Yoruba Divination Pot

A Yoruba divination pot with a divider inside and decorated with a lizard and a face on the lid.
Tribe: Yoruba

Origin: Nigeria

Approx Age: Early – Mid 20th Century

Materials: Wood

Dimensions cm: 40 diameter x 26 tall

Ref. Number: 1388


A wonderful Yoruba divination pot, split into two sections inside for divination purpose and shows great evidence of long-term use. The lid carved with a lizard and also a face to one side of the lid. The inside of the lid has been carved with a notch so it fits over the divider, the base has evidence of old insect invasion.

Provenance: Collected by Michael and Renate Lancaster between 1958-59 from Ibadan in Nigeria.


Ifa divination is a media to transcribe the direction of Orunmila, the spirit of wisdom and divinity of destiny and prophecy in Yoruba mythology. A highly-trained priest, called ababalawo, taps rhythmically on a board (opon ifa) with a tapper (iroke ifa) to invoke the presence of Orunmila. A bowl (agere ifa) is used to contain the sixteen sacred palm nuts (ikins), which must have at least three ‘eyes’.

During the divination process, the diviner divides the nuts between his hands. The nuts left in the original hand, desirably one or two, are counted and marked. As the ritual proceeds, the diviner continues to mark single or double marks in wood powder spread on his divination tray until one of the 256 recognised odus is created. (An odus is a set of traditional binary patterns or codes that have evolved over thousands of years of observation and prediction. They provide guidance on both every day and the spiritual.)

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