What Is Divination? (Part I Of IV)

By Amcaja (Own work with Kodak CX6200 digital camera) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Amcaja (Own work with Kodak CX6200 digital camera) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Divination is a practice that albeit popular, is widely misunderstood. This series seeks to demystify three kinds of divination practices: mediumship, tarot, and practices specific to African-rooted traditions. The goal is not to provide an exhaustive overview, rather to provide a basic understanding to those new to divination, and a refresher/primer for those involved in African-rooted spiritual traditions.

What is divination?
Many understand divination as fortune telling focused on future occurrences not yet known to the querent. That is, in my opinion, a limited view. It has been my observation, and lived experience, particularly where non-Western spiritual traditions are concerned that divination is a manner of finding out information about one's condition (physical, emotional, and spiritual) throughout time (past, present, and future), and space (geography).

Depending on the diviner, and the tradition he or she practices, the divination method will vary. Some rely solely on their mediumistic (psychic) abilities, employing clairvoyance, clairsentience, clairaudience, etc. Others prefer an implement such as the tarot, cowrie shells, runes, or bones. 

What is the source of information being divined? Who is the provider of the information?
This is an oft contested topic. Some may say the universe. To be more specific, I would say the universe as understood through the cultural lens of the tool and/or tradition, as well as through the lens, of the lived experience of the diviner. In the various Yoruba traditions both in Africa and the diaspora, the source of divinatory information is the odu Ifa corpus of holy symbols that contain and explain the totality of the Yoruba worldview. In tarot, the source of the information comes from Christian and Hebrew, specifically the Kabbalah, mysticism and esoterica. In terms of what entity is speaking in a divination session, well, again, it depends on the system. In odu Ifa, it is often orisa, and can also be ancestors, and other spiritual divinities. In mediumship, it is often the medium's spirit guides, which in some cases could be an ancestor, but not obligatorily.

Why do we divine?
Humans like to know. Knowing allows for preparation. It soothes the mind. It can agitate as well and many of us need agitation to to move out of stagnation. Divination can be a form of healing or it can be the pathway to healing. Personally, I divine/seek divination as a way of planning ahead. I go in seeking confirmation on things that I am witnessing bubble to the surface, and as a way of making certain I have not missed any key details. It is how I remain connected to the divinities, ancestors, and collective dead that support me in my daily life in the various milieus in which I work. For me, divination is the way in which i keep it all together and learn what is necessary in order to be and do my best, and align myself with that which is in the service of my highest good.

What should a querent reasonably expect from his/her diviner?
This could easily be an exhaustive list but here are some key points for a new diviner-querent relationship:

  • Basic information on the kind of divination the diviner employs and the tradition it comes from;
  • A clear indication of cost, time, and protocol;
  • How to prepare in advance;
  • Space to ask questions during the divination session; and
  • Protocol for dealing with outcomes and follow-up if necessary.

Part II of this series will talk about mediumship through the lens of the Espiritismo Cruzado tradition. Stay tuned and until next week!