Werbner, R.P. 1989. Tswapong Wisdom Divination, pp 19-60 in Ritual Passage, Sacred Journey. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Turning now to the ethnography of Tswapong wisdom divination, I want first to provide some essential background about the people themselves and their ways of modeling the universe. Within east-central Botswana Northern Tswapong live in relatively small, nucleated villages and speak Tswana although they claim origins in the northern Transvaal, among Pedi- and Sotho- speakers. They share with the latter a similar oracle cult of the ancestors. They have a mixed economy of subsistence agriculture and stock-keeping, combined with labor migration, primarily during a man's youth and mainly to the South African mines.
Patrilineal, and with a high regard for gerontocratic authority, the Northern Tswapong preference is for marriage with close relatives, especially cross-cousins. In practice, they also tend to marry within a range of fairly nearby villages, so that most people live surrounded by a circle of kin and affines, intermixed with few unrelated neighbors. Consequently, there is a characteristic overlapping of categories; kin are both affines and neighbors. In common with patterns observed among other Tswana and Sotho (cf. Hammond-Tooke 1981:112-39), this overlapping of categories is a matter of some importance as it affects Northern Tswapong conceptions of pollution and ritual concerned with social boundaries.
As Northern Tswapong conceive of their home universe ( kwa gao ), political and religious authority are combines at the center. The head of the whole community is the head of the ancestral cult of the microcosm, and thus the priest of the land. The sacred center is within the village; there is no higher order sacred center in an outside community, or otherwise external to the village. The plain of nucleated settlement is focused on the village headman. His family group's ward, the ward being the primary unit of village administration, is at the center, with matrilateral kin in a ward on the western side and strangers on the eastern. This accords with a location of seniors to the west and juniors to the east, in harmony with the flow of the main river from its source in the west. Village homesteads are oriented relative to the orientation of the head's homesteads. Huts face inwards, but in various cardinal directions. Except for the orientation to the center, there is no spatial order; order is fixed according to a cardinal geographic axis. There is no cardinal location of categoric or domain oppositions, such as for outsiders vs. insiders, or for the public vs. the domestic (for a contrast, see Chapters 2 and 3 on Kalanga orientation).
The end of the agricultural season is the time for the annual winter return from outlying settlements to the village center. People are expected to come from homesteads near their fields and from cattle posts, although they do not, in fact, always make the return. In the village center, before the beginning of the new year, the community protects itself and its boundaries against the outside. Movement in and out of the community is stopped, and time is arrested. To cross the boundaries then is to incur the ancestors' wrath.
A seance is only held after it is mandated by wisdom divination. In the still of the night, sounds of the founding ancestors' voices echo once again. In a seance with the community head and priest, the ancestors' oracular dialogue is about unwelcome change, and about what is required for the restoration of communal welfare and good order (Werbner 1977). No stranger may approach the sacred space from which the sounds of their voices reverberate. Only initiated members of the community are admitted, and they are exclusively men of the founding ancestors' stock. They are marked apart as insiders by their secret knowledge of the cult and its oracular means of communication; they drum through the night to perform the ritual on behalf of the community as a whole or particular sufferers in its midst.
Unlike rituals discussed in Chapters 2 and 7, no ritual is performed that uses a go-between for sacred exchange across boundaries, between communities or between domains. Nor is there any healing ritual addressed to extra-kin-group divinities. The only ritual addressed to the God of the macrocosm is Christian church ritual, which is not communal, and which is held by the Christians themselves to be incompatible with the ritual in the community's cult of the microcosm.
The danger of movement across boundaries is publicly stressed in this Northern Tswapong way of modeling the home universe. It is a danger that is also tied to the control of reproduction. In its original genesis, pollution is taken to arise when a women, attempting to conceal a miscarriage, a still-birth, or an abortion, does not go through the cleansing ritual needed after delivery. Through contagion comes the spread of pollution. Anyone in contact, however casually, with the polluted woman or her dirt, or who even has stepped along a path she has used, is liable to get the pollution and pass it on. The woman originally to blame need not be known, and usually is not known or named. It is enough for her to be some vague outsider for a villager to get the pollution unwittingly, on a journey away from home. In the case of such pollution, blame for affliction is allocated outwards, upon
some generalized other, a person or persons at large, beyond the community.
Coming from within the community, occult attack is attributed in divination to sorcery ( boloi) or ancestral wrath ( kgaba). In sorcery the evil feared is blamed upon a relative or neighbor, someone known but almost never accused directly. Rarely, if ever, does a sorcery accusation take the form of an open or public confrontation between accuser and accused, such as at divination. Contact is avoided, or kept to a minimum. Such accusation, if indirect, does imply conscious intent to do evil, the sorcerer's deliberate use of material substances or a familiar to harm the afflicted. The recognized motive is an excess of greed or sexual desire among lovers or spouses, or envy of the goods and prosperity of a neighbor or nearby relative.
The specific person held responsible for invoking ancestral wrath is always a close senior relative of the afflicted, someone who has what can be considered a just grievance. The grievance is against a named junior relative, not usually the afflicted, who has neglected some moral obligation, or failed to be generous in sharing various goods and cattle; the afflicted victim of ancestral wrath is ordinarily quite innocent. The invoker utters no curse; he or she takes no unambiguous public action asserting authority before the affliction, but he or she later is considered to have grieved in his or her heart, uncontrollably or perhaps even unwittingly. This aggrieved person is invariably someone who was absent from the congregation divining about the affliction, so that the notion of ancestral wrath is used by diviners and members of their congregations to avow obligations to others, rather than to assert their own authority over dependants, as for example among Lugbara (Middleton 1960).
Contact between the aggrieved and the afflicted is avoided by ritual that appeases the ancestral wrath, lest more of a harmful condition3the redness of the aggrieved's heart3be transferred to the afflicted. The aggrieved, who makes no declaration or display of amity, is also absent from the ritual. Instead, family members present blow water beneficially charged by the whiteness of their hearts; they urge the recently dead, who are specifically named as wrathful, to let the living heal from the affliction.
Just as the wider community renews itself as a closed whole in ancestral ritual, so too does its component part, the family or family group. Wives do not remain in-marrying outsiders3set apart in ritual from the kin3on the basis of a categoric opposition between them and us. Given the preference for marriage with kin, kinship is assumed in marriage. Hence the inclusion of women related by marriage to the afflicted among the relatives who blow water; and hence the ritual closure of the family or family group as a whole, apart from the invoker of wrath.
It can be seen that in this way of modeling the universe there are two concentric schemes: a sociocentric scheme of order around the head of the community and an egocentric scheme of disorder around the afflicted. The one that diviners use as an explanatory scheme is egocentric. Diviners recognize and take account of a great variety of symptoms, dangers, and troubles concerning their clients, but they make the great variety intelligible, in moral terms, by reference to that simple, egocentric scheme of pollution, sorcery, and ancestral wrath.
