Divination is an important feature of cultures all over the world. While some may still question the efficacy of divination systems, they continue to serve their communities by diagnosing ailments, prescribing healing treatments, and solving problems. Yet despite their universality, there are relatively few comprehensive studies of divination systems. This volume seeks to fill this gap regarding the use of divination in healing. Here some of the world's leading authorities draw on their own fieldwork and participation in ritual to present detailed case studies, demonstrating that divination rituals can have therapeutic effects. As the contributors examine the systems of knowledge that divination articulates and survey the varieties of divinatory experience, they seek to analyze divination as an epistemological system, as a social process, and as a therapeutic endeavor. While some of their findings reinforce traditional assumptions about the importance of social control, spirit relations, and community support in the divination process, the authors place these considerations within new epistemological frameworks that emphasize the use of alternative modes of knowing.
In this wide-ranging volume, readers will find coverage of classic Ifa systems; Buddhist-influenced shamanic practices in the former Soviet Union; the reconciliation of Muslim beliefs and divinatory practices in Thailand; Native American divination used in diagnosis; Maya calendrical divination in Guatemala; mediumistic and chicken oracle divination among the Sukuma of Tanzania; Ndembu divination, focusing on the process of collective healing; and divination among the Samburu (Maasai) of Kenya, featuring dialogues from actual healing sessions. Together, these contributions argue for new perspectives on the study of divination that emphasize not only the epistemological roots of these systems but also their multifaceted therapeutic functions. Divination and Healing is a rich source of both data and insight for scholars of ritual, religion, medical anthropology, and the psychology of altered states of consciousness.
Michael Winkelman is Head of the Sociocultural Subdiscipline in the Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University. He is also the author of Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing and Shamans, Priests and Witches: A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners. Philip M. Peek is Professor of Anthropology at Drew University. He is editor of African Divination Systems: Ways of Knowing and co-editor of African Folklore: An Encyclopedia.