a) An ancestral segrika in Wiaga-Badomsa (Asik Yeri, 1973)

On 31 December 1973, I observed the segrika rituals at Leander Amoak’s house in Wiaga-Sinyansa-Badomsa. Missing information (e.g. the ritual antecedents) and explanations were given to me exclusively by Leander, the child’s father.

The son of Leander and Afulanpok (Leander’s wife) was born on 6 February 1973. When he fell ill, his father went to the diviner (baano, pl. baanoba), Asatek Awaalo of Sinyansa-Sichasa, to learn why the illness occurred. During this visit at the beginning of December 1973, the diviner found that the son, who had previously only been called ‘Lucky’, needed an ‘official’ Buli name (yue mang). Concurrently, we discovered through divination that when naming the child, he must be offered to the bogluk of Leander’s late father, Asik. In addition, Leander’s sister, Aberok from Kadema, was to choose his son’s name. The father was allowed to set the date of the naming himself; after consultation with me, it was determined on 31 December. Immediately after this, Leander’s sister in Kadema was informed.

At around 8 a.m. on the name-giving day, Leander, Lucky, Afulanpok, and some of Leander’s other children arrived at his house in Wiaga-Badomsa after a walk from their more modern house in the centre of Wiaga {66}. All rites were, by requirement, performed in the ancestral Badomsa compound (Adeween Yeri or Asik Yeri). In Wiaga’s centre, before the departure, a discussion still lingered about whether Afulanpok, Lucky’s biological mother, should join the group or if Leander’s first wife, Atigsidum, who had the rights of a mother over the other wives’ children in ritual contexts, should instead. Afulanpok had also come to the house of Amoak as a doglie (cf. Chapter I,3, p. {41}) of Atigsidum. However, since the naming was to occur a few kilometres from the centre of Wiaga and Afulanpok was still nursing her child, the decision was made in her favour.

As the namesake from Kadema had yet to arrive in Badomsa, they could continue their preparations without a hurry. Ayomo Atiim (the second son of Leander’s deceased brother, Atiim) was performing some of the yeri-nyono’s functions since his father’s funeral had not yet been held. He had already cut some roots of a kankpiiling shrub the day before [endnote 1]; he now removed the old, dried-up kankpiiling roots from the naming pot (tibiik, pl. tibiisa) in front of Asik’s bogluk. The old roots had been in the clay pot since Lucky’s older brother Akapami Adocta had been named. Ayomo placed the fresh roots in the pot, and Afulanpok fetched fresh water from the well in a zinc bucket, placing it next to Asik’s bogluk. Ayomo then scooped water from the bucket into the clay pot with a calabash until it was almost filled.

Ayomo Atiim filling the naming pot (tibiik) next to Asik’s wen-bogluk with fresh water. Behind Asik’s bogluk is Adeween’s shrine. The other ancestral shrines are partly covered.


Ayomo offering a black cock to Asik’s wen. Next to the shrine, squatting in a praying posture, are Leander’s sister, Aberok, with Lucky and (outside the picture) Leander.


Ayomo is placing Lucky on the still-wet blood of the sacrificed cock; to the right are Aberok and Leander; in the foreground lies the sacrificial calabash with millet water.

After Leander’s sister arrived, the sacrificial acts began. First, Ayomo offered millet water to Asik’s wen. A black rooster [endnote 2] was then killed; the blood flowed onto Asik’s wen stone (see Fig. 13). After the fluttering fowl had slowly died, not on its belly but on one side, Leander knew that Asik had accepted the sacrifice; Leander’s sister then sat Lucky with his naked buttocks on the bloody wen stone of the bogluk (see Fig. 14). Lucky remained sitting there for a few seconds. After this, everyone present drank from the remaining millet water. Lucky was also supposed to drink from the calabash. When he did not want to, his mother dipped her finger into the millet water {67}, and Lucky licked it off.

While the rooster was being plucked, the whole group moved into the compound, and Ayomo offered millet water to the wena  of two female ancestors, called ma-baga. Their spirits were in or above two knobbed puuk pots in the kpilima-dok [endnote 3 + endnote 4] (cf. Fig. 42). Then, the sacrificers went out to the front of the compound again, and Ayomo offered millet water to the bogluk of Leander’s mother, Adankunlie, at two stones by the footpath. If Atiim had not fathered Ayomo with Adankunlie, the son would not have been able to offer the sacrifices to Adankunlie; instead, Leander himself would have had to offer them to his mother. Only Ayomo, Leander, and Leander’s sister drank the millet water this time. Again, they moved into the compound. In the courtyard, Ayomo sacrificed to the wen of his ancestor, Abonwari [endnote 5], and Leander to his wen and the wena of Afulanpok and Atigsidum, which were in the kpilima-dok.

Then, a calabash full of water where the root juices had dissolved was fetched from the naming pot in front of Asik’s bogluk. Leander’s sister poured (tugli) the contents of the whole calabash into Lucky’s mouth (see Fig. 16). Lucky had to drink from the water on the following days as well; even months later, they fed him with it occasionally.

Aberok instils (tugli) Lucky with the root extract from the naming pot dissolved in water. In the background (next to the sunglasses) is the wen-bogluk of a living male person.


Seated on Aberok’s knees, Lucky is wearing the bone string and the naming horn; next to them are Francis Afarinmonsa and Ayomo Atiim.

By around 11 a.m., the morning ceremonies ended. After the lunch break, at about three o’clock in the afternoon, a calabash of clear water was offered to Asik’s wen and the two medicine pots in front of the bogluk. According to Leander, they did so to ensure that Asik could wash his hands before eating just as those present did a little later [endnote 6]. Ayomo then offered Asik TZ and some tender pieces of meat from the prepared fowl. The eager house dog immediately devoured the TZ and the meat on the shrine without being stopped.

The whole group moved back into the compound. Meat and TZ were placed on the floor of the kpilima-dok for the souls (chiisa, Sing. chiik) of three male ancestors whose funeral ceremonies had not yet been concluded and whose souls were still with their three sleeping mats in the kpilima-dok (cf. nos. 42–44 of the table p. {181}, Chapter V, 3d). It is assumed that these souls eat the food without it becoming less since they only consume its nutritional elements (i.e. calories). If {68} mortal men ate the food later, they would not feel any sense of satiety.

A young neighbour (Achang Akasilik; No. 41 of the genealogy and table p. {174f}, Chapter V,3d) visited Adeween Yeri in the afternoon. While he was inserting a string through the remaining hollow tubular bones of the sacrificed cock, a pause was taken by the other participants. Then the neighbour placed a goat’s horn [endnote 7], through the pointed end of which a string had been inserted, around Lucky’s neck and the string of the seven tubular bones around his hips. This last act again took place next to Asik’s bogluk. The goat’s horn had lain on Asik’s bogluk for some time to indicate that Asik had claimed Lucky and, according to Leander, to give the horn ‘beneficial’ power.

Then, all present sat on a tree trunk under a Niim tree [endnote 8] to discuss the new name. Leander Amoak was sitting next to his sister. The sister suggested the name Akanbe as a shorter call name for the name Akankalibe, meaning ‘when we sit (with the gods) we will not go astray’. Leander immediately agreed with the name. However, he had told me beforehand that he would object if the name were too vulgar. Shortly before the name was given, Anamogsi, the officiating teng-nyono (earth priest) of Sinyangsa, had joined the ritual group. He had visited a diviner in the neighbouring house and heard about the naming there. His visit, which came about by chance, was taken as a good omen. At the end of the naming ceremony, Leander thanked his sister for coming, and shortly before dark, they returned to the residence in Wiaga-Centre.

Since the naming, Asik’s wen functioned as a guardian spirit (segi, pl. sega) over Akanbe. He will ‘bring health, happiness and wealth to his protégé and protect him from harm’ (Leander). Leander’s sister, Aberok, has since had a decisive say in choices about Akanbe’s later life.

As I learnt later, Lucky Akanbe wore the horn and the bone string for a few weeks. The horn was still empty in 1975; after 1973, it was lying in Akanbe’s mother’s (Afulanpok’s) bedroom. Lucky, as Akanbe continues to be called, wears it when he is not feeling well. Later, however, together with the horns of other siblings who also received a male ancestor of the house as a guardian spirit {69}, it can be filled with some earth from the tanggbain or teng [endnote 9] in connection with other sacrifices made on this occasion. If a child has a female ancestor of the house as a guardian spirit, the earth for the horn can be taken from this ancestress’s puuk pot (ma-bage) [endnote 10].

According to Leander, a girl’s naming would have taken place almost the same way as the one described, but with the sacrifice of a hen instead of a rooster. After the death of the new name-bearer and the construction of his ancestral wen-shrine (cf. Chapter 4), the horn filled with earth is placed on the new wen-shrine during sacrifices and receives part of the sacrificial food offered to it.


b) An ancestral segrika in Sandema-Kalijiisa (Achaw Yeri)

The two families’ fathers, Anpan and Abang of Achaw Yeri in Sandema-Kalijiisa-Yongsa, had promised me that I would be allowed to attend the segrika of one of their three unnamed children of the house when the time had come. On 26 August 1974, I learnt that Akangaaba [endnote 11], Abang’s elder brother, had gone to the diviner in Kalijiisa-Choabisa. The result of the session was that Achinwan, the great-grandfather (FFF) of Abang’s daughter, who was about three months old, had claimed her for himself after a sacrifice had been offered to him. After the sacrifice, Akangaaba went to the diviner again, who, this time, ordered that the segrika be postponed.

Around the same time, the acting yeri-nyono [endnote 12], Anpan, had visited a diviner in Sandema, who, however, had referred him to a Kasena diviner. The Kasena diviners are renowned among the Bulsa, as they are considered experts in their art. So, on 3 September 1974, Anpan and I went to a diviner in Pina near Tumu. In the divination session, which lasted about an hour and did not differ much from the sessions I had known in Bulsaland, the diviner came to the following conclusion: Anpan’s father Achaw demands the ten-month-old son of Anpan’s wife Aviimi for himself and asks for two chickens and a guinea fowl for the day of naming {70} [endnote 13]. In addition, they should wait for the litter of a goat. If she gives birth to one or more males and one or more females, one male kid is to be sacrificed to Achaw. If all the kids are of the same sex, the goat will be sacrificed. After harvesting the last late millet, Anpan shall also sacrifice a dog to Achaw.

After the return trip, we bought a small, dark chicken at the Sandema market. Anpan had the other two chickens in the house himself. That same afternoon, Anpan, Abang and I went into the bush to collect roots for the naming pot. A kawala or waung so(b)luk (Annona senegalensis, pl. waung solisa or waung soluta) was quickly found, and a root about 1 m long was dug up and chopped into pieces about 10–20 cm long with a sharp knife. Then the search for a male gaab tree (Diospyros mespiliformis) began. A very young tree did not show whether it would bear fruit later or not. Finally, the roots were obtained from another gaab tree in Yongsa. Anpan immediately put the collected roots in a large clay pot with water but kept it inside the house, not in front of the bogluk.

Anpan and Abang collecting the roots for the naming pot (tibiik) in the bush.


The next morning – at about 7 a.m. – the root pot was placed in front of Achaw’s bogluk. The goat mentioned above was tied near the bogluk. Then Anpan sacrificed the dark chicken, the guinea fowl, and a small white chicken to Achaw’s wen. They let the dark and the white chicken flutter to find out whether the sacrifice had been accepted, which would be the case if it died with its back upside down. In addition to Anpan, Angaaba (Akangaaba) and Abang, all the eight children of the house took part in the sacrificial act, but no woman. Some children roasted the small white chicken immediately outside on an open fire, and Anpan, saying a prayer, placed some soft meat and liver on Achaw’s bogluk. Everyone present shared the rest of the white chicken. Of the guinea fowl, only the stomach was roasted on the fire. Anpan’s wives cooked the rest and the black chicken in the house.

Around 11 o’clock, Anpan’s wife Aviimi came to Achaw’s bogluk with water, soup, T.Z. and the cooked chicken meat. Anpan offered the food in the following order: first, clear water; second, millet porridge (TZ, saab); third, chicken meat and liver {71}; fourth, soup; and fifth, clear water. All those present, including Aviimi and myself, ate the sacrificial food, and Anpan thanked Achaw in a short prayer afterwards. Then the goat was untied, and Aviimi’s young son had to touch it.

I only now discovered that Achaw’s half-brother, Anueka – still alive and serving as Achaw Yeri’s kpagi (elder) – gave him the Buli name Agoalewon at birth. This name was entered in the newly introduced birth register at the Sandema Health Centre (Navrongo Registration District branch) on 22 November 1973 and is on the birth certificate that Anpan showed me on that occasion. The same name, Agoalewon, could have been given again at this segrika, but Anpan had asked Akanpowa, the mother of Abang and Akangaaba to look for a new name. He assured me he could have entrusted this task to anyone else, even a non-Bulsa like me, because a child does not belong to the father alone. Akanpowa was working in the house. She called Alimsiwen (‘waiting for God’), the child’s name, over the wall without coming out herself. The name means that ‘one must not push God but wait patiently for His fate’.