The diviners' egocentric scheme is built upon a progression in ego's moral horizons and in personal responsibility for occult attack. This is shown in Figure 3. On the outermost horizon are persons at large, who are polluters operating by contagion even beyond the community and without regard for ego. On the first horizon within ego's community are specific neighbors and relatives, including family members, who in their malicious practice of sorcery, are evilly motivated toward ego. Next are close senior kin with just grievances toward ego's kin, or even ego, but without malice. Finally comes ego, incorporated in health, along with healers of ego's family in their conscious goodwill.
This egocentric scheme is constituted, I would argue, by two axes that have their appropriate polarities. On the one hand, there is the axis of morality along with the good and blameless are opposed to the evil and blameful; on the other hand, there is the axis of intent, marked by the deliberate and controlled in opposition to the unwitting and uncontrolled. These axes of morality and intent for the egocentric horizons are shown in Figure 4.
Northern Tswapong usually divine when they are concerned about some danger they they regard in terms of moral disorder. The danger may be an affliction they they already suffer, or that they have reason to fear they may suffer. I use the term affliction broadly, since they are concerned about various troubles, including illness, personal loss, or public deprivation, such as may occur when rain fails. Sometimes, also, the danger may be a potential threat to a new and uncertain venture, such as a proposed marriage or even a trip for further divination.
Bound to this concern with affliction and danger is a certain vision of the human predicament. Caring about their own vulnerability,
Figure 3. Ego's Horizons in Divination.
Figure 4. Axes of Morality and Intent.
Northern Tswapong envision the subject of divination as a person who is the victim of envy, greed, or careless egoism, the victim's own and that of others. The world is divided in two, with an opposition between enemies and allies. It is striking that the opposition is made sharply and so importantly in divination among people who share overlapping categories of kin, affines, and neighbors. The opposition is a wide-spread feature of wisdom divination among others with overlapping categories, such as Sotho and Tswana, whereas it is absent or extremely rare among exogamous people, such as Kalanga and other Shona, who make a sharp divide in everyday life between kin and affines, between us and them. The relation between the overlapping categories in everyday life and the binary opposition of categories in divination is not fortuitous. I am tempted to suggest that it is a function of wisdom divination as a process of orientation, which is not compatible with overlapping categories, and thus it is not to be explained merely by reference to a requirement that everyday life imposes upon divination. In Northern Tswapong divination what the person as victim needs for personal orientation is (1) knowledge in the form of a plan of the ongoing duel between the opposed sides and, (2) a prescription, to provide a plan for effective and powerful counteraction, often in the form of further ritual following divination.
The Northern Tswapong vision of the victim is predicated upon certain assumptions that the practice of divination embodies and sustains. Perhaps most basic is an assumption about the shortcomings of the human senses. From this starting point, divination is used to begin the search for knowledge of the hidden and, in some respects, for a truer reality. What is directly known to the human senses is ordinarily no more than the external reality, and thus the techniques and procedures of divination are needed to externalize reality in order to make this truer reality accessible. At the very start of a consultation, a diviner usually addresses his lots:
Yes, we are divining for this person. Let us see, tell us. It is said you have eyes to see you who wash in the pools.
Such eyes are represented as the eyes of enhanced sight, or real perception, which sees the invisible truth beyond what is ordinarily visible. Throughout a divination, a diviner often says that the lots "grasp" or apprehend, which implies that they reach to otherwise inaccessible perception.
A second assumption is that, in order to know each other truly and beyond appearances, human beings need knowledge from other creatures. Only in divination is this assumption fully developed. People are called by totemic names, and comparison is often made to animals in everyday discourse3a man living year-round in a homestead away from the village center is a "jackal"3but wild animality, lionness for example, is not ritually represented, as it is elsewhere in Botswana, such as among Kalanga (see Chapters 2 and 7). In the past, male initiation may have been an occasion for instruction about, and dramatic representation of, animality, as it was among Transvaal Sotho (see Roberts 1916; Hammond-Tooke 1981). Presently, in ritual other than in divination, the use of animal metaphor is minimal, whereas its extensive use gives divination distinct realities that are authoritatively its own.
Along with these assumptions about the shortcomings of the human senses and the need for alternative sources of knowledge from other creatures, a linked assumption is made about physical and moral space. According to this further assumption an existential relation holds between the physical and the moral; events of order and disorder in physical space conform to conditions in moral space. For example, the straying of a man's cattle conforms to the moral condition of his kin being at cross-purposes with each other. In terms of signs in divination, this assumption is the basis for the indexical interpretation of microdramatic events. As Junod put it, "There are signifying and signified objects: the fate of the signifying object will be the fate of the signified" (1927:521). The signs, or signifying objects, are taken to be the indices of conditions in the signified. Thus for Northern Tswapong one indexical sign of being at cross-purpose is the cross. As an icon, it also exhibits that condition. Northern Tswapong call this shape sefapano, the abstract noun from the verb sefapana, "to pass or cross one another." (See Figure 9, page 45.)
What is not assumed, of course, is that true understanding of icons and indices is possible without achieving the power of interpretation. On the contrary, it is recognized that to gain that power a diviner has to be set apart from other men in his knowledge, in his experience, and in his capacity for speech. Eating a cock, burnt black when roasted with herbs, initially distinguishes the diviner from other men. Among other things, this gives him a knowledge of blackness and bitterness which other men do not have, and it makes him fit to be a mediator in communication about the person as victim.
To put together an elaborate ensemble, the diviner is expected to accumulate personal wisdom from varied experiences of life. The cumulative personal wisdom is objectified in the lots he adds to the ensemble from time to time, such as the bone of a lion whose attack he survived or a shell he stumbled upon during an arduous journey. The occasion for such an addition may be unusual success in the hunt, a narrow escape from death, a surprising find while treating someone or while being treated or initiated. Each of these occasions points to something and, in the light of that, the chosen lot is also later understood to be pointing as an index. The piece for a lot may be a gift from his teacher or from some trusted relative or friend or even something bought from an alien diviner in a distant place. But with each piece goes a bit of his personal history. His lots are thus evocative memorials of the more than ordinary knowledge he gains in the course of becoming and being a diviner, and in the course of surviving the dangers of life, such as in the hunt, in traveling to distant places, and in overcoming the loss of close kin.
I must emphasize that each such lot is not merely a symbol in the restricted sense of a vehicle for the conventional association of meaning. For the diviner himself at least, and through him for the client also, the lot is a means for the embodiment of, and thus the recall and reflection about, personal perceptions from the diviner own life history. The discourse of divination resonates with experience, with echoes of the passions and suffering of a lifetime.
