ONYEKPEZE AND IKA CULTURAL MATTERS IKA CULTURAL CUM TRADITIONAL RELIGION BELIEF IN SPIRITS IN IKA CULTURE
Children who are ‘born and die’ immediately or during their childhood do not go back to spirit existence. They are born again and again until something is done to stop them from dying. These arrant spirits are called Ogbanje in Ika. Ogbanje or nwa-miri, is thus a spirit ‘born-to-die’. It is not certain whether this began as a spirit of a deceased person or not. The belief in Ika, like in the neighbouring communities, is that there are wandering spirits who specialize in the sadistic mischief of finding their way into wombs to be born in order to die. The traditional explanation is that there is a company of spirits whose members are under an agreement to undertake, in turns, the errand of mischief. Before those who are thus assigned leave the company temporarily, they enter into pact that they will return; that is, die at named time. Thus, their destines vary. Some die when they are pregnant or after delivery or when they are much younger. The belief is that Ogbanjechildren who die in their infancy, get back to their mothers’ wombs to be born again. Such babies will continue to plaque their mothers by returning and dying for about three to four times consecutively.
In the olden days, these groups of arrant spirits were not known as Ogbanjein Ikaculture. They were then referred to as Igheleken. Igheleken was to express the rude shock and horror caused by the death of an Ogbanjeperson.
Ogbanje is common among female, but rare with the male issues. Those possessed by Ogbanje are referred to as umu-miri (nwamiri singular) children from the water. Hence most sacrifices on their behalf are performed in, or near a stream or river. They are prone to troubles and set-backs and unless they perform the sacrifices and own Ogbanjeimages in their homes, they never enjoy happy life.
Victims of Ogbanje can be dispossessed of the evil spirit; that is to drive away these spirits of violence that dog the step of the possessed. This can be done in many ways in Ika community. The first is through the sacrifice of exhumation of Ogbanje. IbuoOgbanje. In doing so, the victims who have their Ogbanje hidden in the stream are led by the Ogbanjepriests to treat the evil spirits in the streams.
When the Ogbanje is to be exhumed from the ground, the priests hand over their ‘searching calabash’,Onunu, containing charms to the possessed with other medicines and concoctions rubbed on her body while reciting some incantations. Through this means, more energy is infused into her to spur her up to move vigorously to locate her Ogbanje. When she cites the spot where the Ogbanje is hidden, she will go on her knees to dig it out. Some Ogbanje can be exhumed from deep pits, others from shallow pits, while some are found in the flowing streams near the town or village. Some dig out pebbles, some stones, rings and some others dig out materials used by human beings, sometimes put in corked containers, as their Ogbanje. Whatever is dug out, the Ogbanje has to be ‘treated’ by the ‘Ogbanje special priests before they are done away with by the priests.
Should the victim not have the financial means with which to perform the sacrifice of exhumation at the time she noticed the effect of the spirit, the ‘Ogbanje priests’ may use their charms and ritually tie it, fie or pin or cover it (mkpume). This is the act of burying the spirit of Ogbanje to stop it from coming to disturb the possessed again. A victim may not be under the influence of Ogbanje so much after this process. But it is still necessary that she performs the actual sacrifice when she has the means. The families who believe in Ogbanje are always protected against this spirit, especially when women are pregnant. It is believed that a child who is an incarnation of some of such spirits may be detected through divination. When this is done, steps are usually taken to stop the Ogbanje person from dying young. Sometimes, the spirit may be made to decide to break pact with the spirit companions, and remain a human being on earth.
The proof of the existence of
Ogbanje children is derived from a case where a child was born but died before maturity. Later the same woman gave birth to a child that died at the age that the first child died. However, before the child was buried, the natives put on series of marks on its body. When the child came back the third time, those marks were visible. Cicatrice (scare of healed wound) has been the surest way of determining the worst type of babies, especially those who die immediately after birth. Parents are not sure of their babies born with those marks. It is done in order to retain, or treat such babies with difference and safeguards.