Sunday, 18 March 2012

The 'spirit child'

Welcome to the Lane………………………..

Today we take a journey into the twilight zone. What will cause a seven year old girl to pick a piece of paper and start listing the names of her father’s living relatives….? Asked why….. she is says she wants to know how “big” the family has become… was this “innocent” answer that sent shivers down the spine of my sister in-law….enough to give me a call and tell me the amazing exploits of this little girl…..her mother further recalls that since her daughter started speaking she has been saying and asking her rather strange questions. On one occasion, she asked her mother if she (her mother) knew her real name. Her puzzled mother responds :why not ? I named you….the child responds…: no..not that name..I mean my real name..!   Her mother then enquires what this “real” name is and the child responds by saying “Amenuveve” a word that means someone who cares about people... (She was barely 3yrs old) On another occasion she warns her mother to stop beating her else “she will return to where she came from….!”; welcome to the world of the “born to die child” the Yoruba call it “abiku”,the igbo  “Ogbanje” and the Akan of Ghana call the phenomenon “ awumawuo”

The myth of the spirit child has it that when a woman continuously bears children who die a short while after birth or has frequent miscarriages, such women are said to be plagued by the spirit of a “born to die child” ; an evil child who will die shortly after it is born and will  to re-enter her mother’s womb again in an unending cycle. It is believed that this cycle can continue for a long time and can only be broken  when the child’s “iya  uwa”, the stone that links it to the spirit world is found and destroyed,  in other instances they are given horrible names, with the believe that they will be too ashamed to go back to the spirit world with such names….sometimes medicine men will try to discourage the dead child’s (spirit) from coming back by mutilating its body before  burying it…literally throwing it into an “evil forest”.  In extreme occurrences, the children are known to return with the scars of mutilation at their birth(reincarnation)- unbelievable, but strangely enough the phenomena has been observed  and this believe is so entrenched in the minds of most Africans.
This niece of mine came only after countless miscarriages and a child who did not survive beyond the first year. It is also known that such children when they finally decide to “stay” behave strangely; where does a three year old girl get the faculty  and confidence to tell her mother to stop spanking her else “she will go back where she came from”…?

I  am a Christian, so you can imagine how difficult it is for me to believe such things, yet the fact cannot be denied.

In Chinua Achebe’s book “Things fall apart” he makes allusions to the existence of such children in the except that deals with Ekwefi, Okwonkwo’s wife and her struggle with childbirth; it tells the story of how the cycle of death was finally brought to an end when Ezinma’s (the born to die child) “iya  uwa”(spiritual stone ) was finally found.
Well could there be a scientific explanation to the behavioral pattern of such children? What about the ones who come back with their scars of mutilation?
Your guess is as good as mine….we may never know………….!

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