keeping the spouse happy


not all baule people have spirit figures commissioned. why? many baule agree
that keeping a spirit figure happy is a very demanding task, and will try to
postpone the creation of a shrine as long as possible. ONly when reoccurring bad
fortune plagues a person and his or her family do they consider
commissioning a figure. the following interviews describe the daily lives of
baule men and women who are trying to keep their spirit spouse happy. These
interviews are taken from susan vogel's book,
baule: african art/western eyes (1997).


on sexual fidelity: the spirit spouse demands sexual fidelity usually one
night a week.

"there are fixed days...if it is a man, he does not sleep with
his wife, and the same for a woman who has a spirit husband.
there is one day when she does not sleep with her husband;
even if you sleep in the same bed, you don't touch each other."


why are spirit spouse figures kept hidden, often in one's

one man explains, "if today I want to sleep with my human
wife, I am not going to tell the elder I'm sleeping with my
wife! similarly, if the other is a person of wood, you
cannot take it out and show it to people to say this is
my wife. that is why people hide them in their house."

although men and women are not shy about admitting
that they own a spirit spouse, the shrine is almost always
hidden. Vogel explains that protecting something which
gives you good luck and money is sometimes a more
motivating reason for hiding the figures from prying eyes (1).



a diviner advised this man to have a spirit wife commissioned after he had been unable to find a wife. today he has a wife and six children. the figure's clothing indicates that the figure is a very modern, prosperous woman, most likely from an urban area (Vogel, 1997)



Difficulties with the spirit spouse figure:

Kouame aya, called Kouaya, is unmarried and has a spirit
husband figure who has not been holding up his end of
the marital bond.

she explains, "I give him food where I sleep, near where I
rest my head. and I tell him, 'here is your food, eat. when a
man marries a woman, he gives her money for food. you
don't give me food money. vulgar people who shouldn't
speak to me come over and talk to me (men ask me out).
that's why I don't care for you."

sometimes rivalries occur between a man and his wife's spirit
husband, especially in areas surrounding food:

one man explains, "I dream sometimes about my wife's blolo
. he complains that she doesn't feed him. he says he
can't eat gombo, so if she often cooks gombo, the blolo
complains. I like gombo, especially with meat that is
a little ripe...her blolo bian said that if she doesn't stop
cooking gombo, all her future children would die. but
I asked my wife to keep making gombo. maybe that is why
I cannot walk now."












kouakou akissi mirabelle with her spirit husband (Vogel 1997)


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