Humans have always strived to catch a glimpse of the future. We want to be able to plan ahead and know what to anticipate, and, throughout history, our species has found some intriguing ways to do so.
Shelling for Results
Some of the earliest evidence of divination hails from China’s Shang Dynasty. Inscriptions found on bones from 3,000 years ago have been traced back to the practice of courtly fortune telling. Classified as oracle bones, this practice primarily revolved around reading inscriptions on turtle shells. If you want to get really fancy, you can call this plastromancy.
Thousands of shells were needed for proper oracle bone divination sessions. Questions were inscribed upon a shell, and it was then heated until it cracked. The way in which it cracked was thought to answer the question, often in a “yes” or “no” format.
Husking for Knowledge
On a more global and current scale, the practice of Ifa (or Ifá) is based upon the reading of palm husks, which are passed back and forth, from one hand to the other. Ifá is primarily practiced by Yoruba adherents (such as the Igbo people) and members of the African Diaspora.
The process is incredibly complex, and there’s not nearly enough time to truly explain the beauty of this unique ritual. In simple terms, it relies upon the babalawo, who holds the sixteen husks, interpreting what is said through the husks. This is often aided by the use of a flour-filled opon ifá tray, into which his interpretations are marked as strokes in the dust.
Tossing Out Possibilities
Returning to Eastern Asia, there is also the unique practice of poe divination. This popular Taiwanese divination technique uses paired crescent-shaped blocks of bamboo, stone, or wood. When cast to the floor, the two pieces will ultimately land one of four ways (rounded side up or down and flat side up or down). Should both pieces fall the same way (either round or flat side up), then this is taken as a negative answer. If each piece lands in a different orientation, however, it is seen as a positive response.
Asking the Crustaceans
While many forms of divination use objects or bones, some forms utilize living creatures. In Cameroon and Nigeria, the Mambilia people practice a form of fortune-telling known as nggàm du. It is popularly referred to as spider divination, though land crabs are used more frequently.
Like Ifá, the practice of nggàm is incredibly complex and cannot be properly simplified into a blog. However, in essence, the practice relies upon surrounding a crab den with a set of cards and objects. The den is then covered with a large pot and left alone for some time, allowing the crab to interact with the items. How the items are moved about determines the result of the reading.
(If you’d like to read more about nggàm, take a peek at Herman Gufler’s study of the practice.)
Our final investigation of unique divination methods takes us to Japan, where a wintertime Shinto festival revolves around the practice of telling fortunes with rice. Known as kayu ura (or kayura), this method relies upon encasing rice gruel inside of a bamboo tube. After allowing this setup to sit for some time, participants return to see how the grains have settled and penetrated into the wood’s core. The results are said to determine when the yearly harvest will begin.
While Goddess Elite doesn’t offer these options for your divination stash, we offer many popular divination methods! To celebrate our world’s diversity, we’re offering you the remarkable chance to snag some divination supplies for 20% off until the end of the week. Check out our stock and see what we have before we run out!