I was now awaiting the hanging of the bone cord because Akangaaba was already cutting the hollow chicken bones of the black chicken and removing the marrow with a small stick. However, the tiim ceremony was postponed until the following day because the roots were not sufficiently exhausted.

In the afternoon of the following day, Aviimi, after taking off the baby’s old cloth cord, informally put the finished bone string around her little son’s hips in a courtyard of the house. Then she took a clay bowl, filled it with medicine water (tiim) from the segrika pot (tibiik) in front of the bogluk, and poured it first on the head and then on the body of the crying child [endnote 14]. From a small calabash, she poured medicine water into her hand and instilled (tugli) it into the snorting Alimsiwen’s mouth. On each of the following three days, this proceeded the same way. After this, the large clay pot, standing by Achaw’s bogluk, was taken back into the house {72}.

Alimsiwen did not receive a horn at this segrika ritual, but the goat sacrificed later possibly had to provide one.

When comparing the segrika rites performed in Achaw Yeri to those performed in Badomsa, there are many similarities (e.g. an ancestor requires the child, the ancestor receives sacrifices as directed by the diviner, the child must consume the liquid extract of root extract, and the child receives a bone cord), and differences, such as:

l. The diviner determines the namesake only in Badomsa.

2. The name-giving person seemingly does not have any special significance for the segrika in Kalijiisa.

3. The sacrificial animal’s sex has no relation to the child’s sex in Kalijiisa.

4. Medicine is made from the extracts of plants differing in the two places.

5. No other shrines (bogluta) receive a sacrifice in Kalijiisa.

6. The child in Kalijiisa is bathed with the medicine water.

7. The child in Kalijiisa does (probably) not receive a naming horn.

8. In Kalijiisa, the child was not placed on the bloody sacrificial stone.


c) An ancestral segrika in Wiaga-Badomsa (Anyenangdu Yeri)

After Anamogsi had consulted the two diviners (baanoba), Akai and Akanming, and both had found out that his granddaughter (later called Ajaakalie) was required by the ancestor Aluechari, the segrika ritual took place for the (approximately) one-year-old girl on 21 September 1988. The individual sacred acts closely resemble those described for those of Asik Yeri (Badomsa) above.

At around 7.15 a.m., Anamogsi placed fibres from the bark of a kapok tree (gong, Ceiba pentandra) in a ceramic pot (tibiik) next to Aluechari’s shrine, which received millet water and a dark chicken as offerings. The blood flowed on Aluechari’s wen stone and three spots of the tibiik. In the afternoon, Anamogsi offered millet porridge (saab) with sauce and meat from the sacrificed chicken. Clean water was poured over the ancestral shrine and the tibiik for the spirits ‘to wash their hands’.

On the following day (at 7.45 a.m.), Mary (the mother) and the child sat down at the ancestral shrine of Aluechari. From a tiny calabash bowl kept in the tibiik, the daughter had to drink the medicine water (it was not instilled this time). Afterwards, she was given cod liver oil (an innovation!). The following bath of the little girl, using diluted water from the tibiik, was like what was described above in the Asik compound. Again, the baby drank medicine from the very small calabash. The informal naming was not inserted into the ritual process, nor did I observe it. The name Ajaakalie (‘a thing is not there’) expresses that Anamogsi no longer has such a high income as in earlier years.

Neither of the diviners had prescribed a horn for the child. A string of strung tubular bones from the sacrificed chicken was made on one of the following days and placed around the child’s hips once the bones were completely dry.


Mary feeding her baby from a very small calabash bowl


d) An ancestral segrika in Wiaga-Guuta (Ataasa Yeri)

I was not able to attend this segrika. However, my assistant, Danlardy Leander, wrote a report and took photos.

The little girl, Apisikumlie, was presented to the ancestor and founder of the compound, Ataasa, on 11 March 1990. Ajoguntapo Ademboa, the girl’s father, was the officiant. He prepared the root medicine and spoke the prayers during the sacrifices. The younger Agbegyaami offered millet water to Ataasa’s wen, as well as the segrika horn and a goat, which he killed in front of the shrine, allowing some of the leaking blood to run over the sacrifice spots. Meanwhile, the girl’s namesake – her father’s sister – sat beside the ancestral shrine. Immediately after the sacrifice of the goat, this namesake placed the girl with her bare buttocks in the fresh sacrificial blood on the shrine. The girl drank the medicine and was bathed later.


a) Report on a tanggbain-segrika in Wiaga-Zuedema (before 1972)

I received the following report of a tanggbain-segrika from Tandem-Zuedema by my informant, Ayarik, who participated in the naming of Atenglie, his younger sister, himself.

Ajampana, as Atenglie was ‘called’ before she was named, was to be offered to a certain tanggbain according to the diviner’s advice. This tanggbain, a heap of stones under a large kanparuk tree, is Zuedema’s central tanggbain. The diviner had already found the girl’s name (Atenglie) and determined that a cow was to be sacrificed. After the sacrifice, the father’s sister, determined by the diviner, gave Ateng the name by addressing her niece as follows: ‘A nying jinla a cheng fi yueni ale Atenglie’ (from today your name is Atenglie). Then {81} earth (tanta) was mixed with water to form a loamy paste and put into Atenglie’s hand. The namesake covered Atenglie’s eyes and told her to throw the earth away. This ceremony is said to have a purifying effect. All bad things (Ayarik: ‘sins’) were removed from the child with the earth.

The sacrificed cow was prepared for the sacrificial meal. According to the instructions given beforehand by the diviner, the cow’s blood was boiled and then filled into one of the two cow horns. The horn was closed with a calabash sherd and hung around Atenglie’s neck. On the fourth day after the naming (for a boy, it would be the third day), they went again to the tanggbain with Atenglie, the horn and millet water. On the tanggbain, the filled horn received a libation of millet water. According to the diviner’s instructions, Atenglie should wear the cow horn all her life. At night, she was to place it next to her on the mat.

My informant, Ayarik, noted that this naming form was unusual and that people usually sacrifice to the bogluk of an ancestor. Only wealthy and influential families can sacrifice a cow, but Ayarik’s father is, after all, the kpagi (elder) of Zuedema.


b) A tanggbain-segrika (ngiak-segrika) in Wiaga-Badomsa (Anyenangdu Yeri)

The diviners Akai and Akanming prescribed a segrika for the daughter of Anamogsi’s youngest wife, Ayabalie, presenting (teka = giving) the child to the tanggbain Pung Muning, located about 300 metres from Anyenangdu Yeri. Before this, on 17 September 1988, Anamogsi offered millet water to his paternal father, Aluechari, and informed him of the upcoming event. The ritual was to be attended by all the people of the compound who had also received the tanggbain Pung Muning as their segi in a segrika.

Anamogsi offered a dark chicken and millet water to the tanggbain at around 11 a.m. This time, according to the instructions of the two diviners, an empty (goat?) horn was put around the little girl’s neck, which can later be filled with earth from the tanggbain.

Anamogsi named his daughter Ababeniba (literally: ‘they stop them’). He intentionally replaced the pronoun ma (I) with ba (they). The name meant that other people aspired to the office of earth priest (teng-nyono) from him, but their efforts would be merely a waste of time as long as he lived.

After the ritual activities on the Pung Muning hill, a son took a calabash bowl with red earth from the tanggbain to the compound. He had already eaten from it on the way and then offered me a piece. Later, the laterite earth was mixed with water to wash Ababeniba. She also drank from it for four (female principle!) days in the morning and evening. The red earth thus roughly corresponded to the medicine of the tibiik vessel in Ajakalie’s segrika in the ancestral segrika. The horn was said to protect the girl from danger, and she could even talk to it. Shares of other sacrifices to the tanggbain might be given to the horn.

When they fill the horn later with red earth from Pung Muning, at least one more chicken sacrifice is necessary [endnote 15a].

On the evening of 17 September at around 5 p.m., millet porridge with sauce and meat from the sacrificed chicken was offered to the tanggbain, followed by clear water. This time, many children from Anyenangdu Yeri accompanied the sacrificial party. They placed their horns (five altogether) on the sacrificial stone and then wore them again with their sacrificial traces around their necks. The next day, Ayabalie bathed her daughter and instilled (tugli) the earth dissolved in water into her mouth.


c) Another tanggbain-segrika in Wiaga-Badomsa (Ayoling Yeri)

On 5 January 1989, Anurka, Ayoling Yeri’s compound head, came to Anamogsi to discuss the tanggbain-segrika of one of his grandchildren with him. Early the next day, Anamogsi went to the diviner, Akanming, to get further details about performing the ritual. Only a young man, the mother and the child came to the segrika. Before the ancestral room inside the compound, Anamogsi verbally informed his father, Anyenangdu – who was still the actual compound head – of the event. We went to the tanggbain with a small group, joined by my visitors, Professor R. Schott and (now Dr) Sabine Dinslage from the University of Münster.

The child is placed on the bloody sacrificial stone of the Pung Muning tanggbain; on the left is the sacrificer Akanpaabadai; on the right is the earth priest Anamogsi.


The ritual acts were almost identical to those described above. This time, however, the child’s horn was immediately filled with earth from the tanggbain, and it received a share of the offerings. The group from Ayoling Yeri took a calabash full of red earth to their compound for further ritual use.

This segrika was given a special touch by the visit of the two German guests, whom Anamogsi immediately permitted to participate in and document the ritual. He even seemed pleased about this visit, allowing everyone to leave their outer clothing and shoes on. Such permission is uncommon; some earth priests do not even allow strangers to enter a tanggbain. When, during a funeral ceremony in Sandema-Kalijiisa, the whole party made a procession to the nearby tanggbain, my two Bulsa assistants (one of whom was a drummer in the accompanying music group) and I were barred from entering, even though no sacrifices were taking place at the tanggbain. Anamogsi had a contrasting view of his earth shrine. ‘Pung Muning loves all people and is delighted with every visitor’, he told me.


d) Another tanggbain-segrika in Wiaga-Badomsa (Anyenangdu Yeri)

On 18 January 2005, the daughter of Anamogsi’s son, Akaayaabisa, and his wife, Achiiklie, was offered to the tanggbain Pung Muning in a segrika. The unique thing about this celebration was that it had no urgent motivating occasion, i.e. a disease or another problem. A new name was also not given, as the child had already been given a Buli name after being born in Sandema Hospital. The segrika performed here was similar to similar rituals at Pung Muning. The main differences were that a dark chicken was sacrificed and that a horn was filled with the red earth of Pung Muning. In the afternoon offerings, the cooked chicken, millet porridge with sauce, and clear water were offered to the shrine.


e) Secondary shrines

Secondary shrines of a tanggbain may be created if, for example, the head of a house takes one stone from his tanggbain to his house, sacrificing to it instead of the tanggbain. Such a stone shrine is often placed near the compound’s entrance and is called ‘watchman’ (ye-maasiroa). This shrine as well as the teng-kuk shrine, representing all of a compound’s land, cannot become a segi.



On 13 August 1981, I participated in a juik segrika in Akanwari Yeri (Gbedema-Gbinaansa). Here, my recorded data is not as complete, and the content is not as secure as that for Badomsa rite participation. I was also prevented from watching some of the rites in Gbedema.

The juik cult has only spread to large parts of Bulsaland in the last few decades. At first, it was only practised in a few compounds in South Bulsa. It is named after juik, a mongoose species (Herpestes sanguinis). Apart from being a living animal (and a notorious chicken thief), a juik is a particularly vicious and dangerous supernatural being (cf. Kröger 2013). The stuffed skin is venerated inside the compounds but receives no sacrifices. The shrines proper are represented in Wiaga by upright stones on the footpaths and in Gbedema by ceramic medicine pots. Children of parents who own a juik as segi will also be given to a newly constructed juik shrine whose spirit is not the same as that of their father’s shrine.

In Akanwari Yeri (Gbedema-Gbinaansa), a small, six-month-old boy, the son of the sacrificer, about 20 years old, was to be given a juik shrine as a segi, even though he had not been ill before. A diviner had discovered that the juik of the compound (?) demanded him as a protégé. The performer of the rituals (here, the child’s father) only led this activity for a deceased compound head whose funeral celebrations had not yet been held.

I was able to document the following events in field notes (without photos):

– The child’s young father offered a chicken without millet water to the shrine of the compound founder (Akanwari) in front of the compound to inform him of the upcoming segrika. Bawa, the officiating compound head, spoke the prayer.

