Kumalak is a form of geomancy
Geomancy is a method of divination that interprets markings on the ground or the patterns formed by tossed handfuls of soil, rocks, or sand...

, or divination
Divination is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic standardized process or ritual...

, which originates in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. This fortune telling method involves forty-one beans, stones, or sheep dung ("kumalak" means sheep dung in the Turkic languages) sorted into piles, and has been used for hundreds of years in the region of present-day Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

, Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan , officially the Kyrgyz Republic is one of the world's six independent Turkic states . Located in Central Asia, landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east...

, Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, and Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

 by Turkic peoples
Turkic peoples
The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

 such as the Kazakh
The Kazakhs are a Turkic people of the northern parts of Central Asia ....

, Kyrgyz, and Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...


Similar to other forms of divination such as tarot
The tarot |trionfi]] and later as tarocchi, tarock, and others) is a pack of cards , used from the mid-15th century in various parts of Europe to play a group of card games such as Italian tarocchini and French tarot...

 or runecasting, Kumalak is practiced by shamans who seek to connect to their Turkic ancestors in the spiritual realm. A spiritual teacher trains and mentors the shaman for years before he or she completes an initiation ritual. Such shamans are often consulted by villagers looking for advice on their future. Kumalak is believed by Kazakhs to be a spiritual tool which opens spiritual gateways to connect with their ancestors. Similar connections can be seen in other Shamanic cultures.

In order to understand the variations in Kumalak, forty-one dried sheep droppings ("qırıq bir qumalaq"), beans, or stones are laid on a cloth on the earth, and then touched, one by one, to the reader's forehead. This is said to open the third eye
Third eye
The third eye is a mystical and esoteric concept referring in part to the ajna chakra in certain spiritual traditions. It is also spoken of as the gate that leads within to inner realms and spaces of higher consciousness...

, allowing second sight and intuitive perception. Following this, incantations are repeated until a spirit jumps to the earth realm in order to reveal answers and move the beads accordingly.

The stones are then divided into three piles. Four pebbles at a time are removed from each pile until 1-4 pebbles remain, and these are placed on a nine-square grid (resembling a tic-tac-toe
Tic-tac-toe, also called wick wack woe and noughts and crosses , is a pencil-and-paper game for two players, X and O, who take turns marking the spaces in a 3×3 grid. The X player usually goes first...

 board). The piles are then separated and re-sorted, resulting in 1-4 stones in each square, correlating to one of nature’s four elements
Four elements
Four elements may refer to:* Classical elements, such as air, fire, earth and water* 4 Elements, an album by Chronic Future* Group 4 element, one of the chemical elements in Group 4 of the periodic table...

: 1 to fire, 2 to water, 3 to wind, and 4 to earth. The squares are also demarcated by rows and columns, as representing body parts, the past/present/future, head and heart, distance, and mental state. Trained Kumalak readers are said to be able to see the beads actually move around in a way not visible to the untrained eye.
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