African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing (African Systems of Thought)

By Philip M. Peek

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This designated number of essays via an excellent overseas workforce of Africanists demonstrates the valuable function that divination keeps to play all through Africa in keeping cultural platforms and in guiding human motion. African Divination platforms deals insights for present discussions in comparative epistemology, cross-cultural psychology, cognition experiences, semiotics, ethnoscience, non secular experiences, and anthropology.

"This quantity of finely crafted case stories can be the motor vehicle for a major basic conception of divination.... this can be a publication overflowing with principles that would powerfully stimulate additional research." ― Journal of formality Studies

"The essays during this assortment offer a really important review of either the variety of African divination structures and of contemporary techniques to their study." ― Choice

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Concretely, the oracle orders the facts according to  the interlinking structural model: exchange­law/prohibition­infringement­curse­sanction­affliction or death. There is no attempt within the oracle to give a causal interpretation of the "how" of events. Employing what I term a structural framework, it gives a semantic reading of  the facts that characterizes the submitted problem, uncovers a meaning, and prepares an intervention to be efficacious. The meaning of the problem does not lie in the  higher­order metasystem but in referring to it and in the unique semantic or metaphoric interconnecting of events, acts, and persons that were unconnected before, i. e. ,  that belong to different semantic structures and patterns    Page 128 of social life (Devisch 1985a:70ff. ). The oracle connects the submitted illness with some recent infringement or abuse, or some quarrel involving the sick person (e. g. ,  arising from uncles failing to fulfil their duties) and also with an analogous situation in the history of the uterine descent. This connecting of present and historical  situations is not causalist but metaphoric and brings to light an important dimension of the meaning of the problem. It is as if reference were made to the self­ maintenance of social life and to a unifying, all­embracing, and axiological horizon of meaning and order. The oracle metonymically throws light on other phenomena, in  linking them with the present family quarrel. Among the clients and in popular etiology, this metaphoric reference is readily interpreted in a causal deterministic way: it is claimed either that the affliction is a direct  retaliation for the wrong committed by some uterine ascendants threatened by a curse or that the family quarrel led the elders to reassert their status through sorcery. Jealousy, envy, offended honor and anger are seen as the motives for malevolent acts drawing on extrahuman avenging or bewitching powers. Any act of illicit sorcery  is already threatened by the curse of an ascendant, so for popular interpretation it is unimportant whether affliction is the direct result of sorcery or is the retaliation of  an act of sorcery committed by an ascendant of the victim. In all these cases, it is through the uterine ties that one is most vitally threatened with and suffers from  misfortune. The divinatory session is ended by a verdict and a prescription: one party (e. g. , the agnates, or the uterines of the first generation) gets accused of sorcery or of the  infringement that has reactivated the curse from the past. Blame may be put on the other party (e. g. , the uterines of the second ascendant generation) as well for their  having angered the first generation. The prescription will be about a sacrifice, a restitution, an uncle that one has to contact, or a cult that must be organized. The clients  then organize a hunt to test the oracle's veracity. The same system of values underlies the divinatory and therapeutic approaches, so that the therapy will aim at the  actualization of these values in the form of a rite of passage.

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