To get his special capacity for speech and communication, the diviner has to undergo a further ritual. Widespread in southern Africa, this ritual takes a quite simple form, which involves a dual operation, initially on the diviner's lots and then on the diviner himself. It is recognized that there is a separation between the diviner as a man, and the parts of other creatures and things with which he seeks to communicate. To bridge that separation, a diaphragm is used. The various parts are contained within the diaphragm and roasted together, covered by hot embers. They are thus ritually transformed into lots for divination, being brought into a metonymic relation with the container of an animal's breath, the essential for speech. The diviner eats the cooked diaphragm which again is bitter and unpleasant. As I understand it, the logic is that by consuming the diaphragm, the diviner incorporates it in himself; he makes it his own, and thus comes to contain within himself the capacity to speak with the diaphragm of the icons as well as his own diaphragm.
Along with direct and immediate contact between otherwise separate things, knowledge of internal states is taken to be an essential prerequisite for divination. It has to be achieved anew at each seance. Each time a diviner consults his ensemble, he communicates his own internal condition and renews his contact with his ensemble by blowing into its bag, and then tapping his chest. He is also reminded of his
experience of bitterness by chewing a herb that is bitter, though not a hallucinogen. Similarly, a mediatory relationship with the client is established through immediate contact3the client, too, blows into the bag. In some cases a client unable to attend the divination due to affliction may have a personal object, such as a garment or pillow, put on the ground in his or her place, and during the divination the consulter and the diviner in turn, repeatedly bring the lots into contact with the personal object instead of the patient.
Just as the diviner has to undergo a ritual transformation for the sake of extraordinary communication, so too must the client be suspended from his or her ordinary condition. During the consultation the diviner faces his client and sits on a stool, as befits an elder or a man of authority. Below him sits the client, level with the lots on the ground, barefoot, and with the left leg outstretched and the right leg folded under it. This posture confounds the conventions for age and gender, the basic categories of the person. In public it is respectable for a woman to sit on the ground stretching out both her legs; a man ought to sit on a stool or cross-legged on the ground. The posture in divination is an in-between and leveling one. It thus locates the client symbolically in a liminal condition in relation to his or her normal self, and in a condition of dependency as well as inferiority in relation to the authoritative diviner.
Given these assumptions, we can now consider the use of signs as icons, indices, and symbols in relation to the poetics and microdramatics of divination. For the sake of clarity, I begin with a description of each kind of sign and then examine the signifying practice to which it is put in actual seances. The lots are of two kinds: thin, rectangular, two-faced tablets, and dice that have as many as four faces (see Figures 7 and 8). There are four tablets in a set, representing persons by age and number. Collectively, the lots are called ditaolo. Ditaolo are instructions, directions, or resolutions. The word belongs to the same family as law, molao, and it is derived from the verb laola, "to command, govern, or regulate" (Brown 1967:147). Hence it associates divination with activity that is ordered. authoritative, and prescriptive.
The difference between the two kinds of lots is a major one in semantic terms. It comprises not merely the nature of the sign vehicle but also the way the lots are used for egocentric explanation and for poetic or microdramatic interpretation. This can be seen, first, for the egocentric explanatory scheme about affliction. Only the tablets,
Figure 5. Coordinates of Primary Categories of Tablets.
Figure 6. Categories of Dice.
Figure 7. Tlhabana: Primary Categories of Tablets.
known simply as tlhabana, "brown-speckled," after their burnt markings, are used for the whole of this scheme (I comment below on color and the symbolics of light and dark). The tablets are the more ambiguous lots and may be interpreted as referring, alternatively, to wrath, sorcery, or pollution. The dice are more specialized and some, as for example the leopard, the lion, or other predators, are taken to convey something about sorcery, but not about wrath or pollution.
For the poetics of divination, only the more ambiguous lots are used. The four tablets in combination are interpreted as symbols. Traditional verse is recited by the diviner in their praise according to their selective falling, blank or marked side up, in sixteen possible combinations. The diviner thus conveys complex images in ways that are allusive, paradoxical, and somewhat unstable. The four tablets are also interpreted as icons in that they exhibit features of age or seniority and gender. The resemblance represents each icon individually as one of the four primary categories of person: Senior Man, Senior Woman, Junior Man, Junior Woman. As shown on Figure 5, two binary axes constitute the categoric discriminations that are involved.
Every combination of the lots has a standard name, usually associated with a plant. The diviner recites the name along with the verse or separately. The plant itself may be used in treatment or its qualities may be indicative of the needed prescription. For the primary personal categories the name epitomizes an appropriate relationship or condition along with its healing. For example, when all four tablets fall with the marked side up, it is Mpherefere, "Commotion, Tumult, Confusion, Rio"; pherefere is a shrub with red berries, whose roots are used for healing pain, and, by extension of the term, pherefere is "pepper, red and hot,"
The tablets are thus a means by which quite different things can be brought together or played off against each other: the visual exhibition of primary personal relationships, such as between Senior Man and Senior Woman; their metaphoric epitomization; their healing; or their verbal representation in the enigmatic imagery of archaic verse.
It is usual for an ensemble to have paired sets of tablets, each from a creature associated with longevity. The more senior is called the Elephant and is made of ivory. The more junior is often made from sand-tortoise shell, and is called the Kgalagadi, after the distant Kalahari semi-desert that is its favorite habitat, and the source, some diviners say, of lots and healing knowledge, obtained from Kgalagadi or Bushmen.
Northern Tswapong compare the paired sets of tablets to young and old oxen that are yoked together to give the strength of one, and the wiser, more experienced guidance of the other. Pointing to each set in turn, a diviner told me, "These could speak deceptively, with confusion and treacherously. But if these do say something that is aside from the path, those contradict them." Thus a Northern Tswapong themselves describe it, their logic in divining involves a cross-check.
We might say that this description, given its stress on objectivity, is a rationalization. Indeed, it could be argued that because the tablets are doubled in paired sets there is greater ambiguity, thereby allowing the diviner more flexibility and leeway in his interpretations. That argument misses an important point however, namely, the subjective appreciation by Northern Tswapong themselves of the way that divination proceeds through the reconciling of disparate alternatives. The people themselves are aware that the interpretive process is a resolution of apparent contradictions.
I discuss below the different moments that are constructed through the microdramatics and the poetics of performance, moments that are framed by a formalized methods of search. Here I want to consider this method in order to contextualize my account of actual seances. A highly regular procedure establishes a formal frame within which a process of collusion can take place by means of an informal unacknowledged interaction between the diviner and his congregation.
To start the procedure, a diviner shakes out the contents of his bag and lets all his icons fall freely to the ground. For most people the initial impression is quite confusing. They are confronted by something like a maze. Sometimes, even other diviners are bewildered at first by the scrambled array of lots strewn on the ground. The lots have to be made recognizable and distinguishable, particularly because a few are roughly similar. In the course of his interpretation of the first fall from the bag, the diviner usually points out each lot by name, even if he does not comment upon them all. This establishes the lots as signs to be intelligible to the client also. After the fall from the bag, it is the client's turn to gather together all the lots, shake them up in both hands, and let them fall smartly on the ground. This second fall, the initial one from the bag, and a third one in a concluding series from the diviner's hands, are the only ones in which all the lots of the whole ensemble are used.
