Another factor that guides morality in Ika is the belief in reincarnation. Life after death is one of the Ika people’s most fascinating and abiding speculations; and a few are prepared to gamble with it. This is the reason why the Ika people always strive to lead good life so that when they die and come back to the world again, there would be no obstacles in their life. Whatever the origin of the belief, the idea of the rebirth of the departed is firmly held in Ika community culture. They are always saying, ‘the next world we shall come’, especially when they want to pray for a change for better, on an issue.
It is believed that the deceased persons reincarnate in their grand-children and or great grandchildren. In the first place, it is believed that in spite of the reincarnation; the deceased continue to live in ‘After-Life’. Those that have not reincarnated, ‘the living dead,’ still have communion with their family members and have their ancestral qualities unimpaired. Secondly, it is believed that they do not reincarnate only in the grandchildren or great grandchildren, but also those who are brothers and sisters and cousins, aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, and ad infinitum. Yet, in spite of all these repeated rebirths, the deceased contrive to remain in full life and vigour in the After-Life.
It is important to discover the particular ancestor that is reborn in a child. The moment the ancestral spirit enters the child may be taken to be the time of conception, or when the foetus becomes a human being, or even as late as at birth. The reborn soul may be that of paternal relative which is the patrilineal system of inheritance in force in Ika culture. In those days, great efforts were devoted to marriage arrangements to ensure that there was proper affinity so that tradition might be followed and the ancestors reborn. Then, the diviner might be called in at birth to declare which of the ancestor has come back. This was particularly important if the child did not resemble anyone in the family. The child might be given a name there and then, perhaps, the name as that of the ancestor. Ancestral system is explicable by the philosophy of forces. The ancestor does not create the child, God does that. Nor is it strictly the ancestral spirit that is reborn, but the child comes under his protective influence, and receives some of his vitality. The ancestral name is renewed in the family and its influence in the family is revitalized.
If it is a case where the child is reincarnated by a disreputable ancestor, he will be taken to the Ali shrine where a native doctor, will cleanse and absolve him of the bad deeds of his previous world through either, or both ritual sacrifices known as ili uhuki uwembu and isehien iyi uwembu. After either or both sacrifices, it is believed that the child will grow to be a good person. When some people die of a particular disease, hardship or influence, they will come back in the opposite direction. In some cases, they reincarnate in the exact or worst form. Reincarnation is always determined by the child’s attitude, physical structure and values.
It is generally regarded that the world is full of light, warmth and worth living to which the dead are only too glad to return from the underworld of darkness and cold. It is therefore a punishment not to reincarnate. All the dead return to earth accept, perhaps, certain ghosts that have been captured by sorcerers.
The Ika people also believe in transmigration; this is to say that a bad person may be reborn as animal, and an animal as a person. It is necessary to mention that the spirits chosen for reincarnation are invariably not only those strong and pugnacious characters or moral stamina like those who have been excellent domestic managers, traders, farmers or hunters, but also it is open to the weak and strong, the poor and the rich, the good and the wicked.
(To be continued)