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Palm nuts with blue cloth bag, Nigeria, 1880-1920

The 16 palm nuts in this bag are used by Yoruba diviners to cast and ask questions about a person’s illness. The nuts 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 16 palm nuts represent the children of Ifa, the Yoruba god of healing and divination. The Yoruba people traditionally live in south-west Nigeria.

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    Glossary: divination sets

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    Glossary: divination

    The practice of seeking knowledge of the future through the interpretation of omens or other supernatural means.