Divination Techniques

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

Chokwe-Luchazi senior diviner named Chipoya with divination basket. Chipoya Village, Zambia, 1992. Photo by Manuel Jordán.

Another method of divination which is common throughout central and southern Africa involves the use of ngomo, or divination baskets.  An ngomo is a shallow basket that contains numerous objects, which are representative of all aspects of social life.  The diviner tosses the basket up and down until he is satisfied with the pattern.  Then by interpreting the objects on top, he is able to make his prophecy. The diviner may have considerable control over the outcome of the divination process, as it is possible to influence which objects rise to the top of the basket, and he is responsible for when to cease the tossing action. There are many nuances and tricks, which a diviner must learn to incorporate into the process in order to influence the outcome.  It must not be forgotten that diviners, although often marginalized, are always members of the community, and may be heavily invested in controlling the outcome of the consultation.