Among the Guro, the word for an incestuous person trègyèzan, ‘killer of the earth’ (i.e. of ancestors) is never uttered. Nor do we find any metaphoric usage; in my notes I have found only one metaphor relating to an incestuous person, which can be translated as ‘the one who looks upon (the genitals of) a relative’. Thus, as in Sophocles, sight is endowed with power. Nor is incest ever referred to directly. In the discussions of marriages between those too closely related, they speak simply of ‘miserliness’. Only the practicability of marriages is mentioned: ‘so-and-so can marry that girl’, ‘he cannot marry this girl!’ In this context, they describe genealogical connections which allow or forbid marriage between the two individuals, though, at the same time, no incest prohibitions may hold. The only absolute prohibitions are between primary relatives (father-daughter, mother-son, brother-sister) and even here, as has been mentioned, they are rarely referred to and, even when they are, only indirectly.
The official ideology of the Guro pronounces itself as favouring ‘dispersed marriages’: exogamy, exchange and generosity. But I am going to show that, on the contrary, there is a tendency towards endogamy, with its associated preoccupation with incest and incestuous longings—in other words, a complex of egoistic and repressed fantasies. This hidden aspect of Guro culture appears to be complementary to what is openly expressed and reveals itself through the seams of their social fabric, hinted at in their art and literature and in some forms of customary behaviour. In the following explication, a Guro song by the singer Bolia takes the central place, along the lines of the case study used by Devereux (1965) to outline his theory of complementarity and to show how a psychological account may be set against a sociological one.
The Guro form part of the South Mande linguistic group, as do the Dan, Tora, Mwan, Gagu, Youre/namane, Sokya, Gbeng and probably the Neyo