African Divination Principles

Divination – from Latin divinare “to foresee, to be inspired by a god”, related to divinus, divine) is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occult, standardized process or ritual.  Used in various forms throughout history, diviners ascertain their interpretations of how a querent should proceed by reading signs, events, or omens, or through alleged contact with a supernatural agency.

A wealth of knowledge resources from Africa has been overlooked. Colonial ideas have reduced many valuable practices like African divination systems to primitive superstition. While belief systems differ all through Africa, the core techniques of divination remain basically the same.

In fact, whether you are using European Tarot cards, the Chinese I-Ching, or ‘Throwing the Bones’ African style, the principle behind any divination tool is simple:

• Choose a set of symbolic objects (often part of a long tradition of divination);

• Create a random pattern between these symbolic objects (like the throw of the bones);

• Interpret the pattern of the relationship between these objects creating meaning.

This suggests that divination is not primarily a system of belief or attitude, but is a technology. Some may insist that it is a ‘ritual technology’. The bad rap that early colonists gave divination was so successful that many historians, anthropologists and archaeologists to this day see divination as superstition. It is usually discussed under ‘magic’ or ‘religious beliefs,’ and is not often given the status of an innovative technology or powerful media. What if we reconsidered ‘throwing the bones’ as a kind of information technology that accesses and organize information?

Contrary to popular conceptions of fortune telling, African divination is based on the belief that the universe is not predictable, that there is a fundamental unknowability, but enormous opportunity in the ‘space of the possible’ to participate in the process of creation.

Reflected in all techniques of divination is the principle that the real information you need to solve problems lies hidden in the network of relationships between the various people, objects and dynamics that make up your life. This makes it a dynamic knowledge management tool that can aid our imagination in the process of thinking about complex dynamical systems. Because this information is not always obvious, but exists in the ‘spaces between things’, it requires some skill and some clever technology to access it. Any culture which admits the use of oracles and divination is committed to a distinction between appearances and reality. The oracle offers a way of reaching behind appearances to another source of knowledge. – Mary Douglas (quoted in Peek 1991:194) This hidden information has been called many things – the spirit world, the unconscious, the laws of nature, and morphogenetic fields. It can emerge spontaneously into consciousness, giving rise to unexpected crises, fear and conflict. It can also emerge, as inspiration, intuition and creative insight.

Traditional African divination systems as information technology by André Croucam

Infocus247 Conclusion :  Most people I know that use tarot cards for readings tell you the symbology of it and how it could relate to you, what you have going on and i don’t think that is how the system was originally intended to be used, If there was any “system” at all. I think it was much more personal and you used objects you gave personal symbolism to, then you use those in relation to each other to get an answer from the unknown.
I think divination rituals began as a very personal way to get an answer from the divine in a physical form similar to meditation. Tarot allowed it to become more of a social partaking. The tarot has created a list of symbolism on cards, from that you reflect on what you see within yourself versus purely going from within to create your own symbols.

 

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