A plain wooden divination tapper from Africa

Title: Iroke Ifa (Divination Tapper)

Date: Mid-20th century
Culture: Yoruba (Nigeria)
Material: Carved wood
Size: 7.75” H
Credit: Gift of Howard Renick, Jr.
On View: No

When the Yoruba are faced with a problem or need advice, they often turn to a sect of priests known as babalawo. These men, and their female counterparts, are trained in the art of divination. Small “tappers” like these play a key role in divination ceremonies. The priest uses them to trace sacred symbols and strike a tray (opon) when summoning friendly spirits. 

The quality of a tapper reflects the power and prestige of the divining priest. Relative to others, this one is fairly plain. However, the elaborately coiffed figure on the top is still visually appealing.