Cosmologies

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

Winiama peoples, Burkina Faso, mask and shrine. Photo by Christopher D. Roy, 1983-5.

Only tengasoba priests are able to communicate with the ancestors, and those who are members of the nakomse segment of Mossi societies must defer religious power to them or risk the wrath of the ancestors. Angered ancestors many punish transgressors with disease, physical infirmity, failed crops, or infertility. Another important link with the ancestors is established through masking ceremonies. Masks are normally carved to represent the totemic animal of individual clans. Only nyonyose may possesses and dance these masks which are placed on the ancestral shrine and receive offerings when not in use. These masks serve as a link to the spiritual world are themselves thresholds between the ancestors and the living. They are danced during important ceremonies during the dry season. In late April, a village purification ceremony is held when the masks are danced to cleanse the community of the malevolent forces and begin the new agricultural cycle.