– To the three shrines of juisa (pl.) in the form of ceramic vessels inside a round house, the child’s father sacrificed a dark chicken and stuck its soft breast feathers on the bloody sacrificial spots. Bawa said the prayer to the juisa.

– The chicken fluttered up; its death in the lateral position indicated that the sacrifice had been accepted.

– The sacrificer placed the little boy on the bloody sacrificial spot of the middle medicine pot (perhaps the boy’s actual segi?).

– The chicken was roasted, and the meat and pieces of liver were placed on the three clay pots by the sacrificer. This time he said a short prayer (Ngoa… Receive…). Bawa was absent.

– In the afternoon, millet porridge was prepared with a millet flour sauce and meat. On a potsherd a boy ground some pieces of medicinal charcoal into a black powder with a round quartz stone (I could not find anything more about this medicine).

– Part of the millet porridge was mixed with the black medicine powder.

– After this, the three vessels of the juik received clear water, millet porridge (without black medicine powder) with sauce and meat, and millet porridge with black medicine.

– The little boy had to drink the liquid medicine, eat porridge with the medicine and bathe with the diluted medicine for five days.

After the sacrificial rites had ended, a general meal was held in the inner courtyard, to which some neighbours had also come. A discussion arose about who should give the child a name – I was even suggested (perhaps jokingly?). However, Bawa had already told me that he would be the name-giver. He then gave the baby the following name: Atinvari, meaning ‘[They should] just collect [everything].’ Many people had died in his compound, and the house was getting smaller. If things continued like this, other people would come to take over the rest. All he had to say in reply was, ‘Let them come and collect.’

The boy was allegedly fitted with the bone string the next morning (when I was not present).

The string contained only two bones: one from the wing (kingkang) and the other from the hip (chiak) of the chicken. In Gbedema, such a string is hung around a child’s neck (not around the waist, as in Wiaga). Some of the black medicine (see above) was inserted in the sheep’s horn.



On 26 and 29 March 1989, I was permitted to attend the rites of a Tallensi group from Tongo-Siik in Akanguli Yeri. At the end of the dry season, deputies of a Tallensi shrine (Tongnaab) go around not only in their ethnic territory but also to those of several neighbouring groups to make offerings to the secondary shrines of their Tongnaab. In 1989, as always, they stayed at Akanguli Yeri for a few days and from there they visited other Bulsa compounds with their Tongnaab shrine. For the ‘final ceremony’ of their stay in Wiaga, numerous neighbours came to Akanguli Yeri with offerings and other gifts.

During the numerous rites and sacrifices related to the Tongnaab, my assistant Yaw and I only realised very late when the actual segrika ritual began, and even then, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish which rites and sacrifices were exclusively parts of the segrika.

On the morning of 29 March (before 8 a.m.), a member of Akanguli Yeri went to the bush to collect the following plant parts for the segrika:

1. Roots of the shea butter tree (cham, Butyrospermum parkii),

2. Roots of the gaab tree (Diospyros mespiliformis),

3. Parts of cham-bakurik, a creeping plant that grows as a parasite in trees, especially shea butter trees.

After the outdooring of a little girl (born in 1988), the yeri-nyono sacrificed to all the ancestors in front of the compound. The woman who cared for the girl (as her mother?) sat briefly down with the child on each of these shrines in turn.

The woman with the girl sits down on each ancestral shrine one after the other.


Even when informing the deceased previous compound head in the ‘ancestral room’, the upcoming segrika may only have been mentioned in passing. After further sacrifices of at least nine hens or roosters and a dog, the segrika followed.

The Tallensi had brought a closed calabash filled with mud from the Tongo Tongnaab, and the yeri-nyono sacrificed a dark chicken to it. This shrine was placed in the centre of a large courtyard with a hoe blade and a tibiik pot containing the above-mentioned herbal medicine. All those present who also had this shrine as their segi (guardian spirit) put their horn filled with earth next to the medicine pot. After the chicken sacrifice, the compound head set the girl with her naked buttocks on the bloody sacrificial surface of the tongnaab. All sacred objects next to the shrine received their share of the offerings. The little girl had to drink water from the tibiik for the next four days and was washed with its contents. Even if she falls ill later, the liquid medicine is instilled (tugli) into her mouth.

On one of the following days, earth from the Tongnaab shrine was filled into the girl’s previously empty horn and hung it around her neck (not observed). They will place this horn next to the Tongnaab at all subsequent sacrifices to the shrine.

I did not notice when and where they gave her the segrika horn and  an official name.



A nameless child can also be offered to a tiim-bogluk, which will become her guardian spirit. The frequency of the name Atiim suggests that such offerings are by no means rare.

The following shrines can be considered tiim-bogluta, which can become sega (pl.).

1. Nipok-tiim [endnote 16]:

Name of the child: Atiim or after the place of the origin of the ‘foreign’ bogluk, e.g. Amoak (see below).

2. Tibiik: a smooth clay pot with a lid filled with water, leaves and roots [endnote 17].

Name of the child: Atiim or Atibiik {82}.

3. Nabiuk: This shrine consists of a smooth clay pot (kpalabik) with a lid. It is a ‘foreign’ bogluk, which, in one case that I know of, came from Koluk. There is at least one kola nut in the water. At the offering and naming of a child, a kola nut is chewed and spat into a calabash. Some of this mass is put on the medicine pot, and the rest is spread in the water, from which the child must drink and with which she is washed for a few days.

4. Vayaam-medicine (used in the initiation of a grave digger).

Medicines without being an independent shrine that receives sacrifices on their own, cannot become guardian spirits (e.g. tibiik pots beside an ancestral shrine).



Ngandoksa (Sing. jadok) [endnote 18], venerated in the house in question, may also claim a child of the house for themselves. An informant from the Siniensi chief’s family reports that he and his eight male and female siblings of the same mother were all offered to one of the two strong ngandoksa of the house, a leopard jadok and a stone jadok with a red cap.

My informant Danlardy Leander wrote to me that the protégé is not allowed to eat the meat of his segi animal. It must still be proved whether this statement holds for all animal ngandoksa and all regions of the Bulsa area.



The diviner’s calabash rattle (baan-kayak, pl. baan-kayaksa) can also become a guardian spirit. The rattle is associated with animals like snakes (waab) and crocodiles (ngauk), although I have not discerned the rattle’s connection with them. In any case, the names of the protégés are usually Awaab (Awaabil, Awaalie) or Angmao (Angmaolie) {83}.

According to Leander Amoak (1982), the divination rattle is not an independent shrine. It can only be sacrificed with the jadok (the ‘divining spirit’).



A young man from Kadema accounts that many inhabitants of his house were offered to a thunderstorm-bogluk, ngmaruk, acquired by the Tallensi for the house in Kadema long ago. Persons with such a guardian spirit are often called Angiak (male) or Angiaklie (female). Sacrifice, bathing and instilling medicinal water at a naming ceremony are performed similarly to those described above. A horn is also usually put on the child; according to my informant in Kadema, a bone string is only put on if the diviner explicitly requests it.



The information Bulsa informants give diverges substantially for segrika rituals compared to other descriptions of rites of passage. Three reasons may be responsible for this disparity:

1. Young informants sometimes confuse the individual rites of wen-piirika (Chapter 4) with rites of naming such that a false description may emerge.

2. Local differences seem particularly strong in the case of the segrika, as the two first observed ancestor-segrika rituals (1a and 1b) {73} have already shown. Comparisons reveal the difference between the North Bulsa (Atugabisa) and the South Bulsa (e.g. Fumbisi, Kanjaga). An informant from Wiaga-Kubelinsa claims that the segrika rituals can vary from house to house within the same clan section.

3. Unlike the erection of a wen-bogluk or female excision, the segrika in acculturated families is particularly exposed to modernisation and ritual simplification without being omitted altogether. For example, a polygamously married thirty-year-old man from Kanjaga claimed that the Bulsa give their children names without any ceremonial attachment.

In the following paragraphs, statements by informants from different parts of Bulsaland will be compared with our observations to arrive at more general statements.


a) The occasion

Almost all informants say that the usual occasion for naming is the sickliness of the child or struggles like the child’s restlessness, difficulties in education, or frequent crying. This motive, however, does not play as significant a role as in the wen-piirika to be described later. A name is often considered necessary by a certain age, even if the child does not cause exceptional difficulties. In Achaw Yeri, in particular, I gathered that the reason for the relatively early naming was my wish to participate in a segrika. Moreover, the wish of a supernatural power to adopt a certain protégé must be respected.


b) The child’s age

Information on age varies considerably. However, it seems apparent that the traditional segrika ceremony is never performed in the first days or weeks of the child’s life. I often encountered young children crawling on all fours around the compounds who did not yet have an ‘official’ Buli name. Moreover, when recording genealogies, I was often told that nameless children were a few months old. On the other hand, naming seems rare after the second year of life because, as an informant {74} from Wiaga-Tandem said, the ritual becomes increasingly dangerous with age. However, a young man from Sandema-Kalijiisa told me that his relative did not receive his official name until he started causing great difficulties for his parents when he was about 12 years old. But since the segrika rites are never performed outside Bulsaland, it is possible that today, some Bulsa adults in southern Ghana do not yet have segrika names.

A young man from Sandema-Longsa, having witnessed several segrika rituals, reports that there are two types of namings:

1. A formal segrika-naming (in a segrika) occurs when the child has begun to crawl. A married woman from the patriline of the house (usually called yeri-lie, ‘daughter of the house’) is brought to her parental home and gives the child a name after one has sacrificed, say, a hen or a rooster to a certain bogluk. The child is then placed on this shrine.

2. If the naming did not occur at a young age and the child can already walk, the name is very informal, for which the term segrika is not used but yue-teka (name-giving). Early one morning, the child’s mother grinds some millet flour and gives it to the yeri-nyono. The next morning, the yeri-nyono greets the mother and calls the child by the name he found. This is the new name of the child, who was previously only called Ajampan (baby). Sacrificial acts are not associated with this informal way of naming.

The first report (1), likely incomplete and not entirely accurate, agrees in its essential features with the segrika rituals I observed. Whether the last description (2) is a modern simplification, whether this informal naming has existed alongside the first one described since time immemorial, or whether it is a local variant is not easy to decide today. Notably, the offering to a guardian spirit (segi) is completely missing in the last form.


c) The name-givers

A common answer to the question of who names the child is, ‘It can be any person the diviner finds out’. However, if one asks whether the name-giver can be a mother’s relative, the informant often refuses vehemently {75}. However, if the mother returns to live with her parents for good with her young children, one of her relatives may give the name there. One informant from Sandema-Balansa claims that the birth attendant (poi-yigro) can also provide the name, especially if the birth was difficult.

Other informants say that a relative or kinswoman from the father’s line always gives a name; others insist that only the yeri-nyono or the father can do this. If the child’s grandparents are alive, one of them will usually find the name (per information from Sandema and Wiaga). Even if another relative gives the name, the father or yeri-nyono can strongly influence their choice by objecting to the proposed name or trying to impose the desired name. However, some informants emphasise that the final word always goes to the name-givers from the patrilineage. That the father plays a decisive role in naming is also evident because the names often express the father’s feelings or opinions, even if another person gives the name.

The oldest resident of the compound always selects the name, according to a Fumbisi source. For example, if one wife of the deceased yeri-nyono lives in the house, she will give the name. If the name is disliked, the house owner can replace it with another or shorten it. The third party with a say is the ‘owner of a courtyard’ (dok-nyono, always a married woman), in whose courtyard they consult about the name. This information strongly resembles the observations from Achaw Yeri: Akanpowa was one of Achaw’s wives and was also the oldest person in the compound; however, she did not belong to the patriline of the child. If the child was reborn, the diviner can determine a person from another lineage as the namesake.

The collected statements and observations about namesakes can perhaps be summarised in two groups:

1. The father or yeri-nyono assigns the name-givers (namesakes), but through this function, they have no special rights over the child later on. Almost anyone can become a name-giver in this way. I could not determine whether this form returned to modern influences {76}.

2. A diviner appoints the name-giver. The chosen person has a close relationship with the child in later life. In this case, a woman or – perhaps more rarely – a man from the patriline of the child’s father is usually chosen as the name-giver.

The ideas expressed here should be examined in more detail as, according to my research, it is impossible to attribute the two types to specific areas of Bulsaland.

As an example of name-givers and for the assertion that names primarily reflect the father’s feelings and opinions and not those of the name-givers, the naming of Leander Amoak’s children (Wiaga-Badomsa) will be examined here. Since naming is a matter of patrilineage here, it does not matter that the ten children were born to four different wives.

