Possession, Power, and Identity, in a traditionalist pagan (notoriously un-Islamic) town of Niger [the Mawri sept of the Hausa tribe in the Adewa region]

p. 127 stepping on a spirit

"getting out of bed and going out ... in the middle of the night might provoke the wrath of the spirit who has been inadvertently stepped on."

pp. 128-129 an instance of unsolicited spirit-possession of a budurwa (‘unmarried girl’)

p. 128

"One day, while I was interviewing an old widow about her brush with death at the "hands" of a dangerous Doguwa spirit, her niece ..., a usually sky and reclusive young girl, suddenly started shivering and trembling ... shaking her head back and forth, ... as her eyes were rolling in their orbits. ["When devotees are about to be possessed by their spirits, their eyes often protrude and roll back in their orbits, As a result, the iris is hidden and only the white of the eye is visible." (p. 307, n. 4:2)] She was perspiring profusely and twisting her face ... . ...

p. 129

[The niece] was too young to be undergoing an initiation – she was only sixteen. ...

"This is not the right moment! Go away," the old woman was gently telling the spirit. "... Your time will come," the neighbor was calmly saying to the ... spirit. Then, as suddenly as she had come, the Doguwa left and [the niece] fell to the ground."

pp. 131-132 joyousness of wasa

p. 131

"having a wasa entails creating ... a setting in which spirits are invited to take hold of the bodies of their human hosts so as to borrow their voices and enter into a dialogue with the human community. ... The music, the brightly colored gowns, ... the giggling of the prostitutes looking for clients all contribute to give a highly cheerful character to bori ceremonies. ... In the forum of wasa, it is in fact the excitement, heat, and gaiety generated by the music and the dancing that are supposed to attract the spirits. ... "If people don’t dance, spirits don’t come. If people dance, they come. During a

p. 132

suna [naming ceremony], people are happy, they scream, they dance, they laugh, they show joy. ... If the people do not dance, spirits think people are not happy about their coming, and so they feel no pleasure. They refuse to come." Fun is therefore a necessary ingredient for success when it comes to holding a wasa."

{/WASa/ may be cognate with /VESture/, connected through the costuming of the persons possessed by the spirits}

pp. 132-133 an instance of pleading for forgiveness for parodying a case of spirit-possession

p. 132

A female parodier of a spirit-possession of a man, "remarked to some of her frinds after the ceremony was over : "Look ... . This is how he did it!" And ... she pretended to be ...

p. 133

mounted by his spirit. ... But her own Doguwa spirit, Rankasso, became very angry at her devotee’s lack of decorum and respect toward another spirit. ... The next day, upon the bori healers’ advice, [the female parodier] offered apologies to Rankasso, pleading for her indulgence."

pp. 134-136 the nature of spirits

p. 134

" "Your photos of spirits [mounting their mediums] will be blank," several <yan bori assured me, after noticing that I was taking pictures of the possession performance, "because spirits are invisible." {If the photographs is photographing them for any other purpose than to promote the vogue of spirit-possessions, then the spirits indeed so render the photographic exposures blank; but in the authoress’s case an exception was made on account of her valiantly promoting spirit-possession by means of this book.} ...

After all, the sight of one of these powerful creatures ... usually signals the viewer’s imminent death." {The divine entities glimpses of which may signal the glimpsers’ imminent death are "doppelganger", "phantasms of the living".}

p. 135

"The lives of spirits parallel the lives of people ... . Like humans, spirits are born into families, marry, produce children, and become grandparents. They also

p. 136

steal from each other, commit adultery, and have illegitimate offspring. Some are known for their propensity to lie and cheat, others for their avarice or laziness." {Of course, all apparently improper behavior among divine beings is intended as social satire : to indicate the folly of such wrongdoing on the part of heedless humans.}

p. 137 tale of 2 divine Doguwa co-wives

"Bagurma and Wankarma were the co-wives of Mashi, the first son of Rankasso. ... One night Wankarma delivered a daughter while Bagurma bore a son. ... When Bagurma when out to urinate, Wankarma entered her co-wife’s room, took the baby boy and substituted it with her infant daughter. ... The two spirits have fought and confronted each other ever since."