Lots are eliminated according to a simple and highly regular method. Each is said to be "overcome" or "tired" when removed, according to its position. Thus gradually through a series of falls, the diviner instructs his client to take up fewer and fewer lots, until virtually all are eliminated, and then the diviner himself takes over for the conclusion of the seance. I use the following notation for the tablets that face up: M = Old Man, W = Old Woman, B = Young man, G = Young Woman. The ball known as Morarwana, "Inner Circle," with the Old Man face down and the other lots up, is thus: W B G.
To signify agreement by the lots to the immediate conclusion, both sets of tablets, as it were in unison, are expected to fall as (M W G) Moraro. The literal translation is "the Great Circle:" it is also "the Great Moot," according to the seating at such a moot, and the contrast is to Morarwana, "the Inner Circle" and "Little Moot." Producing this confirmation usually has to be, and is done, by a sleight-of-hand, with the diviner stacking the tablets in his hand and causing them to fall as required. At no other time in a seance is such a physical trick used. My impression is that it usually is regarded, at least by the diviner, as a matter of form, since the lots have already spoken according to their free fall from the bag and their unstacked fall from the patient's hand.
Paradoxes, ambiguities, and suspended meanings are systematic properties of the tablets used in conjunction with poetic discourse in a seance. An example is useful to make this point concretely. When all four tablets of a set fall with their marked face down, the diviner may recite a verse for the appearance of darkness. The fall is call Mothakola, "extraction." At the core of the verse's imagery of darkness is the evergreen shrub named lethakola, the "extractor." The shrub is a means for the transformation of matter out of place into matter in place. Associated with human dirt, it is used for brooms, and for scraping feces from the anus. Its red fruits may be eaten by humans, but it is thought of as the favorite food for their predatory enemy, the hyena.
The imagery of the verse conveys a state of panic, a running about wildly without knowing where to stop. It also conveys knowing the place of survival. Thus there is a tension between incompatible things conceived together, between matter out of place and matter permanently in place, between internal disorder, attack, pain, confusion, and devastation and, by contrast, release, escape, and everlasting regeneration. To quote the verse at some length:
It is mothakoa, the extraction of rattling wildly in the heap of hot embers.
Rescue the extractor, the evergreen from burning.
There are no men at home.
Catch hold of them with the herbs of the horn.
It burns to ash.
It burns flailing me to give out bullets.
The riverside reed scoffs at the reeds beyond the river, saying "When
the wildfire scorches, where will you go?"
The highlander says, "When the river floods, where will you go?"
"Only stubble remains, and yet I sprout. I am the reed."
I draw on a seance held by Rra Mafaya as an illustration of how meanings suspended in the poetics may be invoked and then placed in a context that bears on an immediate personal predicament. Rra Mafaya, an elder in his early seventies and the powerful head of a large family, is the diviner to whom we are most indebted for our under-standing of Tswapong divination. Rra Mafaya welcomed us to live in his home, which we did for most of our Tswapong fieldwork. He made me a trusted pupil and advised me about how to live at peace with my wife. He took so great an interest in my study that he often woke me in the early hours of the morning in order to be certain I would be ready to record his seances. A fuller portrait of him must await a future study.
The following seance is one of more than two hundred that I tape-
recorded, about half of which are Rra Mafaya's. I am grateful to my assistance Ontlogetse Mafoko, for his great patience in transcribing the tapes in Tswana and for helping me to translate the texts, after my consultations with Rra Mafaya and other diviners.
In this seance the client, who came alone for the consultation, was a labor migrant unable to keep any job and visibly suffering from depression; he and the diviner were strangers. At Mothakola, the first fall from the bag, the diviner, Rra Mafaya, reduced the ambiguity of the imagery by saying,
They grasp your darkness of face. It is dark even while you go about as you do. You do not see anything [you want], and even if you go to work, you do not get anything . . . . I do not know whether you stepped on this blackness [i.e., whether a trap was prepared on the path through sorcery]. It seems as if a black medicine has been put there, but that I do not know yet. . . . Anyway they have just started. We will hear from the later ones how they will come and speak. . . . This very one who works on you . . . has killed your forehead [i.e., ruined your fortune] so that we can say she has grasped your head. It says that while you go along your mind [mowa] gets black and depressed. Then your mind seems to be waking up again, and even your eyes get dark, and they seem to be popping out and changing for the worse. So this person must have touched you on the head. But if this Mothakola does not grasp to you at night, according to Mothakola. It grasps the night, it grasps the chyme of something. (16th June 1973)
Once having invoked the verse's suspended meanings, the diviner has to contextualize them to convey a definite sense and reference. But given the fact that the fall is the first from the bag, a somewhat open, tentative interpretation is acceptable, and the diviner speaks as one who is probing alternatives rather than confirming a diagnosis, as he does at the end of the divination.
Underlying this interpretation is a cultural logic for the color dynamics of affliction. Although I cannot spell that out fully here, a very brief comment is essential. According to this logic, one dynamic contrast between light and dark. Light is the bare state of well-being, of moving and being actively alive; dark, the state of being overcome by illness, immobilized. More fundamentally, the light-dark contrast is associated with the very opposition between life and death. It is this opposition that is dominant in the formal semantic structure of the dice, and in the calling of the dice tlhabana, "brown-speckled." In other words, what the dice are meant to convey, above all, is revelation about life in relation to death. Calling the dice tlhabana put cultural stress on life and yet has the suggestion in the speckling of its opposite, the possible present of death.
With this contrast implicitly understood, the diviner concentrates his client's attention on a simple material quality of the lots: their visible lack of "color," and thus their darkness, when the markings are downwards. At one with that darkness, he suggests, is the state of mind of the afflicted the cause and occasion for the state, as well as the means for remedying it. The patient may have been fed something black, such as chyme or half-digested matter from a slaughtered animal, a thing of death and darkness. This may have been used to subvert his condition from light to dark. But so too can the supervision be reversed, through a further operation with the darkness of a slaughtered animal. The patient's subjective condition is redefined as an inversion of physical matter within his person, and thus the promise of treatment comes along with the representation of affliction as objective and external.
In a consultation such as this, having invoked the tension in part or the whole of the verse, the diviner usually goes on to reduce the complexity of the imagery while he resolves the paradoxes by the use of somewhat plainer speech. Moreover, he may also have recourse to the commanding simplifications of gesture. For example, when a diviner talks of a client's depression, he may use an appropriate gesture to relate it to the dangerous condition of relationship. In such a gesture for depression, the diviner curls one hand and clasps it in the palm of the other. The gesture is called gothatagana, "laying one on top of the other," or alternatively, disalebagana, "not facing one another." It is one of a set of three gestures, whereby both hands are used by diviners to exhibit the dangerous state of a relationship. In the second gesture, the danger is getting stuck together with something or someone that clings beyond reason. The hands are held palm to palm, and this is called gotswaragana, "holding on to one another." Finally being separated, cleaved asunder ( aroganya), is the danger in the third gesture, and the hands are spread apart sideways. These gestures simplify the meanings elaborated in the verse and concretely match an affliction to a dangerous relationship.
