Generating The Figures With Palm Nuts

The sixteen nuts, or ikin, are picked up with the right hand. As sixteen nuts form a large handful (and as they are heavily polished through use) some usually remain in the diviner's left hand. If one or two nuts remain in the left hand then corresponding marks are drawn on a divining tray: if two nuts remain, a single mark, but if one nut remains, a double mark. This apparently arbitrary reversal is justified in Dahomey in terms of the deceitfulness of the god Legba in conveying the oracle to the diviner (see p. 56). If no nuts, or more than two nuts, are left in the left hand the operation is repeated until the desired binary number of nuts is left.

The operation is repeated a total of eight times, giving two geomantic figures (each line of which will either have one or two marks). These are drawn in the dust of the divining board side by side. An example of such a set of marks forming Irqtq, the geomantic figure, or Puer (on the left) and Qkanran or Tristitia (on the right) is shown below: this figure is called Qkanran Irqtq.

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