"15 These "linguist staffs" carry creatures presented as emblems of wise and effective speech, including snails, tortoises, and spiders. Ritual sacrifices and witchcraft beliefs are still common. Throughout Africa, the talkative, verbose individual is considered neither wise nor knowledgeable. Among its external decorations are a porcupine tail and red duiker horns—from creatures who are both silent and nocturnal (another frequent characteristic of creatures linked to divination). Human rights groups have expressed concern over Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni authoritarian regime. Some say that the US is complicit in helping to prop up his 35-year rule. As if to underscore this point, the other popular divination agent for the Dogon is the ant. These initiation rituals are already not as common in Africa as they were only 50 years ago, yet age-grade initiations have always helped young Africans feel connected to their community and their past. Mothers have held rare protests in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere, demanding to know the fate of their children who originally were sent to Eritrea for military training. Near Korhogo in northern Côte d'Ivoire, a Senufo diviner, a member of the Sandogo, an association of women who practice divination, sets up dual images in front of her while she divines in her "hut for twins." Many symbolic objects in the pot are shaken and their configurations are "read" to provide answers and actions for the clients. Divining processes are diverse, but all follow set routines by which otherwise inaccessible information is obtained. Thus, akin to the Lobi thila, an otherwise mute but knowledgeable entity is only given voice through divination in order to aid humans. African spirituality is truly holistic. The majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean. I think this description perfectly expresses the critical dynamics of divination in many African cultures, those esoteric processes that operate whether through diviners or through their devices. Based on his long experience of fieldwork in West Africa, Dominique Zahan expresses this eloquently: It [silence] is the supreme virtue, as it subsumes integrity, courage, the power of the soul, prudence, modesty, and temperance. Here again, the chameleon acts as messenger, with another silent creature as an alternate. I return to the Baule and Guro of Côte d'Ivoire for my next example, a mouse oracle vessel. For example, sickness in the indigenous African worldview is not only an imbalance of the body, but also an imbalance in one’s social life, which can be linked to a breakdown in one’s kinship and family relations or even to one’s relationship with one's ancestors.Gazette: How have ancestors played a role in traditional societies?JO: The role of ancestors in the African cosmology has always been significant. Tortoise shells often hold diviners' apparatuses, as among the Baule and Senufo. For example, an African amulet might have inside of it a written verse from either the Koran or Christian Bible. I won't pray to an orisa, but I will affirm the importance of my connection with members of my age group. The Isoko provide a wonderful example of how a "speechless" creature aids human speech: they use snails to cure stuttering. How to use diviner in a sentence. At dusk, diviners prepare complex grids of symbols in the sands at the edge of the village; corn kernels are scattered over the diviner's diagram. See more. It is also interpreted widely as an indication of wisdom. Copyright © 2021 The President and Fellows of Harvard College, Religious Resources for Living Through Crisis, Contact Development and External Relations, professor of indigenous African religions at Harvard Divinity School. These diviners are initiated and trained in Iha (divination) of either Ominigbon or Oronmila (Benin Orunmila). Many diviners receive clients in small, intimate consultation rooms. When threatened, the pangolin rolls up into a ball, presenting only its large, hard scales to its enemies. Working in pairs, each diviner casts his two chains. Who were Africa’s under-the-radar stars of 2020? The lesson so emphatically learned is to choose your words—and time of speech—wisely. Some of these African diaspora religions include Cuban Regla de Ocha, Haitian Vodou, and Brazilian Candomble. In fact, despite such abilities as mimicking human speech, little is found about parrots in African cultural practices. Diviners—who go through a long educational and apprenticeship program—hold the history, culture, and spiritual traditions of the African people. I should add that without claiming to be full members of indigenous traditions, there are many professed Christians and Muslims who participate in one form of indigenous religious rituals and practices or another. At the same time, to underscore my emphasis on emic (i.e., indigenous categories) as opposed to etic, or outsider, perspectives, I offer the following observation by a blacksmith in the Republic of Benin recorded by Allen Roberts: You with your science may have heard the call of a snake, but we here have not. Another West African adage offers: "If speech has burned your mouth, silence will heal you." But one must be very cautious when interpreting these choices, because the representations are culturally determined and may or may not relate to "natural" observations, especially in ritual contexts. Intriguingly, this system overlays the fox's nonverbal answers onto the human's nonverbal questions. Foreign religions simply don't have that same connection to the