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Master the art of African divination and uncover hidden non-conscious knowledge. Find the well of creativity and take your creative challenges head on with a tool no one else can give you. Prepare to throw the bones...



AFRICAN D I V I N AT I O N Divination is the art of revealing hidden non-conscious knowledge through the use of symbolic objects. This booklet is a guide for an apprentice of African divination. It will give step by step instructions on how to begin the collection of the tools that are necessary for divining by “throwing the bones�. Once the tools have been collected, the booklet will give guidance in the process of throwing and interpretation.

Africa, these symbols are represented by objects collected by traditional healers called Sangomas.

The objects that will be collected will be linked to different symbols that represent various aspects of our individual cultures and societies. In

Once the apprentice has successfully linked his objects to their representative meanings, he/she will be able to begin practicing African divination.

Once the physical objects have been collected, there is a process of linking them to their meanings. This is a part of the learning process that requires time to slow down and for the apprentice to build a lasting relationship with all his/her objects through a type of meditation.

TO O L S : SOCIAL SYMBOLS The tools of a Sangoma are his/her bones as well as the knowledge he has about his/her community. Social symbols and metaphors play an important role in the interpretation process. Although different, in many cases, African and western cultures have symbols and metaphors that affect society very strongly. As an example, in Africa, and more speciďŹ cally among the Zulu, the shape of the hut represents the womb. The womb again is represented through a round grave and the deceased are buried in a foetal position; as if about to be reborn. In the western culture our social symbols are somewhat different. They are more dynamic and varied due to the multi-cultural build-up of society.

In traditional Christian burials, cofďŹ ns were placed east to west; with the head at the western end of the grave, so that the body will be ready to view the coming of Christ from the east on Judgement day. Both societies are saturated with major and minor social and traditional symbols. The stronger the knowledge of these symbols is, the better someone can relate to that society. This is why it is important for any apprentice to have strong knowledge about the society he/she comes from.

There are many concepts that can be associated to objects. The concepts used in African divination are generally social and cultural inuences such as time, luck, knowledge, wealth and obstacles.

The objects used by Sangomas are various and many and are found in both the living areas (home or village) and in their natural surroundings (the bush). In the same way, you as an apprentice will begin collecting objects from your living areas and natural surroundings. Spiral shells, leopard bones, abalone shells, antelope hoof tips and nut shells are some examples of objects collected by Sangomas.



OBJECT HUNTING The process of collecting your objects is fun and easy. There are only a few prerequisites: An object must ďŹ t into the palm of your hand and should not be bigger; An object should be light enough to be carried around comfortably; Perfectly circular objects in the shape of glass marbles or golf balls should be avoided; An object should preferably have two opposing sides; top and bottom, left and right, or open and closed.

Many things can be used as objects, as long as they ďŹ t into the prerequisites. Unused keys, shells, pebbles, small toys, mechanical parts, buttons, etc. The larger the range of types of objects the better.

By looking around the house, the ofďŹ ce or outside in the garden, one can ďŹ nd many objects with interesting shapes and textures. There is no ideal amount that should be collected, but around 45 objects should be enough and will allow for an easier selection process later. Let the search begin!

OBJECT MARKING Once you have collected your objects, find a small pouch or bag to keep them in. It can be made out of any material. If you don’t have one lying around, you can make your own bag by sewing two rectangular pieces of felt or other material together. Marking your obejcts is important and will allow you to clearly identify the two sides every object should have. You could either use a permanent

marker, spray paint, acrylic paint, or a tool with which you can scratch the object to leave the mark. The marked side of the object can represent a restricting force on the objects meaning. Almost as if something is preventing the meaning from materialising. The marked side could also be considered as the negative face of the object’s meaning.

Mark each of your objects on one of their sides using one of the methods shown. All objects should have a marked and an unmarked side.

