Africa Divination: Mambila and others

Anthropological Studies of Divination

This page leads to links about the anthropological study of divination hosted at UKC that have been prepared as part of the HEFCE funded FDTL (The Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning) project Experience Rich Anthroplogy. There are many WWW pages about divination and oracles (see link below). Here we concentrate on anthropological studies of two different sorts of divination.

The simulations allow students to gain some impression of the process of actually doing divination which can be used to help their understanding of the online readings. This provides means of appproaching anthropological classics such as Evans-Pritchard, E. 1937. Witchcraft Oracles and Magic among the Azande. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Venda Divining Dice (or bones) based on Stayt (1931)- a simulation coded by Michael D. Fischer

On-line reading on similar sorts of divination (more coming soon online)

Filip de Boeck and Renee Devisch 1994 Ndembu, Luunda and Yaka Divination Compared: from Representation and Social Engineering to Embodiment and Worldmaking. Journal of Religion in Africa 22(2):98-128.
Werbner, R.P. 1973. The Superabundance of Understanding: Kalanga Rhetoric and Domestic Divination. American Anthropologist 75(5), 1414-1440.
Werbner, R.P. 1989. Tswapong Wisdom Divination, pp 19-60 in Ritual Passage, Sacred Journey. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Mambila Spider Divination

On-line reading on Mambila divination:

Zeitlyn, D. 1990. Professor Garfinkel visits the Soothsayers. Ethnomethodology and Mambila Divination. Man (n.s.) 25(4), 654-66.

Zeitlyn, D. 1993. Spiders in and out of Court or 'the long legs of the law.' Styles of spider divination in their sociological contexts. Africa 63(2), 219-240.

Other later work on Mambila divination

2020. Mambila Divination: Framing Questions, Constructing Answers (Routledge Studies in Anthropology). London: Routledge. HB: ISBN 9780367199500. PB: ISBN 9781032174082

Divination and ontologies: a reflection 2021 Social Analysis 65(2), 139-160. doi:10.3167/sa.2021.650208 Online ISSN: 1558-5727 Print ISSN: 0155-977X

Divinatory logics: diagnoses and predictions mediating outcomes 2012 Current Anthropology 53:525-546 DOI:

Online links More about Mambila

Search the RAI online anthropology bibliography (AIO) for published sources on divination or oracles

(note that searching for "oracle" tends to throw up misleading hits because of the computer company with that name).