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REG. NO.: 2005096003F
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I certify that this project. The Phenanenon Of Nsi (Poison): Its Implications
On Health Care Delivery SystEm Of The IgOO: A Case Study Of Igbariam is an
original work of Ajakor, Emmanuel Ikechukwu (20050960031-) for the
award of Master of Arts Degree in Religious Studies Clnd Human
Relations in Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka. All references are duly
Date _
This is to certify that this project has been examined and approved for the
Award of Master of Arts (MA) Degree in Religion and Human Relalions
(African Traditional Religion) ofNnamdi Azikiwe University,
Awka - Anambra State.
.......~~.~~ .
Project Supervisor
Name: Dr. Jude E. Madu
Date: C5~ ~ 0 ~s- (7%
....... li\)~.\ .
Ilead of Department
Name: Dr. Jude E. Madu
Date: tJ\:, t- ~'!,. - ~ ~
This research work is dedicaled 10 Almighty God for His 1I1sl'lfallol1 ,Hld
guidance and also 10 my parents Ven & Mrs J E Ajakor
My humble thanks go to Almighty God. who has seen me throllqh this
research work. My heartfelt thanks "'.Isogo to my supervisor Dr Jude
Emeka Madu, Head. Department of Religious and Human Helations,
Sub-dean Faculty of Arts for his fatherly advice, love, encouragement
and assistance in giving this project a meaning.
My special thanks go to my lecturers, The Very Monsignor JPC
Nzomiwu, Very Rev. Prof. DC Okeke. Rev. Fr. BAC Obiefllna, Rev
Canon Benson Udezo, Dr Luke Ugwueye, Dr. Nmah, Rev. Fr. Dr AB.C
Chiegboka, Dr Uche, Dr Mrs Ezenweke for their advice and lectures
which have enriched this work.
I cannot say enough thank you to Veil & Mrs Jonah Eziorachukwu
Ajakor, My loving and caring parents who through their immeasurable
love, care and support raise me up to this heigh!. My ulICllloyed
appreciation goes to my brothers and sisters; Emeka, Chinedll Chroma,
Temple, Joy, my Uncles, Nephew, Nieces, and Aunts for their love and
support throughout the period of the research. My special thanks and
regard go to Ven & Mrs Ezekiel Onuike for his immense contribution to
the progress of this work
Similarly, I appreciate the contributior:ls, distractions and company of my
friends; Rev Alex Oforkansi, Rev Chido Okoye, Mr Obinna Madllabuchi,
Ifeyinwa 1I0h,Chijioke Igweneme, Victor Agu, Felix Oforkansi, Ikechukwu
Nnubia, Mr & Mrs Okoye towards the realizaiion of this goal I am highly
indebted also to the authors whose work I used and all the indiViduals I
interviewed in the course of this work.
To all my colleagues especially Re\l~f1owai, Rev Fr Jude Obldi~bo, Rev
Canon Emman Uzuegbunam, Ven': Mokah, Rev EkekwiI, I really
appreciate your company and intellect discussions
Finally, I cannot thank enough Emeka and Chinedu I\jakol for ttlCir
efforts in typesetting, photocopying and binding this work,
Title page
Certification .....
Approval ..
Table of contents
1.0 Introduction
1.1 Background of the study ...
1.2 Statement of the problem ..
1.3 Purpose of the study ...
1.4 Significance of the study ..
1.5 Scope of the study ...
16 Methodology ..
1.7 Organization of the work.
1.8 Definition of terms.
. ~
Health Explained ...
Origin of traditional mediCine in Igboland
Classification of traditional medicine
Classification of traditional dodors,
2.0 Introduction. 10
2.1 The Nsi phenomenon 11
2.1.1 The brief review of the origin of N:fi among the Igbos 13
2.1.2 Different Dimensions of Nsi . 1-1
2.1.3 Types of Nsi 20
2.2 Nsi within the Igbo cultural diamet{ic. 21
2.3 Nsi in the view of early missionaries 25
2.4 Nsi in the view of Igbo Christians' . 27
2.5 Reality of Nsi..............- 29
25.1 Relationship between Nsi. Ogwu and AJa 33
25.2 The Dlbia.. 35
~5.3 Kinds of Dibia ... 35
25.4 Attributes of a Dibia . 3G
2.5.5 Roles of a Dibia in Nsi phenomenon. .... 3G
2.6 Nsi in the perspective of Igbariam.'cuiture 37
2.6 Summary of literature Review ... _ . 39
34 The role of Agwu in health care delivery system of the Igbo 45
34.1 The role of religiOus specialist or funclionarles in health care delivery
system of the 19bo 46
3.4.2 Priest..... 47
34.3 Medicine Men (Dlbia Ogwu). 47
344 Diviner (Dlbl3 Afa) 48
34.5 Mediums 49
3.6 Traditional medicine. problem and prospect in Christi;]fl dominated
Igboland 49
3.61 Problem of Traditional Medicine 49
36.2 Prospects of Traditional Medicine 51
3.7 Implications of tradilional health care delivery system ViSa-VIS Nsi
phenomenon. 53
4.0 Nsi in Time Perspective 55
4.1 Ancientlgbo period. 55
42 Nsi in contemporary Igbo society. . 58
4.3 The future of Nsi phenomenon inlgbo society 61
4.4 Nsi phenomenon vis-ii-vis the Pentecostal trend of the present Igbo
Christians. 62
4.4.1 Traditional and Contemporary methods of deliverance from Nsi 65
4.4.2 Traditional Method of Deliverance from Nsi . . .65
4.4.3 Contemporary Method of Deliverance from Nsi.. 66
44.4 Personal Critique of these Methods. 67
5.0 Introduction . .........69
5.2 The implication of Nsi phenomenon inlgbo family system 69
5.3 The implication of Nsi phenomenon in Igbo political system 71
54 The implication of Nsi phenomenon in Igbo religious system . 73
5.5 The implication of Nsi phenomenon in Igbo economic systelTl 74
56 The implication of Nsi phenomenon in Igbo social system 75
6.0 Summary and Conclusion. 77
6.1 Principal Findings. 77
62 Contributions to knowledge 78
63 Recommendations 79
64 Suggestions for further research 81
Appendix A Bibliography 82
Appendix B. List of informants 86
Appendix C Questlonaire 87
The research work Investigated the ori~in, meaning, types, functions and
implications of Nsi phenomenon among the Igbo people Nsi
phenomenon developed as some people chose to transform the power
of herbs, which God has put at the disposal of men, to wicked, evil
purposes. The Igbo says, 'Ajo mmadu"bu ajo mmuo' (An evil person is
an evil spirit). The study made use, of, primary and secondary methods
of data collection whereby information were collected from people
through interactions, recordings, oral interviews and published works of
some authors, The findings revealed that Nsi phenomenon is a reality as
far as the Igbo people are concerned. even though this belief cannot be
explained from scientific standpoint,::~lso, the findings revealed that
wickedness, envy, strife, malice, jealo'l1syamong other things gave rise
to the practice of Nsi phenomenon Over and above this, the study
revealed the efficacy of the tradition?1 health care delivery system
especially in treating ailment attributed to Nsi phenomenon
From the earliest tnnes. lhe Igbo believed in some myslenous
phenomena that can harm. kill. cause sickness and mflict P<lIIlS all
individuals These phenomena includ~s
Inye Nsi (poisoning)
Nko Nsi (sorcery) r
Izota Nsi (poison that can kill m}'~teriously or cause swollen foot)
't .'
Iko OgwufAra (Inflicting one with madness)
Ido Ogwu (Burying or hanging of charm to harm a pcrsoll)
Iya Ntutu (pin casting)
These phenomena are believed to be manipulated by the IwllVC doclors
(Ndi Dibia) through their knowledge .01 herbs (Ogwu). " he 1I1ldeilYIng
principle of the above phenomena; is ' to cause harm, l11alll, Inflict
dangerous sickness or diseases al}d' possibly kill fellow Illlflvluuais
through the act of manipulation of O~wu (medicine) by the dibia ogwu
(Native Doctor) It is important to emp~lasize that these mysterious
phenomena have their source from aile channel which IS Ogwu
(medicine) and Ogwu when apf:'lied In different forms Will produce
different results. Hence. owing to the,.,lihg.ulstic problems of the Igbo
language. they tagged anything that is believed to IIlflict sickllcss. cause
body disorders. kill or destroy parts of human body which has l11yslical
undertones or explanation as Nsi.
Igbariam community is one of the cornrnunilies that make lip I\namulil
East Local Government Area of A~ambra State Igbariam IS located in
the North of Anambra East Local Government Aren of I\nambra State It
could be reached by road througl'l. the Enugu-Onitsha express way via
Igbariam junction or through Nteje'-Otucha Junction The corllflllHlIty IS
surrounded by towns like Awkuzu, ~halla, Nando, Ukwulu
Furthermore, the Igbariam community is made up of sevcn villages
namely: Ubaru, Imendo, Ifite, Ana~~em, Eziama, Urualor and Eziafor,
The indigenes of Igbariam commun!ty are peace loving people and very
accommodative Their main sourc~: of income is through farming and
fishing About seventy-five percent of her population are peasant
farmers, In addition, the Igbariam jf.ldigenes are very religiOUS people,
The two main religions in Igbariam community are Chnstranity and
African (Igbo) Traditional Religiof).:: In the area of education, the
indigenes of Igbariam are not left Qu't This is also true In the area of
commerce and skill acquisition J',
That phenomenon of Nsi IS still relevant and prevalent In tillS era of
globalisation, industrialization, uroaillZatlon coupled With med,c,ll,
biological and scientific breakthroughs calls for serious rcsealch II1Is IS
,because the materials that make Lfr:> Nsi when observed sClerlliflcnlly
appear to be mere assumption and superstition, in that the authentiCity
of the beliefs and practises cannot bosubjected to scientific or empirical
It is on record that both the educateC}-Blltes, politicians, philosophers and
r ,
even Christians patronize the service,S' of medicine men for one type of
Ogwu or another for different r3asons Such as protection, SCCllflty, to
harm or kill an opponent in the plac!= of work or polilical f1vahy etc The
fact that these are regular practices ,indicates the strength and tile
position of Agwu in Igbo soclo-cultural a0d religious diametric
Also, the advent of Christianity has chilfJed the thought patterns of the
Igbo especially in the area of morality The bias of early Ctllistian
missionaries forbids and condemns her adherent from patronizing n;]\Ive
doctors not to talk of indulging in NS~,J)ractise Christianity In orders
words condemns mixing of any sort (Madu, 2006) It IS believed that
most of the Igbo people are Christians,'Bnd in this Christian donllnated
area, the practice of Nsi phenomenon i,s'highly prevalent
Therefore, belief in Nsi phenomenon is still something that remains
persistent and strong in the minds ,ilf the Igbo despite the Inodern
breakthrough in science and technology Tills is attested by the rnanner
at which some academicians, politicians business moguls and even
religious leaders seek for such black ,power that can harm 1)(~')pl(J If
these calibres of people who have acqu'ir'ed much knowledge ailr)ut the
universe and life can turn round to patronize or partlcip;lte III tile
"condemned" Nsi practice, IS it not enough sign tllat Nsi phenomenon
. '
still enjoys a high level of value or' ~Hention (whether positive or
negative) in the lives of the Igbos? " .
It is something that needs not to be ig"iiored Hence, the intention to
investigate the cause of these realitie6 'in our society conslltutes tile
background of this research.
The background knowledge above. reveals that the belief III Nsi
phenomenon as a practice remains persistent and strong In the nllnds of
the Igbo despite globahs<ltlon. modernization and Int(~lIectu<l1
sophistication in science and technology
The researcher's observation In some parts of AnanltJra St;lt(~ r ,spr 'clally
In Igbanam community revealed that thepeople are afraid to ;lSSOCl<ltc
freely with their fellow indigenes, search for firewood in cell;lIn farlll
lands, eat freely with other people eve.n with their own relations fOl fear
of possible contamination or infection of Nsi
Conflict, crisis, crime. greed. doubt, dls~nlty. hatred etc have been some
of the factors that necessitate, givin9.-,lnflrcting and burYing of Nsi I\lso,
the mysterious nature of Nsi phenorflenon, form and effect Oil the
persons or individuals affected constltut~ our research problem.
Phenomenological. the observable materials that make up the Nsi Ilave
no gun, matchets and any visible wea~_~, yet, it is believed that It kills,
pin-down its victims, control actions of individuals and at times giv(~s the
individuals responsible for Nsi phencm~non confidence Therefor(), the
objects or materials used in preparif.lg' the Nsi. the languaqc or
.: ..
incantations or expressions used at the point of Nsi preparation and the
effects are of serious concern to the researcher
Fu~hermore, diseases or effects caus~d' by Nsi phenomenoll ale
believed to resist the modern mediCine am,j treatment l3Clscd 011 tillS,
traditional means of treatment/healing rillses a sell()US concelll to the
Against these backdrop therefore, what could be the faclrJls that
contribute to the erosion of community consciousness which 1I1v;111ably
paved way for the Nsi phenomenon? .Also, CCln It be said that the
Christians who form the large pro.p~rtion of the Igbo population see no
evils in the practice of Nsi phenome,non? Can it be said th;)t the current
trend of Nsi practice aligns with th~ Igbo world view? Or IS there <lny
benefit associated with the practice of Nsi? These and more constltutc
the research problems whrch will be given many appraisals III our study
The purpose of the study is to ascertain issues concerning the belief in
the phenomenon of Nsi coupled With its Implication on the health care
delivery system of the Igbos.
To be precise, this study aims at finding oul: -
-. The origin and meaning of Nsi phenomenon
- Exploring the mysteries or forces behind Nsi phenomenon
- The various types of Nsi and th~ir operational nature
- The influences of Nsi phenomenon in shaping the U(JIl<lvloural
paltern, value scales and altitudinal orientations of the Igbos
- The structure. characteristics. ~yrnbols and venues elnployed III
Nsi phenomenon will be examined with particular reference 10
Igbariam community.
Fil)ally, we shall investigate the implications of Nsi phenomenon on tile
health care delivery system of the Igbo This area is IIlformed agalllst tile
backdrop that the traditional means ,~f treatment seems to be Illor c
effective in treatment of ailmellts caused by Nsi 11I0re tllan tile nHJdclfl
means of treatment
19bo people will be made to know through this research that the value of
life is not to be compared with any other thing "Ndu bu isi" (life IS
supreme). With regard to thiS. we hqpe that the incessant loss of tlUlI1<Jn
lives through Nsi phenomenon will be drastically reduced I he distrust,
SUsp,cion, accusations and counl~f accusation which ,lie always
associated with the Nsi phenomeno,wlli be given lI1uch appr;lIsal Willetl
will go a long way 10 enthrone Pace, stability, love, unity alltJ will
invariably pave way for the mutual arid peaceful co existence ,lf1l0ng the
Igba people
This research is set to enlighten the f~bo people on the grLlve dangers uf
Nsi phenomenon This could be ach'ieved through social re ollentatlon.
change in mindset which before now had been infected with hatred,
enormity. vindictiveness, malice, malignity and other vicious thoughts
which brew the Nsi practices
In the academic circles. this research
studies and African
this resemch deals on
contemporary issue that is centred on tiuman life, thought and p<lltern of
living This area of research will cap!ure the interest of any student In
~frican studies and Afllcan Traditional J~eligion
Furthermore, in the area of tradltion~l.' health care delivery systell1, thiS
research Will be hl~Jhly Significant in pro)eCllng the content value of the
health care delivery system whrch Will break off the shackles uf
prejudice, doubts that are weighing: so Ill<lny uown cOn(('11\1119the
traditional practise" rn general With thiS, the Igoo (both educaled and
non-educated) will once lI10re begll :Jo. appreciate tillS cultUI ;11values,
which are on the verge of drowning 'll1'ts eventually will sow the seed of
awareness which when mature and is delivered will give loom to
tolerance. unity. harmony. mutua! .. co-existence and unuogmatic
approach to Igbo belief and practice With emphaSIS on the IqlJo heallh
care delivery system
To this end. the beneficiaries of this' research are students who arc
interested in the area of African studi~s and African Traditional !{rJliglon
Also. the Department of Heliglous Studies of various hl~JIH~11I1,;11lutlons
and Colleges of Education In the country will benefit from Ihls IcsciHch
Furthermore. all Igbo will benefit frorn this research because II ,lIms al
promoting order. solidarity. unity. stab.ility, discipline and a paltr!lIleu way
of behaving in accordance with the .~bjectives and social values of IIle
This study centres on Igbarian}'f;91,T)inunity in Anambra I ast Local
.' .
Government of Anambra State The <;1101ceof Igbanam ISto plovide the
necessary depth to the study as :tl.e researcher is from Igbariam
community where Nsi phenomenon IS :prevalent.
The data for this work were gathered .lhfough
(a) Oral Interviews - The chOice fm this emanated due to paucity of
literature on the Issue of Nsi 'Also most of the people that will
relay vital information for this work lack the ability to wllte tl1e'l
views down
(b) Written materials both publish(~d, and unpublished wel C' c()nsull(~d
1hese materrals Include presented papel s. hI oct II II ('';. Jou"l<ll~
and so on However. the pu~llshed materials consulted were the
works of African scholarsa~(lcolonial anthropologists
This work is divided into six chapters. The first chapter of the work
introduced us into the concepts of Nsi phenomenon within a particular
region. Also, the highlight of what motivated this research was
