Thesis – The Emergence of Meaning

The thesis is a study of the divination practices of the Birifor of northwest Ghana.

In this study I focus on how meaning emerges from the unknown with the help of divination. The question is asked if humans have power to influence the balance between the two poles of the given and the possible and thus gain some control over fate. This implies the etiological questions of the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the predicament of life and as such has a moral dimension.

A central factor in the study is the interplay, or ‘mirroring’ of the mundane and occult spheres of experience. In dealing with this I have looked at what R. Devisch has termed ‘structural causality’, i.e. the projection, or extrapolation of mundane afflictions upon a ‘screen’ of a cosmological system (shrines and spirits). This system acts as an ordering frame of reference in aiding people in understanding their situation and act on it in a meaningful way. Underlying this concept seems to me to be the importance of awareness of self and others and of the interconnectedness and unity of all aspects of life – patent and latent – making it easier to cope with what the fates throw in ones direction.


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