{Is this a late artificial fabrication, the two women having originally been wives of two distinct gods who afterwards became identified? Such of the Yoruba case of the two goddesses Oya & Os^un, who were originally the wives of two distinct gods (Jakuta & S^ango) who afterwards became identified.}

pp. 138-140 possessing-spirits’ kinship-system




"Like Mawri kinship, the spirits’ kinship system is based on the ... principle of ... wasa (joking). An individual ... for the most part has an avoidance relationship with his or her father, mother, spouse, and first child. This means that a mother cannot pronounce her first child’s name ... . Similarly, a woman may not utter her husband’s name, ... or speak to her spouse in a direct ... manner. In possession ceremonies, kinship is enacted ... . Two spirits ... who must preserve an avoidance relationship so not, as a rule, take possession of their


human vessels simultaneously. Should this happen, the first one to manifest himself or herself usually leaves soon after the other spirit has materialized.

On the other hand, spirits who are siblings, or who like each other for some other reason, generally possess their horses in synchrony. Doguwa spirits, for example, are the grandmothers of Zanzana ("smallpox"), a spirit who gives pimples and stomachaches, and provokes rashes and eyesores. In the possession arena (as well as in everyday life), devotees possessed by Doguwa spirits thus act kindly toward the human incarnation of Zanzana, who typically cries and whines. ... Another devotee assured me that Zanzana was not the granddaughter of Doguwa spirits but rather, the wife of the Doguwa’s son. ...

Bori rituals are typically held for an entire family of spirits. This means that if Tsirahako, a Doguwa, is invited to possess the initiate, her kin – sisters, daughters, grandchildren, husband, and so on – are invited as well. ... Just as spirits enjoy the company of humans, so they like to be surrounded by kin. ... Ideally, this means insuring that for each family involved, at least one medium of each "family member" is attending the wasa. When Kirai, a powerful spirit of Zarma origin, is called to incarnate


himself in the body of the <dan bori for whom the wasa is held, his brothers Souleymane, Moussa, Danne, Bela, Yabilen, and Kwada will probably manifest themselves as well. ... Spirits ... siblings, in particular, will help and support each other so that when one of them is requested at a possession ritual to do work, his or her brothers and sisters typically share the load. On such occasions, their chores may include supervising the identification of new spirits during an initiation, setting up fines for individuals who have offended spirits, revealing the future, providing advice, and warning people of incoming perils."

pp. 140-141 music shared for families of possessing-spirits




"Musicians of bori thus play the melodies and sing the songs of each and every kinsperson of the guest spirit so that as many as possible will come to the wasa.


... the devotee of Rankasso – a senior member of the Doguwa family -- ... whenever she heard the music of Mai Daro, ... would mount he own spirit. Mai Daro is the youngest and favorite sister of Rankasso. When Rankasso hears that her little sister is being urged by musicians to come possess her horse, she herself cannot resist the temptation of being with her sibling."

pp. 141-142 incest between possessing-spirits, undertaken by their human vehicles




"if a man a his wife are possessed by spirits who respectively are brother and sister, they will have to get a divorce because their relationship as a married couple is incompatible with the way they should behave toward each other as mediums of their respective


spirits. ... a married couple who were devotees of spirits who were mother and son ... should separate or else one of them, perhaps even both, would died at the hands of their spirits for having committed what amounted ... to incest."

p. 143 "it is widely believed that when in a couple one of the partners is much older than the other, the older one of the two will drain her/his younger lover’s vitality each time that they have sex. Thus the more they mingle their manyi (sexual fluids) during intercourse, the more the younger individual will show physical signs of being drained of his[/her] vital substance as the other partner steadily enjoys renewed vigor and youth."

pp. 144-146 joking-relationship among spirits; threat of divorce between spirit-couple as a joke




"Take, for instance, a young woman who has Maria "on hear head." Maria is a young, vain, and pretty prostitute who spends a great dead of time admiring herself in looking glasses [mirrors] and seducing men who cross her path. Maria’s medium will be able to joke with, and mock, a much older man with impunity because he is the devotee of the Doguwa Rankasso, a grandmother of Maria. Whenever she meets this man, it is the relationship between their two spirits rather than their own human statuses that dictates the way they should interact with one another. Hence this man ... can now treat her as if she were his granddaughter : this means she can tease him, display affection toward him, and ask him for money ... . ...


