Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali

Instances of Divination

What are different Instances of divination in Old Mali?

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One instance is when the visitor to the king removes from his bag 12 cowries (snail shells) and uses them for to soothsay. As he performs his magic, the king's griot points out to the king that the man is left-handed, which is can be a sign of evil but also great skill in divination. After rolling the shells around and muttering some words, the visitor addresses the king. He evokes the mysteries of the world and shares that "Kingdoms are like trees; some will be silk-cotton trees, others will remain dwarf palms." Nobody can know who will be great. However, he is able to see two visitors approaching, which confuses the audience who sees no one on the horizon. The visitor tells them that Mali will soon "emerge from the night," at which point the griot asks him to be clearer in his predictions. The visitor then says that the king's great successor has not yet been born. Instead, he will come through the aid of two hunters who will one day bring with them a hideously ugly woman with "monstrous eyes" and a humpback. The hunter tells the king he must marry this woman, for she will give birth to his successor, who will wield "more might than Alexander." But in order to enable this chain of events, the king must sacrifice a great red bull. The hunter then ends his address and returns the cowries to his bag. After a quick farewell, the hunter leaves.