mentioned In chapter two. the reiated'ilteratures were reviewed chapter
three deals with health care delivery system among the tradltlO/lal Igbo
of Nigeria. In chapter four, Nsi ph~omenon in time perspeclive (past
present and future) will be discussed Chapter five CXilrTlllleS the
implication and significance of Nsi phenomenon In the lylJo society
Chapter six is the summary and '~.onclusion, recommendCltlons CllllJ
suggestions for further research. The. iilppendix which includes the lists
of informants. the pictures that will .~elp the reader understand the Nsi
phenomenon was also enclosed.
Nsi - This is a deadly concoction/:ni9('~~'e prepared by the natrv(; doclol
in order to harm or kill a fellow individ'ual It IS also a type of mayic thai
uses evil spirits
~: .
Health - This is state or condition ot'.a~sence of physical ailrTl(~nts frorTl
the body. Health for Africans IS far m~re social than biological It does
not entirely mean an absence of physjGal ailment That there IS a clear
unitary concept of psychosomatic., inter-relations IS an apparent
reciprocity between mind and mailer (Qri:unwa in Madu 200424)
Ogwu (Medicine) - The Igbo have,a film belief in the power of IIHJdlCllle
(Ogwu) Making/preparing rnedlclli'e IS called Igwo Ogwulilis same
term translates the making of every kind of mediCine wheth[~r curalive,
protective medicine made to secure good luck or offensive medicine
However, the term Iko Nsi (sorcery) or making bad mediCine IS used to
distinguish the evil use of medicine from its good uses 1\11 11H'[liclIle<lIe
made from herbs, hence the Igbojnoverb Ogwu agwu n'ofia, afifa na
aku ogwu. (Medicine in the bus!',';can never be exhausted because
medicine is extracted from herbsf Different herbs producc diffcrent
medicine and successful Igbo herbal1stcan cure many body <lllInellts by
their use (Metuh 1999 rep 125)
Dibia - This term translates natiVe doctor A person who IS endowed
with the knowledge in the mysterieS"pf native and making mcdlclne and
manipulation of medicine.
Agwu Nsi - The spirit believed .{o. be responsible for healing and
divination by the Igbo Agwu-Nsi is~'helordof divination and healing
, ,
Igbo - A tribe in Nigeria It is also:'lhe name of language of Igbo trrbe
1I0gu(1972 2) observed that "the word'ibo is now used to indicate "a
language group as well as a culture ~.roup"
The task of writing about Nsi phenomenon among the Igbo with a
particular reference to Igbariam ,community in Anambra East Local
Government of Anambra State is done with utmost caution beallng in
i ;:'
mind the inadequacy of existing res~arch materials. Be that as it may,
the researcher embarks on the primary 'and secondary sources for more
information on the subject Nsi ph~nomenon among the I~JlJois a
mystical practice believed to have e~;;lved and developed from tile time
immemorial by our ancestors in the, q6est to safeguard their b()longings,
command respect within the Village clrc,lesand attract a sense of awe to
them. This phenomenon has since been used to protect, promote one's
fame, scare off people (especially cr~i'rials) among the Igbo.l hese can
be understood against the back~rop' that the adminls!r ation and
knowledge of Nsi IS obtainable throuih' tile manipulation and knowled~w
~' ..
of Ogwu (mediCine) This has to b~":LJnderstoodWith reference to lilt!
cosmology of the Igbo people. From lIie' cosmology, we undr~1stalld lhat
the Igbo have a unified view of re'ahty If1 the quest to filld out tile
mysteries of existence. For Ihis te~son Madu (1997 133) rightly
observed that
f' "
African early ancestors in /lloireffof1s /0 find ra/ional
explana/ion /0 /Ile mys/enes:, of. ex/s/enco formula/erl
/Ileir /hough/ in myths, legemJs, folk/alas, provorbs and
, .
, "
Therefore, the above assertion attests "ro the fact that these forrnulLileJ
thought and practices sum up ttle~ p,eople'sway of life which is
observable in Igbo (African) belief. system and practises It is als0
". .
important to emphaSize thai people's velie! system and pracliu)s a tUllOS
:' ~.
becomes difficult to IJ1terpret especially by people
outside the cosmological base
Thus, the use of Nsi though viewed. in the negative aspect form one of
the practices of the Igbo It is mystical and magical in nature which aims
at controlling individuals, inflicting harm. pam, diseases <Jndeven death
to fellow human being Like stated earlier, a lot is involved in Nsi practice
and so utmost caution should be t~~en while embarking in the review of
Nsi phenomenon
For a proper understanding of this ~~view, the ideas are arranged In tillS
The Nsi phenomenon its meaning - content
Nsi within the Igbo cultural diametric
Nsi in the view of early missionaries.
Nsi in the views of Igbo Christians
The reality of Nsi in Igbo soci'ety.
Nsi in the perspective of Igbari'ain culture.
Summary of the literature review',
Nsi can be said to be the diabolic m~ans of uSing herbs or medicines
(Ogwu), malign spiritual forces and incantations to harm, inflict sickness
and pain and possibly kill a fellow h~man being This phenumenon IS
mystical in nature because it involves.~i.lletransformation of tile power or
herbs, which God has put at the d~posal of men to wicked alld eVil
purposes The Igbo says 'Ajo mmadJ:bu ajo mnluo' (/\Il evrl person IS
an evil spint) (Mctuh 1999 rep 127)
Igbo (African) were no foreigner in t~e practice of mystical and magical
phenomenon. There IS no African soqlety which does not hold belief In
mystical power of one type or another The Igbo believe that there IS
mystical power in words especially those of a senior person to a JlHllor
one, in terms of age. social status or office position. The words of
parents for instance carry power whe'h spoken to children. They cause
good fortunes, curse, success, peace, sorrows or blessings especially
when spoken in moments of crises, .Also, the words of rnedicllle man
work through the medicine he gives and it is this, perhaps more than the
actual herb, which is thought to cause the cure or prevent misfortune
and in case of Nsi phenomenon, cau;;e harm inflict sickness and deadly
Mbiti (1967197) rightly echoed that ,0
There is myslical (magical) p~owe~wllicll causes peoplo
to walk on fire, to lie on Ihol175 or lIalis 10 send curses
or harm. illcluding dealh froltF a e!lslallce (ie Nsi), to
cllange inlo animals (lycantlilOpy) 10 spit all snakes
and cause Ihem 10 sp1ll open and (!Ie Power 10 slupefy
thieves so that they can lJe .c'u'ug/ll Icd Iwndee!, IJOIVL'I
to make IIwnimale objects "Iinn IIlto biological IIVII!'}
crealures, these IS power flldt ellal)los experts 10 Sl'('
into secrets, hidden informalion 01 tllC fulure 01 to
detecl thieves and olher culpM;;. Tllis mystical POWOI
is nol fie/ion' whatever il is. 'ii is rea1lly and one wIIIJ
which African people, have. 10 leckoll. Everyone is
directly or indireclly affecled'. for lJetter or for worse, liy
beliefs alld activities con{Jeclee! with Ihis POWOI,
parlicularly in its mallifeslatrf1n as magic, sOlcery and
witchcraft "
,'" ~ ,4
Mbiti though not an Igbo scholar yet exposed the Igbo (African)
understanding of mysterious pheno~e'110nof Nsi The Nsi ph(~l1ornenon
cannot be explained but its reality cannot be denied.
Nsi phenomenon which involves sen~ng sickness. curses and possibly
death will be concentrated upon with tHe mindse! to present the views of
scholars and non scholars towards the paranormal activity allirbuted to
:he Igbo
The origin of Nsi phenomenon cannot ,be dated to a particular period It
spans for ages. What developed into this dreadful phenomenon ISclash
of power between individual to determine who is superior, wl10 is more
powerful and who should be respecteq A classical example frol11 the
bible is Moses and Egyptian magician~.
Exodus 710-11 (RSV) posits
So Moses and Aaron went tQ P/wlDoh and did as 1/10
Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his rod !Jefo/C
Pharaoh and his servants. l}(1d it !Jecame a smponl
Then P/l8raoh summoned the wise men and the
sorcerers and they a/so. the nJagicians of Egypt. (lid
the same by their secret alts ..
" \
Nsi is an age long issue and It is seem in otl1er cultures of Ille world
Though it mode of operation and types-may vary In Ille Igbo society, the
.", .
origin of Nsi phenomenon cannot be dated to a parlicular era The
modern or present era is also ';Vitnessing the praclice of Nsi
phenomenon. By and large. Nsi origi~~ed from the transformation of the
power or herbs, which God has put althe disposal of men to wicked and
evil purposes. The knowledge 0( ogwu (medicine) its diabolic
,.- .'-.
application/manipulation for selfish and wicked purposes gave birth to
Nsi phenomenon Simply put. Nsi is. ~{O-Og,u (8ad Medicine) (Cy"1
Odeli, Personal Communicalion June:!?, 2007)
The etymology of the word Nsi was .derived from Nsi (Human excreta)
Nsi (excreta) which IS a solid and Iiq~id waste passed from the body is
repulsive in nature and as such considered poisonous by the Igbo
Serves no useful purposes such as feeding on it. playing with It, admirmg
It because of it repulsive and poisOhOUSnature
The word Nsi also acts as suffix to some Igbo words such as "I\wansi" -
translates magic but the word actually means manipulation of Nsi
Manipulation of Nsi can lead to vari:ous forms of magic "' he rllotlve of
the individual or specialist that manipulates the Nsi deterrT1lrl(~s lIH~
outcome of the result In this context, Nsi can be said to be Ajo Ogwu
(Bad medicine)
Agwu - Igbo deity that is responsible for divination and mediCine. ThiS
deity is invoked to give power to medicine (ogwu) It is worthy to note
that ogwu is not just herbs It must t;J,~charged with spiritual power by the
use of rites, spells and invocatiorls"'(fv,~tUh, 1999 rep 126) "Ofokansi -
Ofo (Justice) is greater than poison (I?jizu 1986 129).
Nsi being an Igbo word has no E.r\glish equivalent but such English
wordslitems like pOlson,- sorcery, ri6"~fi11, spell, voodoo, witchcraft and
magic (black magic) are associatediW}th It.
The reason for these terms rs bec'~"~se of the mystical nature 01 Nsi
phenomenon which cannot be adequately defined or descrrbed
Encarta Dictionary tools (2006) dcfK1dPoi'son
t .
As toxic substance a sub~tarice that causes Illness InJlIIY or
death if taken into the body or:lJ,foduced with the body
Negative influence: something that exercises a powerful
destructive or corrupting force, especially in an insidious way
Hornby (2000) defines poison as a substance that causes death or harm
if it is swallowed or absorbed intoJti~; body
An idea, a feeling, etc that is extremely harmful.
Redmond (2006) defined Poison as':
Any subslance 117,81 produces disease
condilions. lissue inju'.. or ol/Ierwise inlerrupls
nalural life processes 'when 111 contact wilh or
absorbed inlo Ihe b0G!Y Mosl poisons laken in
sufficienl quanlily are lelhal A poisonous
subslance may origina/e as a mineral,
vegelable. or an animC!( and If may assume Ihe
form of a solid, liquid or gas. A poison,
depending on Ihe IYP&,,1uay allack I/Ie swfacc
of II)(~body or more seri~l:IS/y. inlernal organs of
Ihe cenlralnervous sys/fJn.1
Walker (ed) (2004) defined aforeme,ntloneu terms as follows
Sorcery as pretended employme,nt of supernatural agencies magic,
witch or any remarkable or inexplicable means of accomplishment.
Necromancy - Divination by mear~s of pretended CqnHnWlIC<ltlon With
the dead.
Voodoo - a primitive religion of Wt;s! African origin found among Italian
and West Indian Negroes and Negroes of the Southem United Stales,
characterised by belief in sorcery and the use of charm, felishes, and
Witchcraft - The practice or Po~(~ of witches or wizard especially
'.~ .
when regarded as due to dealings' with eVil spirit or the devils. bl,lCk
magic, sorcery also an instance of such practice
~,.. ~.
Charm - Act or words believed to Ii~~e magic power
Magic - Any supernatural art, sorcefy, necromancy.
Black Magic - Any of the branc~es of magic which invoke the aid of
demons or spirits as witchcraft or &,iabolism. It is important to emphasize
that the meaning of these terms used in associating the Nsi
phenomenon overlap Attempt to define one of these terms will invariably
connect to the other.
A Watch Tower Publication (WTP)'(1980 298) observes thatmystellous
phenomenon consist of spell, special curses and the eVil eye that brlJ1g
harm to one's enemy". It continues thus
Much of the concept of magic-working sorcery is I)i/se(/
on the belief tllat evil spir~/ can be induced either to
leave or to enter a persort fllat tlley can I)e trickecl ;/1/(1
deceived and tlley can be captured or lrappecl 11/ iI
piece of wood or a clay"image For example, If is
claimed that by making magic paths of honey or ol/Ier
agreeable things, the demons can be led around at 1/10
will of the magician. .
Parrinder (1962 116) being a European scholar in African Tradilional
Religion gave
a vague description
of African
(Igba) rnyslical
He is of the opinion that mystical phE.H10menan is much feared and many
charms are worn with objects of defealinglt by the use of a stronyer
power. Babies are loaded with br-acele!s-and charms to protect them
from evil influence and witchcraft. Lovers protect themselves against
their rivals or jealous husband, Farmers anu blacksmiths arm
themselves against accidents with their tools which may have been
caused by sorcerers Rings are worn against snakes sent by evil men
Against this backdrop. Parrinder (1962116) concluues
All manner of evil. thai might otherwise be cnlloll
acciden/al or misfortunes is altribu/ell /0 (/1(.'
malfeasance of sorcerers, broken limbs, CI Will),
in/ernal pains. s/illborn babies, twins and any unusual
events are taken as showing /hal sorcerers are on 1/1(]
Mbiti (1969: 119) laid the matter to rest when he clearly slated Ihat:
Evil (black) magic involves Ihe belief in and praclice of
lapping and using Ihis ,(evil) power 10 do Iwrm 10
human beings or their propel1y. /I is here Ihal we ftnd
sorcery a/ work, in addilion /0 a/her relaled practices
we mus/ poinl oul, however. Ihal a greal deal of belief
here is based on or derives from fear. suspiCIon,
jealousies. ignorance. or false accusalions, which lJO
on in African wages People fear /0 leave around I/leil
hair, nails, clo/hes or olher al1icles wilh which Ihey are
normally in direcl con/ael in case Iheir enemies will use
Ihem and work evil magic againsl Ihem The hair or
nails may be burnl or pricked or olherwise used in a
harmful way and Ihis cause infliclion on I/le person for
whom Ihey come. /I is feared Ihal an enemy mighl IJUI
thorns on a person's fool prinl. alll/ihus cause IWIIII 10
him. This is whal Jame's FlDzel dislll1guislws ns
"Con/agious Magic" His, ol/wr useful calegOlY IS
"Homeopalhic Magic" which in Aflic(Jn socie ''':'t.'rJ~,
be illus/mled with endless ,examples. Till> J'IOI\jtJ~tJD(~
belief /hal whal happens '10 an olJjucl ft:h lo0't\irb~ ~ ..
anolher will affecl he lalteI For ex rapI9"''t1f1''Cf1(]fllY ~
might make a doll wllluh. replesdlh a JXIII/cuJar ." )
person. and by bUlI1l11gor pnckll1g Iha~()IPrt IS iJellOvp. /
Ihal Ihe person would be I)almec! acc~~1J~7
Iwo cajagories of magical belief and practices funcl/on,
however in both ;J>Jodand evil ways. /I is when usee/
maliciously Ihar Ihis mystical power is condemned as
"black magic", "evil magic" or "sorcery" .
. '
The laller part of this assertion agraes with the earlier stated fact that the
transformations of herbs which God has put at the disposal of men IIlto
wicked and evil purposes brew the. formation of Nsi phenomenon. The
Igbo normally say 'Ajo mmadu bu ajo mmuo' (An evil person is an evil
spirit). Furthermore, since bad medicine (Ajo Ogwu) transforms into Nsi,
among the most feared peopleiri the society (Igbo) are 'Ndi n'akpa Nsi
ma 0 bu Ndi na-agwo ajo ogwu' both terms translates and mean
sorcerers, evil men who prepare medicine to hurt others
Most African and Igbo scholars esp~cially scholars in African Traditional
Religion and African Culture take Nsi to mean sorcery r echnically
speaking, sorcery involves the use-of poisonous ingredient Into the food
or drink of an individual with the target to kill him or her ThiS definition
does not convey the desired understanding of what the Igbo take Nsi
phenomenon 10 mean. For Igbo (African) people. Nsi phenomenon
stands for anti-social employment of mystical and magical power to harm
a fellow individual People that are a linked with Nsi practice are tile
most feared and hated members of their comrnunilles. It IS cor11/11011
knowledge for the Igbo people that perpetrators of Nsi ph(~l1omenon
employ all sorts of ways to harm olher people or their belongrngs. For
example, they send files, snakes, lions or other animals to attack their
enemies or carry diseases to theni, They spit and direct tho spittle With
secret incantations to go and harilr~omeone They dig up graves to
remove human flesh or bones which they use in their practices, The
Invoke spirits to allack or possess so[neone
In the course of this research, Chime'zie (2007) narrated how hiSmolher
was allacked uSing a fly (insect) to kill her He said that her mother came
/ "
back from market and on welcomin~ her, an insect entered her rnouth
The insect refuse to go down to the belly and didn't corne out either l3ut
it continued whistling inside his' mother's throat lillie moment on, her
mother went pale and severe fever took possession of her They (I e
their family) went round with his mother to all hospitals, but all test
carried out her testified that she is normal. It took the intervention of a

