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Cowrie-shell Divination

The Opele-Ifa, Ifá’s Oracle or Jogo de Búzios [Cowrie-shell Divination] is one of the divinatory arts used in traditional African religions and African religions settled in many American countries.


There are many methods to play the game. The most common is to throw 16 cowry shells over a previously prepared table and analyze the configuration they make when they fall on the table. The amount of shells can vary according to the nation: the most common sets are 16, 17 or 21 shells. To start the priest prays and greets every Orixá. As the shells are thrown, he talks to the divinities and asks Them questions. It is considered that The divinities affect the way shells spread on the table, answering the questions that are asked.


Not everyone can “read shells”. This practice is destined only to people with a strong sense of spirituality. In a general way, it is destined to Mães, Pais or Filhos de Santo after the ritual of seven years after initiation, with authorization and lessons taught by Mãe or Pai de Santo.


The cowry shell is also used as an adornment in Orixá’s clothes and in necklaces, among other objects.

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