Tag Archives: divination

What methods of divination are suitable for African spirituality? | Vodun F.A.Q.

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Crystal Ball Scrying Though Orunmila or a similar deity is in charge of all divination methods, the traditional African methods are the only ones that can offer traditional African information.

What that means is that Ifa, Afa, and other forms of authentic, indigenous African methods of divination are the only way that today one can find their head or their destiny accurately within African traditions. No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes.

Even a seed or a stalk of grass in the hands of one observant to Orunmila can tell volumes, but it is still not Ifa. Tarot is useful for helping one to navigate life, especially in social situations. The bones and curios are excellent for telling you what’s going on around you in a very blunt way. The Obi of course, are a direct line to your ancestors, and best for yes or no or even very nuanced but straight answers. However, none of these does what Ifa does.

In the past, some other methods such as dice, dominos, and other numerically based systems that are not native to Africa could be used if someone was completely cut off. However today, in the age of the internet, when a qualified babalawo or other traditional diviner is available in a click, this is no longer the case.

Because of the diaspora allowances from the past, some are confused and may fall for shady people telling them that some other method would be able to stand in the place of Ifa or Afa. The problem is that unless it is numerically based and resorted to because maybe the trained Babalawo is in prison and has no access even to any dried seeds, it is not going to direct one to any Odu or any verse or any indigenous African culture’s lexicon of legends or wisdom.

This is why, even in the diaspora, even someone like me who has invented a new divination method, will still refer people to a Babalawo. I can tell you many things, but I can’t tell you who your head Orisha is for certain in an indigenous pantheon. I can’t tell you what traditional ebbo you need to do. I can’t tell you your traditional African anything because I am not an initiated, qualified Babalawo or Iyanifa or indigenous African diviner. I know to stay in my lane.

This does not mean that we do not study the Odu that we have access to. Most diviners with some experience will study Odu Ifa, the lineage tales some are willing to share, proverbs, patakis, and anything else we can to learn African and diaspora wisdom. It is important both in terms of perspective and since Africa is a huge continent, cultural exchange and learning what we can from our ancestral neighbors. However, Ifa and Afa are not just older than most available methods of divination, but older and living, and dynamic. Though other methods of divination are useful in some ways, there is no comparison. There just simply isn’t.

It isn’t the oldest known method, but other older methods such as scrying and osteomancy are not connected to the Odus or any known current culture’s verses. So great for some things but not for ebbo. Just skip the running to and fro looking for traditional answers in non traditional places.

Does everyone need a traditional reading?

If one was born in a culture where there are available Ifa or Afa diviners, then definitely. If not then probably. It depends whether you are okay with bumbling through or you want to have some idea what may be coming and direction.

Be prepared to pay the diviner a decent donation, and to do the recommended ebbo for your personal Odu. If you can’t afford it at the moment, it is one of those things worth putting aside for.

Supplemental Video

Please watch Obafemi’s video Tarot Is Not Ifa and thank him for his wisdom. I was not even aware before this that such confusion existed.

Blessings and Ashé!

New Videos: How to Read the Bones

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I’ve posted some new videos on YouTube about how to read the bones. 

 

Bone Reading of the Day for March 25, 2011

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Bones of the day March 25, 2022Today’s reading is fairly straightforward.  Oya’s mirror is up, so we’re talking about the future.  Eshu’s protection face is up and he is touching the Sankofa symbol, and Death is facing both, which means that someone will be protected from death because of something they learned in their past.

The sun is at the center, and note that Oba, Oshun, and Oya are triangulated with Oya in the water level of the water quadrant.  This represents a balanced individual who is in tune with the Orishas or at least Nature.

The war horn and Osu are in the fire area, which means this person will have to fight their hormonal whims in order to get the good thing they’re going to get from Eshu.  It is a very hopeful reading though.  Whoever this is out there reading this, if it’s you, then you’re on the right track.

