*Image credit: Awakeafraka Magazine
I am going to stir sleeping bees in this post. In this article, I shall list out major points to disprove the belief that Ogbanje exists or has existed.
The words used in describing Ogbanje kids are; “coming and going”. These words were actually used by Jp Clark in one of his poems: Abiku. This is to show that Ogbanje is also recognized in other cultures like the Yoruba.
Coming and going these several seasons,
Do stay out on the baobab tree,
Follow where you please your kindred spirits
Apart from “coming and going“, “predestined to die” is also used to describe such a child. Ogbanje in the Igbo dialect or Abiku in the Yoruba language is a word used to describe a scenario where couples lose their kids in quick secession. A predestined to die child; that is when a child is born, he or she dies as an infant or before another child is born.
The name has a spiritual connotation. It is believed that such children came from the spiritual world with a mission to torment their parents. JP Clark paints these torments the parents of Ogbanje pass through thus;
Then step in, step in and stay
For her body is tired,
Tired, her milk going sour
The common modern words use in describing an Ogbanje child is “a possessed child“. In this post, we shall be discussing the reasons why Abikun or Ogbanje is not popular any longer in this computer age? We shall also find out whether Abiku really existed.
I wrote something similar about this topic in the “Igbo tradition where a dead child’s fingers are chopped”. I raised some questions regarding Ogbanje in the article.
The possible answers that can be responsible for the reasons for the disappearance of Ogbanje belief and practice in Africa culture are:
Advancement in Medicine
There are killer diseases as long as children are concerned. In the olden days, hospitals and medications are not accessible to many, especially those who resided in the hinterlands. Infections like diarrhea, Meningitis, and Malaria had their field day in those days.
Today, with the advancement in medical infrastructure, these infections have been curbed to the barest minimum. There are Pharmaceutical stores, Dispensers, Chemists shops, and Primary Health Care where parents have free and quick access to treat their sick children. These infections no longer claim the lives of the children as they used to.
Education is another factor that plays a role in the eradication of Ogbanje belief. Lack of proper education contributed to an increase in infant death. This is because couples were not encouraged to go for medical tests before getting married.
I will cite an example to illustrate the impact. My Grandma had 10 children. Five among the kids died in their infancy. Grandma and her husband branded the dead kids Ogbanje and maimed them before they were buried by mutilating their fingers and breaking their bones. They believed when all these are done, the Ogbanjes would not return to torment them.
Or, if they eventually return, they will be forced to stay because according to their belief, children with visible marks are not accepted in the land of the spirit.
I had knowledge of this whole story when my Aunt began to have babies and they began to fall sick and died in turn just like it had happened to their mother. The dead kids too were branded Ogbanje. Until one day when the family braced up and took one of the sick children to the hospital.
Blood work was carried on the sick child and the dying child was confirmed with Sickle Cell Anemia. In the end, It was also confirmed that my Aunt and her husband were As.
From further research, I discovered that My grandparents were As. It then boils to the fact that all the children they maimed in the name of Ogbanje could be Sicklers.
Today, this issue is becoming a thing of yesterday. Education has opened the eyes of parents and couples to be. Children who would have been born as sicklers and buried as Ogbanje or Abiku are have been prevented to come through proper laboratory blood tests.
Good Oral Hygiene
Nursing mothers are learning good oral hygiene for their babies through the help of awareness creation. Infections from dirty environments, dirty water, and baby food are major causes of death in children. Mothers have learned to exclusively breastfed. They have learned the need to treat their drinking water.
Another preventive measure I will like to discuss under this is the sleeping under the mosquito nets. Pregnant mothers and children hardly fall sick from malaria infection because they have learned preventive measures.
Domination Of Christian Religion
The belief about the Ogbanje spirit thrived so much in Paganism. Some of them are worshippers of the spirit. It is a highly revered female god in many places.
Ogbanje or Abikun’s spirit is severely condemned by the Christian faith. It is believed to be satanic. The proliferation of Christian religion in Nigeria and African at large has subdued this practice by discouraging members that children come from God and not from the kingdom of the darkness.
The single Bible passage; “God gives and God takes” is a big slap to the notion that Ogbanje comes and goes from a thick forest known as the land of the ancestors. Christain religion preaches against reincarnation which is what Ogbanje or Abiku spirit is known for. It is believed that every soul returns to his Maker.
*Image credit: Igbo Amaka (Facebook Page)
Ogbanje never existed for these following reasons:
- Sicklers were branded as Ogbanje in the olden days.
- Malaria killed a lot of “Ogbanje branded” children.
- Poor oral hygiene contributed to the death of infancy in the olden days.
- There is power in the tongue. People believed in Ogbanje and gave it a prominent seat and it tormented them.
- Ogbanje does not exist. It is an unfounded myth.
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