Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Voice of Spirit: Divination & Spiritualism

Divination is about the acquisition of information. But from where and how? Africanists who focus on divination such as Tedlock and Werbner speak of a winnowing process, in which unlimited choice is focused and narrowed to a more and more precise and functional set of information. 

There are other ways of approaching the subject. As Espírito Santo suggests, one approach is not difinitive. It is probable that diviners use other strategies for inciting the flow of knowledge. It is possible that, and at least for the diviner, this is true, prior to any inquiry, knowledge is non-existant. 

It may seem contradictory, and certainly diviners are likely, at least in relation to outside interrogators, to object, but divination does not rely upon tightly rendered repetition of memorized meanings, trigged by the marks that appear as a result of a throw, be it cards, shells, bones, or other objects. It should be obvious that any nuanced reading, despite the existance of fixed interpretation systems such as Ifa, requires that a diviner be free to interpret as no two moments or situations are identical.

There are a variety of ways in which these interpretive needs can be achieved. One is by extrapolating an interpretive narrative from a stereotypical definition in a fixed divination catalogue of meanings. Another is an inventive set of meanings derived from visual stimulus. An example being a reader who allows the cards  to suggest a distinct meaning every time they read. A third is where the mechanical means is simply a device used as a placibo for the client while spirit provides an ongoing narrative to the diviner.

All of these techniques have been used in espiritismo. Espiritistas, unlike Followers of Oricha worship, utilize a wide variety of objects to facilitate divination. A short inventory of the divination tools employed by Cuban Espiritistas past and present include cups of water, mirrors, pendulums, planchettes, shells, cards, and candles. This list excludes the obvious trance state, which is perhaps the most direct form of divination possible.

One fairly consiant fact is that whether cards, some form of lots, water gazing or another method, it is quite common for the espiritista to be trained directlh by spirit to divine. The spirit may do this by means o 

In fact, this diversity mirrors the state of affairs we find in Cuban-Congo relgion, and perhaps unsurprisingly, what can be observed in Central Africa.

Another element that plays a role in the process of communication between medium and spirit is embodied sensation. Certain spiritual messages or spirit actions inspire specific physio-motor sensations such as tingling, itching, twitches, or even pain. These sensations may provide the medium with interpretive understandings.

Dreams are for the Espiritista a powerful form of divination just as they are in all Afro-diasporic traditions. Dream images, whether prosaic ones such as a power outage in a store, or more dramatic ones where bird-headed people appear all serve to provide insights that extend beyond normal awareness. As my own guide said, "when we come down in a drumming or a misa, we visit your world; when you dream, you visit ours.

Divination, for Espiritistas then, is the process of communication with other, with the realm of spirit which is beside us.

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