Divination Techniques

By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Senegal, Koranic Board. Photo by M.N. Roberts, A.F. Roberts.

In parts of Africa where Islamic influence has been particularly strong, many Moslems combine African divination practices with their Islamic faith.  In Dakar, Senegal, for example, one is likely to encounter Islamic members of the Mouride brotherhood practicing street corner divination using Koranic boards like this one.  Information about the client is placed in the nine boxes on the lower half of the board are interpreted using complex Cabalistic methods involving algebra and geometry.  The center square represents the client, who is then figuratively surrounded by verses from the Koran, which, when interpreted, identify the proper course for healing.  Often these squares are drawn on paper that is then soaked in water to remove the ink that is believed literally to be the word of God.  By washing in the ink water, illness is cured (Roberts and Nooter Roberts 1996: personal communication).