native doctor (Oibia ogwu) to sav'e her mother's life (Chllllelie Ezulke,
Personal Communication, Sept 2~i2007) Igbo people feel and behave
that all the various ills, miSfOrtl.i~es, Sickness, aCCidents, tragedies,
sorrow, dangers and unpleasan.1.rnysteries which they encounter 01
experience are caused by the use;of this mystical power in Ille hands of
" '
perpetrators of Nsi phenomenon" Based on this, we may realize fOI
example, that a bereaved mother.whose child has died fmm malaria will
not be satisfied with the scientific,explanation that a mosquito carrying
malaria parasite slung Ihe child and caused it 10 suffer and die frolll
malaria, She will wish to know wt1y~I/le mosquilo stung her child and not
somebody else's child. The only~~atisfactory answer is IImt someone
sent the mosquito or worked othe(mysterious deeds agamst her cl1ild.
This is not a scientific answer" buI,t is reality and most welcome for
majority of Igbo people. We ma'y easiJy get rid of mosquitoes and
prevent many diseases, bul there"will always be accidents, cases of
barrenness, misfortunes, and other unpleasant experiences, For Igbo
these are not purely physical expenence, they are Inystical and
Nothing harmful happens by chance, almost everything IS caused by
someone directly or though the use of mystical power. People in the
villages with portlcular reference to Igbanam community will talk freely
about them for they belong to thel'r world of reality, whatevcl else the
educated cream of the sOCl(:ty :mght say does not really Illatt('1
")I' ..
The Igbo have different types of N~i phenomenon They types of Nsi ale
as follows:
(a) Nsi that is given as poison This kll1d of Nsi may hr> In liquid or
powdery form It IS also carried 111the finger tipS It IS given
through sharing of food, kola and drinks -I he Victim once
contaminated starts to witness severe heartburn, stomach ache
The stomach ache may g~adually develop into 'Mbekwu Afo'
(swollen stomach). 'N'anya~1 ewelugo oji' ('The night has t8ken
kola) becomes a polite way of refusing kola for fem of being
poisoned with the Nsi that i~ carried in the finger tips
(b) Nsi that is sent through the~ir: pins/needles, leprosy, deadly flies,
madness etc are sent through air This kind of Nsi IS carried out
through mystical and magical powers in the hands of the black
(evil) magician
(c) Nsi that is tied and se~lkd with padlock to retmd people's
progress Being an evil phenomenon, it is mystical and magical in
(d) Nsi that is spread or burieq.,inside the ground. This type of Nsi is
in powdery substance for tb~ one to be spread on the surface of
the ground and also contajlied 111a small clay pot or tied together
for that which will be buried Irlside the ground The target of thiS
klrld of Nsi is to kill the intehdlng victim and tillS can be <Jetllcved
", ,6'
by mentioning the name o~'t!le II1tendlng Victims n<.lllie ill the POlilt
of preparation of tile Nsi ,i'lowever, If another pers()11 Illistilkeilly
steps on the Nsi outside tt,Jq intelldlng victim, the Nsi Will not kill
the person rather it can cause swollen foot (known as OedCllliJ In
Medical/ Scientific terms), r;;lshes and body decay
'., .
(e) Nsi that is used during Masq~erades to discredit or harm thell
opponent especially during festivals The Igbo normally say 'ka
asi si akona Nsi, asi si e'ena aju', (The law which forbids
poisoning others, does it mean that you may not cause 1I1cm at
least some dizziness), This statement to some extend permits the
use of ajo ogwu (bad medicine) during Masqueradc fcstlvals 1\
contradiction to Igbo worldview as regards the belief III cornrllunity
(f) Nsi that is mysteriously give~ 'thtough eating in drcams For the
Igbo people, eating in dream -is not a good omen bccause of the
fact that one can be initiated or poisoned through eating in a
dream Ttlis category IS believed to be manipulated by witches
and wizcHd
Culture literally means peoples wa{ of life It can also me;1I1 the custom
and belief, arts, and social organisation of a particular group Cultule
does not exist in a vacuum but is ,Principally situated wltllln tI\() people
perception of tile universe People's ,perception of the unlver sc IS fuumJ
in their Cosmology or World view
.t- "
The term cosmology equally has to'do With the totality of a people's
'. ;. .
way of life, a people's way of ~r,ceiving, interpreting, relating and
responding to things around them 'Ekwunlfe (1993) is of the view that
cosmology is t,
All allempt to give a unified meanmg illld
ullderslnlldillg to man's'eX(Jeriences of life nll<l
the universe lie finds Ilili/self t/UOUg/l eel 1,1111
1 "
..~. -:
This assumption can be ascrtained through myths, proverbs,
metaphors, customs, taboos, beliefs and practises that developed as a
result of day to day experiences ,'and observation of a particular race,
tribe or culture, Achebe in Mad~ d997 4) posits;
Different cultures have different ways of on1erillCj I!wir
world Each mode is a lens though which mall, in a
given culture vices his wOlk1 Each culture lens ellables
it to see only a certain pilst 'of tile worle1 but albol/, one
which gives meaning to' it ex is/once, If ono wovo CJ
different lens, he would see a different world
The traditional Igbo cosmology 5ays EJlzu (1986143) is essenlially a
religions one Religion provided the baSIC and unifying vIsion through
which everything is perceived it;: is therefore not surprising ltwt the
traditional value system and atiitudlllal orientation of tile Igbo as
prevalently religious", The traditional value system and attitudinal
orientation of the Igbo as articul;t~(j by EJizu (1986 143) are
A unified view of Reality
A sense of community.
Human life its enhancement'!and continuity
The above points can be enlarged"as follows-
(A) That traditional Igbo cosmology'ls a religious one, a cosmology
which holds a unified view of 'reality This is understandable under
the back drop that all the spheres of Igbo cosine structure and their
inhabitants are in continuous interaction like a spiders web, any
break in the segment will affest the others
(B) Man is at the centre of everything But he is not alone He exists for
the community and the comm'unity exist for him, This IS echoed In
Mbiti's word "I am because we are and since we are therefore I am,
This bring out the community-, consciousness among Itle Igbo thus,
.' 1
he has be his brother's keeper, and also relies on the p;.)tronageof
the gods and his neighbours This underscores why neighbours
help one to build a house. cultivate yam and harvest It. participate
actively in marriage and burial rites
(C) Human life is supreme and everything is done to keep ,t on Thus
sickness diminishes life and 59 it cause must be diagnosed through
divination and appropriate me',isures to restore IifelllUs, this world
is exhorted and valued more)han any other world, Man wants to
live long and thus he keeps in touch positively with spiritual powers
who, as it were guarantee h,i~ secunty and continued existence,
Thus childlessness is abhorrfi?d and must be guarded against.
Childlessness implies extinction of lineage which must be resisted
by marrying a second wife. 'Am uta nwa, nwa muta ibe ya'. (When
a child is born, he is expec..tedto give life I birth to others) (Madu
Nsi phenomenon among the Igbo has no footing or place in the
aforementioned traditional value scale and attitudinal orientallon of the
Igbo. This observation raises a crilftal question as where is the place of
Nsi phenomenon within the Igbo cultlmil.diametric?
Proffering answers to this question, Meluh (198683) observed thus
"," .
African world-views share lIie belief tl1al tile 100ls of
many physical evil lie in somQ moral evils. There we
four causes wl1ich feature fi",que!ltly as the expla!lation
of pl7ysical evils God. evil $p'irits. wicked men usinq
magic powers or witchcr{lft powers for anti-social
plJIposes . African wOl1dvie~s ;';Ire ileavily populated IJY
evil spirits of various kinas ./it1ost ale spirits or Ille (lend
who have nol reached tile 'anceslral !lame. A few nIl.'
non 11lIman spirit Some attack in groups. Ol/IOIS WI'
single spiril. They all share [Jle COli/ilion cl18raclerisIIC.'i
that they attack people for. n9' just !CaSOI/S,.. witcl/(:Iafl
and sorcelY are il/ustratioil of how, on one IWlld
physical evil dellve from moral evils, and IIIe SOCial
dimensions of African sense of SII1 on IIw ollwr JolIl
witches and sorcerers engage trJ IIw illicil IIse of
supernatural powers 10 harm IIleir fellow men
Collaborating with the above view.jArinze(197055) have Ihis to say
concerning factors (spirits) respong,ible for Nsi phenomenon within the
Igbo Cultural Diametric
Who are these wiCKed ax-co/porate Iwnwn SII/IIP
They are spirils of SlIch "people as these s[I(:lIf/('I>(1
persons, IIseless or lazy llj/nwl/ied people wi/a e//llll/(1
their ea/thly life lime Iwd no c!lIh1ICn, no S<lVlllfjS, flO
decenl home, people who' were ve/sed in Cli/llo ,111<1
wickedness. social misfits and burdens on 1110
community as well as publiC sco/llges. people cruelly
sold into slavery. those who hanged themselves 0/
died violent deaths, those' killed trJ the act of stealiflq,
those killed by alusi(ndi IilLi alusi, Ie pe/jUlers punislwe} /
with death), women who died III childbiJ1h. people lor
whom no final funeral riles were performed" ,these
spirits are terror for the Ibo pagan The Ibos, <IS
Leonard notes, "are n}uch afraid of these golJlifls
because they consider tReni to act in a iliad 011<1
foolish manner. am} belie~e fllem 10 be irresponsilJ/e
yet vicious and malignant", 'Probably 110adjectives can
be strong enough to express what Ihe Ibo flunks of
these Akalogeh Their capacities for evil are lIIalllfolcl
They are capricious to fI~ extreme and deligllt III
torturing the innocent ThL~9 ,evil spirits fly about anll
do untold harm. ", , '
Based on these assertion that hold~,that the Igbo (African) worldvlew IS
densely populated with evil spirits. and these evil(disCmbodled) spirits
which targets to cause untold harm to indiVidual living in the society al e
invoked by the 'dibias" (native doctor) in concocted objects slich as Nsi
phenomenon This disembodied 'SPIritS occupy and CXf'<;ule the
assignment att"buted to Nsi This asslgnmcnt may be to kIll tlJ(~J)(!ISUIl,
calise swollen legs or parts of the body, pin casting and all tllf~ I,k(!s of
,.""' .
harm tllat is attributed to Nsi pllenomenon The act of II1voklnu the
disembodied spints on objects to e~,ecute deslunated funclions falls
witllin tile scope of E B Tylor's theor~:.of Allimism Animism dpals wltll
the 'belief in spirit beings' For Tylor, he saw the anima as a shadowy,
vaporous image animating the objed it occupied and also have tile
capability of leaving tile body and entering other men, animals or things
and continuing to live after death (Mbit~19697) .
The evil spirits that now inhabit tile Nsi materials carry out tile functions
or acts attributed to Nsi The role of the ,evil spirit in Nsi phenomenon IS
clearly manifested in the type of Nsi tllat is buried or spreCld for
someone inIon the ground. At the pain' of preparing this type of Nsi, tile
name of the intending victim is mentioned In thrs way, the evil spirit by
the position of knowing the victim ~s well as every individual in the
community carries out the act OgbuhaJagu (2006) a native doctor in
Igbariam community testifies that the~vil spirits that carry out the act of
Nsi phenomenon is an act shrouded In mystery and secrecy whicll
cannot be fully grasp or undEit'Stand (OgbunaJagu I'(~rsOfiaI
Communication 24'" November 2006)'~>
Anyanwu (1999152) rightly observed t11at
Tile European missionary to4lfJican (and Igooland In
parlicular) came with precon~:eivcd 110tion tilat tilcle
were no religion at all in African or that it was entirely of
tile DevIl The missionaries tlJe.refore considered it thei,
duty nol only 10 converl tile Igpo'to Cllristianity out also
to make them g~e up and for~et their past entftely al/(l
live up to their new dignity 'F;/C planting of CllIisliilllity
in Igbo land hit at the very',$oul of the society al/(l
invariabty caused problems .vf varying magnitude III
Igbo fife alief culture .-
~. ~
;-, ,
The assertion above gave a true picture of how the missionaries took
Igbo peoples life pattern and religion They came solely to evangelise
and impact the gospel on our peoPle without any intention to study the
culture and religion of the people Owing to their lack of interPst to study
the belief and culture of the Igbo.people, the missionanes wrote out
culture off as evil, barbaric, pagC!,~ism, heathenism. fetish and have
nothing good in it. These derogatmg terms the early Illissionanes
labelled in the culture of the Igbo affected the perception lowards the
Igbo people
This perception was clearly echoe~ by Bishop Ajayi Crowther in one of
his letters to their headquarters in Sierra Lone, "We need more hands
for all the Igbo land as the citadel t!f evil" (Madu 2006), This statement
clearly portrays the vie~ the ar-rly missionaries concerning the Igbo
culture and religion, This missionar',ies having labelled most of Igbo life
pattern, culture and religion as evil" and wicked due to their lack of
interest to study the people. Nsi prtenomenon automatically is among
the wicked life styles of the Igbos, .'
What more can be said when the good aspect of Igbo culture was
labelled. evil. pagan. barbaric. fetlsl1, by the missionaries, flOW much
more the ones the Igbo themselves look at as evil and Wicked It is
worthy of note that the views of :early missionaries concerning the
culture of the Igbo (both good an~' bad) including Nsi phenomenon IS
that it must be abandoned, dropp~d and abolished because of their
preconceived notion that there is ri~thlllg good in it. This notion of eally
missionaries underscores the f~cr,. why the concenlr ated rnore on
impacting the l\Jbo people With CIH~tlanity which to thell ur)(Ii'lstLlrllJln9
in superior to the culture and rellgl0ti: of the Igbo
, ,
The present day Igbo Christianstto great extent inherited tile views of
the early missionaries as regards to some of the IglJo cultures For
instance. Polygamy. Masquerade~'Chieftaincy titles (Ozo) ;Hld so on as
pagan lifestyle As It concerns the views of Igbo CIHlstians on Nsi
phenomenon, two critical question. comes to bare,
What effect or impact did th~'~arly missionaries left for tile present
Igbo Christian with particular"reference to Nsi phenOIlH?lloll?
What are the views of -tt)e present Igbo Christians as regards to
Nsi phenomenon? ~r'
In attempting to answer the above~lJestion, Nnubia (2007) said that the

