Divination Techniques

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

Dr. Mabvongere, diviner. Shona peoples, Zimbabwe. Photo by William Dewey.

As is the case among Yoruba peoples, an extensive system of divinatory education is required of Shona diviners of Zimbabwe. The practice of divination in this area, however, is normally reserved for women. It has been suggested that this contributes to a balance of power between the sexes. Among the Shona people, men dominate the political arena, and women are seen as the keepers of secrets and tradition in the private world, but are able to influence the public realm through divination. Occasionally, men do become diviners, but when they do, they symbolically assume the role of a woman. Male diviners are the only diviners permitted to learn the art of bead work, which is otherwise practiced exclusively by women, and they must also wear the dress of a female diviner.