Divination Techniques

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

Democratic Republic of the Congo; Kuba artist

Itoom (friction oracle)


H. 8.25 cm (3.25")

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, The Stanley Collection of African Art, X1986.265

The same “smelling-out” metaphor is used by Kuba peoples in central Democratic Republic of the Congo. One type of Kuba divination requires that a smooth object, such a small stone, be rubbed across a wooden oracle while questions are asked.  When the answer to the question is yes, the stone catches on the oracle, otherwise, the stone moves freely.  The Kuba oracle pictured here represents that very same dog, who is able to smell out sorcery among the Yaka.