To pursue the interpretive process further, we need to consider the other lots and the microdramatics of divination. The dice are called bola. The verb from which the term is derived, also bola, means "to speak, or to reveal a secret" (see above on Junod's translation of bula as "revelation"). The dice are interpreted to be revealers of secrets
Figure 8. Categories of Dice.
according to indication and the direct visual resemblances they bear to what they signify. In other words, the dice are indices and icons. Their visual presentation of immediately knowable action is what diviners often urge clients to recognize: "Look at them, you are also a watcher."
Each of the dice is a body icon, with a head (the narrower part) and foot (the opposite, wider end), front (convex, like a belly) and back (concave, like a back) (see Figure 8). When the front falls down the die is said to be "going" and "marching;" with the back down, the die is said to be overcome and "tired." Except for the ant bear, the "doctors" among the dice also have right and left sides. The right side is called "veins," and it is taken to indicate the flow into the veins, decongestion, and release (for example, release from wrath); the left is called "sinew," and stands for congestions, and constraint (again, for example, by wrath). Thus the bloated belly of a patient is indicated by the rounded surface of a bush pig's bone on the left side towards the patient. Similarly, the ant bear's third surface indicates digging for medicines or for a grave.
In some positions, there are exceptions to the dice being exclusively iconic and indexical. The boar dice, called "doctors," are praised in verse, according to two positions. With their concave side down, in the position known as Kgaranyane, when they "rest on their backs," a verse typically used is :
I am known to Kukunyane [the name for the alternative position, convex side down].
I am known to the child of the one who sleeps lying on the back.
The child of one who sleeps lying on the back waves a mane.
It says, "Unhang that which is hung up."
It says, "The dogs tire at their necks. A civet cat is a great bird.
Come along and let us put colors on each other."
With the left side down, in a position termed Sinew, Mosifi, the diviner recites:
You must roast a boar cunningly.
Watch the boar lest it attack you and you remain with injury. It says,
"A show is found by one who is strong."
"He who is not strong does not find it. "
The main reference from the dice is to motion, direction, location, and certain states of the body as aspects of the person. Time is imputed by pointing to the cardinal location of the dice in relation to the sun and the cardinal points, or by reference to the habits of the creature from which the lot comes. The diviner may also draw attention to other bearings for inference, such as the lot's disposition or place with regard to other lots, its orientation, either relative to the client or the diviner himself, and its location with reference to people's homes and the rest of the social environment. Elsewhere, in an account of Kalanga divination, I noted what I have called the superabundance of understanding, and the excessive richness of personal knowledge that has to be controlled in divination among intimates (Werbner 1973). In discussing Tswapong divination, I would go further, as there is a more striking superabundance of signification. By that I mean that what each lot can indicate visually and non-verbally is always much in excess of what a diviner or a client considers relevant or worthy of notice in a particular instance. The interpretive art is in selecting that which is cogent both for the diviner and the client as well as for the rest of the congregation present.
To create a set of dice, diviners rely on their classification of creatures. Different kinds of knowledge are linked in this classification to unlike habits of attack and defense. The most powerful knowledge comes from a creature that is no respecter of time or space. This is the ant bear which, though zoologically a nocturnal animal, is classified by Northern Tswapong diviners as an animal that goes about day and night. The ant bear burrows under human homes; it goes everywhere, across the divide between the wild and the domestic. Appropriately enough, because it brings together disparate kinds of knowledge, the
ant-bear's lot is called the god, modimo, or "father." Its importance is stressed as the most powerful indicator of danger in divination. Any or all of the following may also be chosen for the dice: the phalanx of a lion, tortoise scales, snail shells, or the ankle bones of a bush pig, goat antelope, duiker, or baboon.
It is helpful to illustrate from an actual ensemble. The one I know best is that of my teacher, Rra Mafaya. Rra Mafaya's dice are divided between predators or enemies, primarily creatures of the night, and doctors or allies, primarily of the day. All the doctors, except one, are in sexual pairs; conversely, all the enemies are asexual individuals, except for one pair. In detail, the doctors are the four pairs of bush pig, antelope, goat, and stembuck with a tortoise for its mate along with the ant bear as the one asexual individual. The enemies are the following three asexual individuals:lion, leopard, hyena, and the one sexual pair of duiker. The oppositions are show in Figure 6.
The apparent amonalies within the classification are significant for the logic of interpretation. They represent deceptive appearance and the transitiveness from one category to its opposite according to a creature's characteristic habits. In a sense, they are the quintessence of ambivalence. Thus the duiker can be taken to be an enemy disguised as a friend, or a friend who betrays one to an enemy. The duiker is sexual and has a mate, since it is a herbivore and as such would belong to the creatures of the day; but it is among the scavengers and predators as a creature that goes by stealth at night. Similarly, the ant bear is asexual, since it is a predator-like creature that goes by stealth in the night and eats bones as well as termites and ants; but it is among the doctors as a friend-like creature that digs on behalf of others. Digging up roots, as exemplified by the wild pig, is the habit, above all, that characterizes a doctor. The integration of the ensemble as a whole is reflected in the fact that an ant bear and a duiker are also opposites as anomalies, the former being the most senior of seniors, i.e., of the doctors, and the latter the most junior of juniors, i.e., of the predators.
Having given this description of Rra Mafaya's dice, let me illustrate his microdramatic use of them in an actual seance. This illuminates, also, how the sign as index and icon serves as a means for the dichotomous yet holistic interpretation of social life in the form of an ongoing duel. The following is an extract from a consultation in which the client came alone from a nearby village.
At the first fall from the bag Rra Mafaya focused upon the client's evident grief and anxiety. His suffering was not ordinary illness, but "suffering of the mind," and an inability to cope since things "slip through his fingers," Rra Mafaya told him. During succeeding falls in response to Rra Mafaya's ambiguous verse and more direct suggestions
Figure 9. The Cross of Contradiction, Sefanpano, in a Tswapong Divination. A diviner brings leaves suffering from the drought into contact with the lots in order to reveal the moral disorder causing a cosmic disturbance, a halt in the regular rains upon which life depends. The cross the diviner has drawn in the sand, at the right, next to the leaves, corresponds to the spatial form of intersecting lots. It represents as an icon contradiction, conflict, being at odds.
about the nature of the affliction, the client confessed, in an emotional outburst, that nothing seemed to go right for him following a quarrel with his father. The quarrel was about the desertion of his wife and his refusal to let his father sell his cattle. After the client's outbursts, Rra Mafaya pointed to the ant-bear or god, which was headed toward various predators and away from the client, and said,
The god is now going away in anger. This god should not go away in anger, it should stay just here. For if it were in-between, we would know that he would get better, for the god would be stressing the village. But instead there is the god stressing your mind. Indeed, you father3and you should listen carefully to me3when you dream about him, you see him facing away from you. . . . His facing away is ignoring you, caused by these people. This one
is an enemy, a woman [duiker] and this one, a hyena, and this one a leopard . . . (16th July 1973)
This microdramatic interpretation highlighted a visual representation of hostilities as a complete whole. Within this whole, the duiker represented the client's wife setting the client's father against him and leaving him at the mercy of the sorcerers, the hyena and the leopard, who surround the god, his father. The interpretation was built upon various oppositions: a person's village versus his mind or willful ego; the allies versus the enemies; facing away as rejection versus facing towards as acceptance. Throughout this part of the consultation the stress was on visual indication, and there was little echo of the earlier emphasis on paradox or the suspended meanings and elaborated metaphor of the verse.
