Mouse oracle bowl
Baule peoples, Céte däIvoire
Early 20 th century
Carved wood, woven cloth, ceramic, hide, plant fiber, rubber
Fowler Museum at UCLA; Gift of Barbara and Joseph Goldenberg; X2010.16.107a,b
This figurative bowl was constructed to house mice for purposes of divination. The bowl’s interior is divided into an upper and a lower chamber, with openings to allow the mice to move back and forth between them. During consultation, the diviner would place in the upper chamber a metal tray arrayed with a set number of metal rods and sprinkled with rice. With the lid closed, the client would tell his or her problem to the mouse in the diviner’s presence. After allowing the mouse to feed, the diviner would open the lid of the oracle bowl and “read” the newly arranged metal rods.