IKA CULTURAL CUM TRADITIONAL RELIGION
From the discussion on Ika Traditional Religion so far, it is clear that since the dawn of consciousness, Ika people like others, have been confronted with the need to cope with powers greater than their own. The competitions and riddles of life have been such that urge them to look for succor, for deliverance and for mastery over environmental circumstances. They recognize, like other neighbours of theirs, that behind the phenomena powers are ‘wholly others’ than themselves. Their approach to the powers depends to the conception of the powers and the way which they believe would lead to the goal of their souls’ sincere desires. Where they recognize a power as a divine being with whom man have communication, the approach has been of submission and appeal. Where they conceive the power only as a reservoir of elemental force, they like to tap and harness it and make it subserve their own end. The principle upon which they work in this case is one of techniques of seeking to secure the proper means of having control over these elemental forces. Magic is one of the courses by which the Ika man seeks to cope with environmental forces.
Magic (Ika Involvement)
With particular reference to Ika, magic cannot be discussed with understanding, except as seen in the light of religion; more so, when it is discussed as an element in the structure of religion, hence the necessity for a little background on the topic.
Those who practice magic believe that there are vital forces or spiritual powers that they can tap. Hence magic can properly be said to come within the scope of religion. It is sometimes said that ‘magic commands, religion implores’, because in the higher form of religion, man has to do with personal powers whose will is independent of, and greater than man’s.
In religion, “the technique is through a system of rituals which creates an atmosphere of worship. Religion speaks to one who hears, one who listens, one who accepts and one who blesses. In magic, the technique consists in spells and enchantments made up of secret or archaic language or cryptic terminology, and expressions which may be utterly unintelligible even to the operator, but calculated to have the efficacy of fulfilling the will of man”.
On the whole, it is the general admission of African Traditional Religion that while magic claimants often introduce themselves into the practice of religion, magic in the strict sense of ‘fetish’ is not really necessary for those who are upright. In strict sense, therefore, the aid of magic is sought by those who are not sure of their character, or those who are positively wicked. This is why in African thought, ‘black magic’ is always associated with witchcraft and sorcery and considered anti-social.
Thus, while religion addresses itself to deity in a spirit of appeal and submission, magic goes by the operative factors based on certain principles like those of similarity, contiguity, unusualness, imitative or homoeopathic and others.
Oral tradition on the foregoing background has it that from the olden days, the operators of magic in Ika are many in the areas of rain-making, harming or protecting people, hunting, warding off trials and judgments and so many others.
First, the principle of similarity is based on ‘similarity between the act performed and the result expected’. Imitative or homoeopathic magic works on the belief that ‘like produces like’. Hence in rain-making rites in Ika, for instance, water may be spewed into the air to make rain fall by imitation or clouds of smoke may be made to rise to help the clouds gather round. A woman may wear a doll in the hope of reproducing a child that she lost, or a twin. In hunting, images may be made of game, with idea of attracting it. This principle could work in a negative way too, whereby people must avoid actions that would hinder the similarity from working. For example, a hunter’s wife must remain chaste while he is away, less evil befalls him.
This legend gives credence to ways through which this principle worked negatively. The legend has it that once upon a time; a hunter went with his colleagues to hunt wild animals in the forest. Before he left home, he instructed one of his wives to keep watch over his over-turn magic mortar with the intention of turning it open if it shook. When the hunters ran out of bullets, and the wild animals became fierced and rushed to kill them, each applied his magic for safety. This particular hunter vanished to reappear in his magic mortar at home in form of an agama lizard. When the wife saw the magic mortal shaking, she sat on it rather than turning it open. The agama lizard was suffocated to death. When the colleagues came home to announce the hunter’s death, they went to his magic mortar only to find the agama lizard dead with its chest turned upward.
Secondly, Ika people practice the magic on the principle of contiguity or contagious magic which worked on the notion that ‘thing once in contact with each other would continue to interact even when the contact is broken’, since ages. For example, harmful charms can be made of man’s waste hair, nails, clothing, bath water, sleeping mat, and anything that is his. The placentas and navel cords of babies are carefully buried so that they may not be used for harmful purposes. A person’s chewing stick or a woman’s menstrual pad may be used to harm him or her on the same principle. The magic may be used to good ends too.
Thirdly in Ika, it is believed that the magic of unusualness would have the direct effect of warding off or foiling an opponent’s evil plan. For example, supposing a person fears being called upon to account for a misdeed, he could perform this kind of ritual which, in all intents and purposes, amounts to a magic in order to ward off trial and judgment. A ritual believed to be effective towards this is as follows:
The defendant consults with a well-known dibie who takes him into his Ohenyen shrine, (Olo Ohenyen), to ‘wash’ from the dibie’s Ohenyen, (Ohenyen pot). After washing, and while still naked, the dibie takes up one of the items, preferably a disused axe, from his Ohenyen pot and rubs it on the client’s forehead, or on his head, with the incantation, ‘the axe cuts any tree and gets free’, etc. The operative words in the incantation, which accompany the process being. ‘I, name, have been called upon to account for an offence; I have been washed and rubbed with an axe from an ite Ohenyen; the case under reference will never see light of day until the plaintiff or the prosecutor, washes his forehead or his head rubbed with an axe from an ite Ohenyen.
The implication here is that none of those concerned, plaintiff, prosecutor and witnesses may go out on their way and engage in the same ritual.
(To Be Continued)