1. Akanyaba was born on 10 June 1957 (Translation: ‘Nobody loves me’; literally, ‘nobody loves them’; her call name is Tenni). Leander believed at the time that he was unpopular with everyone. According to the diviner, Leander’s father’s sister’s son, Amanyeba, was planned as the name-giver. However, as he was too old, his son took his place.

2. Anamboro (‘Life is suffering’; his call name is Danlardy) was born on 29 June 1958. The name concludes the idea of the first name: ‘If no one likes me, life is a burden’. Name-giver: same as previous.

3. Awenawie (‘God’s deeds’) was born on 6 June 1961. The child died soon after the naming. Name-giver: same as above.

4. Asuakomi (‘Anger will kill me’; call name: Bibiana) was born on 21 July 1962. Leander Amoak was experiencing extensive troubles at that time. The namesake was changed because Awenawie’s death suggested that the previous naming was unsuccessful. Asuakomi’s namesake was Leander’s sister, Aberok.

5. Adaanlie (‘Pito’s daughter’; call name: Mary) was born on 24 March 1964. The girl’s mother is a Pito saleswoman. Name-giver: Aberok {77}.

6. Afarinmonsa (named after Farinmonsa, the child’s mother’s home section; call name: Francis) was born on 3 May 1965. As Asuakumi and her younger brother, Afarinmonsa, were born without complications in the mother’s parental home in Farinmonsa, Leander believed he owed this name to his parents-in-law. Name-giver: the same as 1–3.

7. Akapami (call name: Adocta) was born on 3 April 1967; namesake: Leander’s sister, Aberok (as with 4–5).

8. Akanue (‘will not perish’, call name: Oldman) was born on 5 December 1967. namesake: as with 1–3 and 6.

9. Akanchaldi (‘I do not fear this’) was born in 1969 (Leander forgot to write down the date of birth) and died on 14 May 1971.

10. Akanbe (‘We will not go astray’; call name: Lucky) was born on 6 February 1973. Named by Leander’s sister, Aberok (like 4, 5 and 7).

11. Azaanbe (‘Where will we stay?’; call name: Bawa) was born in April 1975.

Robert Atong Asekabta, whose pobsika is described above, provides information about the namesakes of his male siblings and half-siblings:

1. Azongbil,  Asekabta’s firstborn son, who died as a child. The informant does not know whether his father, Asekabta, or the then yeri-nyono, Atunwie, named him.

2. Atong (informant). He was named after Tongo in Tallensiland because a shrine there exercises protective spiritual functions over him. Name-giver: Asekabta.

Robert Asekabta’s son died before he was given a name; his daughter did not have a name when providing information.

3. Akpaziimako. Eponym: Atunwie, the elder brother of Asekabta and yeri-nyono at the time.

4. Akankoalim {78}. Name-giver: Asekabta.

5. Adoalikum. The diviner discovered that the same person who had once put the waist string on the infant was also to give the name – a female relative of the child’s mother.

6. Akansuok. Name-giver: Asekabta.

7. Adueweling. Name-giver: Asekabta.

8. Akanmob. Amama, an elder brother of Asekabta and yeri-nyono of the chief’s house, gave the name Akanmob (‘do not open’) because one cannot open a person’s heart to know their disposition. Akanmob was not presented to an ancestor but to the tanggbain, Baglesiuk.

Genealogical relationships of the persons mentioned above (1-8)

Finally, here is a list of the seven children and their namesakes from a polygamous family in Wiaga-Tandem-Zuedema. 25-year-old Ayarik gave the information.

1. Ayarik. At 25, he still has no segrika name, because he lived in the South for most of his life. He is called after Ayarik, his grandfather {79}.

2. Akagiera. Name-giver: Abiro (the child’s father’s sister’s son).

3. Atenglie. Name-giver: a diviner and the father’s sister (cf. the report on the tanggbain-segrika).

4: Awiag. Name-giver: a son of the child’s father.

6. Assibi (the official name has slipped the informant’s mind). Name-giver: his father’s elder classificatory brother from his house.

7. Abalukmi. Name-giver: Ayarik, the father of the informant’s father.


d) The guardian spirit (segi)

For example, all bogluta of a compound and shrines of the nearer and wider neighbourhood – including earth shrines (tanggbana) – can claim children for themselves. After this demand has been granted, the ‘spirit’ (tanggbain, jadok, tiim, etc.) residing in the bogluk exercises a particular protective function over the child. If someone is offered a poisoned potion, the guardian spirit (segi) would make his protégé’s hand tremble so the calabash would fall to the ground [endnote 15]. A guardian spirit would also prevent his protégé from going to his family’s realm of the dead. Therefore, one does not even need to know where to avoid it (per information from Gbedema).

Bulsa adults who do not yet have a segrika name still believe they have a guardian spirit, even if they do not know who has taken over this function.

In the following, the children of the house of Adeween Yeri (Badomsa), i.e. the children of Leander Amoak and his deceased brother, Atiim, serve as examples for guardian spirits’ (sega) distribution {80}.

(Note: The first name of the list denotes the child’s name,  the second denotes the guardian spirit’s name).

1. Leander Amoak’s children:

Akanyaba:    Asik (Leander’s father)

Anamboro:     Asik

Awenawie:    Adeween (Asik’s father)

Asuakumi:    Adankunlie (Leander’s and Atiim’s mother)

Adanlie:    Adankunlie

Afarinmonsa:    Asik

Akapami:    Asik

Akanue: Asik

Akanchaldi: Adeween

Akanbe:    Asik

Azanbe:    Adeween


2. Atiim’s children:

Adeweenlie:    Adeween

Abaala:    Asik

Assibi:    Adankunlie

Ayomo:    Nipok-tiim of the House

Anyongbiik:    Adeween

Leander Amoak and his late brother, Atiim, have the house’s nipok-tiim as their guardian spirits. Amoak was given this name because the nipok-tiim was acquired from a Mossi (Moak).



Personal names (anthroponyms, Buli yue, sing. yuein) among the Bulsa, as in other cultures, have primarily an identifying character. A particular person is clearly defined as such, often in connection with another name. In addition, the personal name has other functions and characteristics. Bulsa naming is closely embedded in a religious context (segrika). Bulsa people readily exchange or add other names to their segrika names (e.g. nicknames, Christian names and foreign names) throughout their lives, but the official Buli name usually remains for life. Only if a specific name has proved to be inauspicious can it be replaced by another with the help of a diviner and in the context of other religious activities.

However, the classificatory character is not very pronounced in Buli names. It is usually not possible to tell the gender of a name unless the syllables pok (woman) or lie (girl) are added, nor can the rank of a family be deduced from a name alone.

As in many other cultures, among the Bulsa, a name is linked to one’s character and reputation. A good name (yue) conveys a reputation that can be tarnished by antisocial behaviour. This idea is expressed in numerous Buli names, e.g.:

Ayuekanbe: ‘A good name cannot be lost’.

Akanjogyue: ‘One does not lose one’s good name’. ‘Despite poverty and failures, one is respected because of a good name’.

Akantuyue: ‘You cannot destroy a good name’.




To have enough demonstration material at hand and to cover all types of Bulsa names, about 1600 different Buli names were collected. These represent only a small portion of the names currently borne by the Bulsa. Even when my collection was approaching completion, out of about 150 Buli new names in a genealogy, more than 100 could still be catalogued as new records, i.e. very few duplicates occurred. Therefore, creating an almost exhaustive collection of Buli names is impossible, as new names are invented after many births.

The sources for the name collection were 24 genealogies, mostly given to me by younger informants in southern Ghana or Bulsaland. Secondly, school-leavers’ names from the official school lists were examined. Translating the names does not cause much difficulty for a school graduate if the name is not recorded in ‘deep Buli’ [endnote 19].

However, since most names have been slightly shortened (cf. Akankalibe-Akanbe) and the actual idea has already been shortened in the long form (cf. if we sit with the gods, we cannot go astray), a complete interpretation of the name can usually only be given if the intention of the name-giver himself is known. Therefore, the genealogy informant was asked to interpret the name in the case of names taken from genealogies. Still, even here, he usually could not give information beyond his birth family. In the lists of school-leavers, an informant of the same year and the same school was asked for the interpretation, if possible, since pupils of one class often inquire about the meaning of their names, at least from their friends {84}.



a) Prefixes and suffixes

As is apparent even at a cursory glance, all Buli names begin with A-, a marker denoting that these are people, e.g.:

Keri = earth squirrel (animal)

Akeri = name of a man or a woman [endnote 20]

Specific Buli names for men or women do not exist either from the point of view of content or form. However, the syllable -lie (= daughter) or -pok (= woman) is often added to female names, especially for new names of women who marry into another clan section. Male names can be marked by the syllables – bil [endnote 21], -biik, -bisa, -diak, and -diok, although it is not always entirely clear whether the suffix (e.g. -diak) is part of the name or is intended to mark the gender of the name bearer.

Sometimes, the ending -bisa (plural of biik, child) is used instead of the ending -biik, especially when it is the first male child. The singular -biik would evoke too much the situation that the child remains the only one, while the ending -bisa is already meant to indicate that there will be more children.

The ending –na(a)b often, but not always, as the following example shows, indicates an incident with a chief. A pregnant woman from Tandem went to the market in Wiaga and gave birth to a son there. They wanted to indicate the unusual birth location in the name. However, it was considered inappropriate to call the son Awiag, as Atuga’s son and Wiaga’s founder bore that name. So, the son was called Awiagnab.

Young people, in particular, try to ‘modernise’ their names themselves later. For many Bulsa, the suffix -a is considered ‘modern’, so some younger Bulsa add it to their consonantally ending names (cf. also Sandem – Sandema, Wiag – Wiaga, and kambon-naab – kambon-naaba). Alternatively, the initial A- is sometimes replaced by another vowel, e.g. Adanur – Idanur, since the name thus changed is said to have {85} a more ‘cosmopolitan’ sound. Sometimes, the initial A is omitted: Sampana instead of Asampan, Kalasanab instead of Akalasanab.


b) Translation aids

Some frequently recurring words and particles will be translated here to make it easier for the reader to translate the names given as examples on the following pages:

ale = and; with

ate, te = for

ba = they; them; their

be = where

boa = what

boro, bo, boka = to be, to be present; to live; to dwell

-dek = self (badek = themselves, ndek myself)

dem(a) = people, folk

di, de, du = this, that

felik(a) = white man; European

jam = to come

kan, ka, an, n = not

kama, kame = particle of emphasis

ko = to kill

kum = death

mi, n = I, me, my

moaning, moanung = red; brown

na(a)b = chief

nipok = girl, woman

nya = to see

nye = to make, to do

pieluk = white, light

paari, paa = to reach

pari, pa = to take

po = in

pok = woman

ta = to have, to hold

wari – (pl. wie) = word; thing; deed

wen, won = ‘God’; personal destiny

wom = to listen

ze = not to know

zeri = to refuse {86}


c) Syntactic structure of the names

For the syntactic study of Buli names, all names derived from geographical proper names (e.g. Awiaglie) were omitted in this study since almost every married woman can also be named after her home section, and in genealogical studies, these names occupy a vast space when the informant has forgotten the real name. Of course, all names that could not be fully interpreted in their syntax or semantics (approximately 150) were also omitted, leaving 1322 different names. Here, two main difficulties arose in the syntactic analysis:

1. Many names are shortened in their known form, and often, their syntax is only possible to discern if one knows the long form.

The long forms can sometimes attain considerable length. I was told the following name from Gbedema: Aginganagokbaliisi (= The drums beat [to dance, but] they refuse [to dance]).

2. The part of speech of many Buli words is not yet apparent today. For example, some words can be used both as nouns and as prepositions (nying = 1. body, 2. because of; zuk = 1. head, 2. on), some verbs have adverbial character (e.g. gum = 1. add, add; 2. moreover, on top of), some words and particles cannot be integrated into a grammatical category at all or only with difficulty (-ya, kama). This ambiguity raises the question of whether it is permissible to apply grammatical terms (e.g. noun, predicate, adverb, etc.) developed initially for European languages to African languages.

Despite the difficulties mentioned, I attempt to break down the names into syntactic structural elements. The categories (S, P, Av, and E; see below) are not arranged according to a strict grammatical system, but I considered their meaningful usability in this ethnographic work. Interrogative pronouns, for example, were listed as independent units and not incorporated into the syntactic categories of subject and object. The endings -lie and -pok, which can be attached to any woman’s name, are not considered in this study {87}.

In the list below, the abbreviations have the following meanings:

S: A noun, gerund or pronoun standing alone or designating the subject in a sentence structure. Of course, no statement can be made about the syntactic function in a single position. As can be inferred from interpretations by informants, it can then function mentally as a predicate noun or even as an object, e.g. Atuima (work) is interpreted by an informant as follows: ‘I (the name-giver) have a lot of work at the moment’.

P: A verb that has a predicative function in a syntactic context.

