IKA CULTURAL CUM TRADITIONAL RELIGION
Apart from homeopathic, contagious and the magic of unusualness, discussed last week, distinction can also be made between personal and public magic which are found in Ika community culture.
A great many charms are for individual use, and are meant for specific needs of one person. Many of these charms are mixtures of leaves stuffed into pots, horns, gourds or leather packets which the owner wears or keeps. Some men wear teeth of animals, magic miniature scissors, pliers and knives, caps or hats, to make them invincible, or safe against attacks of animals and other enemies. Guns and cutlasses have their own medicines. Dane guns which were in use in the olden days were loaded with protective magic for they were liable to explode or not go off at the needful moment.
Some men wear charms in their hair, armlets of iron or leather bracelets of tinkling metal, girdles, landen with leather pouches and anklets of metal. Most common are rings against snakes and scorpions. Some finger-rings, earrings and ornamentals worn by women have frequently a magical as well as an ornamental value. Children have varied medicines they wear to ward off the attacks of the evil spirits and enemies. Many of the leather packets worn contain medicines which many stuff in their pockets.
Public Magic in Ika Culture
Public magic is seen in the charms used to protect houses, compounds, fields and villages in Ika community culture. One sees bundles of feathers, bunches of leaves, packets wrapped in cotton thread, or great parcels hanging from ceiling to protect their occupants. Shops have packages or magic brooms, or vessels nailed above the door to repel burglars or attract traders. Fields are protected by anything from a wisp or straw to a complex package containing teeth, blood, feathers and other dynamic substances. These are often the most obvious signs of paganism to the casual observer in Ika, especially in the olden days.
When a second burial ceremony is held anywhere in Ika Kingdoms, for example, the compound is entered through a protecting stout line (rope) tied to charms of various substances and wrapped with mats, clothes or leaves, which is supposed to remove all evils from those who pass under it. Diseases are warded off through the same means; also to ward off diseases, a line of native chalk can be made round the house, or some palm nut husks (esuke), can be set on fire at the entrance to the compound. The latter was known to ward off the attack of small pox or chicken pox from the area. It is assumed that the evil spirits will come along the path and not through the bush. They think they can outwit spiritual beings.
Black Magic and Sorcery in Ika Culture
Magic is offensive as well as protective, and the former type passes under various names. The term ‘black magic’ used to describe the harmful variety, is found in different parts of Ika community. Offensive or black magic is much feared, and many charms are worn with the object of warding off the harmful effect of black magic. Babies wear bracelets and charms to protect them from evil influences and witchcraft. Lovers protect themselves against their rivals or jealous husbands. Farmers, hunters, wood cutters and other craftsmen, arm themselves against accidents caused by sorcerers. Rings are worn against snakes and other dangerous animals sent by evil men.
The good or white protective preparations are made by qualified medicine-men. They are made by experts who know how to manipulate the forces that make them effective. The medicine-man or diviner is a respected figure in Ika community life. He is consulted by nearly everyone and he is highly esteemed. The good medicine-man will not make harmful medicines. If he does so, many people think his power will turn against him for it is a dangerous force.
The ‘black magician’, sorcerer or wizard, on the other hands is an evil person, feared and hated in Ika community. He works in the darkness because his deeds are evil. Those who wish to harm their enemies have resort, at night and in secret, to the sorcerer.
Both sorcerer and witch may bear the same name but they can be distinguished one from the other. They are distinguished as a ‘day-witch and night-witch’. The day-witch or sorcerer is a conscious and deliberate evildoer; this is in contrast to the witch who works at night.
All manners of evil, that might otherwise be called accidental or misfortune are attributed to the malfeasance of sorcerers-broken limbs, cramp, internal pains, still-born babies, twins and any unusual events in the community – are taken as showing that sorcerers are on the warpath.
Sorcerers, like witches, may have animal familiars to work for them. Or they themselves may have the power of metamorphosis and change themselves into animal form at will. Stories are widely told about sorcerers who change into birds or beasts of prey like owl, ozuzu, ikirikpo, etc, leaving their mortal bodies asleep at home. If by good fortune, someone succeeds in killing the animal during this period, then, it would be found that the wizard has died at home at the same time the animal was killed.
Sorcerers may send their animal agents against their foes. A snake or leopard can attack the enemy in the bush and harm him even though he carries charms against such attack. That the charms are ineffective is taken as showing that some greater forces are working against it. This serves as a useful explanation as to why charms may not act against some wild animals, or why some animals may hardly be caught in traps. Similarly, a sorcerer can ‘call down’ lightning upon his victim. A sorcerer can prepare a deadly medicine, using a small dog and other charms against a person, (ibe ikpare), which may cause instant death of the person through any form of accident.
In the words of M.J. Field, “Religion usually postulates a deity who is good, and who demands goodness whereas magic is of two kinds, good and bad. Magic, unlike deities, makes no moral demands, and above all, will operate automatically and inexorably for any operator, provided only that he operates correctly”.
…To be continued