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THE BOKONON AND THE FA

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 mediates and communicates with ancestors and (gods) divinities through the Fa oracle. He acts as a confidant, a medical doctor, financial advisor, psychologist and confessor at the same time and has a fundamental role in society.

When a bokonon is consulted he makes contact with the world of ancestors and divinities [= gods and goddesses], requesting them to help him find the right answers. His request is answered by a sign. The bokonon discovers this sign 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 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 divinities and ancestors, who determine the sign thrown. Thus, the Fa speaks in the name of [is the mouthpiece of] the divinities [gods] and ancestors.

Each sign thrown represents a multitude of stories, parables, popular wisdoms and sayings passed on for centuries from generation to generation. Should the soul of a people exist,, the Fa could be said to be a unique manifestation thereof.

Interpreting the Fa requires a thorough study and exceptional memory abilities. It takes years to gain sufficient knowledge to be able to work independently as a bokonon.