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three pairs of lovers with space


The Mossi have long inhabited the region of the upper Volta river in West Africa. Their kingdoms were conquered by France in 1896 and incorporated into the Federation of French West Africa., whilst retaining some degree of native rule.

Ludovic “Louis” Marie Julien Tauxier (1871-1942) was a French colonial administrator and ethnographer, who served as deputy administrator at Ouagadougou, the Mossi capital, from 1908 to 1910. The following sole extract concerning Greek love is taken from his book Le Noir du Soudan. Pays Mossi et Gourounsi. Documents et Analyses (Paris, 1912) pp. 567-570.  The translation is this website’s. Note that Mossi is the plural of Moro.


Describing “the public powers” of the Mossi:

At the summit of the hierarchy is the King, the Moro-Naba, residing at Ouagadougou.

Moulins[1] says […] “Besides the dignitaries, the Moro-Naba is surrounded by a true army of soronés (pages), samandés (bodyguards), ourkimas (grooms) and jussabas (eunuchs).”

The Moro-Naba with some attendants, 1st decade of the 20th century

For the soronés, there are some explanations to give. They are young children or adolescents aged between seven or eight and fifteen years, found not only near the Moro-Naba, but also next to all the Mossi chiefs, whether they be ministers, dignitaries, canton chiefs or even village chiefs. These chiefs procure them, as we have seen above, by reserving for themselves the first-born boy, like the first-born girl, of everyone for whom they procured a wife. They make a soroné of the boy and, as for the girl, they will use her to perpetuate, through giving her in marriage to someone, the recruitment of soronés and servants.

The soronés have their hair done like the women. Like them, they wear heavy copper bracelets round their wrists and ankles, and, if it is necessary to believe what is said, they have not only the attributes of women, but they also sometimes play their role. It appears that on Fridays the Mossi must not commit carnal acts with their wives. It is a religious prescription there to make the deities welcome, but this prescription forgot to anticipate the soronés …  This corruption in any case does not reach the mass of the Mossi people who do not have the means of having soronés in their service, and it concerns only the chiefs.

In any case, the soronés are generally chosen among the prettiest children and, with their female hairdos are sometimes of extreme beauty.

Another obligation of their employment is to remain virgin with respect to women.

“Every year,” says Moulins, “the chastity of the Moro-Naba’s soronés is checked. They are invited by the Pouy-Naba[2] to be reflected in a gourd full of water and, according to the manner in which their images are reflected, are proclaimed pure of all blemish or, on the contrary, are convicted of having committed a carnal act, in which case they were, before our occupation,[3] put to death forthwith. It is that the soronés, confidents of the Naba, are often depositaries of state secrets and they would only know how to exercise the discretion demanded by their situation if they shunned the enticements of love.

When the soronés reach a man’s age, the Naba gives them a wife and sends them back. The first-born of the union of a soroné with the woman given to him by the Naba belongs to the latter, who makes him a soroné if he is a boy and will have the sole right of disposing of her in marriage if she is a girl.”  


[1] Carrier-Moulins was the author of Monographie de Ouagadougou.

[2] A royal dignitary, the chief sorcerer.

[3] In other words, the conquest by the French in 1896.




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