OBJECT TO S YM B O L Before you begin converting your objects into symbols, you will need to prepare your word cards. These words have been carefully selected, and represent many aspects of life. They can be seen as key points in challenging ideas and promoting change. The list of words is adjustable and you can change words as you please, and at any time of

the process of converting objects into symbols. It is best to use the given words initially as foundation words, that will later become your symbols. There are four extra spaces however, for you to add any words of your own. Once you have prepared the word sheet provided on the last of the guide, you will need to cut each word out along the dotted lines.

The next step is to ďŹ nd a comfortable spot on the oor, either in the lounge, your bedroom, or even outside. The place should be quiet and peaceful, and there should be very few distractions.

Lay your objects out in front of you on the oor. Space them out so that you can see them all clearly. Next to the objects, lay out your word cards and space those out too.

Once your objects and words have been laid out and you have gotten comfortable, select one word card and pick it up. Read the word and keep it in your mind. Once a word is memorised, look at your objects and choose an object that will best represent that word. The object can, but does not need to, be visually/metaphorically linked to the word. But from the moment it is chosen to represent the word, it should not be changed.

Once an object has been chosen, lay the word card down and pick the object up. Hold it in your hands; feel its shape and texture, look at its colours. While holding the object, begin to visualise the word in your mind. How much do you know about the word’s meaning? Try and bring up experiences that you might have regarding the word. How do you feel about its meaning? Are there any emotions attached? Are there any other physical connotations linked to the word?

By holding the object and by recalling this information, you are in fact turning this object into a symbol. Through the touch and feel of the object, the object should start representing the word to you. Once all your objects have been converted to symbols, you will then have a complete set of divining tools.

QUESTIONS In our daily routines there are two types of questions that we use; closed-ended questions and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions encourage short, singleworded answers like yes or no. In the example “Should I link these two concepts?” you are forced to question if the two concepts should be linked. There is a subtle prospect that the two concepts should not be linked.

Open-ended questions like the one on the next page, “How can these two concepts be linked?” encourage full, meaningful and objective answers. Open-ended questions usually begin with words like “why” and “how” and use phrases like “tell me more about…” They can be considered more as response-requiring statements. Openended questions do not judge; they encourage multiple relationships and there is less of an implication that there might be something wrong.

THE THREE METHODS There are three methods with which you will be able to use your objects. The ďŹ rst method, developed from traditional Yoruba divination, is a simple method yielding simple and direct answers. The second method, developed from Venda divination, is focused on a limited number of objects, and also yielding a limited number of answers. The third method is a more multi-faceted method. It is developed from Zulu divination and allows you to use all of your objects simultaneously. The Yoruba Method requires the use of closedended questions where as the Venda and Zulu Methods require open-ended questions.

M AT S & T H ROW I N G All methods require a mat on which to throw your objects. This can be a circular space about 1 meter in diameter and can be made up out of any material. You could also use pebbles or other small objects to show the perimeter of the circle. Although each method uses the mat differently, its size and shape does not change and one mat can be used for all methods.

Throwing requires you to sit on the floor and with the mat in front of you, take a hold of the objects. You should throw your objects at a 45° angle up and towards the centre of the mat. This will allow the objects to scatter falling mostly on the mat; some objects might land or roll off the mat, this is also fine.

T H E YO R U B A METHOD Once you have created your mat and have built a relationship with your objects, you will be ready to begin the Yoruba method training. The Yoruba method is a very simple method and requires the use of only sixteen of your objects and the throwing mat. The purpose of the mat, in this method, is to limit the area on which the objects will fall and be read. Any objects that fall off the mat are always disregarded in an interpretation.

You’ll need a quiet area with enough space on the oor for you and your mat. At this point all your objects should have a marked and an unmarked side (or two distinguishing/opposing sides). Randomly select sixteen objects from your bag. In the Yoruba method, you will base your interpretation of the objects on their marked and unmarked sides. The meanings of your objects will not play a role in the interpretation in this method.

