koštana banović

Casting Beans, ongoing project (1997 to now)

A divination practice of laying the beans, a ritual with 41 white beans commonly practiced in the Balkans, to read circumstance, event or person. The project still continues today through happenings in different times and places, and knowledge exchange through dialogue and practice in collaborations with various shamans.

Divination game, 1997
Divination game, 2003
Divination game, 2012
Stories go in circles, performance/installation, Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Arnhem, The Netherlands, 1999
Tarapapujaja, performance/installation, Taidemuseo, Rauma, Finland, 2001
41 beans, performance/installation, Lokaal 01, Breda, The Netherlands, 1997
International Çankaya Public Art Manifestation, Ankara, Turkey, 2011
Dream Hunters, happening

Casting Beans – Dream Hunters
Dream Hunters is an old divination game with 41 beans, which the Slavic gypsies are said to have brought with them long ago from the Indian Punjab. It became a particular specialty of the Islamic Romany people, and in particular of the chovihani (witch).
By means of three throws-layouts, pronouncements are made about the fate and in particular the love life of the client, concerning the past, present and future. The outcome of a throw cannot be regarded separately, but is always seen in relation to the other (2) throws: the game can only be played when we understand that what has gone before and what is still to come form a whole with what is experienced in the present.
In early times the beans were thrown onto a large tambourine, on which 3 black and 3 white circles had been drawn. Beyond this, little is known about the history, background and rules of bean reading. Only fragmentary and mysteriously worded mention is made in ancient works, ‘just as all that remains of a dream is sleep in the eyes'. (Pavic)

Dream Hunters is a sect of Khazar priests, whose patroness was Princess Ateh. They could interpret other people's dreams, live in them as in their own houses, and, speeding through them, catch their prey: man, thing, or beast. (The dictionary of the Khazards, Milorad Pavic).

There is a legend about Ateh (11th century), whose name signified the four states of consciousness among the Khazar people. On her bedside table she always kept 7 kinds of salt and 41 white beans. At night she wore a letter on each eyelid. The letters were from the Khazar alphabet, of which every character kills as soon as it is read. The letters were written by blind servants, and every morning, before giving the princess her bath, her handmaids went about their tasks with closed eyes. In this way she was protected from enemies during sleep. The letters on the eyelids of the princess, however, had no lethal effect on those whose hearts were filled with love for her. In this way, men who visited the sleeping quarters of Ateh by night did not immediately succumb, but were able to indulge their desires for her to the full. As a precaution, the princess never opened her eyes, but if she was aware of the presence of a stranger yet found no dead man beside the bed the following day, she read the beans immediately on awakening, in order to discover the intentions, provenance and nature of the amorous visitor. She then wrapped the beans in a red cloth and kept this precious object in her left hand, which had two thumbs.

A guide to casting the beans
Fold both hands over the 41 beans, which are in one pile, and think of the person you love. Then divide the pile into three smaller heaps, which should be placed side by side. Now remove four beans from the pile on the left; continue to do this until there are at most 4 beans, or at least 1 bean left. This ‘rest' goes to the top left-hand corner of the constellation. Now do the same with the pile in the middle and with the right-hand pile (removing 4 beans from a pile until there are 1, 2, 3 or 4 beans left). The result of this last two sortings then go to the middle and the top right-hand corner of the final constellation. Now you have the first line, three groups of beans.
Now make one large pile of the beans which remained and again, divide it into three heaps, and sort them exactly as before. Then, for the third time, make the remaining beans into pile, then into three, etc. (as in the first two rows), until you form the third and lowest row or a line. Now, you have three lines of beans, as shown bellow.

You can write the results of the three sortings, in numbers if you wish, then a final bean constellation might look something like this:

16 (4x4)

After being arranged (as described above), the ‘reading' can take place.
The left-hand side stands for the ‘feminine side’, the right for the ‘masculine side', the middle represents 'house', or what is happening between the man and the woman.

1 words, letters, tears, news, emptiness
2 walking: travel, moving house, going away
3 love, luck, happiness
4 being ‘full' of something, also negatively (e.g., depression)

Some combinations:
333 perfect love (applies also to combinations 333, 324, 342, 423, 432, 243 and 234 as they are to transform into 333.
323 lovers' meeting
242 in a group
332 happiness caused by the other or his/her deeds
444 perfection. If this combination occurs in the third row, the reading should be brought to an end, the beans should be covered with a red cloth and left under it for a while, or slept on it.
112 parting
441 serious trouble, illness