Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa
"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.
(see Plate 2B). A similar chain, with markers cast in brass (id~) in the shape of 9P~l~ seeds, was seen in Ibadan; these and other metals may be used to form other shapes that can serve as markers. Maupoil (1943: 199) refers to a chain in the Musee de l'Homme with copper markers in the shape of avini or avavini seeds (unidentified), and the use of copper (baba) was confirmed by M~k9 and Ile§a informants. A M~k9 diviner mentioned the use of silver (fadaka), lead (oje), and iron (irin), but
out his implicit obligations. It is considered advisable to make the sacrifice as soon as possible, and a number of verses (e.g. 14-1, 18-2) warn of the dangers of postponing them. As several of the verses (e.g. 35-7, 54-6) make clear, if a client cannot afford to make the prescribed sacrifice, it is wise for him to give at least part of it in order to "appease Eshu" (pa E§u). If a sacrifice is inexpensive and requires only materials that are readily available, it is often made immediately. The
diviner was guessing or was "twisting" Ifa to fit the situation. If the message of Ifa is twisted in this way, neither the prediction nor the sacrifice are relevant to what Ifa intended to convey. Similarly, if a woman who is childless after several years of marriage were told in the first verse that she was going to have a child (e.g. 20-3), she would suspect the diviner whether or not this was what she had come to inquire about. The Araba of Igana said that a diviner may even avoid reciting
verses dealing with Calico (18-4) and the King who owns a European chair (225-4), and those in which guns are mentioned (153-1, 175-1). Peanuts, introduced from the Americas, figure in two verses (3-4, 55-2), and maize and maize products in a num:ber of others (9-2, 54-6, 55-2, 167-1, 241-2,241-3, 243-4, 248-2, 256-3). The city of lbadan, which was not founded until the nineteenth century, is also mentioned (170-3). The references to a deity of the neighboring Nupe (103-2) and to sara (248-3) and
Ql9m9agbiti be oruk9 ti a pe 9g~d~. 0 gb9 o si ru-(~)b9. name that we call Banana. She hear she and offer-sacrifice. Ql9m9agbiti wa 9m9 titi ko ri, o mu eji k(an)-~ta Ql9m9agbiti seek child until (she) not see (it), she take two against-three o 19 s(i)-9d9 babalawo o si bere bi on (yi)o ti §e ni (cowries) she go to-presence (of) diviner she and ask if she will that do have 9m9? Nw9n ni ki o ru-(~)b9, o si ru-(~)b9; o fi child? They say should she offer-sacrifice, she and offer-sacrifice; she take