notion of early missionaries cOr'cerning Igbo culture with particular

reference to Nsi .ph'nomenon re"mforced or concretised the belief in
" - '.
Nsi phenomenon by the presenLlgbo Christians as evil, wicked,
obnoxious and nefarious activities that constitute Igbo culture
(Ikechukwu Nwubia: Personal Communication: 18 November 2007)
Concerning the impact of early rnis~?naries on the Igbo Christians 1I0gu
(1985:230) posits. "
Therefore tile cllurcll is II/Oland gmw up, as It wuw.
divided Away from tile cultural roots of Iboland to wow
an additional loga of foraignncss olher tllan tllO
foreignncss that belongs inlrlnsically to II/(] gospelltsolf
as a "colony of heaven" on c{]f1h
. "
The early missionaries haVing conderiHled the belief and CUItIIfC of tile
Igbo people as fetish, pagan ete tile present Igbo Christians sf(~ppcd in
their idea to further the campaign ~gainst the Nsi phenonll'lloll wlllch
has be over blown thereby reSul!l~~ in ullwanted fear and SUSpICIOUS
among the present Igbo chnstens ar;1clt'hesociety at large
Owing to the tension already created or Imparted by the early
missionaries to the present Igbo Christians, the slogan "Holy Chost Fife"
and stickers having words like "No weapon that is fastlioned ;](Fllnst me
shall prosper" I am covered by the blood of Jesus", "Back to sender" IS
mostly targeted to ward off the attack of eVil one, enemy or S;ltan which
may be sent through the air, buried jn the ground etc which IflVaflably
constitute part of the Nsi phenome60n
Anyanwu (1999152) assessment is very relevant at this POll1t when he
The history of Christianity is not just the history of what
missionaries did, III our ~conlell1porary efforts to
revitalize our traditional culture.: if it often asserted that
the missionaries uprooted d~tr:'culture and this explains
our undeveloperf and other failures
Though not promoting Nsi phenomanonas good, the above assertions
encourages the Igbo especially Igbo- Christians to stop seeing evil In
every part of our culture In answeringlhe second question, the views of
the present day Igbo Christians concerning Nsi phenomenon IS that iti s
evil which has nothing good to offer I~o Christians take Nsi to be using
charm (diabolic) to kill, or inflict sickness or diseases on fellow human
.being. This act oppose to the laws or conimandments of God 'Love your
neighbour as yourself" "do unto otherS as you want them do unto you".
Also, Nsi phenomenon is the view~:<.iVrnodern day Igbo Chrlstillns Ifl
mystical and rnaSJlcal which cannot be=grasp, with phYSical ey(~s but With
"spiritual eyes". Against thiS backdr~p, present Igbo Ctllistians ann
themselves with chaplets, scapulars apd powerful biblical quotations to
arm themselves against this mysteriC1U~,and magical phenonl(~non
Thaugh the Christian teaching candemned and preach ;J(jClinstNsi
phenamenan, it IS very supervising :to..nate that the Nsi praclise IS
prevalent in densely papulated Chrisfi('ln saciety ar even in society where
every individual is linked with one sect af Christianity ar Clnother,where
there are no.shrines, where no.deity is worshiped since the eXisting anes
have died a natural death doe to lack of adherents, the practice of Nsi IS
still mentianed, The question now :is who are respansible: for such
condemned acts? Fingers point to Igbo Christians Wtlat a C(HlllillJlclron
--------- .'
In other words, same Christians indtJlge in the very act they rC9ard as
evil, wicked, devilish and harmful
"1 t
The Igbo believed oL--Mve a firm c~nviction that Nsi phenomenon is a
reality Ezekiel Onuike (2007) illustr~ted a story to buttress tile bclief in
Nsi reality amang the Igba. The story.~ent thus
Obubu (centipede) was accused .in ~he presence af his in-law that he
indulges in Nsi. His in-law was mad ~ith Obubu accusers amJhe (the in-
law) firmly staad to. defend Obubu. ~he' members af the meetlflg told
Obubu's in-law to. embrace him in ordt:r to. find aut the autlwntlclty af
their accusatian Immediately his 1f1)~~ embraced him, Obubu struck
him and the in-law shauted, "0 buru ila 0 na-ebu Nsi 0 na-cbu, 0
. '.' .
dighi ebu, ya ma"( if he partakes in Nsi, it mat be right, if he doesn't,
that is his business) (Ezekiel Onuike'(Ven ) Persanal Carlll11llnication
Sept 292007)
The shart story abave, thaugh It didn'~~anclude that Nsi is a w,llity, !Jut
it gave a clue that leaves no.ane in dou~l that Nsi phenamenon IS a live
issue for the Igbo people It IS In tile Dbubu's naturc to slilku whocvel
and whatever that embraced It
Also, Nwaosiafa Ike (2006). a self ~'~rofessed traditionalist and Native
doctor based in Igbariam attest to' tt;'~ fact that Nsi phenomenon is a
reality for the Igbo When the reseafl:her interviewed him, he said thus
"ihe Mmadu n' amaghi ka ya nwa m. Ndi ajo mmadu na ndi dibia ajo
ji ike ha nwere were emebi obodo. Nwa m Nsi di ire, 0 na egbu. 0 bu
eziokwu na agaghi akowacha otuosi egbu". (My son, wila! is not
known to man is beyond him Evil people amd evil native doctors use
their God given --l(0wer to a negative use Black magic is re;)1 It kills
though I cannot explain the p"nciple' behind it) (Mazi NwaosI<lfa Ikc
Personal Commurllcation24 November. 2006).
Ajakor Jonah (2007). the first priest .'(Angllcan) of Igbariam COllll11Ulllty
affirms the re.aill.Y-of Nsi as far as thelgbo are concerned The bclief 111
this phenomenon by the Igbo accordiFig to him cannot be brushed aside
despite the level in education. civiliz~ti6n and Christianity tiley have
attained. He attributed the working or ~fficacy of Nsi phenomcnon to evil
forces/spirits (Ajakor Jonah (Ven.): Personal Communication 11II, March
. .~. .
'. "
".....;-. .'-
Opinions the researcher sampled a tb.~ various part of Anambra slate
'0 ~.
such as Agulu, Adazi Enu. Awka. Ajafli,' N.diukwuenu, Umunze. Urnulcri
etc strongly attest to the fact that Nsr phenomenon is a reality as far as
. . .
the Igbo people are concerned. This lh':larllmOUs belief in reality of Nsi
phenomenon is clearly echoed by Mblti (1.967198)
This myslical power is /Jol fic!li.o/J. whalever il is. il is
realily and wilh which African people have 10 reckon
Everyone is direc/ly or indirer;/Iy affecled for beller or
for worse. by beliefs and (l'r;Iivities connecled WillI
power. pnrficularfy if) its riwllifeslalion as nwy'c,
sorcery and witchcraft
, ~~.'
. ,
';""': '.
Mbiti though he wrote from Kenyan b,ackground, he conveyed also tile
feeling and understanding of Nsi ~e~ornenon as It is obtalfwble In the
Igbo society, The above assertion underscores the fact that the Igbo
believe in the reality of Nsi phe~omenon A reality which GH1not be
denied This reality of Nsi phenor.1ennnas far as Igbo are concel neel IS
such that neither Christianity, modernity.. urbanization nor education can
effectively dismantle or erase A few.,examplesout of numerous cases of
Nsi pheno~enon will buttress the ~:.Iief in the reality of Nsi <1Il1ongthe
Igbo ..,
Nwabanne (2006) was a victlfll of 'Nsi phenomenon I h~ 11;11 I;ll(~d hiS
ordeal thus on the 1<1 of March 20Q(~:'hewent to inspect a land which he
wants to cultivate on. As he entered;:1heland, he noltced iJ feeling as If
something shocked him. When he came out of the land, iJlter three to
four hours, he felt a severe pain in his left leg A day after, the left leg
swelled. had a reddish colour and was terribly itching him WltllIn a week
he found it very difficult to walk or move that leg. All test 3ml treatment
carried on him in the hospital proved a.bortive
I asked him how he knew that he stepped on Nsi. he answcred that the
land has been abandoned for a long ti~e Without anybody cullivatll1g on
.~. ' '
,it Secondly, his body changed came out of the land I\lso,lhe
modern means of treatment could not'effect the desired cure on ttle
ailment However, he was very happy'~hat the Nsi was not made for him
because has it been it was made mr'him, he would have been a dead
In addition, a young vibrant and eii.ergeltc man Udekwe came home
during Easer peflod to in7pect his building project in Ihe vill;HW Altcr the
inspection of the project he decic'J~j 10 .pass a night III 1Il(~ villagc
t .:
Unfortunately, he died the next day on his bed. His relation in il bid to
unravel the mysterious death of the 'fOung man consulted a medicine
man/diviner. The medicine man told 'rhem after consultations With the
spirits that Nsi was laid for Udekwe at;(theenlrance of his compound To
prove this, the medicine man follo~ed them to the compound an
unearthed a small clay pot that contained all kinds of disgusting objects
and tied with a red cloth ~ith blood stains all over The small pot buried
iNside the ground is the Nsi that killed Udekwe. Though it sounded
funny, the fact that Udekwe was healthy before he carne to tile village
and mysteriously died after a night raises a one lhousand and one
questions begging for answers
Furthermore, a young priest posted to ;;i:,communitywitllm I\gulu Ieglon
came and preached seriously against r~e phenomenon of pin-c:lsting
(iya ntutu), This phenomenon that is parlof Nsi (black magic) in tile view
of the priest is not real, powerless and ~~ref1ctionor assumption whidl
should not worry the children of Go~ ..;'Four months later, the priest
because seriously ill and almost at the poillt of death. Plans wele made
to rush him to hospitals when some .'members of his congregation
advised that a medicine man should be ctinsulted first in order to be sure
J ; .
that it is not ntutu (pins). They gave ',ihis advice because a person
inflicted with pin should not be injecteJ.'~ith needle since it Will 31din
killing the individual The advice was aoc'epted and it was conflllned that
he was suffering from pin-casting. ~~~ekiel Onuike (Ven) Personal
. ,
Communication: Sept 29, 2007) Treatment of these examples of Nsi
phenomenon will be discussed in the next' chapter that deals on tleallh
care delivery system of the Igbo
.. ".
Nsi can be said to be the diabolicar means of using herbs or mediCine
(ogwu) invocation of evil spints or disembodied spirits (a)o rnmuo) to
harm. inflict sickness and even krl~a fellow individual Nsi IS oqwu III
wrongful application. In other words., Nsi bu ajo ogwu (b;ld medicine)
that is used to harm other people Ogwu on its part IS extracted flOm
herbs. Ogwu can be said to be a ~?xture or concoction tlmt ISextracted
from various herbs. Making or prep.t;lringmedicine is called l<Jwoogwu
This same term (igwo ogwu) traf}~!ates the making of every kind of
medicine whether curative, protectile medicine made to Secure good
luck or offensive medicine How~ver, the term Iko Nsi (sorcery) or
making of bad medicine is used to distinguish the evil use of medicine
from its good uses. All medicines are made from herbs, hence the Igbo
proverb: Ogwu agwu n'ofia, afifia pa aku ogwu (medicine in the bush
can never be exhausted because'~medlcine is extracted from herbs)
Different herbs produce differe~t medicines and successful Igbo
herbalists can cure many bodily ailments by their use (Metuh
1999rep 125)
Aja is an Igbo word that stand~'Jor sacnfice. In the popular sense
sacrifice means some renU~ci?tr~r' for a motive. I\rirllc (1970 34)
identifred four types of Ibo sacnfl~t:!'as expiration, saCllflce to w<.lrdoff
molestation from unknown evil spirl~5..petition and thanksglvmQ
Attention will focus more on the s,~cond category of sacllflce wilicli IS
sacrifice to ward off molestation froi'r) unknown evil splnts It ISIIllportant
" (f-
that the Igbo normally say 'Nsi n,! Aja' (literary sorcery and sacllflcc)
Aja in this sense is known as 'lchJ ~ta' (offering sacrifice) lehu aja says
Arinze (1970 35) is in the strict :;ense of the word, to offer such a
sacrifice to the evil spirits and to them only. Such sacrifices are offered
without love, the victims are most ugly and disreputable There is simply
no question of a sacrificial meal All the petitioner wants is to be left
along by these evil spirits Hence it is easy to understand the words of
Basden: fear is the driving force: the sacrifices do not spring frorn any
inherent desire to give, or from any spontaneous to render honour or
worship Sacrifices furnish the only way of escape from the evil df'sifjns
and activities of malignant spirits. Failure to perform propitiatory
sacrifices would make life unbearable: ~'very department would labolll
under imminent threat of possible disaster These words are strong but
they are true and exact when applied tp this particular type of S<:lcrifice
('ichu aja' in the strict sense) which is always offered to evil spirits This
is only one type of Ibo sacrifice., and the lowest in grade there are rnany
other types: joyful, with fat victims, hearty sacrificial feasts and lau~lhler
(Arinze: 1970:37-38)
Aja bu Nri Nsi na eri (sacrifice is the delicacy for Nsi) says I\Jakor
Jonah (2007). The person that partakes ip Nsi most a times is the same
person that performs the ichu aJa (sacriflclil) This is why Nsi IS always
associated with aja "Nsi an Aja" (ilte'rally sorcery and sacrllice)
However, he pointed out that other individuals outside the perpetrator of
Nsi phenomenon can offer sacrifice to .distance the evil spirits from
harming them (AJakor Jonah (Ven) ':Personal Communication gl"
October, 2007)
The connection between "Nsi na Aja" is that It is normally camed out by
one person Though Nsi phenomenon is deadly to human belllg Aja is
meant or camed oul to appease or pac!{y the evil spirits responsil i1(~ for
Nsi phenomenon Nsi is in the body of the person dOing it and I)('IIHJ In
the body of the person doing it, it can equally affect the person while AJa
being a sacrifice is not affected by Nsi rather it pacify the
gods/spirits/land concerning the abomination that emanated from Nsi
Nsi phenomenon cannot be discussed w,~hout mentioning the role of the
dibia, A dibia is one who is a master of knowledge and wisdom of
esoteric practises, He is specialist who~tells fortunes, seeks to discover
secrets, and gives spiritual advice a,Qout sacrifices as well as offer
sacrifices to the deities They are usua\fy seen as mediators betw{!(~n the
;,. ...
gods/spirits and man, f
Traditional researchers and scholars have over the years presented
diverse opinions about the categories or class of dibia. There are
generally two categories of dibia - Madft (2006) gave the two categolles
,. Dib,d Afa (Diviner) those wh,o specialize in div;"'tion and also
performs the various sacrifrces associ;:' tll d . "liltS and
,. Dibia Ogwu (Herbalist) those who speciali'e in diagnOSing and
treating of diseases or disturbaflce with hero (.harrns, taLman,
rituals etc The dibia ogwu is an indispensable persoll In the
making of Nsi which IS called Igwo Ogwu (making / preparing
charm) Igwo ogwu ( '1 be also used as a I n in plOparing
herbs/medicine gene! 'whether guou or ball 'IlLISt lJ(~ noted
that not all dibia og\' perp~tllate in the act of milklllg bad
.., .~
medicine (Igwo ajo ogwu) which invariably produces Nsi
A dibia is believed to possess the following attributes'
., Ifu uzo (seeing beyond the ordinary/clairvoyance)
o Igwo oria (healing a sick person) or Aka ile (potent hand) with
which such feats as the healing touchekiri is effected and ogwu
o Onu ile (potent mouth)
o Igwo ogwu (making medicine)
o Igwo ajo ogwu (making bad medicine which produces Nsi
Though not all dibias partakes in this. The roles of dibia both 'dibia Afa'
and "dibia Ogwu" (Herbalist and Diviner) is a difficult task to embark
upon. However Agwu. being the patron spirit of divination and diViners
and that of making medicine chooses its worshippers and endows them
with the gift of divination and the knowledge of medicinal herbs (Metuh
1999 rep96).
A dibia is known for his wisdom and knowledge that are more than the
ordinary-eyes can see and understand He is not just an ordinary person,
but one who knows much in the mysteries of life It is believed that the
leaves talk to them and with their eyes they can see into tile super
sensible reality With their mouth, they can communicate With the
Arm with these qualities, the dibia knows much as regards to herbs,
making of medicine (Igwo Ogwu) and ordering the spirits through
In Nsi phenomenon, the roles of dibia are:
He knows the herbs and objects that are to be used for a particular
type of Nsi and at what proportion that IS needed
He specializes in the act of mixing these herbs and objects to yield
the desired result. The act of mixing these herbs is kl1owl1to be
'Igwo Ogwu' (making medicine)
He knows the adequate matenals or case in which t11(~Inedicll1e
will be carried with in other to produce the desired result
He knows the force or spirit that will make the medicll1e effective
and also has the knowledge or power to invoke such spirit to
possess the medicine,
He is the one especially "Dibia Ogwu" (Herbalist) to be consulted
in the making of Nsi of any kind because it is believed that he has
the power. and knowledge todo so,
It must be emphasized that not all dibia especially 'dibia Ogwu'
(Herbalist) partakes in the making of bad medicine (Ajo Ogwu) which
produces Nsi Having said these. it must be noted that Nsi phenomenon
cannot be without the services of a dibia and like earlier noted, the dlbia
is an indispensable figure in the act of making or preparing Nsi
phenomenon, Hence, the Igbo saying "Adi arapu isi aka agba uchu"
(you cannot produce sound with the hand wiltlOutthe thumb)
Igbariam community is one of the communities that make lip Anambra
East Local Government Alea of Anambra State Igbariam IS IOGlted 111
the North of Anambra East Local Government Area of Anarnbra State It
could be reached by road through the Enugu-Onitsha express way via
Igbariam junction or through Nleje~Otucha junction. The community IS
surrounded by towns like Awkuzu, AchaMa,Nando, Ukwulu
Furthermore, the Igbariam communi~:;iS made up of seven villages
namely; Ubaru, Imendo, Ifite, Anakw~, Eziama, Urualor and [liafor
The indigenes of Igbariam community \r('? peace loving people and very
.accommodative Their main source dfincome is through fanning and
fishing. About seventy-five percent of her population ale peasant
farmers In addition. the Igbariam indigenes are very religiOUSp(~ople
The two main religions in Igbariarn\~ornrnunity are Chnstlalllty and
African (Igbo) Traditional Religion .:ln the area of educallon. the
indigenes of Igbariam are not left aui This is also true in the ;]rea of
commerce and skill acquisition
Nsi in the Igbariam culture is viewIS poison. This is because It IS
believed to have the power to kill ~f:ien given to an individual The
administration of Nsi in the Igbaria~t perspective is categOllled into
Through food and Drinks
. Through stepping on Nsi that is:~laidor buried in the ground This
category is more effective whert (;le name of the intending victnn
is mentioned at the time of preparation of the Nsi.
The Nsi used by the masqueradE;lsthat is called 'Ekwuabo'. TillS
type of Nsi is normally ordered' by the Masquerade to go and
harm the intending victim
In the perspective of Igbariam cultur2, Nsi is not normally seen With