Vodun Tips: The reason some people of other faiths demean Vodun as witchcraft is because in Vodun, prayers are said by natural people to a natural and real God, and therefore naturally, get real results. They are so used to God not giving in to their unnatural demands that they believe God to be ungenerous and cruel, and those who know better, worshipping someone else.

Sheloya’s Hoodoo Bones System

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Hoodoo Bones also called Voodoo RunesSo you bought or made a set of Hoodoo bones, and now you want to know how to use them?

They’re about the same level of difficulty as Nordic runes.  It will take you some time to learn the symbolism if you have no experience with Vodun or African mysticism, but once you get it, you’ve got it.

I (Sheloya) invented this system, but it is inspired by old traditions such as Hoodoo shells and bones, Yoruba and Lukumi diloggun, amathambo, and Nordic runes.  In fact, you could consider Sheloya Bones a kind of primer for osteomancy.  This will get you used to this style of divination, but ultimately you may add other artifacts to your collection of bones, or replace them entirely.

Bones or Bones?

For the sake of clarity for those who are new to the internet, this system is an innovation, and not itself ancient, though it is inspired by other ancient systems.  This is something new.  If you were looking for information on the old ways, click here for an article on what I was taught about osteomancy from mixed Hoodoo, Obeah, and African Yoruba/Bini/Fon/Igbo diaspora practices, and click here for an article on Throwing the Bones from the Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers.  Click here for an interesting article on Umuthi and amathambo, which details the signs that someone needs to study divination.  Click here for an article written by someone who is deciding whether or not to undergo an initiation/training process.  Click here for Dr. Corbeaux’s blog entry on black cat bone readings, and to order one if you like.

You can discuss bone reading with others at Witch University‘s Skulls and Bones Society.

Now, if everyone is clear and understands that my bones are tiles that are to be used either alone, or with the addition of other bones or objects, and not osteomancy by themselves (except when they are made with bones or bone fragments inside, which some may be), let us continue.

If you do ever replace the whole set with your own objects, you should clean your blank bone with salt water before gifting the set to another mystic…which brings me to the first instruction.

What to Do With Your New Bones

The first thing you should do before you use your bones is consecrate them.  How you go about this depends on your personal belief system, but the ritual should include:

  1. asking Eshu for access to the spirits
  2. calling upon Ifa to bless the bones and give you the wisdom to make accurate readings
  3. understand that you must tell the truth about what you see, and vow to do this
  4. pass each bone through the smoke of incense
  5. sprinkle each bone with a little saltwater
  6. mark the blank bone with your blood or sweat (preferably from your forehead or navel area)
  7. thank Ifa and Eshu
The Blank Bone

Blank Bone

Thereafter, you should try to keep the blank bone on your person as much as possible.  Don’t worry that the blood or sweat will rub off.  Your energy will remain with it.  If you tend to lose things or are somewhat absentminded or cluttered, you should just keep the blank bone in a safe place like on your altar or wherever you keep the rest of them.  Just remember to hold it from time to time.

Over the course of the next week or month, you will want to open the bones/runes to all your known Orishas or deities.  Have them present when you give offerings or do rituals.  Invite all of the spirits you commune with, including those of your ancestors, to feel free to speak through them.

It is important to remember that Vodun is not a representative faith.  All things are connected, and when through the ritual, you give energy to the bones, they become a kind of being.  They should be respected and treated as if they are a person who speaks to you and to others through you.

They also like to be clean and cared for.  Always handle them with clean hands, and keep them in a bag so they don’t collect dust, or wipe them down with a moist cloth with plain water occasionally.

If you gain a friend or ally because of them, or make some money by giving someone a reading, thank them.

Your Tray

Ideally, when you throw the bones, it should be into a round tray.  This keeps them from rolling away.  You can also throw them on a quilt with a somewhat thin batting.  If you use a cloth, then roll up the edges.

Reading the Bones

The distance from the center of the tray matters.

