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Ifá divination corpus, the

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Z022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2005
Retrieved December 03, 2023, from

Article Summary

Ifá is a divination system practised by highly trained specialists in the Yorùbá-speaking areas of West Africa. The geomantic system of sixteen signs from which a total of 256 figures are derived is widespread and is believed to have originated in Arabic Muslim cultures. But the remarkable corpus of poetry attached to the geomantic system is peculiar to Yorùbá culture. During a divination session the diviner manipulates his instruments to yield one or more figures, and then recites and interprets one or more of the large body of verses attached to that figure. The extent of the total corpus is unknown, but it is certain that it runs to thousands of verses. All the verses share the same basic structure. Each narrates an antecedent divination session performed by a legendary or primordial diviner for a client whose subsequent fortunes are then narrated. The rigid structure of each verse and of the system as a whole does not prevent adaptation and incorporation of new elements. This corpus of verses has absorbed elements of almost all Yorùbá oral genres and is widely regarded as the authoritative summation of Yorùbá philosophy. It offers reflections upon time, destiny, causation and human agency.

Citing this article:
Barber, Karin. Ifá divination corpus, the, 2005, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Z022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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