Cosmologies

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

Mossi peoples, Burkina Faso, chief’s house. Photo by Christopher D. Roy.

People throughout the world are likely to conceive of their world as an ordered cosmos in an attempt to imagine a harmonious balance for human existence. The cosmology of the Voltaic peoples of Burkina Faso focuses on a series of complementary ideas and metaphors that share a dialogic existence, each one balancing out the other in an attempt to achieve order. The Mossi King (Mogho Naba) is symbolically represented by the sun and correlates his daily movement through his palace with the movement of the sun across the sky (Zahan 1961: 17). The sun and sky are also metaphors for Mossi chiefs. The segment of Mossi society known as nakomse are descendants of the conquering horsemen who invaded the region in the sixteenth century. They retain political authority in the region and in the past were responsible for collecting taxes and raising armies (Roy 1987). The nakomse lineage elder in each village is a political chief, and his compound and house are recognized as political shrines where offerings must be made.