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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Sixteen Figure Divination in Africa: Its Regional Spread and Relationship with Arab-Islamic Geomancy
Author:Danfulani, Umar H.D.
Periodical:Africana Marburgensia
Geographic term:Africa
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Religion and Witchcraft
Abstract:After a brief overview of various studies of African divination systems, the present author focuses on one specific divination pattern: divination with sixteen basic figures, which is widespread in Africa and in the African-American cultures of Latin America. The materials used in sixteen basic figure divination are solid, mechanically manipulable objects, such as grains or seeds, pebbles, or bones. What is common to all sixteen basic figure divination systems in Africa is the formulation of a simple geometry based on binary opposition modes of 'yes and no' or 'true and false'. Of great importance is the power of the number four. Islam and Arab-Islamic divinatory geomancy and astrology have had contact with sixteen basic figure divination and astrology in Africa for a long time. African divination is one of the traditional institutions which has assimilated Islamic practices and which has, in turn, been accommodated by Islam. The author examines the history and degree of influence of Arab-Islamic divination patterns by tracing the origin of Ifa, Sikidy and Burji divination systems of the Yoruba (Nigeria), Malagasy (Madagascar) and southern Somali clans (Somalia). He also notes the presence of Arab divination systems in the Comoro island of Mayotte, among the Temne of Sierra Leone, and the Giriama of Kenya. Bibliogr., notes, ref.