ordinary eyes but its effects ar~:,G-?se.r.yedthrough signs of its

l;.> ;'
r,:' .
manifestation on the victim. This manifestation can take the form of
swollen of legs, abdomen (mbekwu afar), vomiting that is mixed with

blood, blindness, insanity, body rci~hes, and eventually death When

this signs occur, they are not taken lightly as mere malaria. typhoid,
measles and so on because the treatments of these signs normally
defile modern kind of treatment and these signs are cOllnter!~d with
the traditional means of treatillen! (Okafor Uehe 1'(~Js()nal
Communication 3'" April 2008)
The value scale and altitudinal orientation of the Igbo brew from their
perception of the universe which is, a religious one God/gods for
instance are not subjected to empirical proofs or observation hut the
Igbo strongly believe in the existencelreality In the same way, 3ncestors
to the Igbo belief are real and this explains why they (Igbo) pOllr libations
to them.
The phenomenon of Nsi as far as. the Igbo are concerned is very real,
though it mechanics cannot be subjected to scientific proof or stand
sound rational reasoning Although there is a tremendous influence of
external change agents in modern African today, still the belief of most
Igbo people irrespective of academic altainment and Christian influence
is deeply rooted in this mystical an~ magical phenomenon known as
Good health is the backbone of all human activities and the source of all
achievements Without good healtt1.:" life becomes IllC;lfllf1f)less.
unproductive drab. painful and a source of anxiety Just. as we profl1ote
a business to make it grow and also we need to pr()'ll()t(~ our
Right from creation. the worst enemy Q,f man is diseases and sickness
-,. ..
Onunwa (199081) rightly observed t~}at "Among the unfriendly aqent
that threatens life here on earth is illrwss The other enemy wtllch the

African hates as much is death itself" .:,:

Shorter in Onunwa (1990:81) collaborated the above view wilen he
states that
Sickness for Ihe Africans is' a diminulion of life, a
Ihreal posed 10 life, and heali1g is an activity second
only 10 Ihal of giving life. ~elilion for healing is
probably Ihe mosl common subjecl of prayers.
Commenting on the above assertions Madu (200424) clearly eellUcd
The observalion blings oul Ihe link IJelween life and
health Life Iherefole for Ihe Igbo is healll, in Ill/e
form. Since health for the fgbo is a cOlllposite of
material and spiritllal well being Ihen for one to IJe
alive. vis-a-vis healthy. bolll IIw spililllal ancl IIIe
malelial aspecls of lIIan .1111151 be laken 11I10
consideralion .
These assertions are correct when vlew~'d against tile backdrop lliat Nsi
phenomenon poses a threat to the life. .of. the Igbo This threal to life
caused by Nsi phenomenon can only. be restored through IH!allng
Health and healing are connected Just ~r~'thesame way they arc Wlltl the
fundamental theme of life They inv(,ike both rational and Illystical
.! .;
... .
!" . \ .
process which aims at restoration of physical and spiritual harmony of
man which is shrouded in mystery 07 religion and magic.
Healing is a part of that whole comp.iex religious attempt by man to bring
the physical and spiritual aspect of'ttie universe as well as man who
.. '
lives in it into that desired consistent harmony. The idea of "wholeness"
is therefore not alien to the African mind. Healing thus becomes a
cardinal religions practice because African cosmology which is world
affirming dema~ds that life in the w,?Jld must be kept free from problem
especially ill-health and obstacles which may hinder the fulfilment of the
desired goals. (Onunwa 1990:80)
Health for the Igbo is a composite on he material and spiritual well being
Health is life in its true form. Onunwa (199081) clearly stated that
Health as understood by Africans, particularly tl10
Igbo of Nigeria, is far more social than biological It
does not entirely mean an alJsence of pilysu;i11
ailments There is a wear unitary conccpt of
psychosomatic inter relationships tll8t is an apparent
reciprocity between mhll;J and matter. Ileol/ll
1I1ereforeis not an isolated'phenomenon but part of
the entire magico-religio(;s;fabric far more than [/n
absencc of disease.
Inspired from the experience of orth~dox medicine in the west, Haring in
Onunwa (199081) has this to sa:laOO'Jt health
A comprehensive undersl'anding of human health
includcs the greatest pas tible harmony of all n)[/n's
forces and energies. \ the greatest possilJlo
spiritualization of man's li:>dity aspect and the finost
emboaiment of the spiritu;1J.True health is reveated
in the sclf actualisatiof)"':of the pcrson WIIO I/[Is
attained that freedom which: Timrslwls all available
energies for the fulfilment of his,total vocation.
The above assertion is relevant in our (J.Qderstandingof the rnccl1;lIlics
of healing in Igbo traditional religio'rtespecially as concerns Nsi
phenomenon The nexus of relationship or unitary notion of beings Ir1
Igbo cosmology underscores the views 9fOnunwa and Haring.
Health for the Igbo means a harmonious existence between the (Mfcrent
spheres of the cosmic order in which man is a member. For man to say
that he is h~lIhy or alive therefore mei-~s that man should tune 11Ifllsclf
with the other forces (especially benev(llent forces) of the cosmic order
(Madu 2004:25).
The origin of traditional medicine is ~s old as the Igbo for our fore
fathers have been depending on their~!raditional drugs and have been
living with them. Traditional medicinef'as handed down by our fore-
fathers who studied the environment amJexplore the potentials th:lt arc
latent in nature.
Osuafor in Otubah (200523) is qf the opinion that prevalilllg
traditionalists view of the origin of meditine are constructed around the
. "::
value man has placed on human life. Life is human most p[l7Cd
possession, for directly and indirectly.>all his interest and activities
ultimately centre upon his gratification at'Jdpreservation
. .
Sequel to the above view, Mume \faced the origin and practice of
traditional medicine to the juju priest whp alw,aysdirected the burning of
smelling substances of herbal material's to. produce sweet incense to
appeaSe the gods of medicine He fuiler claimed that most of the
, ~.":~::~.~
". ,".
herbal product used now by native doctofs and herbalists were shown
to the medicine men of old by their an'cestors and these have been
transmitted from generation to generation. (October 200924)
The two views can be considered ac~ufate since what gave rise to
traditional medicine is to ensure that human life is protected. enhance
and cherish. On the other hand, the efficacy of traditional medicine can
not be if not for the role played by the 'traditional (native) doctors The
Igbo "proverb says "Chi gboo mkpa, onu dibia adi ire" (when God
solves a persons problem, the words of the dibia (medicine man)
ministering to him becomes effective and real)
Traditional medicine has various clas!;les. Mume in Madu (200428)
classified the various therapies used in traditional medicine as follows
Herbalism -: The system of treating ~ the administration of herbal
medicine including some parts of animal~.
Hydrotherapy -: The treatment of disease's by the application of water of
various forms and temperatures through'\~~ld baths, hot baths, compress
baths and the steam vapour baths ::with regards to ritual baths.
Onwukwe has this to say, Ritual washing is one of the acts that
punctuate the whole process of making ihe patient whole., .It is through
the performance of the ritual that made the medicine man tries to re-
establish cordial relationship with the deities and ancestors
Message -: This is the passive manip~lation of the soft tissue made
directly upon the nude skin in a methodical manner This is very
common in Ijaw areas
Cupping or blood-letting -: A method 0;heating disease by abstraction
or letting out to improve blood through tI~euse of abstraction cups or
Faith healing Where patients are persuaded to confess their sins
which torture them, and once done, such patients fell emotionally
Fasting -: Abstinence from food
Heat therapy -: Including exposure to sunrays (heliotherapy) and
exposur~! to the vibration forces which emanates from fire.
Surgery -
The general name of traditional doctors, 'Oibia'. This same tcrlll also
translates a native doctor. :i'l :
. 1',.
Ekechukwu in Madu (2004: 27) group~""the Oibias into two broad
The Herbalists -: (Oibia Ogwu)
The Diviner-: (Oibia Afa) " .
Mume in Madu (200427) identifies eight types of traditional doctors as -
The General Practitioners.
- The Herbalist and Native doctors, tbe'herbalist centering his Illind
on the knowledge of herbal applisation, taking care of viable
ailments, and curing them with herbal medication while the native
doctor is more inclined to sLi~rlJijtural process and always
associated himself with a form ofi/vto[lShip..
Faith Healers
- The Bone Setter
The Native Gynaecologist and MiO'1i;fii~~,.
. . .~
. l':i\:',/
.. '
- The Witch Doctor who specialized in wizard-caused dlsc<Jses,
most of them being formerly wizard~ ;and witches.
The Blood Letter
- The Traditional Surgeon.
. '.
Agwu is the patron spirit of divination and diviners. It is called "mmuo
nkpasa" (spirit of confusion)( Metuh 1999rep 96)
Agwu is also regarded as the guardian spirit of the medicine men which
instructs, directs and prompts their action. In the traditional health care
delivery system of the Igbo, Agwu spirit plays an indispensablc role
Agwu chooses its worshippers and-.endows them with the Uilt of
divination and knowledge of medicinal herbs. In choosing its
worshippers, Agwu possesses the indiv..idual and controls him to achieve
its aim.

