time they visit, they do not joke with Obuotabiri to the present day with Afia Tabiri as the priestess.
In view of that, Nana Boateng said on the last Friday of each year known as Fofie, the people are led by the chiefs to climb the mountain to perform rituals, such as the sacrifice of fowls to the deity.
He noted that on such occasions no woman was allowed to be part of the journey to the top of the mountain.
Corroborating Nana Boateng’s assertion, a farmer, Opanin Kwadwo Boateng, said he was blessed with a good harvest on his 15-acre maize farm after two years of poor harvest after consulting the deity for guidance.