Modern Griots Recap: Divination 101


Divination (n): the art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by the interpretation of omens or by the aid of supernatural powers.

Divination, Science and Technology, Transhumanism and Futurism:

Definition, including implied ones, are important because they affect our perceptions. That is true for some modern perceptions of divination. The way many think of divination is as some ancient practice associated with magick and witchcraft where people read signs on chicken bones, sheep intestines, tea leaves or any other natural substance and that it has no practical application to our lives now. But is that the truth, or is that modern dismissals of practices done in spiritual systems outside of Abrahamic religions, and Western scientific misunderstandings of practices created by ancient people and of people of color who mostly do these. Last night, I went to CCCADI’s Roots and Stars event about divination and below are some notes I took from it:

*Alex LaSalle (Palo Mayombe divination): Divination is a process of balance, balance with natures, ancestors and medicines of the universe. People are figuring out how to sync their energy through divination.

*Nana Kewku Amankwa (Akan Divination): the conventional definitions of divination are not exact. Divination is the receiving of information from God to act effectively in a difficult situation. The pot used during divination acts like a beeper or cell phone enabling communication to deities and spirits. The person seeking out divination must tell the priest/priestesses their state of health (bodily, mentally, financially, romantically, etc.) and the practitioner will provide a prescription (herbal bath, talisman, etc.). Also, the religions that think have nothing to do with divination, like Christianity or Islam, actually had their starts with divination (receiving a revelation from God), and it shows that truth travels. It is always relevant and is something we are in desperate need of now; admitting that their is something more powerful than we are.

*Sanyakhu-Sheps Amare’ (Egyptian/I Ching Divination): Divination gives us a structure to see our true nature as vessels of God on Earth, sharing in the image and likeness of God. Following the laws of Maat, its purpose is to help us manage things in life in the right way and to transcend our human nature. Our main issue is the human problem; we stay with the lower parts of ourselves and do not see ourselves a divine beings. These are rituals of realization of divinity. The wisdom faculty (“Tehuti”) lays dormant in us and it awakens it, and keeps energy functioning; it is living truth.

*Obara Wali Rahman Ndiaye and Andara Rahman (Lebou’s Ndeup divination): Drumming and dancing are as important medicinal practices as other types. They are forms of spiritual science; the practitioners are not called priest/priestesses but doctors and nurses. The enslaved Africans were brought across the Atlantic without some of their medicine and Ndiaye believes he is opening a door to reclaim it. Rahman said dance may start physical but does not stay that way; it turns into a form of possession – a deep feeling or involvement in the dance that stimulates the electricity of the surroundings (like the meditations of jazz improvisation).

As the host Desiree Gordon ended with, these are mechanics or technology of spiritual “cool,” ways of knowing or being aware of ourselves. Or as Orisha priest, Obafemi Origunwa, comments, “program[s] for renewing the Ancestral Promise. Live the Medicine.” We should probably take them as seriously as the modern forms of medicinal and psychoanalytical techniques, our own cultural forms of them. They are not about foretelling the future but enabling actions in the present to forge the pathway to a better future.

More on Science and Divination: Ron Eglash’s African Fractals (binary system in computers and divination), Philip Peek’s African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing

Trailer for James Weeks’ Across the King’s River

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