African continent.Gazette: How do you balance your Christian and indigenous African identity?JO: I was raised in Africa during the 1960s, when the Yoruba community never asked you to chose between your personal faith and your collective African identity. The Lobi maintain that the thila (protective spirits) have no tongues and can only communicate through humans—but only by means of the joined hands of the diviner and client during divination.8 The Batammaliba of Togo also engage in "silent" communication through divination, as the diviner interprets the movements of the staff he and the client hold as it responds to their questions. Chameleons and diviners are also linked among the Senufo, where, again, the twinning idea comes forth in the twinned chameleon rings diviners often wear. Africa Lyrics: I hear the drums echoing tonight / But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation / She's coming in, 12:30 flight / Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me Comments Michael Regan/Getty Images . Not only do complex relations develop around the psychological dynamics between diviners and clients, but there is often a literal, physical bonding of the two to ensure a successful divination session. Divination occurs neither during day nor at night, and neither in the village nor in the bush. Because we normally make noise and usually define humanness by the ability to speak, to restrict or prevent speech is noteworthy. Africa: Civic Rights Were Eroded Across Africa in 2020 - allAfrica.com Search And if these shrines are not properly cared for by the designated descendant, then misfortune in the form of illness might befall the caretaker. Some Africans believe that the ancestors are equal in power to deities, while others believe they are not. The hunter ran and told the king that he had found a skull that talked. For diviners this is even more critical. Specific animals (in part, as a whole, or symbolically) permeate African divination systems. In North Africa the prevailing role of diviners, talismans, signs, and markings right on the body still continues. The diviner draws out a large number of marked leaf "cards" from a container lying on the tail of a squirrel (who is also considered a messenger between worlds). It is a way of life, and it can never be separated from the public sphere. The special rapport necessary between diviner and spirit—and between diviner and client—is frequently expressed in terms of twinning; that is, the diviner and spirit establish a relationship as if they are twins. "Twinning" occurs not only in the relationships of diviners and spirits, but between diviners and clients. It doesn't have a fixed creed, like in some forms of Christianity or Islam. Yes, they are small and silent; but they are also very clever, if not wise. In several other West African cultures, including the Lobi and Batammaliba, we find further support for the importance of silence and its links to twinning. HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138   617.495.5761, my.hds | Harvard University | Privacy | Accessibility | Digital Accessibility | Trademark Notice | Reporting Copyright Infringements. In fact, hares appear to be silent creatures, a quality which Karugu also associate with wisdom. Thus, diviners seek in their relations with other beings (and with clients) that "perfect knowledge of each other" which transcends usual human communication. The award allows Olupona a year of study and research in Germany; he is on leave this year (2015–16).Much of Olupona's work is an attempt to provide a fuller understanding of the complexity and richness of African indigenous thought and practice by viewing it not as a foil or as a useful comparative to better understand Western religions, but as a system of thought and belief that should be valued and understood for its own ideas and contribution to global religions.Harvard Gazette: How would you define indigenous African religions?JO: Indigenous African religions refer to the indigenous or native religious beliefs of the African people before the Christian and Islamic colonization of Africa. Perhaps this is another reminder of the dangers of verbal communication and the importance of silence. For example, among the Baule of Côte d'Ivoire, West Africa, diviners' home shrines always include pairs of spirit figures that aid their enterprise. While my discussion here deals with creatures actually employed in divination systems, accenting the "silent" component must be seen as an argument from my own academic perspective. Needless to say, the rapport between the two diviners is striking, with the "doubling" of the divinatory work ensuring better results. The topic of silence has fascinated me for many years. Islam has experienced a similar rapid growth.Yet consider that in 1900 most Africans in sub-Saharan Africa practiced a form of indigenous African religions.The bottom line then is that Africans who still wholly practice African indigenous religions are only about 10 percent of the African population, a fraction of what it used to be only a century ago, when indigenous religions dominated most of the continent. Lorenz Homberger, "Where the Mouse Is Omniscient: The Mouse Oracle among the Guro," in, Doran Ross, "The Verbal Art of Akan Linguist Staffs,", See Walter E. A. van Beek, "Crab Divination among the Kansiki/High of North Cameroon and Northeastern Nigeria," in, Benetta Jules-Rosetta, "The Veil of Objectivity: Prophecy, Divination, and Social Inquiry,", William Bascom, "African Folktales in America: I. The diviner could, for example, identify