O: A noun, pronoun, participle or gerund in the function of a direct, indirect or prepositional object.

N: The particles kan and an negate a statement (English ‘not’).

Verbs with negative contents (e.g. karo, short form ka = not have, ze = not know) were omitted.

A: An adjective standing alone or in an attributive position (rarely predicative or adverbial).

Av: An adverb not derived from an adjective (e.g. kinla = in vain, jinla = today, tin = just, etc.).

E: The emphatic particle kama or kame.

I: Interrogative pronouns.

Pr: Prepositions with a single noun.

deep: Deep Buli is a form of speech used mainly by older people in set phrases. The names in deep Buli listed here could be translated but not clearly analysed syntactically. The numerous names utterly inexplicable to my informants may also have been partly written in deep Buli {88}.

Overview of the syntactic structure of Buli names

n = 1322


Syntactic Structure Number   of Names   %   Example
PO 243 17,7 Akonab = kills chief
S 219 16,6 Abosuk = grave
NPO 139 10.5 Akangariba = not separating them
PP 82 6.2 Agazeri = go (and) refuse
SA 78 5,9 Ayi(e)kasung = houses spoilt
SP 74 5.6 Amaboro = I live
P  62 4.7 Achim = grow
SS [endnote 22] 56 4.3 Atuinab = baobab chief
NP 50 3.8 Akanse = do not build
SPO 38 2.9 Abolimjumi = Fire burns me
PI 37 2.8 Anagbe = beat where?
A 24 1.8 Agelik = short
NS 19 1.4 Akanfelik = not a European
NPP 17 1.3 Akandako = do not buy (and) kill
SPr 13 1.0 Awuutapo = in the grass
PPO 11 0.8 Apusiwenba = greet and tell them
PE 11 0.8 Asebkame = know!
AvP 9 0.7 Angmanwom = listen again
deep, dark 14 1.0 Asaprinya = pray for me (?)
4 elements , e.g. NPOO 12 0.9 Akannyemidu = do not do me that
Others 123 9.3
Total         1322 100%

Including the names listed under ‘Others’, 256 (19.5%) contain a negative particle, and 72 (5.5%) have a question form. In 407 names (30.7%), a syntactic structure with (a) predicate(s) and (an) object(s) is discernible (PO, NPO, PPO, POI, NPOO etc.), but the subject is missing. As I was able to learn, these are usually not abbreviations, but as a subject, the name-giver must often be used as a matter of course; in some cases, one can add ba (= they, i.e. people, the others or the enemies) {89}.


Excursus: Connections between children’s names

There can be various formal links between individual children’s names within a single family (usually of the same mother).

1. The thought or wish expressed in one child’s name can be continued in the name of the following child. Leander named his first child Akanyaba (no one loves me), and as a conclusion or elaboration of this, he named his second child Anamboro (life is suffering).

2. All the children’s names in one family are taken from another family. In Gbedema, when a married woman procured a wife for an unmarried man (from another family), who gave all his children born afterwards the names of the children from the first-named family.

3. A family’s children all have names roughly expressing the same idea. In Sandema-Abilyeri, a man named his sons Awielewie (‘a thing is a thing’), Angainingai (‘things are things’), and Adiiledii (‘a thing is a thing’). Each name’s meaning is approximately: ‘All things are equal and must be done’.

4. Sometimes, the similarity is limited to the same initial sound of the English name, for example, Martha, Maria, Mary, and Magdalena (information from Gbedema). Twins, in particular, have similar-sounding names in Buli and English (e.g. Doris and Dora). M. Louis has also found similar phenomena in the names of the Mossi (1963: 110).



The following classification of Bulsa names was given to me by a Bulo, and it will also be essentially retained in this work:

1) Buli names:

a) Official names (yue mangsa, Sing. yue mang; given at the segrika)

b) Nicknames

2) Foreign names

a) Weekday names

b) Christian and English names

Official names and nicknames are, in many cases, immediately recognisable as such. A name like ‘Asukanmaru’ (‘a person who is easily excited and cannot be helped’) will undoubtedly be an official name, while names that reflect, for example, characteristics of the child are usually unofficial (nicknames), e.g.:

Akanfelik (‘no European’, the name of an albino)

Apiining (‘lean’, ‘malnourished’)

Asuikanlo (‘the navel does not fall’)

Agbaruk (‘lame’ – the child learnt to walk badly)

Often, however, it is difficult to conclude from the name whether it is an official name [endnote 23]. Therefore, in the following, the Buli names will not be divided according to official and unofficial names but according to other categories. Classification groups such as tree names and animal names do not exist in the mind of the Bulsa. Knowing whether a tree name is a tanggbain name or the birth occurred under a particular tree would be more decisive. In this work, however, there was no other possibility than bringing the chosen, even unexplained names, into the classification scheme {90}.


a) Concretes

1. Animal names

Abiak (‘dog’), Abang (‘lizard’), Abuuk (‘goat’), Abunorlie (‘bunoruk = ‘chameleon’), Abuntoari (‘toad’), Abuntubiik (‘mudfish’), Adung (‘animal’), Achiisa (‘chickens’), Agoaibiak (‘leopard’), Ajuik (juik [endnote 24] = ‘mongoose’), Akansiing (‘small edible frog’), Akawuruk (‘pigeon’), Akeri (‘ground squirrel’), Akunkolukbajiik (‘large-headed fish’), Akpong (‘guinea fowl’), Amiadi (‘ant’), Anaamoaning (‘red cow’), Aniigalie (‘cows’), Anoruk (‘chameleon’), Antuelie (‘grasshoppers’), Anuim (‘bird’), Apampok (‘genet’), Asaana (‘porcupines’), Awalik (‘antelope’), Awaab (‘snake’).

Many of these names were undoubtedly used as nicknames. For example, Akunkolukbajiik (shortened to Akojiik) was given as the name of a boy with an unusually large head. Abang or Abuntoari may also have been used as nicknames because the child was small and resembled a lizard or a toad. However, there may also be an unusual event behind this name (cf. the snake story below).

Some of the names reflect extraordinary – but not supernatural – events. For instance, Antuelie (born in the early 1930s) was given her name because, at the time of her birth, large swarms of locusts were ravaging the country. Likewise, the name Ajuik (mongoose) occupies a particular position, only given if the child is offered as a protégé to a specific juik. In a particular ritual (juik ferika), the child receives a juik shrine (usually a vertical stone on a footpath), a juik skin and a juiik name (Ajuik). A similar juik ferika must be performed for all subsequent children, with them all receiving a juik name. These names have variations to allow for distinguishing them: Ajuikbil, Ajuikdiok, Ajuiklie, Ajuimoanung, Ajuisobluk, Ajuipok, Ajuikperik or Ajuikperiklie.

When an animal’s name is given as an official name, it is often assumed to be an animal with supernatural powers. Apart from juik, this is almost always the case with ‘chameleon’ names, as the chameleon is regarded with awe and reverence by most Bulsa [endnote 25]. However, a specimen of an otherwise profane animal species can also embody a returned ancestor, as the following story shows.

In a compound in Wiaga-Tandem, where a heavily pregnant woman lived, a snake crawled unerringly into the part of the compound where the child was to be born. It was identified as an ancestor, and all fear subsided since an ancestral snake is harmless. After {91} the girl’s birth, the snake stayed for four days (four: female principle). Perhaps it was the ancestor that was reborn in the girl. In any case, it brought about a happy birth. The girl was later named Awaalie (‘daughter of the snake’). At entrance of a compound in Sandema-Kalijiisa, I witnessed a small brown snake living in a clay pot, standing in a three-forked branch crown (chagsa). The snake can leave it at will. The old head of the house always knows where it is when it is not in the pot. Apart from sacrificial food, the old man does not feed it; instead, it looks for its food. It is not the embodiment of an ancestor but a jadok that has become harmless and helpful through sacrifice and care. Thus, the names Awaab and Awaalie also typically refer to a sacred snake and a jadok segrika.

I heard the following story explaining the name Asaana (‘porcupine’). Shortly before the birth, a porcupine came to a compound and stayed near the gbanlong where the birth was to occur. After the baby’s birth, the porcupine left three quills in the dayiik and disappeared. The father put the three quills under the roof of the dayiik, where sacrifices are still made to them today, although Asaana is no longer alive. After the incident with the porcupine, the father of the newborn child went to the diviner, who confirmed that the porcupine was an ancestor and indicated the exact name of the ancestor. I also discovered a porcupine bristle in front of a nipok-tiim in a house in Sandema-Kalijiisa-Yongsa. The house owner told me there used to be a whole ring of spines surrounding the nipok-tiim, but they were all lost. He could not tell me the significance of the spikes. In his father’s time, a stranger had erected the nipok-tiim like this.

2. Names of trees

Abakulie (tree sp.), Abusingboong (busum-boong = Piliostigma thonningii), Achamlie (shea tree, Butyrospermum Parkii), Agaab and Agaabisa (Diospyros mespiliformis), Akingkanglie (Ficus sp.), Aninanglie {92} (Sclerocarya birrea), Apusik (Tamarindus indica), Atuiuk (baobab, Adansonia digitata), and Asielie (siik = Anogeissus leiocarpus)

In two cases (Abusingboong and Agaabisa), a tree’s name was given to the child because the mother gave birth under that tree. In other cases, however, these may also be tanggbain names. Some informants make this last explanation a rule: ‘Tree names of a person indicate that the child was offered to a sacred tree’.

3. Other toponyms

Apu(i)ng (rock), Aguuk (ruin, mound of a deserted compound), Agoluk (hole, valley basin), Ateng (land), Atanta (sand)

These names can indicate the birthplace of the child or denote tanggbana. Apu(i)ng and Ateng are considered typical tanggbain names. However, if the geotope has a preposition, one may assume it is not a tanggbain name but a reference to the child’s birthplace (e.g. Awuutapo = ‘in the grass’).

Tanggbana: Although their patronage is primarily reflected in the ‘teng’ names, e.g. Ateng, Atenglie, tangbana also have proper names, and people can be named after these as well. I have encountered the following personal names of this kind:

Abuluk (tanggbain in Wiaga-Bachinsa)

Alogtaka (Logta: tanggbain in Sandema-Choabisa)

Azaksuk (tanggbain in Sandema-Fiisa)

4. Other items (tools, household items, food, etc.)

Aguri (‘wooden hammer’), Atankung (‘pestle’, or named after Sandema-Tankunsa?), Abaglie (‘horn’), Ameenalie (‘mat sticks’), Aneeb (‘net’), Akunkoluk (‘calabash bottle’), Agona (Sing. {93} gong = a specific calabash container), Akpasagi (‘chewing stick for cleaning teeth’), Asanyaah (‘rattle’), Apimpaning (pimpanung = rope for tying up goats), Anyammasa (‘tasty water’), Asaab (TZ), Akatuak (‘specific soup’), Atuemoaning (‘red beans’), Abogta (‘fibres’ or a specific vegetable soup), Amankarik (‘late millet’), Agungum (‘fruit of the kapok tree’), Angmieng (refers to the thinner half of the millet stem, often used for arrows), Angmanyak (a specific type of grass used to make medicine for stomach ache), Akpabung (‘chicken dung’), Ayaata (‘rubbish’), Asampok (½ pesewa coin, or the name of a newly married woman).

Most likely, the enumeration of concrete things from the daily life of the Bulsa proves the most difficult to assign to a general category among all groups. Some of the names may be nicknames (Asampok), and others reflect the situation at the time of birth (Ameenalie’s mother was looking for mat stalks in the bush) or an event in the early childhood of the name bearer (Anwanyak). Some names include items that can be associated with religious practices. For example, the name Abaglie may refer to the horn of a sacrificed animal worn after the name has been given. The word kunkoluk can also allegedly refer to the rattle of the diviner (otherwise known as baan-kayak). The diviner’s rattle is a bogluk to which sacrifices are offered and can also become a child’s guardian spirit (segi).

Names like Akpabung (‘chicken droppings’) and Ayaata (‘rubbish’) can be expressions for a negative view of life (belonging to group d). Both names were interpreted to me by various informants as follows: Life is worthless, like rubbish; anyone can push you aside or trample on you.


b) Place names

1. Clan section, village, town, ethnicity, country

Bulsa clan sections:

Ayimoaning (Wiaga-Yimonsa), Akubelie (Wiaga-Kubelinsa),

Awapesalie (Doninga-Wapiensa), Abalansa (Sandema-Balansa) {94}

Bulsa villages:

Asinieng (Siniensi), Achuchuloa (Chuchuliga), Afumbisilie (Fumbisi), Agbedem (Gbedema)

Villages and towns outside Bulsaland:

Achaana (Chana), Ankaralie or Ankrah (Accra), Aniima (Niima, a suburb of Accra), Akumasi or Amaasi (Kumasi)

Foreign ethnic groups:

Akasem (Kasena), Atoaling (Tallensi), Agbanpok (Dagomba), and Abayoribalie (Yoruba)

State or country names:

Akongo (Congo; the father was in the Congo War), Aghana, and Ghanatta

Most of the names falling under this group are nicknames or impromptu names, and many of them are given to a woman who marries a man from another village or clan section, especially when she is spoken of while her segrika name cannot be remembered. However, the fact that such names can sometimes become segrika names is shown by the example of Leander’s son, Afarinmonsa. Names like Akumasi, Ankrah, or Ankara usually indicate a southern birthplace and are probably never segrika names. Bulsa children named Aghana or Ghanatta were often born in 1957, the year of the Declaration of Independence and when the Gold Coast was named Ghana.

