The existence of the abiku also known as the ogbanje child is recorded in the African tradition, particularly among the Yoruba. For the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, the Abiku are the spirits of dead children who come back to haunt other children. The term also refers to the child who is haunted in this way.
These ogbanjes are placed between the spirit and human world. As much as they love to remain in their spiritual paradise they are constantly born into the world only to die thereafter. The ogbanjes are often linked to the water spirits. In some stories, the ogbanje child dies by drowning in the village river and most times her body is never found. These children are always very beautiful, hairy and intelligent. Some are endowed with the gift of clairvoyance.
The spirit of Abiku is responsible for all kinds of evil as he torments the child he possesses. He can make the child to be stubborn, sickly and lean. These children often bring sorrows to their families. It might sound primitive but the occurrences of the abiku child have been recorded in ancient and recent times. The ogbanje child dies at almost the same time the previous siblings died. For example, some abikus are known to die during child delivery while others die few months or years after birth. There is an age limit given to an abiku child and if the child exceeds that age, there is a probability that he might not die prematurely again.
What makes a woman give birth to an abiku child?
In the Yoruba tradition, a pregnant woman is often forbidden from walking on lonely footpaths with iroko trees, traveling through the jungle or dark paths in rural areas. It is believed that the abiku spirits tread on these areas and on seeing a pregnant woman; they follow her home to possess her child on delivery. To prevent this, pregnant women are advised to attach needle or a small white stone to the edge of their dress before leaving the house.
A woman can also give birth to an abiku child if cursed by a powerful sorcerer with this spirit. In other cases, if an ogbanje child stays alive and gets married to an earthly husband after being married to a spiritual husband, then the children she might conceive would be possessed by the abiku. The reason for this is that her spiritual husband wouldn’t let her have kids with a mortal man.
Can an abiku child be delivered?
The nature of an abiku cannot be changed instead the soul of the victim can be grounded to remain on earth. In Yoruba land, the witch doctors devised different amulets, talisman and traditional medicines used on the abikus to prevent them from dying.
The parents of these children are asked to provide the ogbanjes with love, care and never beat them. If beaten the abiku child might cry to death so to avoid this, they are always pampered. There is this belief that such love might convince an abiku child to remain with his earthly family. One of the native doctors that bounds the abiku spirit is Orisha Oshun, located in Oshogbo, Nigeria. This shrine is often visited by thousands of women experiencing steady child mortality.
If all the efforts made to keep the child alive fail and the child dies, special funeral rites are carried out to prevent the abiku spirit from returning to the family. Sometimes, bodily scars are made on the corpse of the child for easy identification on returning to earth. So when a new child is born with those scars, he is quickly identified as an abiku and in some tribes, the child is killed by the priest.