Once seated in front of your mat, hold the objects in both your hands. As you shake the objects in your hands, concentrate on the question being asked. The question should be a closeended question. Throw your sixteen objects as described previously.

From the objects that fall on the mat, count the number of unmarked sides that face upward. If the unmarked sides number 10 and above, the digits of that number should be added together. In this example the total unmarked sides facing up number 10, you would therefore add 1+0 to give you a sum of 1. The answer can then be obtained, with reference to the answer (1) from the Yoruba Answer List.

Reduced numbers (10<) are numbers that have been added together. They yield stronger answers than simple single numbers (9>) i.e. 14 is stronger than 3. The reduced number therefore gives a stronger answer that may be more positive or more negative. The third column, attitude, tells you how you should approach the problem. If in this case the question would have been: “Should I link these two concepts?” the answer

would be “Yes you should. The combination of the two concepts should be taken on with an optimistic and creatve attitude”. Using the Yoruba method allows for quick straight-forward answers and thus can be used more frequently. On the other hand, this method cannot be used for complex open-ended questions and does not offer multi-faceted answers.

T H E V E N DA METHOD The Venda method requires the use of four of your objects and the throwing mat. The purpose of the mat, once again, is to limit the area on which the interpretable objects will fall and be read. Any objects that fall off the mat are always disregarded in the interpretation. Again you will need a quiet area with enough space on the ďŹ&#x201A;oor for you and your mat. In this method, the meaning of the objects will play a major role in the interpretation. Randomly select four objects from your bag. These objects will represent four aspects of the problem or challenge derived from the question asked. Naturally each object will have its marked and unmarked side. The marked side representing a

passive or negative meaning and the unmarked side representing an active or positive meaning. The Venda method requires the use of openended questions.

With four objects (and each having two sides), you will be able to generate sixteen different combinations. Each combination creating a new relationship between the objects and thus a different way to answer the question. To the right are the interpretations of ďŹ ve combinations from the selected four objects:

Although innocence has turned to sin, and an imbalance has overcome the mind, retreat is the key to recover from the damage.

Innocent ideas have been challenged and there is no way to retreat. By having the right mindset you will be able to recover the lost.

The situation requires you to retreat. This is not the time to challenge any ideas, nor is it the right state of mind to contemplate them. Simply retreat until things settle

New projects always begin with innocent ideas that need development. Take this time to retreat from major decisions that require a lot of thinking. This is not the time to make changes.

Great new ideas are sprouting. Your mind is ready for a new challenge. Take it head on.

THE ZULU METHOD The Zulu method is built up out of two equally important parts: the mat, and your objects. These two parts inďŹ&#x201A;uence each other and affect the interpretation directly and actively. The mat, in the Zulu method, is a little more complex and is multi layered. Your objects come into full force in the Zulu method and more concentration is required for a reading to take place.

ZULU METHOD: T H E M AT The mat, in the Zulu method, is built up out of two layers; a layer of uncontrollable forces and a layer of characteristic traits.

The first layer represents uncontrollable forces influencing the situation and the questioner. These forces are represented by elements of naand wet ture such as cold , hot , windy in the cardinal points North, South, East and West. Each element will influence your reading metaphorically depending on how you personally perceive it.

Traditionally, cold could represent hibernation, stagnation, lack of progress, reflection, or defeat. However, you could interpret it in your own way; cold could represent calm, preparation, patience, and retreat. The message here is to allow your personal point of view towards the elements and your intuition to influence your interpretation.

The ordinal or intercardinal directions (NE, SE, SW, NW) are the sectors on the mat where the elements overlap. As an example, North-East is the combination of cold and windy and so the two elements meet to create a combined element that houses both the cardinal elementsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; powers.

The second layer of the mat is also divided into the eight compass sectors; each with its own characteristics. These character sectors are different from the element sectors. They attach themselves to the objects that fall within them. The characteristics have been taken from the traditional Zulu mat and may be personalized at a later stage.