The Progression of a Seànce
The successful seance has continuity, and it becomes a whole greater than its disparate moments. But how does a diviner create a sense of progression? How does he bring the disparate moments together or make them seem continuous, eventually linked in significance? Part of his art is his command of the questioning or rather the request put to the lots, since it is not in the form of a question but more like an if-then proposition of the kind so well-known from Azande (e.g., if x is so, poison oracle kill the fowl) (Evans-Pritchard 1937). The request is to be told or allowed to see in response to an assertion, which must be confirmed, rejected, or qualified. The diviner tells the client the words to use in making each request.
The following examples that are drawn from the complete series put by the lone client in the immediate case above illustrate this:
Yes, I am divining for myself to see; I go with an aggrieved hearth. I try to run a business, but it fails, even though I do not lack money. I also do not see my wife. Let me hear what the fault is.
Yes, I will get better. Yes, I will do well. Yes, I will get people to heal me.
Yes, I have to be treated by Rra Mafaya himself.
It is this series the requests were brief, highly compressed, even vague in contrast to the diviner's interpretation of the lots' responses. After the first address, the request to hear or see was implied so that its conditional nature as an if-then proposition was understood without being explicitly said.
The following, from a consultation by an unsuccessful hunter, is an example of more explicitly conditional address:
Yes, I am divining for this gun here to see what eats it. If it is from here at home, you must tell. It is said you have eyes to see. Tell what it is eaten by. If it is in the home, you must tell.
If it obvious that such requests, if necessary, are not sufficient for purposes of creating a sense of progression toward greater understanding. The diviner has to command much more than his client's mode of address to the lots if he is to bring the seance's disparate moments together significantly and with decisive authority. Here a case showing the course of seance from moment to moment is essential to illuminate the diviner's efforts toward organized synthesis in the interpretive process. This case is again from Rra Mafaya's practice.
The seance was held in great privacy in Rra Mafaya's homestead next to his fields. Only the client, his son, the patient, the diviner, and the ethnographer were present. The patient, a labor migrant in his early twenties, at most, came with his father from a village about two or three hours bicycle ride away from Rra Mafaya's homestead. Immediately before the seance, the client and Rra Mafaya had a very brief conversation about the purpose of the visit, which I was unable to hear. Rra Mafaya had some prior knowledge of the client's affairs. The client had consulted Rra Mafaya in the past. I infer that Rra Mafaya gained the impression that the client had come with a strong view about the patient's troubles and the immediate need for protective treatment. After the divination the client told me that he had come wanting his son to be treated, "He is at work, and when a man goes without anything, without anything to hold himself with, it doesn't go well for him." His son had been unstable at work; he had been wasting away his earnings, "playing about," as Rra Mafaya said during the divination.
Once the patient was seated with his right leg folded and his left outstretched, Rra Mafaya took a bite of his bitter herb, rubbed his bag, touched the youth with it, rubbed the bag once more, then let the lots fall freely from the bag while addressing them:
We are divining for this boy here. Let us see, let us see what the fault is, let
us see what is bothering him. For it is said that you have eyes to see, you, the washer in pools.
Rra Mafaya followed a simple order, when he interpreted the initial significance of the lots. The order was the orthodox ranking in importance, from the senior set of tablets (the Elephant ivories) to the junior set (the Tortoise), and then to the dice, especially the doctors. In this way he directed the seance initially from the poetics in verse and metaphor, as appropriate for each set of tablets in turn, to the microdramatics in the presentation of the dice.
Rra Mafaya began by announcing the name of the first fall and then praising it in verse:
It comes [WBG] Morarwana, "Inner Circle" [a diminutive of circle which is used for an intimates' moot, also the name for a small, creeping vine]. It says, "A thing of Inner Circle is not far. It is like the skin shedding of a pika snake. You, heart, return to your dwelling place. He who sought his own has found it. Hee, hee, are the little laughters."
This imagery oriented the seance toward the personal predicament of intimacy at home. It was toward something of one's own and someone close, of one's own kind, who clings around one and yet sheds one or has to be shed like the snake's skin. The orientation, if clearly focused in social space (home), was ambiguous. the ominous laughter was auspicious or inauspicious. And it was as if the ambiguity had already been resolved. Rra Mafaya's first remark after the verse recognized his client's intent, his apparent decisiveness about the troubles:
Man you know it. Maybe you have even been looking yourself [that is, divining before coming to this seance and thus being one who "sought his own" and "found it"].
It was as if Rra Mafaya did not have to put into words what it was all about, because it was already known to the man himself. Their activity in the seance was thus that of confirmation, more than anything else.
To make sure the client and patient could see for themselves that the reading of the tablets was right, Rra Mafaya then pointed out each of them by name and according to whether they were "going" or not. Next, continuing with the Tortoise set, he announced:
They come [B] Selomi, "Bitter." Biter grasps a person of the night. And it is a sorcerer who is in the home according to Inner Circle [again reciting the earlier verse].
The second set of tablets qualified the first, in Rra Mafaya's interpretation. Given the orientation toward space and home in the first imagery, the second disclosed time and the danger of the night from the aggression of the Biter. The initial ambiguity in the poetics was resolved through further verse; and the client's suspicion bout inauspiciousness was confirmed. There was an occult attack, and it was by means of sorcery.
At this point, Rra Mafaya pursued this confirmation by focusing everyone's attention upon iconic and indexical aspects of certain dice. He began with the boars as doctors:
Now, with this boy of yours, it is dark for him. You see them, they make darkness. As he is, sometimes his eyes would seem to be getting dark, and then they would return to sight. It is as if the person gets dark and then this one and this one [pointing to three boars], they are saying the same words just as they follow one another in order, rulagana.
The dice, he stressed, were face down, thus icons of darkness, and they were indicating a file, "following one another in order," rulagana. The indexical aspect was the lining up, the visual indication of unanimity among the doctors. The iconic was the embodiment of the subject of their unanimity, as someone forced to face down with loss of sight. There were, of course, other allies, besides the boars, such as the antelope and the stembuck, and they were a disorderly bunch, a fact to be recognized and dealt with later. In this way, having unfolded the orientation in space (home) and time (the night) with its danger (sorcery), Rra Mafaya disclosed the condition of the person as the subject himself in darkness of mind.
