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How to Throw Obi Using Cowrie Shells

Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Originated by the Yoruba people of West Africa, cowrie shell divination is a powerful technique for connecting to the wisdom of ancestors, spirits, and deities. This book shares the history of cowrie shell divination and shows you how to open the portals of spiritual communication with the shells and related divination systems, such as cola nuts and coconuts.

Written by a long-time practitioner, African Cowrie Shells Divination provides the meaning of the sixteen shell combinations as well as tips and variations for readings based on the specific question being asked. The cowrie shells are sacred magical tools. With the history, theories, and hands-on instructions in this guide, you will learn how the shells can be used to answer your most important questions and achieve your true destiny.

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I don't think I'm quite the audience for this book. While I enjoyed it and found it extremely educational, a lot of it was over my head.

African Cowrie Shells Divination: History, Theory & Practice

I work at a historic site in North Carolina that focuses on interpreting the experiences of the enslaved, and one of the artifacts found on site in one of the slave cabins was a cowrie shell that dates back to the time of the slave trade. We do a lot of interpretation surrounding the cowrie shell and talk about its use and significance in African American pract I don't think I'm quite the audience for this book. By , one third were still being paid in other forms than the official franc.

Sentimentality for the cowrie, combined with the enormous stocks of shells in the area and the depreciation of the French franc — whereas the cowrie retained its value — contributed to the resistance of West Africans to adopt the new currency until the s.

They felt that the demonetization of the cowries was a way to cut them off from a significant symbol of their past and of their culture, in favor of the franc, an anonymous money. Cowries no longer serve as currency in West Africa, but traces remain of their history as a form of money.

Some traders specialize in selling items such as cowries as ritual offerings. People across West Africa may still pay for ritual services using the little white shells. The coin for 20 cedi featured the image of the beloved shell in The modern-looking corporate building is decorated with cowries the size of windows.

Elderly men who want to buy them for ritual uses find themselves competing either with those who produce craft items for sale to tourists or with young men who seek cowries to trim costumes that have become popular for stage use. In my recent trips to Burkina Faso, when I mention the Indian Ocean origins of cowries people listen attentively. Thus it is a symbol of fertility.

The slit on the underside of the shell can look like a black pupil against the pearly white surface, which is why it is often used to ward against the evil eye. The benedictive power only enhances the elegance of the shells. Cowries are often used as ornamental beads: incorporated into jewelry, worn in the hair, decorating statues and baskets.


It can be an element in traditional medicine and may accompany the dead on their journeys out of this world. The Lodagaa of northern Ghana, for instance, believe that the deceased need a fee of twenty cowries to cross the River of Death and reach the land of the dead to the west. Many communities across western Africa and beyond use these shells as divination tools.

The fortune-teller throws or simply drops the cowries onto a typically circular surface, and interprets their positions to tell the future. The number of shells used depends on each diviner and the tradition they come from. The Yoruba, for example, use sixteen cowries in their Merindinlogun divination to ask the Orisha spirits for advice. Diloggun divination is practiced by followers of the La Regla de Ocha religion to ask questions of the Orishas. This system of fortune telling is not commonly used among hoodoo practitioners, because one must be initiated in the religion to learn it.

The system uses 16 cowrie shells that have been opened, consecrated and empowered through blood sacrifice to speak for the Orishas. His set of cowries has 21 shells only 16 of which are used in a reading. Almost all of the other Orishas have 18 cowries in their set.

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Odu odun refers to one of the many patterns that fall when an Oloricha throws the diloggun when doing a reading. There are 16 basic patterns, known as the "parent" odu, but the first throw of the diloggun is always a composite, made up of two parent odu. This opening pattern is called the entoyale, and it gives the diviner important information about the general themes that need to be addressed during the reading. Depending on how the shells fall, any of possible composite patterns can turn up, and each one has its own specific characteristics that the diviner must be able to interpret.

Each odu is represented by a number, which stands for the number of shells that fall face up on the mat. The possible outcomes of a single throw are:. There is also a seventeenth possibility, Opira no mouths up , which indicates significant problems with the reading either on the part of the client or the diviner. After the outcome of the reading has been determined, more questions are asked in order to reveal the proper interpretation.

Yes or no questions are asked by the Oloricha and sixteen cowrie shells are selected to answer the question. The odu can relay important information to us and provide useful insight into human nature and what is to come for us in our future. Anyone wishing to connect with their energy can simply put some cowrie shells in their pocket or wallet to attract insight and financial success. Cowries can also be thrown into a moving body of water such as a river or ocean while a wish is being made. Fertility, protection, wealth, and blessings of all kinds can be found in these tiny, precious shells.

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