Initiation, African fractals and Sand Divination.

Here briefly, is the Bamana Sand Divination process. Now whilst Geomancy may be familiar, the actual significance is made lucid in this TED talk, By Ron Eglash.

African Fractals

4)  The two newly generated symbols, now placed below the original four, are again
paired off to generate a seventh symbol.

5) After this, the original four are read sideways to create four more symbols, and the entire process is repeated, producing another group of seven. In the final step, the first and last from each group of seven are paired off to generate the final two symbols.

Eglash In his TED Talk, describes how he was initiated into a Priesthood,

I was to give seven coins to seven lepers, place a kola nut on a pile of sand next to my bed at night, and in the morning bring a white cock, which would have to be sacrificed to compensate for the harmful energy released in the telling of the secret. I followed all the instructions, and the next morning bought a large white cock at the market. They held the chicken over the divination sand, and I was told to eat the bitter kola nut as they marked divination symbols on its feet with an ink pen. A little sand was thrown in its mouth, and then I was told to hold it down as prayers were chanted. There was no action on the part of the diviner; the chicken simply died in my hands.

Eglash  further explains the complex underpinnings of  the Bamana Oracle system, which is based on mathematical recursion. Like a tree, a simple symbol (representing an Archetype)) is recycled many times, issuing 16 expressions, all representing the complexity captured in the the moment. The Art of The diviner is then to interpret the 16 newly generated Archetypes.

Agrippa has written of a very similar Geomantic system, where each of the symbols is given a house, much the same as in Astrology.

Each Archetype has a House, but rarely appears in it’s own house. So, symbol 16 “Desire” may align with the House of “Health”  or “Profit”.

Further information about Eglash’s Journay in Africa, can be found here:

Bamana Sand Divination: Recursion in Ethnomathematics


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6 responses to “Initiation, African fractals and Sand Divination.”

  1. Alex Jones says :

    This may explain in part some of the strange symbols I have been seeing in cave art recently.

    • otove says :

      Could Mesolithic peoples have had a complex system of mathematics?

      • Alex Jones says :

        Mathematics deals with patterns, and the patterns I have seen in places like Lascoix suggests they have an equivalent.

      • otove says :

        Something like this perhaps Alex?

      • Alex Jones says :

        I don’t know to be honest, I noted images in your post that looked like patterns I saw in the Lascoix cave art. As the method you mentioned deals with initiation, archetypes, divination and is african, there may be a similar form at Lascoix.

  2. moderndayruth says :

    How cool is that?! I knew of many divinatory systems, but not of sand one! Thank you for sharing!

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