Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Divination: When the gods speak

Published:Sunday | February 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor

"There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you."

— (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

Ignoring Deuteronomy, I battled through the icy wind to Bishop Donna Faria, a Spiritual Baptist and practitioner of Ifa, the Yoruba system of divination.

At my request, Faria is summoning and asking advice from one of the forces in the Yoruba pantheon. She is going to determine my patron orisha, the god who has been with me from birth, guarding and guiding me through life.

It wasn't long before I sat in front of the oracle. It is a branch of the occult that is practiced by every culture, and serves as a spiritual compass to help us identify the hidden forces that shape our lives.

Much has been said, by Christians in particular, on this subject. Divination, they say, is an ungodly, a satanic-inspired practice that damns the seeker to eternal hell. Lifting passages from the Bible, they cement their case.

I am mindful of these teachings and warnings of perdition. Not to be bowed by dogma and verses that are contextually misinterpreted, and not to shelve ancestral traditions that long predated Christianity, I mull over a number of questions:

Don't ministers use divine inspiration to counsel congregants? Didn't Paul, the poster child of born-again Christians, speak of prophecy as a gift? Did that wondrous gift begin with Christianity? Are Christians really suggesting that salvation never existed prior to Judeo-Christian theology?

Notably, every Scripture warns against divining for frivolous or ignoble reasons; or seeking the advice of the spiritually and morally bankrupt. Neither of which I was about to engage for the obvious reason that negative intent attracts negativity. This is the universal law of which Deuteronomy 18:10-12 speaks. Nothing more.

Then I reflect on the following passages that prove that divination is, in fact, approved in the Bible. Clearer heads have not prevailed on this matter. The following offers ample proof that divination is, indeed, divinely inspired.

"I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him."

— (Deuteronomy 18:18)

"I have also spoken by the prophets, and have multiplied visions. I have given symbols through the witness of the prophets."

— (Hosea 12:10)

"The mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder; the captain of 50 and the honourable man, the counsellor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter."

— (Isaiah 3:2-3).

Obviously, the diviner was extolled in biblical times.

And I studied, Divination in The Bible and The Gift of Prophecy, by Paul O'Brien who stated: "The Israelites had a sacred divination system known as Urim and Thummim, given to them by Jahweh

— (Esther 3: 21-28).

Several verses of the Old Testament mention the use of this sacred tool. Today, the exact composition of the Urim and Thummim is not known, but most scholars believe there were two sacred stones, perhaps made of precious gems.

It is believed that they were stored in a pouch inside the high priest's "breastplate of judgement", which he wore when seeking divine guidance with regard to important issues or strategic decisions of state. However it worked, the Bible does make it clear that God had granted the people this divination system, and that He controlled the answers it produced.

Surely, I am in the right.

I am greeted by one of Bishop Faria's spiritual children. Faria is affable and welcoming. She speaks briefly about her office as 'Mother Bishop'. She extols the challenging practice of 'mourning', that demands seven days of fasting, prayer and isolation in a supine position in a specially prepared area of the church. Mourners emerge wiser, with diverse gifts, one of which is divination.

"You are given gifts according to the integrity of your heart," says Faria.

I am directed to a table upon which are a candle (the wax is said to represent our body while the wick is our spirit); a bowl of water to attract spirit energies due to its innate magnetic quality; a bottle of Florida water (a spiritual cleanser); and a calabash containing obi seeds that represents the male and female principle.

Bishop Faria begins to pray in English and Yoruba and asks me three questions: two of which were my date of birth and my name. She tosses the obi seeds. They land in different positions. I am told that Ogun, the powerful orisha god, the clearer of paths, is my patron.

Yes, Ogun, who, in Yoruba mythology, is a primordial god who first appeared as a hunter named Tobe Ode. He is said to be the first orisha to descend to the realm of Ile Aiye, or earth.

This is the third diviner to have made a link between Ogun and me. My first reading was performed in Trinidad, the second in Venezuela, and now in Brooklyn, New York. Makes you wonder. I am more relaxed now. The questions flow. The responses are never more compelling. Health, finance, business, personal matters are answered with startling insight. There is counsel and warnings, but at the end of the day I am responsible for making decisions. This is no hocus-pocus, but authentic spiritual therapy used by our ancestors. And it remains as relevant today as it was centuries ago.

Dr Glenville Ashby is a social critic and president of Global Interfaith Council. Feedback: or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby