Upon entering the diviner’s “office,” we were asked to remove our shoes. It was a small, cement-walled square hut separated from its surrounding sand. The hut would have been open on the top if not for a thatched roof constructed from locally gathered leaves and sticks. I’ve always found thatched roofs to be incredibly cool, and briefly wondered how one like this would fare against rain, storms, goats, and other natural disasters. Stepping into the hut, I was also intrigued by all of the decoration jammed into one small space. Primarily, I noticed a multitude of bones and skulls hanging from the ceiling. There was a lingering smell of death masked by burning incense in the corner. As I moved my gaze beyond the (probably not human) remains, I was met with blackened figurines and sculptures placed strategically throughout the room. They didn’t quite resemble any animal or human form in particular, but obviously were intended to represent some sort of creatures that signified some sort of meaning or power. We took our seats, and in came the diviner – a heavy-faced, overweight man in his 40’s or 50’s. He did not greet us, but rather slumped down into his seat, with little expression. Instead, our guide and friend, Godwin, addressed the priest in his native Ewe language, praying for us, introducing our group, and explaining the purpose of our visit. The man spoke back to Godwin in Ewe, and Godwin proceeded to respond, explaining to us in English that he had asked for permission to be a part of the divination process, and for the priest’s approval. After more conversation, Godwin revealed that he had been allowed to consult the diviner in English to ease the process for those of us who were not natives. However, the diviner never spoke in English himself, and never directly addressed anyone but his assistant and Godwin. After the vocal exchange, Godwin presented the diviner with our traditional gifts of two bottles of schnapps. The diviner’s assistant opened the first and poured a shot in a bowl built into the floor, followed by a shot at the door frame, then several sloshes on each blackened figurine. After more prayers and chants, it was finally time to consult the oracle.
by Justin Brown