For corroboration of the location of sorcery, Rra Mafaya pointed out a possibility that did not occur in the tablets, namely an excluded fall, (BG) Morupi, "Tramper":
But now he is being worked against [by sorcery] at home, right at home. Tramper [BG] is the one for which we would say that this person is being worked upon away from home, in the bush.
Earlier, the interpretation of the tablets, from Inner Circle to Biter, was grounded in presence. Here, the appeal to reasoning by absence gave further support to the recognized orientation toward home. Having
(B) Selomi, Biter, alone and not in combination with (G), as in Tramper, meant a nearby, home location for the sorcery.
To go further, and be more specific, with symptoms appropriate for a mode of attack with sorcery, Rra Mafaya turned once more from the tablets to the dice. This time the indices were other pairs of allies, the antelope and the stembuck. After he named and indicated each, he got both the client and the patient to look closely at the dice bunching together around the Young Man of the Tortoise set:
This one then pushes these. It says, "You go on," Now this one sends back, and the other one sends back, too. It means that he [the patient] once vomited, and that he had eaten some meat according to this lot which is a stembuck.
Having established and confirmed the location and the nature of the occult attack, Rra Mafaya specified the mode of sorcery and its immediate symptoms, poisoned meat and vomiting. He found his evidence, which was indexical and iconic, in the bunched spatial pattern of dice that, as allies, are critically associated with the patient's welfare. If we consider his earlier and present remarks on allies (boars first, then stembuck and antelope), we see that he explained both order (rulagana, the following on of the boars) and disorder (the bunching of the stembuck and antelope) as evidence in support of his interpretation.
With this specific conclusion, he completed his opening interpretation for the free fall from the bag and directed the patient how to throw the lots.
Divine with them, taking off one shoe [from the right foot, the right leg being the outstretched one]. We don't kill anyone [that is, don't be fearful]. Hold them with both hands. You have to hold them like this, my child, and blow on them like this, "Whew." Say, "Yes, I am divining for myself to find out what bothers me."
The patient repeated his words: "Yes, I am divining for myself to see what is bothering me."
Rra Mafaya directed further: "Throw them down. Right, right, you have thrown them well."
This time Rra Mafaya began with the dice before the tablets, moving in his interpretation from the indexical to the symbolic, from the microdramatics to the poetics, and thus reversing his opening methods for the initial free fall. He commented upon the allies, the god and the boar, first. Here, as throughout the seance, the patient spoke only when instructed what to say; otherwise his response was nonverbal. After questions, the patient and the diviner exchanged knowing looks, which the diviner took for assent.
You see the god [ant-bear] don't you? There is the god somewhat aside. Here is the boar; it comes kgaranyane [on its back]. Now these lots are hard. You see, these are all dishes, which means that while he is sitting down his mind gets dark, just as you see them doing this [lying on their backs, as though unconscious].
This confirmed the earlier interpretation of darkness in the patient's mind, and Rra Mafaya continued:
To your face I say, you eyes get dark. Isn't it so? Your mind gets black? Sometimes, it would seem like starting up and then it would go black and seem to be starting up again. Now you see these boars fleeing and staying on the other side, while they are kgaranyane [on their backs], and they say . . . [here reciting the praise for kgaranyane, as given above]. They are the doctors who are like that.
Next Rra Mafaya pointed to the most powerful of the allies, the god:
The god [ant bear] is that one over there that goes by the edge of the village [its location signifies avoiding the inner area of the others]. It is his grandfather who ought to have been here and through whom he would get up when he was in difficulty.
According to Rra Mafaya's interpretation of the microdramatics, the dice exhibited the scene in which the patient was helpless victim. The helplessness was due to the withdrawal, from a proper place at the center of the home, of his dead grandfather's protection. The god was the dead grandfather. This interpretation explained the effectiveness of the sorcery; it was due to a lack of protection from the dead that ought to have been immediately surrounding the living.
Rra Mafaya completed his reading of this fall with his verse and commentary, regarding the tablets in reverse order, from the junior Tortoise to the senior Elephant. He pointed first to the Old Woman of the Tortoise:
Now, as you see, those of the Tortoise come [W] Thwagadima, "Bursting Flash" [a metaphor for lighting, a sunray, a spray of blood]. This is the Old Woman [W], Pubagadi.
He recited the praise poetry:
They are Thwagadima, child of the disperser of koma [the life secret taught at initiation], of the east. But that of the east is all right; it is better, for the patient basks in the sun's rays in the way that you see it facing.
Instead of death, facing the setting sun, Rra Mafaya found the meaning to be life, facing the rising sun. But he carried his more auspicious evaluation no further. Instead, he interrupted himself suddenly, and turned from the verse to the metaphor for the fall, Thwagadima. With an exclamation about a further attack by sorcery, he went back to confirming his initial interpretation. Once again, he echoed his initial theme of home and the nearby, reiterating his plain statement of the meaning of the first ambiguous verse.
Aha, so he was once sprayed with blood, this child! And if he wasn't sprayed with blood, he must have been burnt with lightning, according to this [W] Bursting Flash. It is just as they said [in the first fall from the bag, and he here repeated part of the verse from Inner Circle], "A thing of Inner Circle is not far, it is like the little sheddings of pika snake skin." that means it [the source of the trouble] is near, in the home. It does not pursue him from the bush.
At this point, Rra Mafaya pointed to the senior, Elephant, tablets and, somewhat more fully than earlier, recited the appropriate verse in their praises.
You see these that come [M B G]? They say, "Carver of the father's sister's hoe handle." They say, "Carve it long." They say, "The father's sister is a reckless plower, even beyond the river she plows."
This outcome was problematic. It could be taken to identify the agent of the occult attack, in as much as the location, the nature, the mode, and he precondition (withdrawal of ancestral protection) of the occult attack had already been seen. Here Rra Mafaya had to address the sensitive issue to which he had been leading: who was the sorcerer? His answer put into words the sense he, his client, and his patient all had of something troublesome and dangerous:
These are falls we do not know [cannot quite understand], because these make people to be at odds with each other [ lothanya]. Yes, for if it were medimo [divinities, ancestral wrath], we could say it was due to his father's sister. But this is sorcery, according to [B] Biter [the first fall]. Now that is why we cannot say it is due to the father's sister, for even the doctors fear and flee that. Even you yourself, you fear her, this woman they speak of. Yes, you point at her with a finger and you say, "This one is not here" [she is not what she seems to be, and not right]. You say so, and these doctor lots say so too, that she is a treacherous person, yes, the very one that you point at and say, "Actually, this one is not here." When they say this, they mean a person who kills other people.
