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The Mossi are a West African native people located in the middle of Burkina Faso, in the north of Ghana, in Togo and Benin.

For the Mossi people, God is everywhere and represents an everyday lifestyle. God is practically omnipresent in the discussions between individuals, every action is carried out under his protection and according to his will.

In their belief, the burial represents just the physical disappearance, the body disappears only from the sight of the living. The invisible spirit (or soul) continues to exist elsewhere in a different form.

Mossi hunters and warriors

The soul goes to the place where the souls assemble. The soul is white, agile, identical to human forms, and moves quickly upside down.

For the Mossi people all the objects have a soul, and therefore anything offered to a deceased on earth, goes and joins him in the land of souls.

To guide the deceased’s soul on the way to the afterlife, they sacrifice animals, and offer sugar, salt, and money (he can thus buy water to drink on the way).

Mossi men

They call the black dead those who had a good death. These are usually the elderly, who have left descendants behind, those who died from illness, or near the village.

The rites performed in honor of the black death are very long and complex. The numerous ceremonies and funeral vigils allow them to accede to the status of the ancestor.

The public burial ceremony ends with the black mask dance. The masks are worn by initiated persons who invoke the ancestors and ask them to welcome the newcomer with dignity.

For the black dead, they organize new celebrations several months or even years later (three months or three years for a man and four months or four years for a woman). The moment of the event depends mainly on the family’s financial health.

Funerary mask

The red dead are those who had an inauspicious death. Those dead after an accident, after a wound, by bite, or far from the village are considered as having had a bad death.

The souls of these persons become prisoners of an intermediate state, condemned to wander between the worlds of the living and the dead.

After a violent death, they bury the deceased discreetly and without pomp at the place of his disappearance, then everyone goes home in silence.

After a death in the hospital, the body is buried behind the last dwellings, in the direction of the bush.

Funerary mask

At the end of the mourning period, they distribute the objects that belonged to the deceased. They cut the ties attached around the head of the widow and from the neck of the eldest son, and shave their hair.

The widow submitted to a sexual ban may remarry according to the principle of levirate.
The levirate represents a particular type of marriage: to continue the deceased’s lineage, one of the deceased’s brother marries the widow.

The children born from this remarriage have the same status as the children issued from the first marriage with the deceased husband.

Mossi houses
Ceremony Mossi

Sources :

Jean-Marc Durantel, La danse du masque noir. Rites funéraires des Mossé du Kadiogo (Burkina Faso)

Alice Degorce, « Saluer la souffrance », Représentations des défunts et réseaux de relations dans les rites et les chants funéraires des Moose de l’Ouest (Burkina Faso)

Eugène Mangin, Les Mossi. Essai sur les us et coutumes du peuple Mossi au Soudan Occidental


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Spiritualité Autochtone