an angry ancestor as the reason for illness in a family, or 'smell out' a witch as the cause of an untimely death. All cultures use animals to represent their values, and, just as animals "speak" for humans in folktales and so on, their "silence" is equally significant. Thus, procedures became mixed and nomadic populations who were living between regions trans-ported various forms of knowledge: En ce qui concerne le Fluff. A pangolin scale is also sewn into the center of the hat just above the forehead for further protection and enlightenment. Health lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, stronger economies, safer nations and a better world. Sylvia Mbataru and Ine Van Severen unpack what the report says about Sub-Saharan Africa. On another visit to Ghana, I noticed a newspaper ad for a printing company. Everywhere he went in southwestern Nigeria, he never opposed or spoke out against African culture—including initiation rites, festivals, and traditional Yoruba dress—as long as it didn't directly conflict with Christianity.For myself, I negotiate between my Yoruba and Christian identity by, for example, affirming those aspects of African culture that promote good life and communal human welfare. Silent creatures embody the wisdom of reticence and symbolize the validity of divination's revelations from the other world. Africa 61 (3), 1991 DIVINERS, SEERS AND SPIRITS IN EASTERN AFRICA: TOWARDS AN HISTORICAL ANTHROPOLOGY David M. Anderson and Douglas H. Johnson INTRODUCTION Anthropologists and historians of eastern African societies have long shared a common interest in the description and analysis of African religions and beliefs. Maybe this is why I am not an Anglican priest.In the end, I believe that Africans can make room for a plurality of religious points of view without one religious point of view excluding or compromising the other. WHO recommends a 12-component approach of collaborative TB-HIV activities, including actions for prevention and … He went on to conduct some of the most significant research on African religions in decades.Olupona, professor of indigenous African religions at Harvard Divinity School and professor of African and African-American studies in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recently sat down for an interview about his lifelong research on indigenous African religions.Olupona earned his bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in 1975. Christianity is more dominant in the south, while Islam is more dominant in the north. Years ago, Benneta Jules-Rosette17 discussed the similarities between anthropology and divination; both pursuits attempt to sort out foreign cultures, to determine meaningful utterances from background noise, and to translate from one system to another. Africa - Africa - People: Africa is now widely recognized as the birthplace of the Hominidae, the taxonomic family to which modern humans belong. Androgyny seems to be a common goal among the African cultures where diviners engage in cross-gender dressing. Indigenous African spirituality today is increasingly falling out of favor. What is the role of diviners in traditional African communities? Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yes, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. Of the ten bones, the five on the left represent living human types, while the five to the right stand for ancestors and various dangers. There are 54 countries in Africa today, according to the United Nations. ... As pairing makes the client congruent with the diviner and the diviner congruent with the spirits, all come to share a common perception. It is the reticent person who is the sage. Senufo Sandogo diviner, Côte d'Ivoire (2001). Holding or maintaining to a uniform doctrine is not the essence of indigenous African religions.Gazette: What will Africa lose if it loses its African indigenous worldview?JO: We would lose a worldview that has collectively sustained, enriched, and given meaning to a continent and numerous other societies for centuries through its epistemology, metaphysics, history, and practices.For instance, if we were to lose indigenous African religions in Africa, then diviners would disappear, and if diviners disappeared, we would not only lose an important spiritual specialist for many Africans, but also an institution that for centuries has been the repository of African history, wisdom, and knowledge. After about fifteen minutes, the cover is removed and the rearrangement of objects is studied. Posted by 3 years ago. All rights reserved. For instance, in a few years time, I pray that I will be participating in an age-grade festival—for men around 70 years of age—called Ero in my native Nigerian community in Ute, in Ondo state. Divination is an incredibly rich area for anthropological research—in fact, I would argue that there is no richer ethnography of a culture than the study of its divination system. Fully appreciative of such dangers, I will still suggest a way to understand this widespread use of normally silent creatures. Lions and elephants rarely figure in divination, nor do parrots or other creatures whose calls we often mimic. Examples of silent animals in divination abound. Among the neighboring Yohure, it is said that mice lost their voices because they always run and hide; so they can only communicate through the bones. Wooden and metal sculptures, pottery, textiles, and earthen bas-reliefs often dominate the windowless rooms, lit only by the sunlight that enters through the open doorframe. "7 This brings me to a second thread from Ellen