All those who have the spirit Harakwai canot sit with the horses of Kirai, because Kirai is the oldest son of Harakwai ... . The horses of Arnya cannot sit on the same mat as the devotees of Adama, and they cannot eat together. It is like a father-in-law who cannot eat with his son-in-law. ... Also they cannot call each other by their names. ... The grandchildren and grandparents have a joking relationship."


"a display of wit between ... a woman who had a Doguwa spirit, and ... a <dan bori who was the horse of Azane, the husband of Doguwa" : the woman "asked her "husband" ... Azane to buy her some fried cakes made of bean flour. When [the husband] flatly refused, [the wife] declared that their marriage was over. ... [The husband] retorted that he would give her the takarda (paper, i.e. divorce papers) as soon as possible.


It was all a joke ... . ...

Mawri mediums, like Hofriyati women, can distance themselves from their cultural contexts and "ponder the taken-for-granted world"" through jokes.

pp. 147-148 woman possessed by a prostitute-spirit

p. 147

"her spirits ... were the primary reason why she had not yet chose a husband. ... she had no trouble finding wealthy lovers who could indulge her taste for fashionable dresses and expensive trinkets.


... as her ailments increased in severity, she had finally given up resisting the call of the spirits and become initiated into the bori ... .


... the spirit Maria ... promoted ... a profligate and wanton nature. Like Maria, the

p. 148

prostitute spirit who enjoys seducing men as well as male spirits, [the female medium] could easily be swayed into spending a night with an admirer if he promised her gifts. She like nice clothes, spent without thinking, and enjoyed the attention of her male friends. ... She felt that Maria manipulated her into having so many lovers".

pp. 149-151 quandaries involving possessing-spirits

p. 149

"In most cases, the only way to end a relationship with a spirit is to die. {but will not the possessing-spirit return, anyway, in one’s metempsychosis?} ...

p. 151

"Bori devotees whose personal pantheon includes both a Muslim spirit and an indigenous "pagan" spirit often face ... choices when it comes to satisfying both Islamic and non-Islamic requirements. Several mediums of Malam Alhaji whom I knew thus felt pressured ..., knowing very well that their involvement in Islam would inevitably anger those of their spirits who were opposed to Islamic ways."

pp. 152-153 an instance of interaction of a spirit-medium with the spirit-spouse of that spirit-medium’s own possession-spirit

p. 152

"her spirit-husband" : "When the horse of Zahoho, the husband of her own spirit, Maria, came over and asked her for a share of the kola nut, she had said no"

p. 153

her "persona as female devotee soon to be initiated clashed significantly with her persona as Maria, the dutiful wife of Zahoho."

pp. 159-162 a Baboule possession-service

p. 159

"the musicians were now playing the music of the Baboule, the fire-eating spirits who came from the East."

p. 160

a griotte (female griot) was addressing the Baboule Arna thus : " "Arna, ...

You ate your mother [you had sex with your mother] ...

Hyena, you ate a lot ...

Soldiers of fire, husband of Halima ... ."

A young man suddenly stood up ... . The ... insult hurled by [the griotte] was finally having an effect. ... the medium started walking with a rigid and hurried gait ... . His eyes were bulging and he was frothing at the mouth. He was possessed by Komandan Mugu ("Major Evil"). ...

p. 161

Meanwhile, the spectacular performance of Komandan Mugu had unleashed a series of possession among the crowd of devotees. Salma and Danne, the Mossi spirit who eats dogs, were riding their mediums. Gwamna ("Governor") had also caught his mount. ... Holding the burning thatch to his bare chest, the soldier started walking furiously around the dance ground ... . Another, General Marsey – he is from Marseilles, France, and ... he does not get a riding crop but "works" with his hands, instead – was staring at the Major while holding his hand to his ... forehead in an extended salute. After performing a series of drills in front of Gwamna, who was signaling with a whistle, the soldier spirits were now ready to help people with the

p. 162

problem of life. Standing ..., they listened restlessly to the requests of those who came to seek help or counsel. After providing advice in characteristically breathless and repetitive sentences punctuated by grunts and hiccups, the Baboule departed one by one, leaving their devotees".

pp. 166-169 political history of the Baboule




In Kurfey, "The Baboule or Hauka movement, as it became known, established an entirely new social order ... . Refusing to submit to the authority of ... colonial administrations, Baboule mediums departed en masse for the bush, where they created their own villages and their own economies ... . Guard duty was organized and any representative of ... the colonial administration who ventured into Hauka communities was arrested and beaten ... . The most influential members ...


carried wooden guns and imitated ... the French army.

