Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa

Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa

William Bascomb

Language: English

Pages: 604

ISBN: 2:00247366

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"The sacred texts of Ifa, repository of the accumulated wisdom of countless generations of Yoruba people, are an invaluable source not only for all students of African oral literature and Yoruba civilization, but also for future generations interested in the continuing vitality of Ifa divination and a Yoruba way of life and thought." —Henry Drewal

This landmark study of Ifa, the most important and elaborate system of divination of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, remains a monumental contribution to scholarship in anthropology, folklore, religion, philosophy, linguistics, and African and African-American studies.


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chicken, and each in turn biting a tortoise. One from Ab~okuta shows a babalawo marking a figure of Ifa on a divining tray while holding a sacrificial chicken in the other hand, and with his female client kneeling beside him (Bascom and Gebauer, 1953: 32). The designs occasionally are derived from the Ifa cult, as in this instance, but more often they are not. They are considered simply as decorations which the purchaser may specify or which he may commission the woodcarver to execute as suits

deity" (aki§a, a-ki-ori§a). The full significance of this is not clear, or how it is related to those members of the other religious cults who recite the praise names of their deities. In one verse (6 -3), however, the client is instructed either to practice divination or to recite Ifa. In Igana it was estimated that there were about three hundred who knew Ifa verses in 1938, as against twenty practicing babalawo. In M~kg in 1951 the estimate was twenty practicing diviners and perhaps two hundred

behind with them. They said that the ones who had yams had shared them with them, and those who had money had given them some. J;:la then called these teachers. He shaved their heads, leaving a spot of hair as he wore his, and in it he put a red feather from the tail of the parrot.7 The last man he shaved had a bald spot in the middle of his head, so he left the spot of hair off to one side, and that is the way the Awgni wear their hair until this very day. He placed each of his faithful teachers

munrun-munrun wood" ada fun Qrunmila when his child's health was not good (256-4). Other examples (2-3, 241-4, 250-1, 250-3) are to be found, but not in sufficient number to justify this interpretation. Generally, there is no recognizable relation between the meaning of the initial phrases and the character's problem or its outcome. The characters named as clients in the case which serves as a precedent include well-known deities like ~ango (243-1), Ori~ala (5-1, 103-2, 241-3), Olokun (54-4),

alike are sneering; but he will leave his corner and come 1. The name of the diviner is derived from the name of the figure. The palms of the hands are rubbed together as in a supplication, when asking to be excused from expressing an opinion during a trial or a discussion. The gesture is made to those of higher rank to show that the matter is too difficult for you to decide, or that you have nothing significant to add to what has already been said. The implication here is that everyone will

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