Rare Yoruba Iroke Ifa Divination Bone Tapper
AGE: 17th -18th Century
#1282 PRICE: CONTACT
Rare Yoruba Iroke Ifa Divination Bone Tapper sourced on the Ivory Coast is a carved wand-type object used by a shaman among the Yoruba people in Nigeria who has the special gift of divination to invoke the god Orunmila, the god of knowledge, wisdom, and the god of fate also referred to as Lfa.
This particular Irooke Lfa shows the figure of a man with a beard seated on a small seat with both hands resting on his stomach. The centre part is hollow with a round bead which rattles when the Iroke Lfa is tapped. Two bands with a geometric pattern are carved into the Iroke Lfa under the seat and again at the beginning of the tapping section with two decoratively carved sections separated by a smooth bulbous section between two carved bands. There is some damage to the mid-section, possibly the area in which it has been repeatedly struck during divinations. (see images)
Iroke Lfa tappers are commonly made of ivory but some are also made from wood or metal. Ivory in Yorubaland is treasured for its durability and its association with the elephant which is a symbol of sovereignty and prestige to the Yoruba people.
Iroke Lfa divination tappers are usually seen with two or three sections, a pointed bottom end, and a top section which is usually carved in the form of a man or a woman but is also sometimes seen in the middle section.
The divination process is performed by the diviner tapping with the pointed end of the Iroke Lfa on a divination tray requesting the god Orunmila to help the person who is seeking advice to solve their problems, whether it be for healing, financial advice, solving family feuds or a variety of other reasons.
The diviner starts with a gentle tapping on the divination tray as a form of greeting and to open the channels of communication with the spirit world.
• Hollowed cylindrical form
• Length = 8 – 16 inches
• Usually carved in ivory (in Yorubaland, ivory is treasured for its durability, scarcity and association with the elephant – a symbol of prestige and sovereignty)
○ Sometimes found in brass or wood
○ Conical projection without any design or decoration
○ Can be Shaped like an elephant tusk or straight
• Middle section:
○ Human figure
○ Kneeling nude female figure sometimes holding breasts or carrying a baby on her back (‘the kneeling position of the female figure signifies both the babalawo’s greeting to Lfa and his submission to the authority of the gods of fate)
• Bottom Section:
○ Varied subject matter that emphasises material success (most common is an equestrian figure)
• NOTE: Not all Iroke Lfa tappers have a conical projection or bird motif on the figure’s head. Some have the projection under the female figure so that ‘she’ becomes the handle.
Similar type in Brooklyn Museum