Category:Obi and Diloggun Divination

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A Diloggun reading uses sixteen cut cowrie shells

Obi Divination is a West African system of foretelling the future that originated within the traditional Yoruba religion and its various New World lineages, such as Santeria. The African form of this work employs kola nuts, but in the Americas, Obi readers use either four pieces of coconut or four cut cowrie shells to answer "yes" or "no" questions for clients. Obi means "kola nut" in the West African Yoruba language, and within their native religion Obi is an Orisha or deific spirit in his own right. Within contemporary hoodoo practice, both initiates and gifted non-initiates of these religions use obi in order to divine answers for clients. If cowries, coconuts, or kola nuts are not available, American obi readers also use four coins, after the manner of I Ching readings, which can be done with traditional yarrow stalks or with three coins.

Diloggun Divination is also African in origin, and it too is found among Afro-Caribbean practitioners, but diviners who use this method are initiated priests, and they employ specific religious techniques while performing a fairly complex ritual before and during the casting of the cowrie shells.

A similar form of cast or thrown cowrie or coconut shell divination that originated in the Congo is called Chamalongos. It is practiced in the Americas by initiates of Cuban lineages of the African Diasporic Palo religion.


Obi Divination with Four Shells or Coconuts

Obi divination is often performed with pieces of coconut; this is Ejife

Obi divination is a quick and easy form of fortune-telling comprising a cast or thrown reading determined by four coconut pieces, four cowrie shells that have had their tops cut off, or four coins. Obi readings entered hoodoo through contact between American spiritual practitioners of conjure and initiates of African Diasporic religions such as Santeria (also known as Lukumi, or La Regla de Ocha).

Obi will only reply to questions that can be answered "Yes” or “No.” To tell your fortune, the psychic reader will hold the set of four items in his or her hand, pray over your question, then gently toss the items down onto the ground or onto a mat, and look to see how they fell. Cowries can fall "mouth" side up (open) or "mouth" side down (closed). Coconut pieces can fall white meat side up or dark skin side up. Coins can fall heads up or or tails up. Mathematically, the toss will generate one of sixteen possible combinations, which are grouped into five possible answers:

Four cowrie shells used to perform an Obi reading; this is also Ejife
  • Alafia: 4 mouth-up cowries; 4 white coconuts; 4 heads.
    Blessings! A “Yes” to whatever you asked about — and you may get even more than you requested or it will come sooner than you hoped. Alafia means "peace." It represents all of the light that is available and able to assist you. It is "Yes" with a blessing of peace.
  • Etawa: 3 mouth-up and 1 mouth-down cowries; 3 white and 1 dark coconut; 3 heads and 1 tails.
    A "Maybe" answer. Etawa is an unstable response, and requires a second throwing of the Obi to ascertain whether the answer is yes or no. If the second toss is Alafia, Etawa or Ejife, the answer is yes. If the second toss is Okanran or Oyekun then the answer is no.
  • Ejife: 2 mouth-up and 2 mouth-down; 2 white and 2 dark coconuts; 2 heads and 2 tails.
    This is an absolute “Yes” -- but you are cautioned not to ask any further questions on this subject, or the Orisha Spirit of Divination may get mad. Ejife is positive because it represents perfect balance. It indicates blessings of knowledge with experience, and, as such, it may require more effort than Alafia.
  • Okana Sode or Okanran: 1 mouth-up and 3 mouth-down; 1 white and 3 dark coconuts; 1 heads and 3 tails.
    “No.” What you asked won’t happen. Okanran is a firm no. The level of contraction or opposition indicates much work needed before the blessings in question could come to fruition.
  • Oyekun: 4 mouth-down cowries; 4 dark coconuts; 4 tails.
    This is a very strong “No,” and it furthermore indicates that you may need serious spiritual cleansing in order to clear away the negative conditions that surround this issue in your life. Oyekun represents total darkness and the spirits of the dead can speak through this answer. There is an elusive element to the situation, or the spirits may be asking for something. Obi readers will proceed with a series of questions to ascertain the nature of the darkness, or if the spirits desire something. Once the obstacle is determined, the remedy is applied and the reading addressing the original issue can resume.

Chamalongo Divination with Four Shells or Coconuts

Chamalongo is the name for the shell or coconut oracle as practiced in the Congo. In the Americas it is favoured by initiates of Cuban lineages of the African Diasporic religion of Palo Mayombe.

Diloggun Divination with Sixteen Cowrie Shells

A Diloggun reading

Diloggun is a method of divination used by initiates in the African Diasporic religion of La Regla de Ocha to ask questions of the orishas. It is relatively rare for hoodoo practitioners to use this system of fortune telling, because one must be initiated in the religion to learn it. The shells are generally associated with altars of the orisha Eleggua.

Ocha initiates who are readers throw sixteen cowries twice to generate one of 256 patterns, or Odu, each composed of two figures, or Letras.

The possible outcomes of a single throw are: Okana (one mouth up), Eji Oko (two mouths up), Ogunda (three mouths up), Irosun (four mouths up), Oche (five mouths up), Obara (six mouths up), Odi (seven mouths up), Eji Ogbe (eight mouths up), Osa (nine mouths up), Ofun (ten mouths up), Owani (eleven mouths up), Ejila Shebora (twelve mouths up), Metanla (thirteen mouths up), Merinla (fourteen mouths up), Marunla (fifteen mouths up), Merindilogun (sixteen mouths up). There is also a seventeenth possibility, Opira (no mouths up), which is not considered an Odu, per se, but which indicates significant problems with the reading (either on the part of the client or the diviner).

Once the Odu for the reading has been determined, further questions must be asked to reveal the proper interpretation. Readings are further refined by asking yes/no questions using a pair of eight possible objects (ibo), one hidden in each hand, and casting the sixteen cowrie shells to select which hand/object represents the answer to the question. These questions reveal whether the figures cast come with blessings (ire) or obstructions (osogbo), as well as the source(s) of those blessings or obstructions and the nature of the blessing or obstruction indicated. Possible sources of blessing or obstruction include the ancestors, Orisha, the client's own ori, another person, or witchcraft.

See Also


  • Divination and Fortune Telling by Obi Shells and Coconuts and by Diloggun Readings

AIRR Readers & Rootworkers Who Perform This Work for Clients

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Pages in category "Obi and Diloggun Divination"

The following 8 pages are in this category, out of 8 total.







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