Arinze (197064) clearly observed that
The clearest and indispensable sign of a vocation to
be a dibia is possession by the spirit Agwu. who is the
special spirit of ndi dibia. T!7e spirit of giddiness,
rascafity. discomposure. con{~sion and forgetfulness
(mmuo kpasa lIche). A pers~n possessed by Agwll
can be holding a key in his hand find yet be searching
for it franticn/ly in his room .. .rIgwll scatters the brain
hence 1m is also cafled mmu~ efi eli eke eke, Mmuo
ntuonye nku or Akaose (Spirit. ~f Confusion)
Metuh (1999rep:96) collaborated with t{,e above view
Agwu afflicts its victims with psychological disturbance
which sometimes takes the 'form of restfessness.
watefulness or even madnes~, .(Am Agwu)
The person so possessed (Onye Agwu Walu) at once consults a
fortune-teller who explains to him that ~~".'u takes no refusal The Agwu
possessed person will have the option'lq choose between accepting to
be a dibia (Native doctor) or run mad to say the lest, be a lillie insane In
accepting to be a dibia, he has to pe~m the preliminary sacrllice (ilu
. '" .
Agwu) before beginning his training acd initiation. "lIu Agwu or Ikpu
Agwu" (tying up or covering up Agwur ~cts as a turning point III his life
since it should not only bring the victim back to normality but should also
harness the power of Agwu in him for the practice of divination and
healing with herbs which is the core of the Igbo traditional health care
delivery system.
Religious functionaries says Anyan~fu~t1999131)
Are men and women set ap~t.for the service of Ihe
supernatural beings. They ai"c~, 'usually people wllh
sound religious activities Really, Ihey are Ihe
embodiment of what is the best jn religion and act as
custodians of religion. They are those who because
of their expertise religious know.ledge lead olhers in
religious activities. They serVe as inlermediaries
between their fellow human bei/.1gs on one hand and
super sensible realities on Ihe other. Usually, the
professional roles vary depaflUil7g on the skill and
religious knowledge they are trailled for.
Among the religious functionaries in Igbo traditional religion are-
). Priest
,. Medicine Men.
,. Diviners.
). Mediums.

"'1.. ~
3.4.2. PRIEST:
The Priest mediates horizontally between man and man and verlically
between man and the Supernatural Reality. He is a public functionary
and usually allached to some cultic centre, a shrine or a temple where
he performs certain prescribed fOfl}ls:of rituals on behalf of the people
whom such centres are supposed to serve.
The art of healing is a part of that whole complex religious attempt by
man to bring the physical and spiritual,aspects of the universe as well as
man who lives in it into that desired cop'sistent harmony. The priest plays
those roles in traditional health care~tivery system:
The Priest offers sacrifice on bl:l~alf of the sick person in other to
restore harmony between the spirit and the individual
The Priest assists in offering pravers on behalf of the Sick person
This kind of prayers boarders on restoration of health of Ifle
The Priest also gives advice and counsels the sick Ifldlvldual
This advise/counselling aids in quick restoration of IfH) IIHliviuual
, .
since it re-enforces the belief,,of the person in the efficacy of
Medicine men are people who can '!Ie ~ither men or women that know
the art of using the available natur~( '(orces to prevent disease and
. ,
restore health. They are specialists in,.lhemaking of medicine
In the 19bo traditional health care deliyery, the medicine men me
considered extremely important as they are the ones who can rescue
individuals in matters of ill health.
The roles of medicine men in health tare delivery system of the Igbo are:
They carry out the work of healing people of their ailments
The traditional medicine man understands the psychological
background of his patient as well as his worldvlew and tries to
meet him at that point of his needs He finds out the religious
causes of illness or complaints and prescribes a cure which may
include herbs. religious rituals and 'the observance of certain
prohibitions or direction
The traditional medicine man acts as a counsellor; he Iislens 10
people's troubles of all kinds and advises them.
Diviners are those whose main functions are to find out hidden secrets
or knowledge and pass them on to people who wish to know They can
be either men or women but majority of them are often men Diviners are
regarded as important members of the society
In the traditional health care delivery system. diviners play lhese roles
They are consulted when decisions are to be laken, nol only
when decisions are to be taken, but in all important occasions in
the people's life, for instance birth, puberty, marriage, and even at
death so as to find additional hidden information pertaining to the
They diagnose a sick person to identify the cause of the sickness
This act is what Madu (2006) termed "SPIRITUAL DIAGNOSTIC
They refer the sick person to the medicine man that will treat tJim
and also prescribe the medicine that will be used in lreating the
sick individual.
In case of sacrifices. the divin,E;!r tells you the type of sacrifice to
embark on as well as victim&rieeded for the sacrifice in order to
restore harmony of the individlJaL
It is important to note that in Igbo soejety, a person can be both medicine
man and Diviner and where this is th!, he plays the different roles.
Mediums are people who get in touch with the spirit world Tlwy act as

go-between especially in spiritualism and they claim to be able to receive

messages from the spirits of the ~ead. It is believed that mediums
communicate with the spirits at will bUt most often this is done when they
(the mediums) are possessed which is usually induced by ritual
drumming. dancing and singing. M~rity of mediums arc WOlllcn who
work under the leadership of men i~
In the health care delivery syste". of the Igbo, medium are usually
consulted or listened to, to know the'fuessages from the spiritual world.
This act creates some form oi harmony between the living and the

.. :.1
.. :f
There is no doubt. that the traditionaf medicine despite the fact that they
affect a lot of cure in Igbo traditiona~health care delivery To rmny Igbo
Christians, traditional medicine practi:seis seen as somethlllg associatcu
with feltishness and as such held wihi indignation and disbelief <Jhoutits
efficacy especially in the treatment of human ailments. To some, it IS a
crude and ancient practices that should' give way to orthodox or
conventional medicine practice, convenient and conversant to modern
people and inconsonance with modernity or civilization
Among the problem of traditional medicine and practices include
a) Problem of Dosage~. The traditional medicine and practise is
handicapped with quantity of a particular concoction to be
administered to patient depending on their age. This according to
Onunwa (1990:89) "brings problem to the patient or some other
deadly side effects after some years".
b) Conservative Altitude - Igbo. traditional medicine IS rooted 111
secrecy. The knowledge goes' mostly from father to most favoured
son who makes use of the knowledge only at the death of his
father. Most native: doctor also are not willing to reveal their
therapeutic methods of healing. Most practitioners die With their
healing knowledge without exposing their healing knowledge to
the surviving generation. In +other words, death of the! skilful
medicine man, the skilful arts are lost.
c) Illiteracy of Traditionalists: : Igbo traditional health care delivery
system in Igboland is symtWlizedby the illiterate traditional
doctors and their medicine port'i"<;>nsof roots, herbs, animals' parts
in some grotesque charms. Thi~{illiteracy problem brings about the
problem of record keeping or deliberation and finances It brings
about inefficiency in writing and 'publication becomes difficult and
transmission of knowledge is gf~t1y inhibited.
d) Environmental problem - The tradimedicalists operate under very
poor hygienic conditions Most native doctors' c1inics/llOspltals are
usually located in their compollnds Their compounds ~Hedilly and
:t\{..~. ..~:'::'\<
Ut"l"':., ';
liltered with refuse The whole environment including tile
sqnitation standard would make the unbiased observer doubt tile
genuineness of whatever good is said to be delivered.
Finally, Ejiofor in Madu (200529) carefully summarized the problem of
traditional medicine and healing in this wa,~;
Six major reasons account lor the failure of
tradimedicalis/s tow in official respect and
recognition. These reasons inc/ude illi/eracy, lack
of urbanization, some shady practices by
members, secrecy of operali6'7 or a closed shop
system, ignorance on the ritl/t of the makers,
shabby image and religious differences be/ween
officiate/om and tradimedicalisru
Madu (2004:29) is of the opinion "that rrl#'tiy of the tradimedicalists clalln
to cure all diseases (Ogwo nnu oria) arm therefore dispense tile same
~ .
medicine for different ,ailments" This o,,~ervation is a serious problem
that besieges traditional health care deli~fY system of Igbo.
t4 _. '
Despite all these problems of Igbo tradinbnal health care delivery, the
medical clinics are often filled by clients looking for one cure or the other
According to Nwadinigwe (2003 66) resecrch findings in Nigeria today
revealed that about 75% of the populatio"':;utilize traditional medicine. In
spite of all odds. the contributing facto~~'i6 the success of tradilional
healer are:- .:'
i) Always Accessible/Available: - TJ';\:'traditional medicine man is
always accessible to his pabents especially in case of
emergency than the western tr~t::d medical practitioner in the
modern hospitals. The traditional medicine healer will corne to
the rescue of the sick person. at the convenience of his horne,
listen to his complaints and try as far as possible to offer
solution to the problem, Above all, the traditional medicine man
attends to such situation with or without money deposit
ii) Knowledge of PSYCho-CulturalBackground of the People - The
traditional medicine man understands the psychological
background of his patient as well as his world view ,md tries to
meet him at that point of his n~eds The traditionaillcaler knows
that he could remove somd~of the rituals and secwts that
_shroud his work without impai'ring the efficacw of the herbs and
roots which have natural the1apeutic in them. But to rC~lssure
his patient and also improve"his credibility, he retains most of
the "mystical" aspect of his m~thods,
iii) Nearness to the People: - ~Almost all the communities in
Igboland have one or more",professional native doctors and
< .
general practitioners, They lOf.:atetheir herbal horne near to the
people, Moreover, owing t9 the scarcity of modern hospitals in
the rural places, the' rural peqple resort to the traditional
medicin~ men that are very ne? them,
iv) Traditional Belief and Practice, Traditional medicine IS more

