A Drummer's Testament
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Chapter II-22:  Soothsayers and Diviners   <PDF file>

The inheritance of the soothsayers’ bag; testing of soothsayers; the work of soothsaying; other types of diviners:  the jinwarba; jinwarba divination

Paragraph outline and links
Proverbs and sayings
Dagbani words and other search terms
Supplementary material

Image gallery:  soothsayers

Contents outline by paragraph  <top of page>


1.    soothsayers an old talk; beginning of talks on typical Dagbamba’s beliefs

How soothsaying catches a person

2.    soothsaying inherited through mother’s house; new one caught by soothsayers
3.    killing s bushbuck
4.    killing a hyena alone
5.    soothsayer’s bag is an “old thing”; people who refuse can die
6.    even a maalam will receive a bag that “catches” him
7.    similarity of inheritance through woman’s child to drummers, butchers, barbers
8.    soothsayers from the typical Dagbamba; no starting from chieftaincy talks

Initiation of a soothsayer

9.    how soothsayers gather when they catch a new soothsayer; pepper in the nose
10.  teaching the new soothsayers to “see”; the baɣbihi

Consulting a soothsayer

11.  many soothsayers in Dagbon; many people consult them
12.  how one consults a soothsayer; example:  treating sickness
13.  payment; soothsayer cannot refuse to consult
14.  good soothsayers are always busy looking into problems

Soothsayers and belief

15.  people who go to soothsayers have belief in them
16.  soothsayers’ name:  don’t accept and don’t refuse
17.  Alhaji Ibrahim stopped consulting soothsayers because of Muslim religion
18.  Alhaji Ibrahim also stopped because can cause problems between friends
19.  soothsayers not always correct; have to look into yourself to interpret


20.  other diviners in Dagbon apart from soothsayers:  maalams, cowries, sand


21.  jinwarba look into fire; dance in fire
22.  jinwarba in many towns and villages in Dagbon

How jina catches a person

23.  jina begins as madness from dwarfs; follows father’s line and mother’s line
24.  jina stays in the line; someone can marry into it
25.  medicine to treat jina madness
26.  example:   hearing the voices of dwarfs conversing with a jinwara
27.  Namo-Naa:  jinwarba are mad people who have been treated
28.  how the jina madness catches a person

The Jina dance and festival

29.  the annual Jina dance
30.  how the jinwarba dress; their walking sticks
31.  how they dance in fire; how they see in the fire
32.  their type of drum; their drumming not beaten outside

Jinwarba as diviners

33.  jinwarba also look for people
34.  jinwarba talk openly about people
35.  some jinwarba look into lanterns, others into water


36.  transition to next topic:  tindanas

Proverbs and Sayings  <top of page>

Knowledge is: everyone and what he knows at his place.

As he has died, he has left something old.

He was holding an old thing, and it will be good if someone gets the old thing to hold so that our bodies will be cool.

The talk that doesn’t finish, if you do it, it is something that is going to be standing and waiting for you.

Baɣ’ bila di malimali ti paai tɔm.
The small soothsayer has eaten sweet things and has come to meet the bitter thing.

The new soothsayer is going to ask for the health of the town.

The soothsayer’s mother consulted and left it for him.

The soothsayer should choose good things and leave bad things.

All of them cannot be the same, because wisdom is not the same.

A soothsayer’s farm is not far.

The day is heavy.

Ŋum pa nir’ yɛlgu, di deei, di zaɣsi.
Someone who is not a person, when he talks, don’t accept it and don’t refuse it.

The person you stay with is the person you quarrel with.

The way people stay together, if they quarrel, they will come to talk again.

If a soothsayer tells you something, you should also soothsay in your heart.

As for the one your eye sees, that one is true.

If you fear someone, how can you ask that fellow how he works?

If you fear someone, you cannot ask him about his work.

If you are doing work today and it doesn’t help you, will you do that work tomorrow?

Key words for ASCII searches  <top of page>

Chiefs and elders
Bag’ Naa (Baɣ' Naa)
Bizun Bizuŋ
Naa Dimani
Naa Nyagsi (Naa Nyaɣsi)
Naa Shitobu (Naa Shitɔbu)
Naa Zhirli (Naa Ʒirli)
Namo-Naa (Issahaku) Yaa-Naa
Nyolugu Lun-Naa Issahaku

Proverbs and praise-names
Bag’ bila di malimali ti paai tom (Baɣ' bila di malimali ti paai tɔm)
Num pa nir’ yelgu, di dee di zagsi (Ŋum pa nir' yɛlgu, di deei di zaɣsi)

Names and people
Bagbila (Baɣbila)

Towns and places

Cultural groups

Musical terms
jindugu  (jinduɣu)

Miscellaneous terms
bagbihi (baɣbihi)
binnmaa (biŋŋmaa)
Bugim Festival (Buɣim Festival)
bup [sound]
calabash, calabashes
cedi, cedis
cowrie, cowries
dazuli, dazuya
jinwara, jinwarba
maalam, maalams
pesewa, pesewas
sangkpalin (saŋkpaliŋ)
tindana, tindanas