In neighboring Arewa, the Baboule movement ... related to ... the Azna of the village of Lougou ... (... some of the first Baboule appeared in Azna villages.)"


"The Baboule had allegedly been brought back from the Malia (Red Sea) by a Hausa peasant, a veteran of world War I ... . The chief of the Baboule was Istambula, and "inhabitant of Istanbul" and a Muslim. When they arrived in Hausa country, the Baboule remained in the bush for a while, lurking around villages where people saw them for the first time (either in Arewa or in Filingue) ... . Most of these were soldiers ... . ... They were known to turn bullets into water. They allegedly had the ability to read the past, predict the future".


"The rebellion initiated in 1925 ... was ultimately followed by ... strongholds in Kurfey – in ... village of Chikal, for instance."

pp. 174-176, 308 physical feats of the Baboule spirits


physical feats


"The Baboule distinguished themselves by their tremendous strength. ... Kolonel (or Kabral : corporal) Gardi ... can break iron with his hands ... . When taking hold of their devotees, come of his colleagues are able to knock down thick mud walls with their bare fists ... . ... a middle-aged medium ... when mounted by his bori, ... could dig a large pit with his bare hands and feet in the hardest, most barren soil. ... even "an old woman [could] quickly dig a hole ... if she was possessed by her Baboule spirit. ..."


In Niamey, "Soon after they were imprisoned, the Hauka mediums were possessed by their spirits. In a matter of minutes, they knocked won the walls of their prison and escaped before anyone knew what was happening."

308, n. 5:3

"in the prison of Niamey. During the night a new Hauka, the "Commandant Mugu," also called ... Korsasi (i.e., the Corsican), provoked the possession of all the mediums by their spirits. They broke the walls of their prison {more possibly, a spirit may be induced to turn, physically, the key-locks in the prison, thereby opening a way for escape} and escaped. They went to Kumasi and Accra".


"The Baboule ... spirits also manifested ... as an invulnerability to fire. ... When possessed, their hosts would swallow cinders and walk into fires ... . To this day, a Baboule medium who has consistently nurtured his relationship with this spirit can allegedly walk into a thatched hut that has caught on fire and retrieve its contents without feeling the effect of the flames. During wasani (possession ceremonies), Baboule horses ... walk around holding the burning bundle right up against their chests".

pp. 179-180 teleportation of money by Baboule spirits

p. 179

" "there was a horse of Baboule who could vomit gold. And he could make money in coins. ..." Not only could Baboule devotees vomit money, but if they simply raised their open hands, they would receive whatever they needed."


"Dan Mama is a regular client of Maria, the prostitute spirit who supports her husband Zahoho with what she earns through her trade. He magically produces the money he gives to Maria in exchange for sexual services."

p. 180

"Baboule who have revealed their identities during the initiation no longer steal money to help their devotees survive without having to work. {But if the degradation of being forced to disclose their identities publicly is so disruptive to Baboule spirits that they are thenceforth unwilling to steal for the sake of their devotees; then would it not be praeferable to forgo such "initiation"?} ... "Baboule will do whatever they can to help their new hosts, ... they [the Baboule] bring banknotes that are brand-new. Some of them take them directly from the bank. ...""

pp. 187, 308 Mai Mota

p. 187

"Mai Mota – which means "owner of a vehicle" and refers here to a lorry driver – drives a rruck. He holds his hands in front of him, palms open to simulate the bright lights of the truck he is supposedly driving."

p. 308, n. 5:6

"one can observe a Hauka medium portraying a locomotive, driving back and forth with his arms imitating the wheels mechanical movements"

Adeline Masquelier : Prayer Has Spoiled Everything : Possession, Power, and Identity, in an Islamic Town of Niger. Duke U Pr, Durham (NC), 2001.