sungka pagan

Geomancy with a sungka board

Why a Sungka Board?

Why do you use a Sunka Board instead of sticking to common geomantic methods which don’t require as many materials?

Personally, I feel that I get a more accurate reading when using a sungka board instead of drawing random sets of dots or dashes. In more common methods of practicing geomancy, the querant would randomly draw/mark 16 sets of marks using the media of their choice (stick and dirt, pen and paper, etc.). I am quite literal minded and grounded, so I have trouble dropping all deliberate intent from my actions while attempting to draw the marks. If I use a Sungka board, or another randomizing tool (e.g. dice, casting sticks), it minimizes the opportunity for my conscious mind to interfere with an activity that should be controlled by the unconscious mind… intuition, or higher powers if you prefer.

Sungka boards and Mancala boards are, by nature of their design, suited for divination; the idea of using them and/or topographically similar items for geomancy and other forms of divination is not new. Geomancy relies heavily on mathematical principles and it pairs well with the rules and topography of both Sungka and Mancala. This style of game is considered to be one of the oldest board games in human history. The sources I have read indicate that games within this topographical set were originally used for mathematical calculations  and as divination tools, with their use as games developing later.  I know that Sungka is still used for divination today, by Filipino fortune tellers, but it is increasingly rare.

Sungka is also uniquely suited to geomancy because of the level of randomization involved in the game. After the first turn, it is almost impossible to predict the outcome of  the game; the level of randomization is very high.

Why do you use a Sungka board and not a Mancala board?

**Please note that a Sungka board is not interchangeable with a Mancala board when it comes to geomancy. A Sungka board has 16 bowls while a typical Mancala board has only 14 bowls. In addition, the rules of play differ slightly, although the basics are the same. It is certainly possible to use a Mancala board for geomancy as well, but I won’t be going into that since it is not my tool of choice.

I prefer using a Sungka board for a number of reasons:

1)  The most basic reason is that the 16 bowls on the Sungka board correspond exactly to the 16 random sets of marks that you need to perform a geomantic reading. If you wish to use a Mancala board, you will have to make some adjustments in order to create your Mothers.

2)  For more complex readings, especially ones relating to time and travel, a sungka board provides a pleasing correspondence to the lunar cycle, specifically the synodic month. This is the type of month that is typically being referred to when one is discussing the phases of the moon (a lunar phase cycle = a synodic month = a lunation).  Basically, this type of month measures the time from new moon to new moon. The average number of days in a synodic month is about 29.53. If you round this up to thirty, two passes around the sungka board represents one lunar cycle, and one pass represents a fortnight (around 14.75 days), the approximate amount of time between the new moon and the full moon.

While a Sungka board is suited for the synodic month, a Mancala board is suited for representing a sidereal month (27.32 days, rounded to 28 days) or a draconic/nodal month (27.21 days rounded to 28). It would take too long to explain all of the different lunar months and what they measure, so you’ll have to do your own research on that topic if you have a burning desire to know.

The quick and dirty recap is that a Sungka board can be used to represent lunations/synodic months, which represent the time it takes for all of the phases of the moon to be seen from the earth.

3)  The final reason is simple preference. I am Filipino American, so I grew up playing Sungka. For me, Sungka is comfortable, soothing, and familiar, so the pieces and materials resonate with me. It is always important to consider what resonates with you when deciding which method of divination to use.


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