As an example, if an object falls in the SouthWestern sector , it will inherit the characteristic of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;cooperativeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. This characteristic in combination with meaning of the object, the other related objects, the question asked and the ďŹ rst layer of the elements; will together, form a part of the interpretation.

ZULU METHOD: P R E PA R AT I O N You will again need a quiet area with enough space on the ďŹ&#x201A;oor for you to be able to throw your objects. Being calm and relaxed is important and will allow you to effectively read your objects. Begin by sitting on the ďŹ&#x201A;oor and placing the mat in front of you with North pointing away from

you. Take a hold of all your objects and throw them towards the centre of the mat as shown previously. The objects should scatter and some will fall off the mat, those objects will be disregarded as before.

Once the objects fall, they will form different groups and clusters. Some objects will be alone, others in pairs and others in groups. In order to interpret successfully, you will need to understand two qualities objects will have when they will get together. Object families (objects outlined by dotted lines) refer to when objects are related to each other through their meanings. Interpreting and deciding which objects could be related depends on your personal interpretation; your intuition also plays a role in decision making.

Families can number from two objects and more. Object families are formed when: The objects are physically close to each other; If they fall in a similar character direction weather sectors of the mat;


Or in the forming of clusters. Interpretation and contextualization becomes more complex when more objects are combined in an object family.

Once an object family has been created, the objects’ relationship strength (the arrowed lines between the objects) can now be rated. Relationships are mainly judged by the physical proximity of each object to the next. If objects are touching, or if one object is lying on top of another, their relationship is stronger than if they were

not touching. When objects are in a relationship, they act as direct influences on each other. Their combined meanings act as central catalysts of change throughout the reading. The larger the distance between the objects, the less they influence each other.

DISSECTING A Z U L U T H ROW The objects have been thrown, they fall and scatter in every direction. Object families and relationships are formed and every object that has fallen off the mat has been disregarded.

As a beginner, you could begin interpreting your throws, sector by sector or by jumping from object family to object family. For this guide, I will take the sector by sector method. The following few pages show each sector individually; its object families, its inďŹ&#x201A;uencing elements and its inďŹ&#x201A;uencing characteristics.




selďŹ sh

protect /abandon




nightmare/shrewd / suspend /lead/ objectify/surender / desire /inherit/ multiply/complete


rest/innocence / repel/retreat/ nurture/compromise


give/eliminate / discuss/combine




IN T E R P R E T I N G A Z U L U T H ROW The fllowing pages are the interpretations of each sector. Each interpretation is personal and can be seen as one interpretation out of many. Interpretation: Problem needs to be dissected ( 1) and alanyzed in order to logically ( ) recover ( 2). Initiative ( 1) should be taken to help reach a solution. But something is preventing you from

achieving this. It might be selfishness ( Because change (

is overpowered by a double ) is difficult to come by.

2). ,

3 is isolated at the edge and can be included in the interpretation as a stand alone. It can be considered as a small influencing force in decision making. I choose not to include it in this reading.

dissect /recover/ resurrect

initiative/selďŹ sh

Interpretation: There is a personal/private ( 3) aspect of the problem that has been abandoned ( 5) and is now in need of protection ( 4). The protection however will come at a cost. There will be resistance and unseen obstacles ( ) inďŹ&#x201A;uencing the aspects mentioned above. Because the objects are physically touching each other, their meanings inďŹ&#x201A;uence each other and the problem in a stronger way and take priority in the overall interpretation.

protect /abandon


Interpretation: The social ( 4) aspect of the problem is being juggled ( 6) in a sensitive and intricate fiery ( ) balance. Heed to caution and unseen forces ( ) for if a ‘ball’ is dropped, it could cause serious and extreme blows (strikes - 7) to the problem.



