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Fertility Symbols

November 04, 2000|NORINE DRESSER

Seven years ago, the Ripley Entertainment headquarters placed two 5-foot-tall hand-carved ebony statues from the Baule tribesmen of the African Ivory Coast in front of their offices in Orlando, Fla. One depicted a king holding a short sword in one hand and a mango in the other. The female counterpart held a newborn infant.

The Baule believe that if a woman or her spouse touches either one of the statues, pregnancy will occur.

The company reported that there were 13 pregnancies in 13 months among the firm's office staff.

National press coverage ensued. Women flocked to Florida to touch the statues, hoping to become pregnant. Since then, the objects have traveled twice around the world. As of January, 645 women confirmed that they became pregnant after contact with the statues.

Now a yellow sign warns, "Caution. Please Don't Touch Unless You Want to Start a Family." When the statues were displayed in Buena Park in June, the Ripley museum received 100 phone inquiries about them daily. Those who scoff at this may be unaware of fertility symbols commonly present at American weddings: rice, Jordan almonds, orange blossoms and bridal bouquets.

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Norine Dresser's latest book is "Multicultural Celebrations" (Three Rivers Press, 1999). E-mail: norined@earthlink.net.

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