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English Dictionary) word of unknown origin and meaning applied to coloured and
variegated glass beads of ancient manufacture found buried in the ground in
W. Trade Castles and Forts of West Africa, London, 1963 (notes) see
also Lawrence, Fortified Trade Posts
T. E., Mission From Cape Coast to Ashantee 1819
wore necklaces reaching to the navel entirely of aggry beads.
A band of gold and beads encircled the knee, from which several strings
of the same depended.
King . . . wore a fillet of aggry beads around his temple,
necklace of gold cockspur shells strung by their largest ends, over his
right shoulder a silk cord, suspending 3 saphies cased in gold; his
bracelets were the richest mixture of beads and gold and his fingers
covered with rings . . . his knee bands were of aggry beads, his ancle
strings of gold ornaments of the most delicate workmanship, small drums,
sankos, stools, swords, guns and birds, clustered together. . .
When any one denies a theft, an aggry bead is placed in a small vessel,
with some water, the person holding it puts his right foot against the
right foot of the accused who invokes the power of the bead to kill if
he is guilty, and then takes it into his mouth with a Iittle of the
water, the rest being thrown on the ground, and crossed as he repeats
the invocation. Their superstition is generally superior to their
The aggry beads are found in Dankara, Akim, Warsaw, Ahanta, Fantee, the
greater number in the former being richer in gold. They are directed to
dig for them by a spiral vapour issuing from the ground and that they
rarely lie near the surface. The finder is sure of a series of good
fortunes. The plain aggry beads are blue, yellow, green or a dull red.
The variegated consist of every colour or shade.
Dr. Leyden writes: the aigris is a stone of a greenish blue colour,
supposed to be a species of jasper, small perforated pieces of which,
valued at their weight in gold, are used for money. (Bowditch had never
heard of this.) - Bowdich says this rather describes the popo beads, not
Isert writes: they are a sort of coral with inlaid work: the art of
making beads is entirely lost in these parts.
The colouring matter of the blue beads has been proved to be iron, that
of the yellow lead and antimony with a trifling quantity of copper. The
generality of these beads appears to be produced from clays coloured in
thin layers, afterwards twisted together in a spiral form and then cut
across, also of different coloured clays raked together without
blending. How the flowers and delicate patterns in the body and on the
surface of the rarer beads have been produced cannot be so well
Aggry is the generic, not the abstract name, awynnee is bead but aggry
is an exotic word no native can explain.
Thomas, A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol II, London,
wear their hair very long, curled and plaited together, or tied up to
the crown; others adjust it in small curls, smeered with palm-oil and a
sort of dye, which they order in the form of a rose, or crown; decking
it with gold toys and a kind of coral called on the coast Conta de
Terra, which they sometimes value three times beyond the finest gold.
They use also for ornament a sort of blue coral, called by the Europeans
Agriee (note: Aygris stone, mentioned before) and by the blacks Akkerri,
which is brought from Bernin, and when of any bigness is prized equal
with gold, and sold for weight.
Their necks, arms and legs they adorn with strings of the finest sorts
of Venice Bugle, intermixed with gold and the Conta de Terra, or Agrie
coral aforementioned. They wear them so thick about their waist, that
their nakedness would be sufficiently covered thereby, if they wore no
clothes, and the rather, because they always have a garter or girdle.
Some of these chains or strings are worth above an hundred pound.
Villault says they wear necklaces and bracelets of beads, beautified
with small works of gold, in honour of their fetish and consecrated with
certain prayers. They wear strings or jewels on the small of their legs,
or else a string of coral, or the bark of the tree sacred to their
Asante and Its Neighbours, 1700-1807, Longman 1971
included the aggrey beads of parti-coloured stone ('coral') from Cameroons
called coris from Benin (blue, green and black stones)
(not found in
Oxford English Dictionary)
Thomas, A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels, Vol II, London, 1745
is a sort of glass beads of different sizes made at Venice and so called for
their being striped with different colours on a white or black ground. The
Negroes use them to tie about their childrens waist till they arrive at a
beads serve them for bracelets, necklaces and other ornaments and are in