Sikidy is a form of geomancy that relies on the interpretation of sixteen figures.
Derived from the Malagasy transliteration of English sixteen
Sikidy is the most important method of divination for the Malagasy people of Madagascar. Written in Arabic script, this divination process have been passed down over generations. The name Sikidy is derived from Arabic sikl meaning.
The figures are set up in one of two different ways by the Mpisikidy or Ombiasy (diviner).
One way is by interpreting even and odd piles of seeds. Four piles of seeds have two seeds removed at a time until only one or two remains in each pile. The seeds used are either fano seeds (Piptadenia chrysostachys, a type of acacia) or tamarind seeds (Tamarindus indica).
The other way is by drawing a series of wavy lines in sand. The curves (or “bellies” in the line are counted, an odd number counts as one, and an even number counts as two.
Single or double dots are arranged by fours. Each figure has four different parts to it:
Loha — The head (top line)
Tratra — The chest (second line)
Vaniaña — The hips (third line)
Vity or Tomboko — The foot (bottom line)
The four lines can be arranged into sixteen different figures.
The most important aspect of the system of computation with seeds used by diviners is the construction of tableaux. Each of the entries in the tableau can be one seed or two seeds.
Sikidy Tableau Entries
Mother-sikidy = the upper part of the tableau with four rows and four columns (the rows are considered from right to left, thus 2 2 1 1 is the first row above). Daughter-columns = the lower part of the tableau with eight columns of four entries each. The daughters are deduced from the mother-sikidy by applying a simple mathematical rule :
1 + 1 = 2
2 + 2 = 2
1 + 2 = 1
There are 16 possibles outcomes, which are classified in different ways :
Princes / Slaves : The 8 outcomes with an even number of seeds are called princes, for instance (2 2 1 1) with 6 seeds, and the others are called slaves, for instance (1 1 1 2) with 5 seeds.
Cardinal directions : The 16 outcomes are classified according to the 4 cardinal directions :
North = (1 2 2 2), (2 2 1 2), (1 1 1 2), (1 2 1 2)
West = (2 2 2 1), (1 2 1 1), (1 2 2 1), (2 1 2 1), (2 1 1 1)
East = (2 1 2 2), (2 2 1 1), (2 1 1 2)
South = (2 2 2 2), (1 1 1 1), (1 1 2 2), (1 1 2 1)
Some tableaux with particular positions of the outcomes are considered as strongly powerful at the symbolic level. The diviner put dust on some of the outcomes occurring in the tableau, and then, the dust is used as a strong talisman able to cure an illness. These particular tableaux are :
Toka (or tokan-tsikidy) = tableaux such that one of the cardinal directions is represented only once, by a unique outcome (among the four rows and columns of the mother-sikidy and the eight daughter-columns).
Double Toka Tableau
Fohatse = tableaux such that an outcome is repeated at least eight times in the tableau (among the four rows and columns of the mother-sikidy and the eight daughter-columns). The picture of the tableau above shows a fohatse with (2 2 1 1) repeated exactly nine times (2 rows and 2 columns in the mother-sikidy and 5 columns among the daughters)
Another way to use the tableaux is related to the divining practice itself. In this case, the mother-sikidy is chosen randomly, by taking 16 piles of seeds and reducing them to one or two seeds by deleting them two at a time.