Women as Diviners

By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Burkina FasoCôte d’Ivoire, and MaliSenufo peoples

Figure

Wood

H. 39.37 cm (15 1/2")

The University of Iowa Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection, X1986.378

The fact that Sandogo is a women’s society does not prevent men from becoming members.  In certain circumstances, as when there are no female children to inherit a deceased diviner’s role, a male will be permitted to participate in the society (Glaze 1981).  The need to have every family represented in the society is greater than the taboo that forbids male membership. Although not all members of the society exhibit enough skill to actually practice divination, they are all taught the basics, and the social controls, which they may all exert, are connected to their roles as diviners and contact with the spirit world.  Understanding the role of the diviner in Africa, then, is more than understanding local methods of healing, it is an essential means of comprehending how social order is maintained and government is validated.