The Center

  • fire
  • the soul
  • base matters
  • the glands
  • thermogenic mechanisms of the body
  • metabolism

Next Layer

  • Earth
  • land
  • day to day life
  • practical matters
  • the flesh and muscles
  • food digestion

Third Layer

  • water
  • the sea
  • motivation
  • emotion
  • currents and trends
  • the blood
  • hormones
  • liquid digestion

Fourth Layer

  •  air
  • cosmos
  • Orun-realm
  • intellect
  • spiritual matters
  • the brain

The direction matters too, but not necessarily from the top and bottom of the tray or cloth.  For this, one looks to the direction finder bone.

The Bones

Direction Finder BoneThe direction finder tells you how to orient the tray or what is the most important aspect of the matter.  If there is a bone touching it (with the picture side up), especially near the arrow, then this is the thing that is most important or pressing.  If there are no bones touching it or very close to it then this is telling you “this way is north”.  If it is on the edge of the board, the direction meaning is still the same.  If it is on the far edge pointing directly at the querent, then they are saying that it is extremely important that they pay attention.  If it is on the close edge and pointing directly at the reader, that is an extra push that you must tell the truth bluntly and with no “sugar-coating”.

Oya's MirrorOya’s mirror tells you whether  they are telling you about the past and present, or the future.  If the open side is up, it’s the future.  If it is down, then it’s about the past and present.  If the querant has asked about the future, but Oya’s mirror is down, they are saying that things that were done or happened in the past or are going on now, are what will affect the future.  The future is not open to their eyes unless they resolve the issues or at least accept this so they can move forward.

Orisha Bones

These are bones dedicated to specific Orishas/Lwa/spirits.  You’ll need to know something about them in order to get the subtler messages they may have.  Don’t worry though.  They will teach you what you might not learn from books, the internet, or another mystic.

The ones in the photos are not the only ones available.  They are just the ones I chose for this particular set.  The designs can also be simpler or more complex, and in a variety of styles.

Since some Hoodoo practitioners prefer not to call on African/diaspora entities, if your angels or other Spirits can embody objects, you may craft those instead.  Please be sure, just as in the case of having Orishas in your set, you give everyone their due, and treat their bone with the proper reverence.

Special note about the Eshu bone:

Some bones I’ve made with the protection face and ceremonial pitchfork on the same side, and some have one on one side, and one on the other.  Which way I do it depends on the mystic ordering it.

Some prefer Raphael as a Gatekeeper, and others the Cherubim in general.

Symbol Bones

The symbols used for the symbolic bones are standard Adinkra and well-known symbols in Africa and the diaspora.

  • eye = jealousy, possessiveness
  • sankofa heart = learn from your past or return to something or recover something lost in the past
  • Gye Nyame (the power of God) = God/the spirits have the matter in hand or you should stay out of God’s way in the matter
  • Akoben (war horn) = conflict, someone talking behind the back, someone slandering
  • coffin = death, ending, resolution, loss
  • )( overlapping = unity, joining, togetherness, oneness
  • ) ( separated = divorce, breakup, separation
  • fish = fertility, sex, pregnancy, a woman of fertile age, a mother, a whimsical woman, or whimsy
  • cowrie shell = money, prosperity, vested interest
  • spider = wisdom, planning, craftiness, trickery
  • African/Egyptian heart = power of love, marriage, wedding, motherly love, familial love, irrational attachment, love despite bad behavior
  • western heart = romantic love
  • ace of spades = death, extreme danger
  • dagger = backstabbing, double cross, scam, shady deal, hidden danger
  • peacock = pride, self confidence, arrogance, a boaster, a physically beautiful person, physical beauty, aesthetics
  • comb = beauty, self care, caring for someone, femininity
  • lightning bolt = anger, power, a fast change
  • star = hope, charisma, something or someone special
  • grid = family, society, a strong marriage, civilization, politeness
  • spoon = comfort, food, practical nurturing
  • leaf = herbs, plants, farm, growth, prosperity


You can buy a set or individual Hoodoo bones at Sheloya Mystical at: http://soulmindbody.net/store/2011/03/01/hoodoo-bones-voodoo-runes-or-african-runes/