associated with Igbo traditio~al religion. The traditional belief

enables the Igbo people to hold the view that sickness either
emanates from the evil spirit, the anger of the gods or
machination of evil men i.e. perpetrators of Nsi phenomenon.
These kinds of disease mo~t at times defy the modern medical
practitioner with all his modern diagnostic equiprncnls The
~ belief of Igbo towards their' traditional belief and traditional
medicine enC1blesthe tradili"Pal medicine men to effect a cure
," .
of such SiCf.::1C'Sc'. -:';,18 Cln be achieved through restoration of
harmony between f,c'n :lmJ l!w spirl:s.
!"si phenomenon deals wii the int!:i ,tion 0; using mystical and magical
power to inflict dangerous sickncs~) or di~'eases and even death on
fellow individuals Such sickness anJ dise<l0Gs that ar~ attributed to the
evil machination of evil mOil and evil spil it m\.)st a times defile the - -
modern medical practiti'JIl,':;r and his sophisticated uidgnostic
instruments. This kind of dise3ses that defilernocJern treatment seemS to
be the favourite of the IgiJG traditional heaU] care delivery system. The
implications of Igbo traditior;:;1 :Je3ltll c:Jre delivery system visQ,vis Nsi
phenomenon can be unut-Istood against tl18 backdrop that the l;j~o
,'woriGvie0, uphol<..Jsthe pow':;r fJ[ the spirits OVtHtile medicines.
Anyanwu (1999: 130) rif;'illly obc. 'rved that 'Ogwu' (medicine is not just
herbs it is herb; u"ualiy cha Jod wilh sniritual power by use of
incantations rites c:"J speils. I\/"'J, it jc ''''!ieved by the Igbo people that
, .
unaided effort of man is ;. cc1k traditional medicine wh'-..:h is more
associated with tradilioila: rcij~Jion and religious rituals are therefore
important to ward off unflndly ones to r::vitalize the e(f::acy of tile
medicines. (Onunwa: HJ90.'-l).
Furthelillore, what gave 1" () [0 ~'::~i phenomenon is "Ajo Ogvvu" (Bad
Medicine) prepcF"d by "ai dibia" (bad/evi! native doctor). Among the
Igbo, there are gcneraliy lv. tYi:r):; of L',;;c;iiJe, namely the prophylactic
(preventive) and the l!lorc)culic (curative) medicine. The practice of
medicine usually -involves some ritual sacrifice especially if there
some metaphysic31 ele:nents in 2 dis8dS2 such as Nsi phenomenon.
In a precise form, traditional medicine provides an. antidote to effect of
'I '
bad medicine (Nsi phenomenon) Finally, the Igbo traditional hc:alth C8C-
has proven to provide solutions to some of the infections or dreacifu!
:. ~. - .
human diseases attribut"d to : ~->i phenomenon The cure of th2
examples of cases of f~Si inflided fJerson in the previous ctlapter
justify their point.
In the case of ChGmczie Me'hor liut was inflicted with deadly insect, lile -
refuse to come out or l!;0 in her' throat, which almost resulted in h.,,:
death took the interventirl cf a traditional medicine man by n8n,c
Nwaosiafa Ike Jrorn~gbai!arn to restore her heaJ1h.NwabanneUv'
stepped on Nsi that according to him was laid for another person which
-almost resulted in arnoutation c' his left leg was cured by a traditj(jn~,'
medicine man after n13ny visits te modern hospitals.
Finally the priest that suffered frcn pin casting was cured by a traditbn;
medicine man Jhat specialized in removing pins through mysterious 8Ct~,.
In the ancient :<.i:"-qQqriod,JI18 lives c~ the Igbo were restricted within the
dictates of their cosmology. Tile tradianal religion determines their way
of life which invariably g'we rise to ! ,elr custom and culture. The law
(culture and custom) of the land rl:l';S a major role in the lives of every
individual in the society. Emph .';is 'xas stJictly on hard work and good
n~:::ral life style. One who is [wt hc1!"Ciworking, productive and morally
stable is regarded as a ckvicnt (: }lu o~u) by the cummunity. The
traditionai Igbo vievII of tir;le like [hell i other indigenous African groups,
is cyclical The seasonh of 1118 yGa, repeat in an eternal cycle (Ejizu
:1986: 143). The season of the Ii adi'.:oncli Igbo is divjded into two: tile
rainy season and the dry 58; ,;on The rainy season 'Is the se.:.son of
farming while the dry season is [he time of celebration and merriment. In
the period of merriment and ce:.,b~"t:on, activities such as wrestling,
masquerading, group dances de ;:)rc ,rgcmi<ied to entertain the peeple.
In this period of festivals, every inc!i'/j!I<:l1 or QI~OUPScontesting will like [0
outshine the oiher. in wresllifl~J c;:l[e:ot;. for instance, either of the
o[}ponent want to win.lnfrying [0 3C':18\18 this, a lot of consultations will
be made which is mainly to er:;.';) or ';ortify them. Consulting the
medicine man (dibia) consists the cere in the pl'eparation of a wresl!ing
contest. The Igbo-saying~"ka <1"':: :1~(Oila Nsi, asi siefena aju" (H;o
law which forbids poisoningfharrning ')[!l',rs cloes not mean that yo"" mal'
nor ci:llise them at least some diD :~:;ss) be"')mes relevant to beck t:'8
use of bad medicine (ajo ogwurr-lsi) ~odestabilize opponents
Also, in the ancient Igbo period, the act of Igwo ogwu (making medicine
whether curative, protective or offensive medicine) was known. Not all
dibias (medic:inemen /Native doctors)indoige in making bad meoicine
because of the fear of-"Ala" (earth goddess, m-other -of life and queen of
morality). Ubadike (2007) sad that "ndi gbc naasodulo ala"(the
people of ancient times respects tradition/custorn)(Mr Jerome UbacJike:
Personal Communication:- 3rd December 2007). Because of the fear in
the power of Ala by the ancient Iybo people, Ajo ogwu (bad medicine)
wh}ch invariably results to I':si was known but not very prevalent.
J 'i
HowS!ver, cases abound where Nsi W~1S used in the ancient Igbo period.
O;'al tradition holds that during Igbal\wu and Omor communal wars, the
IgbaKwu community prepan:,d a bad meaicine that takes the form of a
spider's web. This spiller's web-like medicine infested the whole of Omor
community. The story holds th<:.teach time an Omor indigene breaks any
cord of the spider's web, the person will die instantly. This mysterious
and magical form of death continued lmtil the Omor community begged
the Igbakwu community to p<:1rdonthem and reverse what fhe{ did.
-i\lso,in Igbariam and Awkuz:'vdrs, bad medicine was-used by tile two
communities to win the war in ,;-,eir fdvour It was said that thelgbariatn
community employed a kind c,' bloc\' magic the;t turns grasses into land
soldiers. This was achieved thrJugh the help of ibobo deity. On the other
hand, the opponents employe Cl kind of b!ac~ magic that is -in form of
palm tree with ripe pall, I nuts en :1. W:;(;n each ripe palm nut drops from
the Nsi infested palm tree ;} per" '0 from the opponent's' camp die
instantly. Each palm nuts on the tre . represents strong individual in the
. . - ~-,
opponent's camp. (Nwabanne: Pers. ,n31 communication; November 20,
In the ancient Igbo period, Nsi phenomenon was perpetuated through a
bad Ofo in the hands of evil rnen, Sorcerers and Nat,ive doctors, Ejizu
(1986:51) clearly pointed out t:lis spec~icc;lass of olo wllich serve evil
ends when he said;
This class of Ofo specifically meant to unleash evil is
found among Sorc{jrers, Charm-makers and
dangerous magico-ritL:al eXIJerts, Some very special
types of masquemdes posses this kind of Ofo in
some areas 'also Thr umunri know this kind of Ofo
as Ofo-Atu .. Ofo-Atu is not common phenomenon in
Igbo land. In places V/,'/Greits existence is known, so
muoh secrecy sUiTOur::fs its featums and functions. It
is bUieved that Ofo-Atu differs intrinsically from all
other classes (If Ofo It is prepwod with Ofo stick as
well as some dangerous herbs and elements, It plays
a dysfunctional role'n' society as it is believed to
have the power to destroy life,
It is worthy to note that ;i, ancient Igbo period, land disputes, greed,
envy, strife, malice, among other factors motivate individuals to indulge
in Nsi practice Also, it must ',8 emphasized that Nsi phenomenon first
and foremost is found in the' eartbad heart (Ajo Obi). Tile-Igbo saying
"Ajo mmadu bu ajo mmuo" , '\n evil person is an evil spirit) is relevant.
Theancienf Igbo people beiie "d 1I1c\t"!'1si -di r'i3bnu, I'm: ;ji kwa n'obi"
(the desire to harm others i:, i J,c moutil and in the heart),
Individuals who indulge ill N, pilCw'menon are referred to as "Ndi flci
akpa Nsi ma 0 bu ndi n'1-,<,":~) ;;'jo ogwu,i (Evil men wlJomake bad
medicine to hurt others) The pres"nce of SUe!l a person at a public
meeting makes everybody un83SY. I i n,2 ancient Igbo period individudl:;
who are known or suspected 00 per; ~trators of Nsi phenomenon are not
treated lightly, the comiTlLlliity "jeals very severely with proven cases of
such phenomenon. A suspect is subjected to a vigorous ordeal to prove
his innocence. He may be fLcod to drink a poisonous concoction, to
swear on a very dangerous deity (Arusi) or in most cases, to drink the
water used to wash the corpse of his victim
Very wicked 0l1es that indulge in i\'si phenomenon are forced by_A)a to
confess their crimes on their de 3th-beds. This is called "isa n'onu"
(forcedc9nfe~s_ion) such people ;,rp.nbrbJJrj~<:L T~~are thrown into
"Ajo Ona" (Evil forest/bad bush) (Metuh: 1999rep: 125).
The contemporary igbo-sGciety has witnessed improved standard of
living unlike the ancient Igbo society. The encounter_ between the
developed cLlltures of the world with the Igbo/African culture has refined
the contemporary Igbo -society'-s outlo(Jk to life. The contemporary
society is characterised by Urbanization, Civilization, Modernization,
G!oba!izatiqn anq world religious Christianity and Islam_
Population of the people have tremendously increased and more
challenges are needed in other to live as better and improved life. In the
contemporary Igbo society, life is cow,dered sacred in theory, not in
practice. The contemporary Igbo ::.:cicly, no doubt is a modern society, a
society that is civilized and educled, a society that has imbibed new
teaching, new outlook to life and r:ew cl:!ture_ Every individual wants to
be richer than the other, every ind: "idui. wants to ride the be-st-car; live
in the best mansion and so on. Ernphdsis is on money and material
possessions. Ala does not receive much respecf afrd-regard as it was in
the ancient Igbo period. IndividuaL in the contemporary society lives as
he/she chooses to without any c ,stom or tradition acting as a strong
.. ;
check in his'fher life. Even, the Christian teaching and doctrine is not
deep rooted in the life of individuals of contemporary times.
Nsi phenomenon is prevalent in the-contemporary Igbo society. This is _
informed against the b3ckdrop that in the contemporary Igbo period,
excessive greed, and quest for material possession creates unnecessary
- -tension in the society. This kind of mindset that has possessed the
contemporary Igbo society increases the rate people p_atronizenative
doctors for making/preparing the mysterio:.,s and magical kind of
rnedicirle t_tlatis capableof killingor in rnjlQ.l~rllls.)eI110yes obstacles' on
the way. Removing the obstacles can take the form of inflicting serious
sickness such as leprosy, accidents, blindness and so on fellow
individuals. The act of achieving these wicked aims is Nsi phenomenon
in action.
Unlike the ancient period, individuals in the contemporary Igbo society
hide under the garment of Christianity to perpetuate this ugly
phenomenon w_her~. n9. poe will suspect him/her. 'Ala' (earth
goddess/queen of morality says Ubaclj!'.::.(2007) does not enjoy profound
r~spect agqin from the contemporary 19bosociety. (Mr Jerome Ubadi~\e;
P,ersOllal Cl'lmmunication: 'cccmber 3, 2007). For this reason, Hy'
people of the contemporarYjbo society feel that they can do anything
and get away with it. God ir the view of some people is slo-wto anger
and merciful unlike the tradihns! deity 'IikeAmadioha, Anyanwu, Ala and
so on.
-Furthermore, land disputes ere on the inrn';!ase in contemporary Igbo
period. In most of the land dispute, the use of Nsi phenOme!lOn is very
prevalent. Ogugua (2007) narrated ail incredible story; the incident
happenedjn Gomea farm se:iipmenUn Igbariam community.
The story holds that a land feud occUlTed between Mr
Julius Ibeka (Nwatakwocha) and Mr Afam Nnaeke.
The land feud was so serious that it was brought
before the Igwe and elders in_council. Judgement
ended in-favour of Nwatakwoclll:r~ i'vll Nnaeke
threatened Nwatakwocha 10 stay off from that land,-
accusing the - Igwe and the elder of taking bribe to
prevent justice. Nwatakwocha, embarked on a
building project in ['he said land:-The foundationofthe
new house was laid, offer some, the labourers that
contracted for the foundation project started dying
mysteriously one after another. None out of the eight
labourers survived. The names of the labourers are:
Martin" Emedo, Emenike Ani. Ephraim Menkiti, Josiah
116egbunam, Nnanna Ojadi, Mosco Udeke, Emenike
- Udego, and Mike Umeadi. The cause of their death
was strongly attributed to Nsi phenomenon and
almost every body in the community believed thatMr
Nnaeke has a case to answerconcemingthe death
of these people. Unfortunately, no body in the
community has' taken a bold step to arrest him
because no evidence will be used to prove this.
(Ogugua: Personal Communication; November 20,
How deadly. "and wicked people can be. It is almost impossible to
attribute this kind of death to mere coincidence. The above story
- portrayed the-heart of people in the confemporaryera: Where life is
considered unimportant and something to be wasted. In addition, wicked
individual in the contemporary times use Nsi phenomenon to carry out
nefarious-acts ranging from death, leprosy, pil}casting, swollen
(mgbekwu afo) exces~iv~ and irritating pimples on ladles face to prevent
them from marriage, swollen foot (oedema) to harm their fellow human
Unlike the ancient period, it is dificult to dictate the perpetrators of Nsi
phenomenon in the contemporary times. This is because the
perpetrators of Nsi in the contemporary times mostly hide under the
garment of Christianity to engender their acts.
Furthermore, due to urban and rural migration that char:acterise the
contemporary times, the sacredness of the traditional custom and values
--has been-relegated to the 0ackgreund''+l'la-ktflff-iHwra for the wicked
individuals that perpetuate in this ugly phenomenon not to be exposed.
The Igbo saying 'Alugbaa afo 0 buru Om~~a!a' (w~en -()bominatlon
repeats -constailfly~- it becomes part of the people's culture) is very
relevant in the discussion of the future ot- Nsi phenomenon in the Igbo
society. Nsi phenomenon though it has a negative impact in the Igbo
society is thriving an'd "will" continue to thrive in the Igbo society. The
following points may justify the strength of the above statement.
,. Nsi phenomenon is an act of human creation and manipulation
of forces (herbs and spirits) that are inherent in the universe.
Since human racS) (with particular reference to Igbo race) are in
- -
existence, some indi'v'idlfalsWill sUI/indulge in Nsi phenomenon
Greed, Wickedness, Jealousy, Envy, Strife are parts of human
nature. These facters most often act as a catalyst that speeds
up the action of using Nsi phenomenon. The above
factors/variables that form part of human nature/c~aracter will
engender and also promote the continuity of Nsi phenomenon .
_l\tthe momentL the new r~ligioL!~LO-D~otations and ideologies
(Christianity and civilization) attracted most of the Igbo people,
yet the same pt~ople (m8inly Christians) turn around to
patronize the native doctor for the 'condemned' Nsi
phenomenon. If Nsi phenomen-onTsprevalent ~n9w Christianity -
is said to be at its peak, definitely the phenomenon will survive
in the future.
Change is believed to be the only constanfthing in life..This Lawof _
change is applicable in 'every facets of life of whicnTeligion is inclusive.
Religion behaves like a living organism in that_it grows, changes or
modifies or transforms itself or can even die such Was the With Eadie
Nawgu of his Anioma healing Home. The traditional religion of the Igbo
(African) people was overshadowed by the Christian religion. The
Christian religiQn in the contemporary times has witneSSeda drastic wind
I J - ~
of chalJge that' is referred to as Pentecostalism. Pentecostalism or
Pentecostal movement represent a reaction against the rigid theology
- - and formal worship of the traditiol1Elltburches. Pentecostalism lays
- - -- ---
much emphasis on Holy Spirit which is manifested by belonging or
relating to any Christian denomination that emphasizes the workings of
the Holy Spirit, interprets the Bible literally and adopts an informal
demonstrative approach to religious worship. Glossolalia or speaking in
tongues often occurs. Pentecostals believe mainly in the literal world of
the Bible and faith healing. They disapprove of alcohol, tobacco,
dancing,-tne-theatre, gambling etc. (OstITng-;-FC200EF lVllc-rosoftEncarta
In Nigeria, the Pentecostal chllrches are making a lot of wave. New
churches (Pentecostal) spring up everyday. For instance, in Awka, the-
-- _._--
capital of Anambra sfafe, there is no street that one will not find four to
five Pentecostal churches and new ones gre. added everyday. The wave
and number of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria especially in the eastern
part that are pred,0rll,inantly Igbo peoplo cannot be~over:'emphasized.
Examples of Pentecostal churches found in Nigeria include: - Mountain
of fire ministers, New life and light-ministries, Deeper life, Christ
Embassy, Househol.d. o! . God, The Lord Chosen Ministers, Love
Ambassadors, Winners, Amazing Gr3ce Assembly, House on the Rock,
Latter Day Assembly, The Good News Ministries, and so many more.
These Pentecostal churches large and varied group of revivalistic
religious bodies are characterized by belief in the experience of holiness
or Christian perfection. This perfection isCILlhaxed by an "'Infilling of the
Holy Spirit" as evidensed by "speaking in tongues" (ecstatic utterances
frequently intelligible to listeners) (Redmond 2005 (f3) Microsoft
_ Encarta).
The act or belief in Nsi phenomenon runs in parallel line' with what the
Pentecostals believe in. the Nsi phenomenon (Black Magic) entails the
"'. kind of magic that targets to hurt or killfellowln-diviauajs. This kind of evil
phenomenon is mystical in nature. It negates the act of speaking in
tongues (Glossolatia), infilling of the Holy Spirit, as believed by the
Pentec;ostal churches. However, theP~ntecQstClU;hurchacknowledges
the presence of evil forces, (Devil/Satan) diabolical actstnat employ tile
use of evil machination (Nsi Phenomenon). For this reason most of their
activities and prayers arc targatedmainly fo confront the seen and
unseen forces by ?~~n. fire to consume, burn, cast away these
forces from getting close to them. The 3ct of casting away these forces
~::ln also be mysterious in nature since it cannot be subjected to or stand
" \
the weight at empirical proof. Also, the Pentecostal churches r1ay a
grea( role in healing m::listries especially in curing or healing ailments
attributed to Nsi phenomenon. Testimonies abound in many Pentecostal
churches where victims infected by Nsi received their cure in
- Pentecostal churches. For instance, in the recent crusade organised by
Evang. Uma -Ikpai at Awka, a man suffering from a strpnge illness
believed to be Nsi and which has defiled modern medical treatment was
- -healed.-Many of the pastors and evang!Usts-'Qf- these Pentecostal
churches engage in what - is known as 'Olu ezi n'ulo' (Household
cleansing) to unearth one type of Nsi or another believed to be plaguing
the family. Arinze (2007) narrated how th~members of one Glorious War
- -
Men ministries demanded the sum of one hundred llnd fifty thousand
naira (W150,000) a-s idee for 'olu ezi n'ulo' (Household cleansing/family
deliverance ). He was happy that had _it not been for the househoid
cleansing/deliverance, many bad incidents would have taken place in
their family. According fo him- many Nsi was unearthed in the household
deliverance/cleansing exercise which could have resulted in many
misfortunes\, and deaths. (Arinze Ogbo, Personal Communication,
December 5, 2007).
In addition, many Pentecostal churches ann t!leir members with blessed
olive oil, blessed handkerchief, blessed water, and so on to fortify their
members against any attack of Nsi phenomenon. Adherents of
Pentecostal churches believe in these counter measures or counter
attack against mysterious phenomenon. The attitudes of the Pastors and
'Men of God' in these churches build a great confidence -and super
aSsurance in the lives of Pentecostal members against evil forces
particularlY on the Nsi p!lenomenon.Basea-on-this backdrop, a lot of
programmes, vigils, prayer sessions are constantly organised to meet up
to the needs and aspirations of their members.
Nsi phenomenon, being a paranormal reality within the Igbo 'cosmology
with particular reference to Igbariam community is unique in its own way.
---Its-treatment most atirnes detilethEnl1odeTrrmeans-bf treatment ie the
kind of treatment carried out in the hospitals by trained medical doctors
and-nurses, thereby giving way to the traditional means of using herbs,
prepared by the dibia and contemporary method of hea-'ing obtainable in
--- - - -
the prayer houses and spiritual homes.
In Igbariam culture for instance, when one is suspected to be infested
-- .- ... ., - .
with Nsi phenomenon which normally manifest through certain signs like
vomiting mixed with blood, body rashes, swollen foot, high fever and so
"" \
on. The iHfested individual will be taken to the house of the medicine
man/dibia who will diagnose the individual to know the cause of the
sickness. This diagnosis -may be through divination. When the sick
person is diagnosed, the medicinemar"Jill-commence with the required
treatment that eff8C:t the desired cure. The traditional method of
deliverance from Nsi -inciiude, ritual bathing, performing of some
sacrifices to appease the spirits in other to restore cosmic balance,
mixing of various types of herbs/concoction which will be adm)nistered to
the sick person, offering of some ritual prayers to appease the spirits and
so _. on. When these acts W"'. carrie.cL_ouJ_by_themedicine man that
specializes in the act ofdc!iverance from Nsi, the -sick person will be
restored back to normal.
In the contemporary times, the high regard Igbo people/some of the
indigene Igbariam attached to the traditional method of deliverance from
Nsi phenomenon seems to be fading out. New method of deliverance
from Nsi phenomenon is observed. In the contemporary times, method
of deliverance from Nsi phenomenon is found in the numerous prayer
.tlQUses and so called spiritLclhomes'.-Pastors, Evangelists, brothers,
sisters and so called men of Gdd nuw carry out the act of deliverance
from Nsi phenomenon. The method of deliverance from Nsi
phenomenon that is obtainable in the prayer houses and spiritual homes
includes; - intensive fasting and offering different kinds of praying,
anointing of olive oil, spiritual b:.;thing, lighting of various colours of
candles, striking of live pigeons on the sick individual and so on. In
Igbariam community, Pastor Emma Nwanze of a prayer horne that has
Sabbatharian underto'ne Iias"his heme flourish from individual seel~ing
for deliverance from Nsi pl1enomeilon. Different kinds of prayers and
si:lcrifj,ceal'o performed to v3."ious individuals seeking for relief from one

