Divining Board

Yoruba peoples

Federal Republic of Nigeria

Divining Board, n.d.

  • On View

Wood

Dimensions: 6 7/8 × 23 5/8 × 8 in. (17.5 × 60 × 20.3 cm)

Gift of Justice and Mrs. G. Mennen Williams, 1973.47

Ifá is the heart of the Yoruba divination system, a deity who solves problems, provides comfort, and explains the ways of the gods through divination practices. An Ifá diviner, also known as a Babalawo, seeks out the spiritual forces influencing a client’s life by invoking Ifá and the gods of divination. The Babalawo has a set of ritual objects used to seek guidance from the gods, this includes a divination tapper, cola nuts, sand, and most importantly, a divination tray. At the center of the tray is a series of symbols representing Yoruba gods and deities. At the end of this tray is the face of Eshu, the Yoruba god of chance, who carries the diviner’s messages to the gods and lends his force to the divination. The Babalawo, seated at the other end of the tray, casts the nuts into the center and makes a series of marks in a thin layer of sand. The Babalawo interprets the patterns as a message carried by Eshu to the diviner in answer to the client.

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