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The Mossi


 

A Mossi house complex, contains the husband and wife houses

The Mossi have organized some of the most powerful kingdoms in Africa.  The Mossi kingdom was once one of the richest kingdoms in Africa but it is now one of the poorest.  The Mossi effectively stopped the spread of Islam southward by the Fulani and have kept their animistic, ancestor worship until the current day. Now, they work together with the Fulani, who take care of their livestock.  In payment for this, the Mossi pay the Fulani with farm crops.  

The Mossi inhabit the central region of Burkina Faso. Originally this area was inhabited by various people groups such as the Dogon and Kurumba.  Around 1500 A.D. the Mossi came from the south and conquered this area.  The Mossi were horsemen and became the upper class of the area they conquered, while the conquered people became the lower class.  This has a significant impact on the religion of the Mossi.  The lower classes of society mainly honor nature spirits who control crops, weather, and diseases.  These spirits which they worship are represented by masks and other nature spirits. They are sometimes termed "invented spirits" because their use declines when the area is free from problems.  The ruling class of society uses diviners with whom the spirits provide religious laws to govern.  The creator god, Wennam, is associated with the sun and with the ruler. Therefore, on important celebrations, sacrifices are made to the ancestors.  

The Mossi are now on the road of decline.  French colonialist/invaders started the trouble when they purposefully exercised underdevelopment so that the Mossi would leave their homes after the harvest. The Mossi would then take the French railroad to Cote d'Ivoire where they worked in the French factories and plantations.  After the French left, the Mossi found it hard to adjust to a changing modern world.  The influence of Islam continues to be felt and more and more Mossi are turning to this religion and forsaking the ancestor worship of the past.  

An interesting aspect of Mossi life is the relationship of the family.  The family is not as much a unified social group as families in other cultures.  The husband and wife live in separate, homes and sons must leave the house as soon as they are circumcised.  Young wives have no status at all until they bear their first child.  The children of the younger wives are never raised by the wife herself, but by the older wives. 

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