Many people in West Africa decide to consult a bokonon on important decisions to be made or when faced with problems or illness, or in cases of birth and death, that is on just anything one may worry about. A bokonon is a wise man who communicates with the other world, the world of the ancestors and the vodun. Women cannot (yet) become a bokonon. A bokonon acts as a confidant, a medical doctor, financial advisor, psychologist and confessor at the same time and thus fulfills an extremely important, sometimes crucial role in society.
The answers to the questions are found using the signs of Fa. Fa is the messenger between the other world and the world of the living.
The bokonon finds the right sign of Fa by throwing a string of eight halves of nut shells. When thrown, the nut shells can fall down with either the open or the closed side up, creating a total sum of 28 is 256 different combinations. Each combination represents a character. When throwing the string of nut shells, the bokonon’s hand is guided and directed by the vodun and the ancestors. This is how they determine the sign that falls and so Fa is the mouthpiece of the vodun and ancestors.
Each sign thrown represents sixteen stories and parables, sixteen popular wisdoms and sayings and sixteen songs that passed on for centuries from generation to generation.
In the stories, the folk wisdom and the songs are the right answers to the questions. The knowledge, reading and interpretation of Fa requires a thorough study and exceptional memory abilities. It takes years to gain sufficient knowledge of all those stories and folk wisdom to be able to work independently as a bokonon. The training usually starts at a very young age.
Should the soul of a people exist, Fa could be said to be a unique manifestation thereof.
Eight open nut shells forms the sign Gbe Medji
Gbe Medji says
The child that follows the path of his ancestors
will never get lost.