Baule Mouse Oracle Container/Statue | 17"
Many, if not all, African societies incorporate some means of divination into their daily lives. Most Africans believe it is not only possible and reasonable but indispensable to know the future impact of any decision taken in the present in order to determine its advisability. This is accomplished through many techniques; each tribe has its own. The Baule of Ivory Coast use the Gbekre, aka mouse oracle or mouse box, among other methodologies. Oral traditions among the people of the Baule region, including the Yaure and Guro, who may have initiated the practice of mouse divination, indicate that a long time ago mice could speak. As they commonly live in the ground in the forest surrounding the village mice are in close contact with the asye usu, the forest spirits, which see and know all and which, in turn, live closely to the ancestors. Divination experts, those with specialization in all spiritual matters, brought mice into the village to live in captivity. In many African societies animals are believed to have innate insight into the human experience. Specialists spend years in training: they learn to compensate the divinities and the oracle for the enlightenment it provides, to ensure that they will remain favorably disposed and they learn to prepare medications and to interpret a vocabulary of visual signs. There are several ways in which those signs may be generated. In all variations the mouse is placed in the lower chamber of the oracle. One variation is that corn kernels are placed in the upper chamber of the oracle and covered. A yes or no question is asked and if the mouse eats the corn in the time allotted, then the response to the question is affirmative. On the contrary the response is negative. In other variations, small sticks are placed in the upper chamber. The sticks are called gbekre nyma, “the eyes of the mice.” Bird or bat bones have also been used. Corn or other food may be placed among the sticks or the sticks may be coated with flour. The oracle is covered and the mouse eats the food though its movements create a new pattern of the sticks which constitutes the sign to be interpreted. Some of the known stick positions include: “open path, favorable augury,” “the consultant will receive a visit,” “sickness,” “death of a woman in the village,” “successful labor,” “unfavorable sign for a projected marriage,” and “death of an individual in another village.” This object was beautifully made for sale on the art market.
This figure measures:
8" x 6" x 17"