The ‘slave names’ also formally belong to the names of foreign ethnic groups listed here. However, because of their special status and meaning, they will be dealt with later in a separate section.

2. Designations of localities in the house or outside the house

Adokpo (‘in the hut’; ‘in the room’), Adalong (‘in the dalong’, the main room of a courtyard, in Wiaga ‘ancestral room’), Aparik (‘wall’), Azong {95}, (‘sheep or goat shed’), Anankpieng (‘cattle-yard’), Abukuripo (in or near the chicken coop), Ayeripo (‘outside the house’), Atampoi (‘rubbish heap’), Akusung (‘meeting room outside the compound’), Abulie (bulik = well), Ayaba (‘market’), Asupaklie (‘crossroads’), Asuitapo (‘on the roads’), Asiisapo (‘under the siik trees’), Asagnab (‘chief of the bush’).

In all the cases, the locality may represent the birthplace of the child, and for most of the examples given above, it has been explicitly confirmed to me. For Atampoi (heap of rubbish), however, I have also been given another explanation: the mother has had so many miscarriages that they now believe this child was also born again for the tampoi, where infants are buried.


c) Events at the time of birth

Names of this group are apparently widespread in West African ethnic groups and beyond [endnote 26].

Agoom (‘sleep’): All the house’s inhabitants were asleep when the child was born.

Ayogpo (‘in the night’): The child was born at night.

Afelik (‘white man’, ‘European’): The name’s bearer was born when Europeans first came to Bulsaland. The name Afelik can have many other interpretations.

Achingmalie (‘clouds’): The girl was born on a rainy day.

Awombadek (‘hearing themselves’): The mother quarrelled with her husband and left the compound. The male child was born in her parents’ house and received his name there. Now, people there want to hear something from the husband’s house.

Awonbas (won = ‘god’ or ‘fate’; basi = ‘abandon’ or ‘set free’): Someone tried to kill the father by poisoning his pito. His stomach swelled up, but {96} an antidote saved him. He felt as if God had freed him from a heavy burden.

Apoabadek (poak = spoil; ‘they spoil themselves’): Someone spoilt the child with sweets and eggs. A bad upbringing can have repercussions for the originators.

Azebiamtoa (ze = not know, biam = birth, toa = to be hard; ‘they do not know that birth is difficult’): The child’s mother was married in her first marriage to a man from Sandema who tried to reclaim the woman and child from her second marriage in Wiaga-Chiok. The people from Chiok think that whoever demands such a thing does not know how difficult childbirth is.

Abenab (benab = cattle vaccination): Abenab was born when all cattle owners were urged to bring their cattle to the chief’s house to be vaccinated.

Abejam (be = to be lost, jam = to come): The father had been a soldier in the Second World War, without anyone knowing where he was. However, he came back healthy.

Abaavariba (vari = to fetch, to take by force): Thieves had entered the house and were caught shortly before the child’s birth.

Abaalie (‘daughter of them’, i.e. of them all): Her pregnant mother came to the new husband. When her baby girl was born, the mother’s old husband did not care for her. Therefore, all the householders in the new husband’s house want to consider the girl a daughter of their house.

Abaamaami (maari = help; ‘they help me’): The child’s old father received much labour help from his neighbours.

Azarinying (zari = placenta, nying = because of): Several men wanted the product of birth (placenta = child), i.e. to have the child, which resulted in quarrels. {97}


d) Complaints of the father

1. General complaints about his miserable situation

Anyavuusimbe (vuusim = rest; nya = see; ‘Where do I find rest?’).

Avekame (viiri = to starve).

Atadinyin (nyini = to take out): The child is supposed to take away all worries, illnesses and disputes from the parents with its birth.

Amaana (‘suffering’).

Abokatoa (toa = to be hard; ‘life is hard’).

Akanaab (naab = cow; ‘no cow’): The father is not wealthy; he does not even have a single cow.

Adikeboa (di from diiiri = to take away (?); meaning: ‘What do I get from a daughter?’): The gifts one gets later from the son-in-law are trivial. One will lose a daughter to another family.

Ajusilie (juisi = to beg; meaning approximately: ‘daughter of a beggar’).

Anisapo (nisa = hand; nisa po = ‘into the hand’): This name is said to recall the song of beggars:

Ni dan nya maga, ni nyo n nisa po…

If you see (have) a little (food), give it to me on the palm of my hand… [endnote 27]

The father wants to express that he is only a beggar.

The question of why many Bulsa names are so pessimistic and melancholic is one that Bulsa are also asked by other tribes who understand Buli, e.g. the Kantussi. For example, the effort to conceal their wealth in their names aligns with their desire not to tell anyone else how many cattle they have or to show the boundaries of their fields. By highlighting his poverty, the father avoids the hubris that challenges the envy of neighbours and supernatural spirits: {98} and, more recently, he can even dudge taxation by the state.

Bulsa assert that name contents are frequently future-focused and that name prophesies can occasionally come true. A boy who had been given the name Ananti (nan, nam = suffer, ti, te = give, give away) as a young child left his parents early after attending school for a few years, was little heard of and never sent money to his parents, so that it could rightly be said that his parents only had to take on the hardships (nan) of his early upbringing, to give him away (ti) to others who reaped the fruits of their labours.

2. Complaints about the new times and the young generation

Ajinlawie (jinla = today, wie = actions or words: ‘today’s actions’): ‘Our forefathers would not have approved of how we act today’.

Ajindem (jinla = today, dema = people: ‘the people of today’, i.e. the younger generation): Although this name does not contain any actual statement, it is supposed to denounce the lifestyle of the school-educated younger generation.

Anabisa (naab = chief, bisa = children): Today’s youth behave as if they are all children of chiefs.

Asiabisa (siak = agree, obey, bisa = children): In the future, we will have to obey our children.

Awondok (‘house of God’, ‘church’): The children we bear now will be lost to the Christian church.

Afelbiik (‘child of the white man’): The parents know they will lose their child to the whites attending school.

3. Thoughts of one’s death

Anyambe (nyam = parents; ‘Where are the parents?’): The parents will soon die, and the child will ask this about his parents {99}.

Akumbagmi (bagi = to force, to be stronger): Death is stronger than me.

Akumanyami (‘Death is looking at me’).

Achumka (chum = tomorrow, karo = not to be; ‘there is no tomorrow’).

4. Fear of dying without offspring

Complaining about previous stillbirths and infant mortality:

Abiatekum (biam = birth, te = give: ‘birth gives to death’): Many children had previously died (been given to death).

Adoalikum (doa = friend): Death has already killed so many children that you should be its friend now.

Akumayesi (yesi = to gather up, to gather ears of corn): Death gathers the family’s last remnants like a corn collector.

Abelmi (be = to be lost, to be ripe, here: to die; ‘l’ for ale = with): The child is so weak and sick that it will hardly survive the father but will die with him.

The father’s fear that no son can bury him:

Agundek (gu = bury): I will have to bury myself.

Akagura (ka = not have; gu = bury): I have no one to bury me.

The father’s fear of dissolution and the downfall of his house:

Ajamkokolim (kolim = to pick up; to come and collect), i.e. they come and collect the remains of his compound.

Akolintebai (pick up and give to them).

Both names have a similar content. When all the male house members have died, relatives take the household items they can use. The house itself is destroyed with wooden hammers (guri, cf. Aguri), and only ruins (guuta) remain, recalled by the name Aguuta {100}.

The anxious expectation of a father’s death (3) and the lamentations about the death of the children (4) are intensified by the horrible thought that no son will preside over the funeral rituals for the dead, deliver eulogies about the deceased and offer sacrifices to the him. After some time, the compound will become a mound of ruins (guuta) where only the hemispherical clay bowls (grave closures) remind people of the graves of the house’s former inhabitants.


e) Conflicts

None of the other categories of names I have compiled has as many examples as this group, in which the names reflect a conflict in one’s own house with neighbours or members of a foreign clan section. The sub-groupings given here as examples are meant to represent different aspects and phases of a conflict case, but they are by no means intended to reconstruct the course of a typical conflict case through their names. Therefore, the order of the sub-groupings carries an element of arbitrariness on the author’s part. However, if a typical model of real conflict cases were constructed, an extensive collection of names would likely provide a corresponding name for each phase if a typical model of real conflict cases were constructed.

l. Rejection and disharmony

Abazerime (‘they reject me’)

Akajiirim (jiirim = compassion; ‘no pity’)

Akansiaba (siak = agree; ‘disagree with them’)

Akanyaawai (yaali = love, wai = someone; ‘loves no one’)

Akanyemidu (‘shall not do this to me’)

Akanmugsimi (mugsi = to force; ‘you cannot force me’)

2. Anger, resentment and hatred

Agoalisui (li = ale, goa = sleep, sui = trouble; ‘sleep with trouble’)

Angobnyina (ngobi = to chew, nyina = teeth; sense: ‘to grind one’s teeth in anger’),

Akisiba (kisi = to hate; ‘hates {101} them’)

Akisimideka (deka = food; ‘[somebody] hates my food’)

Akisikpak (kpak = old; ‘old hate’)

3. Courage and pride

Akachaliba (chali = fear; ‘does not fear them’)

Akanjuisiba (juisi = ask; ‘do not ask them’)

4. Malicious rumours and accusations and their rejection

Aleetanyeboa (leeta = insults; ‘what do insults do?’).

Anvanyindu (nyini = to go out; va = to follow; ‘I did not follow them out there’): He rejects the accusation that he goes out in the evening and follows the witches to help them in their destructive work.

Akantuy(u)e (tuiri = to get lost, yue = name; ‘a good name cannot get lost’).

Afaalatie (faala = to be lazy, not to care about; ti = us; ‘the rumour-teller should not care about us’).

Avelimbadek (velim = lie; ‘they themselves lie’).

Awibadek (wi = call; ‘calls them themselves’): The child’s father has been accused of theft. The accusers should try to find the real thieves.

Ankasibawari (kasi = spoil; ‘did not spoil their thing’).

5. Withdrawal and silence

Adigi (digi or diki = ‘to be quiet’).

Akaliwom (kali = to sit down; wom = to listen; ‘one must consider the matter calmly’).

Asebelanya (se = know; abe = and; la = laugh; ‘he knows, laughs and watches’).

Akanbiabawie (biagi = give birth; ‘do not give birth to their words’): Nothing can come from words alone.

Akanchalata (chali = fear, lata = laughter): He does not mind people laughing at him {102}.

Akutugbang (kutuk = iron; gbang = skin, fur): He has a ‘thick skin’.

6. Violence and witchcraft

Akankomi (‘cannot kill me’).

Akopeeleba (peeleba = literally: sincere people, i.e. people who love openness; ko peeleba = ‘kill sincere people’).

Avonjiak (vong = prefer; jiak = wrestling, ‘preferring the wrestling match’): A wrestling match may also settle disputes amongst relatives unless they do not have a father–son relation.

Akovuuri (ko = kill; vuuri = drag): This is an accusation of witchcraft because witches drag their human prey behind them after killing them.

Asakpanab (sakpak = witch or sorcerer): If you want to bewitch me, you should know that I have even stronger witchcraft skills (literally, ‘I am a chief of witches’).

7. Moving out and separation

A conflict within a house is often settled by one of the disputing parties moving out and starting to build a new house. In recent times, younger people – particularly those who often have house disputes – have also moved to southern Ghana.

Akamaboro (ma = also; ‘cannot also live’): He can no longer live with them.

Atoakabe (tuak = to leave; ‘where are you going?’): Someone has left the house.

Apochaab (poori = separate; chaab = mutual): They separate because there is no longer unity.

Asekabta (se = build; kabta = half; half-built): The Sandema chief Ayieta gave this name to his son after his predecessor’s (Anaankum’s) death when the children of Anaankum had left the chief’s house. The name means the house was only built for half the former inhabitants {103}.

