How is Divination Done?

Here is a brief description of the divination process:

The diviner begins by marking a cross-roads pattern in powder on an elaborately carved divination tray. This cross-roads pattern "opens" the channel of communication between aye, the realm of the living, and orun, the cosmic realm of the gods. By tapping the center of the tray with an ivory tapper the diviner evokes Orunmila, god of wisdom.

The divine then removes sixteen palm nuts from a divination cup. The cup shown here depicts a female worshipper kneeling before the gods.

The diviner passes the sixteen nuts from one hand to the other, after which he notes the number retained in one of his hands.

This number is then recorded in the powdered surface of the divination tray.

After eight "passes" the diviner chooses a sign (odu) from the pattern of marks recorded in the powdered surface of the tray. There are 256 such signs, each with a unique story, proverb, or song that provides guidance for the life of the client.

At the end of the session, a small amount of the powder is rubbed on the forehead and eaten by the client to help the divination process.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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