Carved Yoruba ritual bowl, Nigeria, 1880-1920
A woman carrying a child is kneeling in respect to Ifa, the Yoruba god of divination and healing. Sixteen palm nuts would be stored in the bowl to be used by diviners to cast and ask questions about a person’s illness. The palm nuts represent the children of Ifa and are passed from hand to hand eight times. Each time one or two are kept in one hand and this is marked on a board. The diviner reads the pattern of these marks and matches it to one of 256 odu (signs or messages). The bowl was made by the Yoruba people of south-west Nigeria and is known as an adjella ifa.
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Glossary: divination bowl
The practice of seeking knowledge of the future through the interpretation of omens or other supernatural means.