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Divination Cup (Agere Ifa)

This cup is part of the paraphernalia associated with Ifa divination, a Yoruba spiritual practice that enables people to communicate with spiritual forces to determine how best to live their lives. During a divination session, a priest (babalawo) manipulates sixteen sacred palm nuts, which are displayed in cups such as this when not in use. The cup, which is always supported by one or more figures, not only gathers the nuts together but also elevates them above the ground. It therefore has been likened to a shrine honoring Orunmila, also known as Ifa, the deity of wisdom, harmony, and stability, who is said to have introduced the practice of Ifa divination to humans.

Yoruba peoples, Nigeria
Divination Cup (Agere Ifa)
20th century
W. 6 9/16 in. (16.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 77.34.4