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Divining the Self

A Study in Yoruba Myth and Human Consciousness

By Velma E. Love

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Penn State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

One fateful day I walked into a botanica on 125th and Broadway in New York City with an anthropologist friend. Looking around, I noticed that this tiny shop was filled with an assortment of candles, flowers, herbs, incense, figurines of the Catholic saints, books, pamphlets, and other types of spiritual supplies. ...

A Note on the Text

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-18

I was not a stranger to rural South Carolina when I traveled to the town of Sheldon in 1999. I had driven down rough and bumpy dirt roads on sunny days before—winding roads with potholes and gutters, roads lined by trees and underbrush, wildflowers, and weeds. ...

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1. Mythic Origins and Cultural Practices

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pp. 19-41

The ancestral grounds on which the African American babalawo stands are scattered with debris, fragmented bones and broken shells, beads of glass, and beads of stone. But these grounds are not a desolate wasteland, nor a distant island, for they may be found in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city and in the quiet tranquility of the countryside. ...

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2. Orisha Archetypes, Cultural Memory, and the Odu

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pp. 42-52

In his discussion of how societies remember, Paul Connerton argues that “images and recollected knowledge of the past are conveyed and sustained by (more or less) ritual performances” and that these are bodily performances.1 Carl Jung argues for the existence of an inherited collective unconscious ...

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3. Divining the Self

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pp. 53-66

For the Yoruba religious practitioner, “it is the reading of the self (not the text[s]!) that is important and awe-ful—both illuminating and freeing and disrupting and frightening,” as Vincent Wimbush describes it.1 In this chapter I examine the concept of self in Yoruba thought and, through selected case studies, ...

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4. Symbols and Signposts for the Journey

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pp. 67-79

What do ritual symbols mean? How is such meaning communicated? How do the symbols accomplish social and psychological transformations? In addressing these questions, Edward L. Schieffelin disagrees with the premise that symbols are effective because they somehow make sense of particular problematic cultural ...

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5. Powers of the Mothers

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pp. 80-87

The babalawo cast his chain and looked up. “You have a pretty good destiny reading,” he said. “The only thing that could keep it from happening is . . .” He hesitated, then dropped his voice to a whisper: “the mothers.”1 Seated on the mat across from him, I, at this precise moment, began the quest for a greater understanding ...

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6. Oshun, Yemonja, and Oya

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pp. 88-106

In the Yoruba pantheon, the deity Oshun is characterized as the personification of fertility. The word oshun means “source.” In the words of Joseph Murphy and Mei-Mei Sanford, “Ọṣhun is the perpetually renewing source of life, . . . the appearance of sweet water from dry ground, ...

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pp. 107-116

Over the course of this study, I not only examined African American engagements with Yoruba scriptures but also began to situate my work in conversation with questions posed by the Institute for Signifying Scriptures at Claremont Graduate University. I considered the significance of broader orientations to scriptures ...


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pp. 117-130

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 131-134


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pp. 135-143

E-ISBN-13: 9780271058276
E-ISBN-10: 0271058277
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271054056
Print-ISBN-10: 0271054050

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 842920073
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Divining the Self

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Religious life.
  • Yoruba (African people) -- Religion -- Influence.
  • Ifa (Religion) -- United States.
  • Orishas.
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