Yoruba ritual bowl, Nigeria, c 1880-1920
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This carved wooden ritual bowl is from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and was one of a set of 'ifa' ritual bowls known as 'Adjella-ifa', which were used for divination. It is in the form of a hen supported by a group of figures including a woman and child, and the Yoruba trickster god, Eshu (or Elegba). Eshu appears in all Yoruba divination bowls or trays and carries human sacrifices to Ifa in the divination proces. Palm kernels are stored in the bowl which is pased from hand to hand to determine the cause of an illnes.