Suthers's research, that of "silent" communication. One of Jacob Olupona's earliest memories in Massachusetts is of nearly freezing in his apartment as a graduate student at Boston University during the great snowstorm of 1978. Because they share perfect knowledge and perceptions of each other and of the spirit realm, twins do not need speech to communicate with each other or with the host of spiritual entities. Consequently, traditional Africans have different ideas on what role the ancestors play in the lives of living descendants. Partial answers are perceived; then the whole procedure is repeated until the diviner is satisfied with the revelations made by the crab.16. In the ancient Benin kingdom, in Nigeria, the Oba only spoke publically to issue a death sentence. From the Kaguru of East Africa, T. O. Beidelman offers a comment that echoes Zahan's: Hare is often described as smooth-talking and seductively eloquent. Female masked spirits featured prominently as judicial courts and judges of moral conduct. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.4 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million were due to stroke . The amount of devotees to indigenous practices has dwindled as Islam and Christianity have both spread and gained influence throughout the continent.According to all the major surveys, Christianity and Islam each represent approximately 40 percent of the African population. It's about getting tangible results.Gazette: What allows African indigenous religions to be so accommodating?JO: One of the basic reasons is that indigenous African spiritual beliefs are not bound by a written text, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. One of the world's most remarkable creatures is the chameleon. 334. Where did most of the slaves from Africa go? An old African adage says: "The sky is large enough for birds to fly around without one having to bump into the other. In respect and honor of my culture, I also dress in my traditional Nigerian attire when I'm in my country. The Dogon live in villages set along the plateaus and against the high cliffs of central Mali. These images, often in multiple pairs, enhance the Sandogo diviner's ability to work through twins in the other world. It is critical to stress that African divination systems are multisensory and variously utilize all forms of communication. How long was South Africa a British colony? Sometimes the diviner's body becomes the vehicle of communication through spirit possession. HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138   617.495.5761. my.hds | Harvard University | Privacy | Accessibility | Digital Accessibility | Trademark Notice | Reporting Copyright InfringementsCopyright © 2021 President and Fellows of Harvard College. His research has helped to introduce and popularize new concepts in religious studies, such as the term "reverse missionaries," referring to African prelates sent to Europe and the United States.The recipient of many prestigious academic honors and research fellowships, Olupona also received the 2015–2016 Reimar Lust Award for International and Cultural Exchange, considered one of Germany's most prestigious academic honors. Over three quarters of CVD deaths take place in low- and middle-income countries. With their primordial and supernatural status, they have great wisdom of the mysteries of the past and of the future. This leads to my discussion of silent animals. Our work touches lives around the world every day – often in invisible ways. "African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. The Isoko provide a wonderful example of how a "speechless" creature aids human speech: they use snails to cure stuttering. Among the Ashanti of Ghana such spokesmen, okeyame, carry elaborate staffs decorated with symbols signifying famous proverbs. Among the Batammaliba of Togo, both client and diviner hold a stick, and its movements convey the oracular message.5. Although South Africa became a Union with its own white people government in 1910, the country was still regarded as a colony of Britain till 1961. While some African cosmologies have a clear idea of a supreme being, other cosmologies do not. Out of the 17 million premature deaths (under the age of 70) due to noncommunicable diseases in 2015, 82% are in low- and middle-income countries, and 37% are caused by CVDs. The full list is shown in the table below, with current population and subregion (based on the United Nations official statistics). Here, as so often in divination, we find male and female pairing and the suggestion of androgyny. The story "The Talking Skull Refuses to Talk" is widespread in Africa and is the most widely recorded tale among African Americans: A hunter found a human skull in the forest and asked, "What brought you here?" Although possessing poor eyesight, it has acute senses of hearing, smell, and taste—a reminder that divination is multisensory. Diviners Describe Christianitys Early Christianity in Northern Africa spread in from LANGUAGE ARTS 101 at Dacula High School Diviner definition, a person who divines; soothsayer; prophet. Owls are wise to Europeans but are witches for many Africans. 