8. Dispute or conflict among others

The name-giving father, often also yeri-nyono, is not always involved in the dispute. Especially as the head of the compound (yeri-nyono), he is interested in avoiding any dispute in his house. Conflicts among relatives who do not live in his house may also attract his attention, and if there was a dispute at the time of naming, it may be reflected in the child’s name.

Akannagyeri (nag = to strike; ‘do not strike the house!’): Do not cause the downfall of this house!

Akisichaab (kisi = hate; chaab = each other; ‘they hate each other’).

Anachaaba (‘they hit each other’).

Akochaab (‘they kill each other’).

Anuechaab (nue = end; ‘they prepare the end for each other’).


f) Wisdom and behavioural advice

The names of this group – almost all segrika names – already approach proverbs in their content and form. However, linguistically they are much more abbreviated and often not understandable without additional explanations. Mainly, they express a negative life experience or a disappointment.

Adaminyiini (da = be not; mi = me; nyiini = only, alone; ‘not only me’): Others also have difficulties and problems.

Akanjambodai (literally: ‘not coming is there’): At the end, you always say, ‘If I had known…’

Anyinkatoa (nyinka = coming out; toa = to be difficult; ‘coming out is difficult’): It is easier to get into a conflict than to get out.

Apagratoa (pagra = to be rich, to be strong, toa = to be difficult): Being rich is often difficult.

Anabisakayam (yam = sense, reason; children of the chief have no sense): Children of rich people are often spoilt.

Akanpekum (pe = to swear): No one gets past death {104}.

Akanpitibiam (piti or pini = to know a secret; biam = birth): No one knows the secret of birth.

Akpaziimako (kpaziim = palpitations, fear; ko = to kill): When you are afraid, you are more likely to die.


g) Theophore names [endnote 28]

In the following names with wen (won), it is often difficult to tell whether the omnipotent, omnipresent sky-god (i.e. Naawen), man’s personal wen [endnote 29] or fate, in general, is meant. As the examples below show, the names do not always imply submission and worship but can sometimes be interpreted as expressions of disappointment. Wen-names are usually segrika names.

Since churches have equated the Christian God with wen or Naawen (naab = chief, king), some Christians may also acquire names with wen. For example, a European missionary calls himself Atawensiejam (wensie = truth; ta jam = bring), i.e. ‘brings the truth’.

Akankpembawon (kpeem = to be older than): Who is older than God?

Awenate (te = to give): God gives.

Awenanya: God sees (everything).

Awenkayek (yek, yeg = much, great): God is great.

Awonnab: God is chief.

Awenboro: God exists.

Akanvariwen (vari = to force): You cannot force God.

Akanbiisilewen (biisi = to speak): One cannot speak with God.

Akantewonjiam (ta = give, jiam = thanks): (He) does not give thanks to God.

Ajuewen (jue climb): Climbing up to God.

Alakawon (la laugh): Laughing at God or Fate {105}

h) Adoptive names

If a pregnant woman is married to a man who is not the child’s procreator, the child, if it is a boy, will be given the full rights of a natural son of the ‘adoptive father’. Only the names of such children remind us that the ‘father’ obtained them without any action on his part:

Awenbiik: ‘Child of God’.

Awentiirim (tiirim = gift): ‘Gift of God’ [endnote 30].

Annamunyaya (nam = suffer, nya = see): ‘Not suffered to see’, i.e. the new father has done nothing to obtain this child; he receives them as a gift.

Akanzeriterum (terum for tiirim = gift): ‘One does not refuse a gift.’

The name Awenbiik can also be given to children conceived in marriage; the other names are exclusively for the case described here. If the lawful wife leaves her husband and becomes pregnant in another compound, a strong husband will reclaim the wife with her fetus. The child conceived out of wedlock can then be named in the following manner:

Anigeri: ‘muscle strength’.

Apagrimasa (pagrim = strength, masa = to be tasty): ‘Strength is sweet’.


i) Slave names [endnote 31]

If a woman has had several miscarriages, and a living child is born again, various means are used to make the child unrecognisable to evil forces {endnote 32]. This also includes the bestowal of a name with the meaning of ‘slave’ for the Bulsa:

Ayomo: Slave

Amoak (sing.) and Amoasa (pl.): Mossi  slave {106}

Ayarik: Kantussi slave

Azangbiok: Haussa slave

Azabaring: Zambarima slave

Akanbong: Ashanti slave

Ayorik: Yoruba slave

Afulang: Fulani slave

In some areas of Bulsaland, the name Atoaling (Tallensi) also carries this function. Often, however, this name only indicates that at the time of birth, Tallensi people were in or near the compound for sacrificial acts.

Of course, the bearers of slave names do not suffer any loss of status in Bulsa society because of their names and facial scars. In his curriculum vitae, S. Amoasah from Wiaga-Yimonsa reports that he was especially loved in his house because they desired a surviving child after many miscarriages.


j) English names in Buli form

A small group of names have the formal characteristics of Buli names (prefix A-, suffixes -lie, -pok, etc.), but at the name’s core is an English word – often tricky even for a native English speaker to recognise. The names of this group can never be segrika names.

Aborigade (brigade): The father was once a brigade worker.

Afarolie (Father): She was born when the White Fathers came to Wiaga.

Agominapok (governor): The child got its name after a visit by the ‘colonial governor’ to Sandema.

Ajalagufe: Name of a teacher who liked to sing the song ‘Oh, he is a jolly good fellow’ in school. His students gave him this nickname.

Aloripok (lorry) and Amoatika (motorcar): These names were often given when the first cars and motorbikes came to Bulsaland.

Asaajipok (sergeant): The name’s bearer was born during the war. The name recalls an incident with a sergeant.

Assibitilie (hospital) and Adocta (doctor): The two names mean that the child was born in a hospital or that a doctor helped with the birth {107}

Modern names with onomatopoeic elements may also be included in this group:

Apupulia (motorbike): ‘pupu’ onomatopoeically stands for the exhaust sound.

Acheche (bicycle): ‘cheche’ is supposed to represent the sound of a fast-moving bicycle but is borrowed in this form from Hausa.



The number of Buli names I have collected and the method I used do not allow me to answer all the questions associated with the study of names. Above all, the following three questions must be left open for later research:

1. Were  in earlier times the official Buli names also often formulated in a mournful, pessimistic tone? Some examples of names from before 1900 suggest that more optimistic (Abiako: ‘bears a hundred children’) and warlike (Afoko: ‘to strike and kill’) names were more common.

2. Do the Buli names in any way reflect the social status of their namesakes? For this purpose, it would be appropriate to examine the names of the families of the 12 living Bulsa chiefs and compare them with those of other families.

3. Are there geographical differences in the choice of names? Here, it should be examined above all whether there are differences between the names of the Atuga-bisa (Sandema, Siniensi, Wiaga, Kadema) and the South Bulsa (Fumbisi, Kanjaga etc.) {108}.



In earlier times, all Bulsa had one segrika name, and thus one could optionally have several nicknames in Buli. In recent times, especially among the younger generation, one also finds such additional names in Haussa, Kasem [endnote 33], Dagbane, Ga, Twi, English, etc. These names can never become segrika names.


a) Haussa and Islamic names (sagi yue)

Similar to most ethnic groups in northern Ghana, the Bulsa also name their children after the day of the week on which they were born. The custom was probably not adopted by the Bulsa from the Akan people but from northern Islamic groups with or after adopting the Haussa weekdays-names; several Bulsa informants supported this suggestion. The names of the weekdays, used by Bulsa, have the Haussa form, but linguistically, they go back to the Arabic names of the days of the week, which correspond to the numbers 1–7.


English Weekday Buli Personal Names Buli Personal Names
male female
Sunday Danla(a)di La(a)di
Monday (Dantenni) Tenni, Atani
Tuesday  (Dantalata) Talata
Wednesday (Danlariba, Lariba) Lariba
Thursday (Danlamisi), Lamisi Lamisi, Alamisi
Friday (Danzuma) Azuma, Azumi
Saturday  Assibi Assibi (Assibilie)

Note on the table: Names in brackets are highly uncommon {109}

Buli suffixes (-biik, -pok, -lie, etc.) are seldom used for personal names derived from Haussa weekdays. The only one I have come across is Assibilie. The prefix A-, which otherwise occurs in all Buli names, has also dropped out of some of the names or can be omitted in the call form. However, the name Danla(a)di with the prefix dan- occurs frequently.

Aside from the Haussa names of the weekdays, other ‘Haussa names’ [endnote 34], often of Arabic or Old Testament origin, are popular among the Bulsa. They are mainly found among Muslims, but non-Islamic Bulsa people also like to adopt such names.

Among the 540 successful graduates of the six Bulsa Middle Schools [endnote 35], I found the following Haussa names for the 1970–74 years of school discharge or graduation. Notably, these names are referred to as Haussa names by the Bulsa themselves [endnote 36]:

Al(h)assan (11), Bawa (9), Baba (8), Musa (8), Salifu (6), Ali (5), Assak(a) (5), Issifu (4), Adama (3), Abudulai (3), Dahamani (3), Mahama (3), Gariba (3).

The Islamic bearers of the names listed above are often members of foreign ethnic groups. Among the 244 pupils of classes 3 and 4 of the Bulsa Middle Schools interviewed in August 1973, there were also eight Muslims, of whom only one was a Bulo (one Kantussi, one Wala, one Dagomba, one Mamprusi, one Sisala; two pupils answered the question about tribal affiliation incorrectly).


b) Akan names (sagi yue)

The Akan names used by the Bulsa primarily denote days of the week. Almost all Bulsa with Akan names known to me were given these names in the South, where they were born or spent a long time. For Akan weekday names, boys’ and girls’ names always differ. A combination of Akan names with Buli suffixes (-biik, -pok, -lie) or prefixes (A-, dan-) does not occur {110}.


English weekday Akan- weekday  Names for male persons Names for female persons
Sunday Kwesida Kwesi Akosia, Akosuwa, Esi
Monday  Dwuwda Kodjo Adua
Tuesday Binada Kobina, Kwabena Abinaba, Abina, Araba
Wednesday Wukuda  Kweku Ekua
Thursday  Yada Kwao, Yaw Aba, Yaa
Friday Fida Kofi Efua
Saturday Miminda Kwame Ama


The sample of 540 Bulsa school-leavers (1970–1974) contains the following Akan weekday names:

Kwesi (8), Kwame (6), Kofi (5), Kobina (4), Kweku (3), Kodjo (2), Yao, Yaw (1), Akasua (1), Ekua (1), Efua (1), Am(m)a (1)

Examples of other Akan names from the same sample occur once each:

Bako (firstborn son), Atta (female twin), Tewiah (first birth after twins), Atano (named after the Obosum and river Tano), Appiah, Boateng et al.


c) Christian and English names

Apart from the few cases [1974] where children are baptised in infancy at the instigation of their parents, Bulsa children usually choose their own English Christian names at the start or in the first years of school. Catholic children often have a second choice when choosing a Christian confirmation name {111}.

Of the 540 school-leavers from the 1970–1974 sample (370 boys and 160 girls), 10 pupils (male and female) did not list any Christian name in the leavers’ lists. Five of these bear only Islamic names; one bears only Akan and Buli names. In the case of three pupils with lengthy Buli names, only an initial appears, which may stand for a Christian name due to lack of space. One pupil gave only two short Buli names.

The 370 boys in the sample have 92 different Christian names. The following names are the most common:

Joseph (26)     William (8)

John (20)        Peter (8)

James (19)       Moses (7)

Francis (16)      Gilbert (6)

Clement (14)      Martin (6)

Michael (12)       Richard (5)

George (10)        Cletus (5)

Thomas (10)       Albert (5)

Emmanuel (9)


Noticeably, some of the names chosen are more common as surnames in England, e.g. Johnson, Wilson, Thompson, Williams, MacAlbert, Hayford, Collings, Sam(p)son.

Of the 160 girls in the sample, 63 had various Christian names. Among the chosen names, the following occur most frequently:

Grace (9)

Christina (9)

Felicia (8)

Mary (8)

Cecilia (6)

Justina (6)

Lydia (5)

Victoria (4)

Faustina (4)

Florence (4)

Agnes (4)

Margaret (4)

As far as I know, some of the below girls’ names are relatively rare in Britain. They may have been inspired by religious education in Bulsaland:

Agustina Perpetua

Benedicta Philomina

Clementia Salistina

Ernestina Sebastiana

Letitia Saraphina {112}



Each Bulo, as noted, has several names today. The traditional use of these names is greatly disturbed by the beginning of school attendance. When registering at a primary school, the children are asked for their father’s name, which is subsequently considered the ‘surname’ or ‘family name’ and kept in the alphabetical class lists. In addition, pupils are expected to adopt an English Christian name soon after entering school, even if the child does not yet intend to be baptised. Often, the children choose English names when they start reading English texts, and sometimes, the name is chosen after the hero of a story. The Christian churches later decide whether the name can also be baptismal. By the time pupils move on to middle school (Continuation School, later Junior Secondary School, Senior High School), they all have English names. The only exceptions are usually the Islamic pupils, yet even among them, some have acquired names like David, Charles, or Mary.