Interpretation: This family has objects that are spread over an interesting pattern. If read from top to bottom, a fork in the road ( 20) arrises where a choice must be made. By being expedient ( 5) in this part of the problem solving process, nightmarish ( 19) situations might arrise to test your faith. By avoiding any logical and brave steps and by using

cunning and shrewd ( 20) methods one will be able to take the next step. If path a. is chosen, the problems will multiply ( 21) and will burn ( ) out all intentions. If path b. is chosen, there will then be a hot ( ) inheritance ( 22) that will lead to the completion ( 23) of the problem.

nightmare/shrewd / multiply/inherit/ complete


Interpretation: This family is the largest family of objects and leads to the most complex interpretation. Compromise ( 8) is a very important aspect in problem solving. The retreat ( 9) of one seemingly innocent ( 10) idea allows the rise of the dormant (resting 11) idea. In order for this idea to lead ( 14) the problem to its solution it has to surrender ( 13) obligingly and be nurtured ( 12). Any negative desires ( 15)

of objectiďŹ cation ( 16) will require a difďŹ cult time of suspention ( 17) or else the process might repel ( 18) any hot ( ) expediencies ( 5). This part of the journey will be expedient ( 5), and an outcome of cooperation ( 6) can be expected. There will be a time of nourishment and growing ( ) that will allow the dormant ideas (at rest 11) to arise.

compromise/retreat/ innocence /rest/ nurture/surrender / lead/desire /objectify/ suspend /repel


Interpretation: What might seem resistant to unity/the combination ( 24) of two aspects might be yielding this time around. The most fruitful time in the process is now. By discussing ( 25) issues you will be able to overcome any difďŹ culties. The rains of the west are falling ( ) and progress is inevitable. What was previously debilitating ( 7) is now a skill that can propel you forward. There are objects that can be disregarded sometimes. In this case I chose not to include 26 in the reading.

combine /discuss


Interpretation: These four objects cover almost all character and element sectors. They can be seen as subtle yet constant influencing forces throughout the reading. An unorthodox ( 5) frame of mind ( 27) could represent great and drastic changes reqired for the problem to evolve. Being able to adapt and recover ( 28) from setbacks must be a skill participants posess through

a selfish attitude (


Giving ( 29) is the ultimate form of humility and allows for the release of old and stubborn ideas. Being aware that by challenging the minds fixed ideas is a difficult process and requires dilligence; nightmares ( 19) and worries might be a resulting factor.

mind/recover/ give/nightmare

unorthodox, selďŹ sh, expedient, debilitating

TIME vs. CHANCE Time ( ) plays an important part in divination; present situations and future outcomes inďŹ&#x201A;uence readings. In traditional Venda and Zulu divination, time inďŹ&#x201A;uences objects and gives readings another layer. When dealing with relationship, health and career issues time does have its implications, but when dealing with creative challenges and problems, less so. The time layer for the Venda and Zulu methods is an optional addition. Time and chance inďŹ&#x201A;uence each other in divination. In the Venda and Zulu methods, time is

represented on the mat. The closer the objects fall towards the centre, the closer in time the events will occur, and the higher the probability. The closer to the circumference of the mat the objects fall, the further in the future they will occur, and the lower the probability. The probability decreases as you get closer to the edge of the mat because the further in time the event is, the higher the chance it has to change. The mat is divided into four levels, each corresponding to a time frame in months.

A N OT E O N C R E AT I V I T Y Interpretation is very personal. It relies on your knowledge, you experiences, your emotions and your intuition. The stronger your relationship with your objects gets, the more effective you will become in interpreting. The more you throw, the more the relationships between you and your objects will strengthen.

We are all creative to a certain degree. We are all intuitive too. African divination systems need not to be shrouded in mystery and superstition; they can empower people to challenge their ways of thinking and inevitably to encourage them in developing their creativity.



































The Apprentice Guide  

Master the art of African divination and uncover hidden non-conscious knowledge. Find the well of creativity and take your creative challeng...

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