1709 by Zulu kaMalandela.In the Nguni languages, iZulu means heaven, or weather. (iii) They heal the sick and give remedies for the suffering. Divination itself is a liminal activity operating between worlds; thus, it employs liminal creatures who move between worlds. (most Nguni diviners were female, most Sotho-Tswana diviners were male) the power to divine by means of special techniques (e.g. At dawn the next morning, diviners return to read the patterns of the fox's paw prints for the oracle's answers to their questions. Nature is not "natural" but cultural, and the criteria by which choices are made may be quite obscure to outsiders. Intriguingly, the diviner considers the slit gong his "twin": it facilitates his reception of occult messages.4. Although the silence and slow speed of snails does not seem to recommend them as divinatory agents, they are encountered in divinatory paraphernalia throughout Africa, as with diviners in Mozambique. Ifa is an indispensable treasure trove of knowledge that can’t be duplicated elsewhere; much of its knowledge has been handed down from babalawo [Ifa priest/diviner] to babalawo for centuries. "For starters, the word "religion" is problematic for many Africans, because it suggests that religion is separate from the other aspects of one's culture, society, or environment. The Yoruba, however, do have a concept of a supreme being, called Olorun or Olodumare, and this creator god of the universe is empowered by the various orisa [deities] to create the earth and carry out all its related functions, including receiving the prayers and supplications of the Yoruba people.Gazette: What is the state of indigenous African religions today?JO: That's a mixed bag. Three French soldiers were killed Monday in Mali when their armoured vehicle struck an explosive device in the Hombori region in the centre of the poor Sahel state, the Élysée Palace said. In such culturally determined, liminal states we often encounter reptiles and snakes, pangolins and aardvarks, flying squirrels, and chameleons. Diviner definition is - a person who practices divination : soothsayer. Additionally, I will not discourage, disparage, or try and convert those who practice their form of African indigenous religions. Twins serve as a model because of their special rapport, their extraordinary ability to communicate, often without words. the seers. African spirituality has always been able to adapt to change and allow itself to absorb the wisdom and views of other religions, much more than, for example, Christianity and Islam. While Islam and Christianity tend to be overtly resistant to adopting traditional African religious ideas or practices, indigenous African religions have always accommodated other beliefs. The neighboring Yoruba kings still wear crowns with beaded veils so that one cannot see them speak—which, in any case, they seldom do. Morag Gunn is a writer in her mid-forties who lives in a riverside farm in East Ontario. Then, in turn, each quickly "reads" the other's cast using the esoteric eva language while the other rapidly translates into standard Isoko. Also demonstrating the value of nonverbal interaction, "silent" animals are used in these critical cross-world communications because their normal silence serves as a reminder of the wisdom of the quiet elder, the person of few but important words. In a very real sense, as the Yoruba of Nigeria explicitly state about their system of Ifa, a divination system constitutes a people's "book of knowledge" wherein their history and cultural guidelines are maintained. 10:00 30/12/2020 . African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. A mouse is captured and placed in the bottom chamber. Anansi Publishers proudly displayed their logo—a spider—in the middle of the ad and assured readers that the company would "tell their story for them.". The top chamber holds the divination device: a small tortoise shell with ten chicken wing bones or, better, bat wing bones. I have long thought that this might reflect an understanding of spiritual entities as androgynous themselves (as opposed to mere humans of single sexes), and that such a posture would have value for the diviner when dealing with male and female clients. Also called a scaly anteater, this truly anomalous creature (seemingly part reptile and part mammal) has no teeth, but has a long protractile tongue. Mouse divination is a fragile and complex enterprise. This is not an antiquated belief. I thought it looked like a spider's web and when I asked an attendant at the home, I was told that, yes, indeed, it was a web, to reflect Du Bois's extraordinary communication abilities. The hunter's head replied, "Talking brought me here."18. Please follow our Commentary Guidelines when engaging in discussion on this site. 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Bronzes of Southern Nigeria underscore this point, the cover is removed and the diviner is satisfied the... Or other creatures whose calls we often mimic and infants were sometimes thrown into sacks observed behavior seems for... Their primordial and supernatural status, they are small and silent ; but they are not to answers! 'S people Azande of the past and of the cards are `` ''. Story that illustrates the wisdom of reticence and symbolize the validity of divination 's revelations from the other.. Subregion ( based on the United nations official statistics ) utilize a fixed creed, like in some of., `` Perception, knowledge, and spirit beings the clients complicit in helping to prop up 35-year... Pairing and the top chamber holds the divination device: a small tortoise shell with ten chicken wing or!, silence will heal you. of Cameroon kings because they are mediators between and. `` read '' by Margaret Laurence available from Rakuten Kobo Isoko provide a example! Utilize all forms of Christianity or Islam once this perspective is recognized, many representations of a... Deliberate behavior seems to be silent that their power had nothing to do the!