With the Christian name as the first and the patronymic one as the last name, there is little room in the school bureaucracy for a Buli name. The lists of students registering for the middle school leaving examination provide room for the student to add a third name, often inaccurately called ‘your own name’ or ‘your surname’ when referring to the name by which the student is usually called. Pupils do not always fill this space with their segrika name – often, the Haussa weekday name or a second Christian name, e.g. the confirmation name – appears here.

Although the school bureaucracy attempts to bring order into the system of names, a certain confusion remains. Former teachers of a school-leaving class sometimes do not recognise their pupils in the old lists of school-leavers because they are known to them under entirely different names. Pupils who live with a foster father (e.g. their mother’s brother) are usually given the foster father’s name as their surname, especially if the foster father {113} brings them to school on their first day and pays the school fees. When they return to their biological father or realise that they have the ‘wrong’ surname recorded, they change this name. There is also no agreement on whether the official Buli name of the father becomes the family name or another name. Some students give the father’s Christian name if the father already has a Christian one. An English male name may henceforth be ascribed to a female pupil. All of Leander Amoak’s children (male and female) have the ‘surname’ Leander.

The pupils themselves like to change their names. The confirmation name can replace the baptismal name altogether. While in southern Ghana, a national movement is calling for the abandonment of English names, there is still a wave of anglicisation among students in the north. English suffixes anglicise Buli names, e.g. Abang > Bangson; Atoaling > Etoalingson, and even place names are not spared from Europeanisation tendencies in student jargon: Sandema becomes Sansco City, Siniensi becomes Sinsco.

In the following, the example of my informant, Godfrey Achaw, will be used to show that an individual can have different names in different social groups. Apart from very short-lived names, the 28-year-old (1974) G. Achaw has received six names so far.

1. Akandawen (da = to buy; ‘one cannot buy God’; or ‘one cannot influence fate’). By this name, which he received in the naming ceremony, his late father, some of his father’s half-brothers and some of his father’s wives used to call him. Today, only his father’s surviving third wife calls him by this name. When she dies, his segrika name is extinct unless it is later revived by the bearer of the name, for instance, to the disadvantage of his Christian name.

2. Akaaladi (do not laugh like that). Only his father’s second wife called him by this name because he laughed a lot as a baby.

3. Akpatiok (ant hill). A man from Balansa gave him this name, and a part of his age group has adopted it. He never loved this name, and the reason for this naming does not seem quite clear to him either {114}.

4. Achaw [endnote 38]. This is his father’s name, which was entered in the class list when he first registered for school. His teachers usually called him by this name. At the Cape Coast University Hospital, where he worked at the time of the information, he is known as Mr. Achaw.

5. Tamale. This is a nickname he got from his classmates in the first years of school, and even today, a large part of his age group in Sandema still calls him like that. He does not like this name, as it is meaningless as the name of a town. Tamale appears after Godfrey and before Achaw in the 1959 list of middle-school leavers.

6. Godfrey. He gave himself this name during his first years of primary school. He no longer knows why he chose this name. In any case, a parish committee of the Presbyterian Church in Sandema decided that he could also choose this name as his baptismal name. He was called Godfrey by his classmates in middle school, and even today, most members of his peer group, as far as they can speak English, call him only Godfrey. In addition, at Bawku Nursing School, he was only known by this name. His Bulsa friends in Cape Coast primarily call him Godfrey, but some call him Achaw.

The individual who bears these six names regards only Godfrey as his first name and Achaw as his surname. None of his other names are known among the non-Bulsa in the South. His children will later bear the surname Achaw, and their children will do likewise. As can be seen, the names of the fathers who send their children to school for the first time have been perpetuated and become genuinely used surnames in the European sense from the following generation onward. The custom of using the father’s name as a surname stems from the British colonial system. Among the Bulsa, before the arrival of the English, it was possible to use the father’s name as a term attached to the child’s name to indicate the ‘owner’ (nyono) of the child through the genitive or to avoid confusion [endnote 39].

Naming a person after a long-dead ancestor (e.g. Abiako biik = child of the ancestor Abiako) is considered an honorific name (busein). Like other busein names (e.g. Amiinying = strong body), they are usually attributed to male {115} persons and can never be chosen by the name bearer himself. Busein names are often used in praise or wedding songs when a young man and his friends take a girl from another section as a bride. Women are only given busein names when they return to their parental home at an old age or when they practice the occupation of a diviner. Honorific names are never used in an official context, nor purely religious rites, administration offices, or schools.

In kinship groups, the basic rule can be that members of two different generations address each other by their kinship terms (father, mother). Often, they use nicknames. Leander, for example, was called Tiicha (teacher) by all family members and Anamogsi (a nickname for his official name, Awomanyoro, which is hardly known) was called Baba by his relatives.

If they belong to the same age group is the proper name used in the form of address. Classificatory brothers address each other by their names even if one brother is much older, but it is then considered a sign of respect if the name of the older brother is strongly shortened:

Akamanyabisa > Akabisa

Akayam > Aya

Akumanue > Anue

Akumasi > Amasi

Anyebokatoa > Abotoa> Atoa

Asaprinya > Apinya

Awarikaro > Aka

Awunyok > Anyoke

If a woman from another section marries into a family, the husband’s ‘fathers’ address her as n doa (my friend). The wives of the husband’s father either address the married woman as biik or, much more frequently, create new names. Each wife may invent a new name, but often, they follow the proposal of the father’s first wife or the young husband’s grandmother. The young wife addresses the classificatory brothers of her husband by their proper names, and the brothers address her accordingly. If a brother speaks of his sister-in-law, he will refer to her as n yoa pok (my brother’s wife). For example, if this brother’s name is Atiim {116}, his wife can be called Atiim pok. In contrast to the female proper name Atiimpok, pok cannot be interpreted here as a suffix of ‘Atiim’, but ‘Atiim’ as a genitive of the base word, pok. A husband addresses his wife’s brothers by their proper names. When he speaks of such a brother-in-law, he says n pok toa (my wife’s brother). Here, no distinction is made between younger and older brothers.

In European-influenced marriages – and even here, not always – the wife can adopt her husband’s name. In Ghana’s state legislation, such a name assignment is not required. Nor is it stipulated which name the husband’s wife should take after marriage. Mr Leander Amoak has given all his wives his first name, Leander, which had once been chosen as his Christian name, as their surnames: Atigsidum Leander, Afulanpok Leander, Atoalingpok Leander {117}.




1. Parts of the kankpiiling shrub are also used on other occasions. For example, {354} an ‘ointment’ is made from the ashes of its branches and shea butter to heal ulcers. Sometimes, the roots of the shrub are boiled in water. The decoction is mainly administered to small children.

2. For male children, it must be a dark (black or brown) rooster in Badomsa; for girls, a dark chicken is sacrificed there.

3. Kpilima = the ancestors. Leander Amoak calls this ‘room’ only a ‘fetish-room’. In Adeween Yeri, it was the former diviner’s room of his late brother Atiim. Today, it houses the bogluta of several deceased and living women. Cf. site plan, Chapter V,3b, p. {182}.

4 Ma-bage: a specific female ancestral bogluk. Cf. Chapter  p. 169 ff.

5. Cf. genealogical overview in Chapter V,3, No 7, p. {179}. Abonwari probably died while enslaved in the south of present-day Ghana. His body disappeared, and no funeral celebration has yet been performed. In the kpilima-dok are his sleeping mat and the mats of Atiim and Akanzaliba (Genealogy, nos. 43 and 44). Their deceased ‘souls’ (chiisa) are believed to reside with the mats.

6. According to other information, the usually slumbering wen is awakened by clear water. Even if you only want to talk to the wen, pour clear water or put your right hand on the stone.

7. The goat had been sacrificed at the harvest sacrifices (fanoai).

8. This consultation usually takes place in the kusung, a shady house with open side walls and covered with millet straw, located in front of the compound. Adeween Yeri, however, does not have a kusung.

9. This is earth in a horn, from a tanggbain of the house. A tanggbain is a natural sanctuary consisting of, for example, a grove, a rock, a tree, or other natural formations. The spirit that resides here is also called a tanggbain. (evtl. vorher!!)

10. At present (1978), all of Leander Amoak’s children have an (empty) segrika horn.

11. The currently (1973) unmarried and childless Akangaaba, the married Abang and their mother, Akanpowa, form a household in Achaw Yeri. As head of this household, Akangaaba went to see the soothsayer {355}.

12. The actual head of the household was his elder brother, Asaprinya, a policeman living in Keta (southern Ghana) at that time.

13. This does not agree with Leander’s statements that chickens are only sacrificed when girls are named.

14. On the connection between naming and ritual ablutions, see J. A. MacCufloch, 1908–1926: 367–375.

15. Informant: Ayarik from Wiaga-Tandem-Zuedema.

15a. I was later given a horn filled with Pung Muning earth to wear to every tanggbain offering. However, it was not a segrika horn.

16. See Chapter VII, 5, p. {291} for description and function.

17. A ‘naming pot’ (in front of a wen-bogluk) is also called tibiik but cannot become a child’s guardian spirit in isolation from the wen-bogluk. Cf. also Kröger 2017: 32–28.

18. A jadok often manifests itself in an animal (chameleon, lizard, snake, and more rarely in mammals) and receives a bogluk after a human has killed this animal.

19. Deep Buli or dark Buli (Buli sobli) is (was) the language of ancient Bulsa and seems to be dying out more and more nowadays. It comprises an additional vocabulary different from ordinary Buli and includes speaking in proverbs, metaphors, etc.

20. This form is also applied to humanised animals in a fable.

21. In rare cases, a girl may also be given a name ending in –bill, -bilk, -bisa.

22. The first noun can be interpreted as a genitive.

23. For example, in clan names or place names: Awisalie (Wiesi), Akadem, Akaasalie (Siniensi-Kaasa), etc. {356}

24. Pl. juisa. The mongoose (mongoose) is venerated as a ‘sacred’ animal in Fumbisi, Kanjaga, and other South Bulsa locales. However, it is not a totem animal in these places. Today (2021), the juik cult has also spread to North Bulsa. Cf. Kröger, 2013b.

25. Cf. R. Schott, 1973: 439f.

26. See, for example, R. Andree, 1878: 166; A.W. Cardinall, 1920: 71; M. Fortes 1955: 344; M. Houis 1963: 111 and H. Ploss, 1911: 437.

27. Quoted from R. Schott, 1973:41.

27a. M. Louis (1963: 98–101) devotes an entire chapter to Mossi names with such contents: ‘Les noms en rapport avec des antagonismes’.

28. Only names containing the syllable wen have been included here. Tanggbana names: s. Chapter IIIB, 3a3, p. {92}.

29. Tintueta-wen; s. Chapter V, 2a, p. {148}

30. Cf. the Akan naming for such a case: Nyamekye, Gift of God (see P. Sarpong 1974: 89). St. Augustine called his illegitimate son Adeodatus (given by God).

31. Cf. the naming of Akan peoples, where after several miscarriages, the child can be given a slave name, e.g. ‘Mossi’; in such a case, the Mossi tribal scars are also cut on the child. Cf. R.S. Rattray, 1927: 65. Similar customs exist among the Kusasi and Dagomba: E. Haaf, 1967: 88f.; R. Fisch, 1912/13: 140.

32. Cf. Chapter IV,5, p. {61f.} and Chapter IV,5 p. {128 ff}.

33. Kasem names are notably prevalent in Sandema and Chuchuliga, where intermarriage between Bulsa and Kasena is common.

34. The Bulsa are aware that these names were borrowed from the Haussa in more recent times.

35. The four-year middle school continues the six-year primary school, so the average school leaver was probably 15–17 {357} years old. In 1974, there were middle schools in Sandema (3), Chuchuliga, Wiaga and Fumbisi.

36. Binger (1892: 492) mentions some names of an Islamic immigrant class of Mossi: Abd er-Rahman, Isaac, Yako, Seybou, Boubakar, Mouça, Alassane and Idriza. R. Fisch (1912/13: 139) quotes as names for ‘Mohamedan children’: Idrisa, Ibrahima, Musa, Mahomadu, Umaru and Fatima.

37. Cf. J.B. Christensen, (1954: 83f.) and H. Ploss (1911: 426).

38. Pronunciation: [a’ʧa:o]; Achaw: anglicised spelling.

39. In Buli, the genitive is marked by precedence. The plural nyam (sing. nyono) can be translated as ‘parents’ or ‘owners, masters’.


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