The Ifá oracle, polarity and binary Divination systems
Obviousely I am interested in Magick. Magick is a really great subject to educate yourself. It is amazing how may topics you will cover over the years while pursuing magick. Recently I had a nice HooHah* when I got interested in binary divination systems.
The above shown Ifá Board originates in the Yoruba Religion (today the area in Question is around Benin) and is linked to a central aspect of this Religion. Better known to most western occultists will be the New World offsprings of this Religion, Hoodoo, Voodoo, Santeria, Cadomble where the Ifá Oracle also holds a strong position. Interesting enough, the so called Ilm al Raml (Science of Sand) or Khatt al Raml (Lines in Sand) (Arabian sources), better known under the modern name “Geomancy” is quite similar. Even better known but with greater difference, is the I-Ging from China. All these Divination Systems are rooted in a “binary” System.
At the End of the 17th century the eastern/tao teachings from Yin and Yang and the I-Ging fell into the hands of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who was at that time busy working out the so called binary number system. The Above mentioned Divinatory Systems all work on a Basis of a distinct two-state mechanism, just like the “0” and “1” or “true” and “false” in the binary system. I think, the world we humans created out of this digital System proves quite well that a two-state System can be used to get to (as a Taoist would say) the 10000 things. Leibnitz was quite happy to find is number system “rubberstamped” by old eastern philosophy. To learn more about Leibnitz and the Hexagrams I want to point you here.
Eventhough these Divination Systems are binary based, there are interesting “states” that seem to go more in the fuzzy direction. In the I-Ging, you will find so called changing Lines, Lines which are so extrem that they will fall over into the other state. The Ifá will create multible patterns with the help of evolutionary rules, the same applies to the Ilm Al Raml. So if you are investigating these Systems take also a look into the next higher octave of the System which will trascendent the binary root. You will also notice, that you are nearing the World of Fractals and Mandelbrot Sets and Julia Sets … here is a very nice TED Talk by Ron Eglash on the topic:
With this TED talk, we are back at the beginning of the post, back in Africa. I personally find this little journey from New World Voodoo/Santeria over Africa, Arabia, China to Europe, from there via mathematical thought about binarys and Fractals over the US again to Africa most enjoyable and I hope others too.
*The word “HooHah” originates (probably) from Mad Magazin where it was a running gag over several Titles. Kristin Chenoweth refers to her vagina using this word with “I sing from my hoohah!”. Most recently Philip H. Farber used a similar word in “The great Purple Hoo-Ha: a comedy of perception Part I and II” where the Hoo-Ha in question is a lot of things and especially a big purple penis. Like WhooHoo or Tekeli Tekeli Tekeli or 23 Skidoo these words describe a special Feeling and/or view on something.