This out come of the Elephant tablets required him, if he was to sustain the earlier interpretation of the sorcery, to reason against an alternative possibility. Was the patient's affliction caused, after all, by medimo, by divinities of the dead, and by ancestral wrath? Against that, Rra Mafaya recalled earlier evidence from other tablets, and then pointed once more to the indication of important dice. The connection to the first fall of the Tortoise tablets from the bag, (B) Biter, was his first evidence. His second was the fear of treachery indicated in the dice by the apparent flight of the allies, the doctors.
Still pointing to the doctors, Rra Mafaya went on to spell out the significance for the patient of the way the doctors were lying.
As for this child [the patient], even at home in the village, [sorcery] traps have been set for him, for they are like this. Little pits have been dug and dug in the yard, even in the gateway of the yard, these little pits. Now, when he sees them his heart is not glad. Yes, when he merely glances at them, his heart gets broken.
This indications of sorcery were taken to be cumulative and overwhelming. But a final confirmation was needed. Having voiced the suspicion of the father's sister along with the doubts about it, Rra Mafaya directed the patient to put the suspicion to a test, with a question as a hypothesis for the lots. The patient was to throw for the last time:
What will we do then, man? Well, take them, have them [the lots]. Such a young child having sorcery worked against him as if the were an elder! Do this: "Whew [blow]," and say, "Yes, it is the father's sister who works on me. Let me see whether she is the one who works on me, my father's sister."
The patient threw for the second time and repeated these words after Rra Mafaya. Rra Mafaya's method for this last fall was the same as for the first free fall, proceeding from the tablets to the doctors among the dice, from poetics to microdramatics. He remarked:
You throw them in a manly way. I like a boy who does that. Now about this
woman, she also has a dead husband. They say, "You woman, when dishing out you do dish out, but you spoil by many talks. You spoil by talking." It says, "Scratching out and scratching out, of the talks. She did not take them from the ground, she took them from her mothers"
The praise Rra Mafaya recited first was for the one new outcome in the tablets, (G), Lethake(Reed). It is also known as Lengwane (Small Tongue or Uvula), and it is associated with a clicking sound of complaint. The other outcome, (B) Biter, he recalled immediately, was the same as the one from the bag, upon which he grounded the sorcery accusation from the start. In his brief comment, he stressed, "That is a widow," and turned immediately to the other tablets: "They are still beating on the same (B) Biter of the bag (the outcome in the free fall)."
Next Rra Mafaya indicated the doctors' dice, named, and then praised them in the verse for Sinew, Mosifi (see above, in the section "Microdramatics, Body Icons, and Indices," where I give the verse for the left side of the doctor's dice). Then he called attention to the doctors' being in disarray.
You see, it is only diphapaanya, [having things at cross purposes, having things in different directions]. Now you are made to be coming in trials [ meleko, "ordeals"] wherever you go. These are hard words which call for people to side down and talk about them.
This led Rra Mafaya to a final homily for the patient's benefit and an unanswered question about the motive for sorcery:
A man should work hard when he goes to work, and not play about. But the way I understand you tell it, it is merely playing about [the patient was unable to stay for long at any job, and did not earn or save well]. These are hard words. The person who works on him does not have a husband, and is a widow. But I do not know why she is killing your child. Yet they come, [G] Reed, which says, "Mother of reeds." They say, "You woman, dishing out you do dish out."
This was the last throw by the patient, and it brought the main part of the consultation to an end. Rra Mafaya did not attempt to resolve all the issues or concerns that had been raised. It was enough, for immediate purposes of protective treatment, to have identified the location of an agent and mode of sorcery, without trying to find out a motive. What remained was for Rra Mafaya to end the seance with a confirming throw of his own, using all the lots as in the beginning.
While stacking the lots with rapid expertise, Rra Mafaya put the final request, threw the lots, and gave his conclusion:
Yes, let us see. We are no longer to say, "Who is she?' for I have seen that it is the enemy of the night. She is the one who works on this person [repeating for emphasis]. It says, "Yes." Both of them say so. They are [M W G] Great Circle.
Again to make certain his client and patient could see the pattern for themselves, he indicated the lots by name and by movement3by their coming and going in relation to each other3first the tablets, next the dice, and then in turn, the doctors, the lion, the hyena, and the leopard. Rra Mafaya continued:
If he is to be treated, I would say that he has to be treated over there [in the direction pointed to by the Old Man of the senior tablets], according to the Moremogolo [Old Man] and this one. And these people's huts3I mean the very people who work on the child3are in that direction [east] when you point to them.
After removing the tablets, he threw the dice until each in turn reached the position of the rest, and he concluded:
We have seen he has to be treated to become all right. We have seen through this Sinew which says, "You must roast a boar cleverly." It comes Kgaranyane. It is this woman who works on this child.
Rra Mafaya collected all the lots, put them and then his bitter herb into the bag, closed and tied it, and asked for his fee. This ended the seance insofar as that was focused around the lots. It did not end the meeting of the client, patient, and doctor, however.
Although it takes me somewhat beyond my main interest in personal orientation and the dynamics of divination, I want, primarily for the sake of a better ethnographic record, to report the rest of the occasion very briefly. This highlights, among other things, how far the seance was regarded as a step leading to the use of magic and ritual for wealth and success in business.
The patient's father, who had remained silent during the seance, now agreed with Rra Mafaya, "Truly, sir, it is just as you report, 'When you come for things, you seem to be coming for trials,' Yes, that is so." He went on to ask the amount of Rra Mafaya's fee, after explaining that he would have liked to leave his son for longer treatment, had his son not needed to return to work in town.
There was something improper, Rra Mafaya felt, about the question of the fee, as if Rra Mafaya would take advantage and raise it from the amount charged for a past seance for the client. Rra Mafaya stood on his professional dignity in reply, and then asked about the treatment:
I divine in only one way, and I do not change me fee. I am not a crook. But what is the matter that that person works sorcery so much and so often? Now, what do you want done about him [the patient], sir?
The client answered, "I want to give him good fortune [ ditshego fatso ]." He wanted the boy's body treated.
In carrying out the body treatment with various substances and a lit candle, Rra Mafaya chanted:
A cow with a calf, a goat with a kid, a person with a child, five pounds, twenty pounds, a hundred pounds. He will get it, and laugh and laugh. Each and everyone will laugh and laugh with him, seeing him at work. I will give him this.
After the body treatment (especially around the ankle, knee, and neck joints, as well as a cross from the forehead to the rest of the head) and the payment of his fee for divining (two and a half shillings), plus a preliminary fee for opening his medicines (two and a half pounds, actually five rand), Rra Mafaya told the client that with the treatment:
. . . your son should live and grow old while you are still alive to see him. This only makes wealth, business [ papadi]. You must advise him, "When you have collected things, you should bring them here, my son. You must not merely consume."
The full fee for the treatment was payable in the future, he explained, when the youth was pleased and successful, and then too a goat could be used:
He will have to meet with its blood, its chyme, and the tip of its heart to prevent these sorcerers. That is all right now. You will see that you will say, "When I took my child to that old man he helped him."