By Philip M. Peek
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This special number of essays by way of an outstanding overseas crew of Africanists demonstrates the principal position that divination maintains to play all through Africa in retaining cultural platforms and in guiding human motion. African Divination structures deals insights for present discussions in comparative epistemology, cross-cultural psychology, cognition stories, semiotics, ethnoscience, spiritual stories, and anthropology.
"This quantity of finely crafted case experiences is usually the motor vehicle for a big common conception of divination.... it is a booklet overflowing with rules that might powerfully stimulate additional research." ― Journal of formality Studies
"The essays during this assortment offer a truly important review of either the variety of African divination structures and of contemporary techniques to their study." ― Choice
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Additional info for African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing (African Systems of Thought)
Yet the specialist model of misfortune differed from the folk model only in that the specialist was aware of more detail. A diviner knew more techniques of sorcery, more names and characteristics of little spirits. But the basic structure of the explanatory models held by client and specialist was identical. This contrasts with the Fipa situation described by Willis (1973:370) in which the "scientific" theory of specialists elaborates more causal categories than the "lay" theory. And it is very different from the relation between biomedical expert and layman in that the former has knowledge and interpretations of pathologies which the latter does not share. With the intensification of the medical gaze made possible by X rays, CAT scans, and lab tests, a doctor can identify pathologies of which the patient is unaware, but a Nyole diviner must rely upon his client for knowledge about the state of a suffering person's relationships to spirits and other persons. In this matter of personhood, the specialist has no monopoly upon knowledge. As we shall see, this leads to a rich flow of communication during the divination seance. Types of Diviners Divination (ohulagula) was a distinct function performed by specialists (abalagusi, abafumu), who were paid a standard divination fee (omuhemba)—in 1970, two shillings. The divination (endagu) consisted of a diagnosis and a prescription for treatment. Most diviners specialized in some form of treatment as well. Some called themselves abagangi (from ohuganga, "to treat"), emphasizing their functions as healers in dealing with little and foreign spirits and administering herbal medicines. Some were also known as abang'eng'a, from the verb meaning "to protect"; through countermedicine they were thought able to guard people and homes against sorcery, and they were usually said to sell sorcery medicines too. At the time of our fieldwork, there were two principal methods of divination in Bunyole: spirit possession and examination of Arabic books. "Those of the gourd rattles" (ab'esaasi, ab'enyengo) had a working relationship with teams of spirits who possessed them and spoke through them to reveal the causes of a client's misfortune (see figure). Lamuli performed calculations and consulted books of geomancy; although their technique was relatively new in Bunyole, they manipulated the same etiological model of misfortune used by the gourd rattle diviners. Both men and women could be diviners, but of the thirtyeight concerning whom I obtained information, fewer than onethird were women. Nearly half of the spirit diviners (ten of twentythree) were women, but none of the twelve book diviners were women. This Arabic form of divination has become increasingly popular Page 157 since the 1920s, and consequently divination as a whole has become a maledominated specialty. Three of the thirtyeight diviners, including one woman, practiced forms of divination other than spirit possession and book examination. Spirit Colleagues Spirit diviners were thought to be chosen by spirit agents to take up divination.