IKA CULTURAL CUM TRADITIONAL RELIGION
BELIEF IN SPIRITS IN IKA CULTURE
DADA (Coiled haired children)
Children with coiled hair had been known in Ika community from ages. Some of them wear hair so naturally coiled and curled in such stiff shapes, some curving back below the level of the ears, that one wonders how the owners can carry them and sleep with a burden that must be not only heavy, but uncomfortable. Before Dada was ascribed to them, this kind of children were addressed in the community as ‘children with coiled hair’, isi ihagha. Then, the child’s ghost ‘ghost’ hair was shaved off either immediately after birth or between four and seven days, izu and owhen-esa, after its birth, or during the igba mkpuodu ceremony when a name was given to it, and life preservation preparation, idayi, was cut for the child.
A centenarian respondent said that the high rate of infant mortality in the community at a time, very far past, was attributed to this early shaving of the children’s ‘ghost hair’. In some cases he said, some children died shortly after the mkpuodu ceremony. In other cases, some children grew hair which began to coil, and during the subsequent shaving of their coiled hair, some of them died or became terribly sick of acute headache and fever. Through consultations with oracles and the revelations of Olokun mediums, nde iheren, who wear ihagha Olokun, the respondent said, remedies were provided for the dada’s aching heads. Coconut water mixed with native chalk powder was occasionally poured on the coiled hair to ease the aching. In some cases, small beads or ero and medicinal tiny dried nuts are tied to the coiled hair to stop the head from aching the owner.
The respondent also said that it did not take long when people observed that the head of any child with such hair should not be tempered with. In Ika community, the shaving of the children’s ‘ghost hair’ has stopped. Children are now allowed to retain their ghost hair for considerable length of time after birth. One of the reasons for this practice is to ascertain whether any child would grow coiled hair. When a child is observed to be dada, the abstinence and rule about dada are strictly kept for the child. For example, the moment a child shows the sign of ‘dada hair’ the hair is no more shaved.
A child with ‘dada hair’ is allowed to indicate when he or she wants the hair to be shaved. Some may wear theirs as old as close to twenty years of age and beyond, while others may want theirs shaved as soon as they become reasonable. Many of them who have become adults make a lot of demands before they agree to have their ‘dada hair’ shaved. It is known that some of them have requested for costly items and parties to be held in their honour before they agree to shave their ‘dada hair’. The younger ones may make do with biscuits, plates of rice, sweets or other small materials in order to have their ‘dada hair’ shaved.
Although there is no scientific proof now that any dada would die should the rules be ignored, the ‘dada children’ are often watched with awe and ‘dada rules’ are strictly kept in the community. At least, the hair is left unshaved until the owner expresses the desire to do so. One development about the Dada in Ika community is that dada has almost usurped their names. Any child whether boy or girl who once wore coiled hair is called Dada in preference to his or her other names. Dada like Ogbanje, is one of those names that infiltrated into Ika as a result of the community’s association with her neighbours.
WITCHCRAFT (Nsi Ndi Igbome)
This topic was the most difficult for the author to write about. Consulting the convenience of any respondent on the topic was an awkward task. First, respondents were scared and many refused to speak on the issue. Any person approached on the topic felt personal guilt as if she or he has been identified as a witch or wizard. So, locating ‘one’ in the community was a daunting task for the writer. Second, it needed a special courage to put any question on the issue before any respondent. Witchcraft is a subject that could be discussed in the community with a clear look on the eye. But then, the entire chat must be that of groping for appropriate words, and trying not to be too sensitive. The writer ended up in many cases, apologizing for embarrassing whoever turned down his request to speak on the issue. A colleague of his suggested that the topic be skipped, but doing so would render the work incomplete in the writer’s judgment because there is no denial of the fact that, like the neighboring communities, the cult is as old as the Ika community, the difference nowadays, being that civilization has thinned the practice to a bare minimum.
A nonagenarian (woman) respondent who was first to speak on the issue shook her head with a mocking twist of her lips, and has this to say. “My son, why do you want to know? How the witches operate are secrets of witchcrafts”. In her answer to whether witchcraft really exists, she laughed and said very slowly, “I think it does”.
Considering the other statements made by this respondent and others about witchcraft, the issue could be discussed very meaningfully only by members of the cult. The writer is regrettably not one; and the discussion as put in this discourse, is mainly on general terms’.
“One important human spirit, which Africa has to reckon painfully and very disastrously with, is the spirit of the witches”. As a matter of fact, a modern mind has enough of the supernatural to ponder: a compunction, black holes, unidentified flying objects, mystery cures, witches changing at will into non-human creatures like bats, leopards, mosquitoes, etc., and while in these guises harm their neighbours. The concept about witchcraft consists in the belief that the spirits of living beings can move out of the body on destructive errands. Ika people also share in this belief and others associated with the cult. For example, witches are believed to cause havoc to other persons in body, mind or estate. “Witches operate in guilds or separately or single,” and the spirits sent out of the human body in this way can act either invisibly or through a lower creature such as animal or bird. Witches have animal familiars with which they work in close contact. It is also believed by some that witches fly to their assemblies mounted on backs of owls, and other nocturnal birds. The night birds are the commonest associates of witches. Black cats and snakes are also associates of witches. Others think that witches turn into birds and so fly away in disguise; to kill the animals is to destroy the witches. Another respondent revealed that witches can make use of any material such as groundnut shell, broken vessels, banana leaves, broken baskets, mortals, etc. in the middle of the nights.
(To be continued)
Chief (Dr) Onyekpeze .F.A. (JP)