Spirits, according to African belief, are ubiquitous. There is no area of the earth, no object or creature, which has not a spirit of its own, or which cannot be inhabited by a spirit. Thus, the Ika people also believe that there are spirits of trees; that is, spirits which inhabit trees. There are also spirits which inhabit lanes, mountains and hills, forests and bushes, rivers and water courses, whose natural objects are accepted as their emblems and medium by which they are approached.
There are ghost spirits. They are mischievous spirits, ihoghai, who died either accidentally or who died in prime of youth; and who become violent spirits; that is, ekwonsun or eje Mmo. It is also believed that a person whose dead body was not buried with due rites will not be admitted to the abode of the blessed departed ones. The spirits of such people become wanderers, ihoghai, living aimlessly as ghosts. Those who died bad deaths like by hanging or drowning, of bad diseases, or women who died during pregnancy or in child births have the same fate. Since they are accursed, their spirits will not be accepted in the abode of the blessed. These categories of wandering spirits include spirits of those who had been wicked while on earth and, therefore, excluded from the followership of God.
There is a strong belief about another curious category of the spirits known as Ogbanje, Dada and that of the spirits of the witches as well as that of the guardian spirit or man’s double, Ehi. Persons, animals and birds are believed to be instruments of possessions by spirits of all descriptions, good or bad, vengeful or helpful.
Genuine diviners communicate with spirits when engaged in divination. Some native doctors, Idibie, in Ika community claim that they are chosen by spirits and guided in their profession of diagnosis and healing by spirits. Indeed, there is no end to the list of spirits and they are regarded with dread, although it is believed that they can be controlled by magic.
EHI; (The Guardian Spirit)
Ehi, the man’s double or his guardian spirit is believed to be personalized providence which came from God and reverted to Him at the person’s death. Everybody has his or her Ehi, which may be well or ill – disposed. Either that the essence of man’s personality becomes a sort of spirit entity which acts as man’s spiritual counterpart or that the guardian spirit is a separate entity. The double, therefore, is bounded up with the issue of man’s destiny on earth; that is that destiny depends on how far; the entity is in good state itself. It guards one’s steps and brings prosperity or else, puts obstacles in one’s paths. No wonder, therefore, that every adult in Ika attributes his or her well-being in life to his or her Ehi, aluka reki. The events of one’s life are thus pre-destined by one’s Ehi. This is felt in every part of Ika because they believe that everyone counts progress on Ehi; and Ehi like Ikengan is the right hand with which a person works out a successful living in this difficult world. If one is successful, one gives ‘good things’ to one’s Ehi. If a person fails in his undertakings, and life becomes difficult and hopeless, he blames his Ehi. Ehi, therefore, inspires awe and reverence.
Among the Ika people, the physical head of a person is the symbol of Ehi, but Ehi is often designated, in most cases with one native chalk, ugon nzun, put in an earthen pot or bowl and kept in a hidden corner of the house. Some people may symbolize their Ehi with earthen images. Once in a year, in the traditional lunar calendar month called Iwagi festival, Ehi is served. During the sacrifice, the owner prays to God through it for peaceful existence, long and prosperous life. He also prays to God to ward off calamities or misfortunes. Ehiobu, Ehiedu, Ehiyem, Ehika, Ehiemenonye, Ehiwekpeni, Ehikwe and others are some well chosen names and expressions with due retrospection to the divine attributes of Ehi by the Ika people.
Sacrifices to Ehi can be made by the owner either alone or with some relatives and children, using native chalk and perhaps, with kola nuts, coconut and fowl as may be instructed by the soothsayer consulted.
Sometimes, sacrifices are offered to the wandering spirits that haunt one’s Ehi like in Itun ihien Mmo sacrifices of the Ika people.