kirld of Nsi phenomenon or another in his prayer home. Furthermore,

some of this so called men Of God turn of these prayer Rouses and
spiritual homes turn themselves to faith-healers, traditional doctors by
way the embark in thfJ 'olu ezi na u!o' where they collect huge sums of
money to came and perform me kind of household cleansing or another.
HQusehold cleansing develo;3d as a result belief in the incessant fear of
evil forces tormenting human beings of which the Nsi pheno~l<:}nonis <,l
the fore. For the fear of being labeiled fetish, most Igbo people feel at
home adopting the contem:Jorar~ n:ctilOd . .QLc'e:iverance from Nsi
The traditional method of de':v\.~mll"rc110rnNsi phenomenon creates thai
kind of irnpact that the forc'c'c,b"hiilcl tho efficacy of Nsi pllenomenon wi!1
be appeased. This is becCill~8 the l' aciftioni.ll medicine mall undCi,-,t,Jnc1s
the psychological background of his patient ,]S well as his worldview and
tr;es !O m~iet him at thelt P:';:lt of IilS n8eds. He finds out the religious
.cal)ses of i(lIless or complai:-,;sa;lJ prescribes a cure which may inclucle
herbs, religious rituals and the ol.J;el'/Zinceof certain prohibiliom; or
direction. It seems that the tr',clitic'nal n:ethod of deliverance from r:si
phenomenon makes the aver1ge Igbo man feel at horne with the method
of the cure from Nsi pherofllf:ilOn. 1\Iso the traditional melhod of
deliverance from Nsi phenolTlenon soems more accessible io the Igl-)"I
Igbariam people. In terms of pdJ'inent, the traditional method of
deliverance seems more af:orcl,:lble to thelgbo people. 1laving sC1id
these, most people foci thal ~tleli ;itional means of treatment from Nsi
pnen-omenon is fetish in naL,e ane ,nost a times associated with 'pagan'
or idol worship. For this reaSOil, s'.lIne p";oplc desist from employinS)the
services of the traditional medicine man in the treatment of Nsi
The contemporary method l ( deliverJllcu from N'.-;iphenomenon seems
to be gaining some gruun( wilen it comes to the treatn,enl of N:~i
phenomenon. Majority of Igl ) peopl() do not regard it as a fetish praciic(~
rather they assume is mo!! sff:;ct;-n '.',hen j' comes to v'm:'::'g eif c... i1
spirit and all the likes. 1'v1ajo, of ; '0';1';0 seems to seek the services of
t~e prayer ~;l:Jrriorsof differeilt pray"r I'omes net minding how expensive
it may be. The conUnn: .. 'iY'LY 'n, 'loci or deliverance from I'Jsi
phenomenon seems to be m::n, :;xpr::n:c:';ethdll the tradition;]: i"ethod of
In the area of achieving results, the twohiethbds; the traditiohal aod the
contemporary method of deliverance seems to be achieving the desired
results depending on the mind set of belief in each of the methods.
There are also situations where each of the methods seems not to
deliver result. For instance, Nnamdi a manof thirty y~afs, a native of
Umueri in Anambra East Local Government of Anambra State was
- infestedi9y Nsi phenomenor, in far-awaylaGs-and the wife carried him
to one spiritual home there in lagos, the people at the spiritual home
tried all the could dQ to save him but to no avail, when his health
det~riated, the wife with the help of some of his family member carried
- -
him to the home of the traditional medicine man, hefailed to save his life
and within few days in the house of the traditional medicine man , he
died. (Felix Oforkansi: Personal CQrnrnunicatlon: Sept 16,2007) Who
knows whether he might have survived if they have taken him to
hospital? This question -may remain unanswered. Over and above all,
there situations/cases where each of these methods have achieved
The Igbo so"iety is a religious one Religious in the sense that her
worldvieyv . is basically religious. The worldviewof the Igbo society
summarily runs thus:-
~ The society believes in the Unified view of Reality.
';- The sense of the Community or Community Consciousness.
~ Human life: It:, Preservation ahdEnhancem"ent.
These features which are core contents of the cosmology of the Igbo
people dictates their way of living which encompass their religious life,
family system, political syst:"i:l,economic system and social system. In
this chapter, we shalt consider the Nsi implications as it affects the
various aspects or institution of the Igbo society. The institutions are:
., The, Family Institution.
". Political Institution.
Religious Institution ..
Economic Institution.
Social Institut,ion.
The family is considered as the small unit that makes up the larger
commuDity. Within the Igbo familY'.3'~t~~,lIVe. have the Nuclear and
Extended family. One outstanding fact about the Igbo family system is
that such categories like Cousins, Uncles, Nephews are not elaborated
on because a relation is known and addressed as 'Nna' (Father), 'Nne'
(Mother), and 'Nwa nnem' (my brother/sister) portraying the closeness
--in-tnelgoo family systel11.-----
Prior to the advent of Christianity, a good number of Igbo families are
polygamous thereby making the family a large unit that make up the
community. However, the contemporarYlgbo family system~is more of
monogamy. Syano large, in the Igbo family system, there is freedom of
interaction, which enables members of the family to play, eat together,
join hands in cultivating on the family land, go to streams together. Also
a progress maae by brie"niember of the family is regarded as a progress
achieved by aiL The Igbo family system share in a strong love which
-'enaQles them to unite together in their moment of joy and sorrows
The love and unity that characterized the Igbo family system was
weakened by the use of Nsi phenomenon. Caution, Suspicion, and
Carefulness replaced the love, peace, and-unity that existed inthelgbo
family system. A m~mber of the family may be hungry and still refuse to
from the food prepared by one of his father's wife because of the fear of
Nsi phenomenon In Igbariam, a woman by name Mgbogo in Eziafor
village prepared an Nsi infested food for someone and her son Chidi
came in her absence. Seeilg the food in their family kitchen, he ate the
- - food arid that resulted to hlsdeatll-:-WhCItan-abomination? A mother
killing her son? This is what the Nsi phenomenon can offer in the Igbo -
family system: Death, Pain, Sorrow, Distrust and all the likes.
The well-to-do members of the family-fear to--assisi their brothers or
sisters for fear that whatever is given to them may be infested with Nsi
thereby setting them back. This isifl iillewith what James Frazer
- - -
distinguished as 'Contagious Magic'. This implies using the belonging of
one c5robjects that is -said to rei1i:esenr-one for mysterious (Nsi)
The implications of Nsi in Igbo family system is manifested in excessive
fear, death, hatred, suspicion, distrusfand-TacKof love whicll does not -
contribute to tne -'growth :'f the family rather it destabilizes and
disintegrate the Igbo family sy::;tem.
jhe politit;al System of the traditional Igbo people consists of Umunna
(head of each lineage), Age grades (Otu Ogbo), Council of Elders (Ndi
Nze na Ozo) and Eze/Obi/lgwe (King) which later develope5i asa result
of colonial rule.
In the Pre Colonial ~ra, these groups perform certain political duties such
as make laws that will govern the societal conduct, listen to cases and
pass judgement based on the custom and culture, represent the
community in meetings outside the boundaries of the community, protect
and guard the community against intruders and so on.
In the Contemporary times; these groups are still in existence but now
slightly overshadowed by Western democratic government. Democratic
government introduced the politics of represent<:ltion ranging from Ward
for the post of Chancellor, various communitiesfortheposLLegislative
members, Governors and President as the case may be.
The process to determine who is what in democratic government is by
election. Elections-in- N.igeria(Igbo) understanding are a do or die affair.
Because the Igbo politicians regard elections as a do or die affair, they
employ everything within their reach to secure a post which explains why
they patronize the native doctor/medicine man for 'ajo ogwu' (bad
medicine) that will be use;'; to take-awayorfFUstra~ethe opponent from
competiting witb them.
The Politicians believe in the effectiveness of ogwu (medicine)
especially when it involves ajo ogwu which invariably produces Nsi
"- - - - -
phenomenon. For instance, during the 2003 election, the governorship
aspirant of Anambra State Dr. Chris Ngige was taken to Arusi Okija by
, .
Chief CHris Uba for oath taking and possibly patronized the priest of the

oracle for preparation of ogwu needed for them to win the election. Why
would an educated politician like Chris Ngige subject himself to visit
- --
Arusi Okija all in the name of winning-election? This portrays the level
our politicians believe in ogwu as a force needed in winning elections.
The implications of Nsi phenomenon in Igbo political system is that
many people understand politics to mean an avenue where Nsi is used
to kill people and for one tos,.taOO';i,t1W,W~~.rnustfortify hi~s~lflherself to
/' 't-_,..f'ft '- (/,
avoid being a prey to Nsi tibenomenQRr\'o~~"
- . /;) 0i\l",",';C~---J-!.
Also, the outcome of itt1e gl~ction 're'sUlts re manipulated thereby
~"a ..,., .. _
making the masses t~ f~' _ election process. These
manipulation are often attributed tome level_of_'ajo ogwu' (bad medicine
the politicians indulged in. it most be noted thar ajbogwu-invariably
produces Nsi.
Finally, for the fact that Nsi phenomenon is used by Igbo politicians to
secure political posifiohS', th-e Igbo political system seems to be dirty and
every politician is looked at as a constant visitor to the house of a
. med)cine\man for one form of Nsi or another
The traditional Igbo religion has a llrm belief in the existence of ChukwlI
(God) which is worshipped' through many deities. The traditional Igbo
priest serve at the shrine of different Oracle and administer what is
<consjder~~ right and just according to the custom and culture of the Igbo
The coming of Christianity introduced another form of Jeligion and
worship pattern to the Igbo religious-system. _Cbristianity became part of
the culture of the Igbo people. Also, the Pentecostal wave, contributed
and changed the religious system of the Igbo people. Religion more or
. less became a commodity to be sold. Every member wants to head a
church there by generating a lot of controversies in the church. Greed,
Envy, Strife, Jealousy replaced the worship of God.
These ~axonomies: Greed, Envy, ~~!rif~, __~ealousy, Malice opened a
window for the use of Nsi phenomenon in some churches. The
implications of Nsi in Igbo religious system are:
Many pastors seek for powers that end up inflicting harm in the lives of
the members of their church. The stbry-of Rev: John ~king that stupidly
his members, snatches his members wives, kill, the disobedient
members and other nefarious activities cannot be achieve without the
use of Nsi phenomenon.
Also, many miracles that occur in most of these churches are said to be
manipulated by the use of black magic thereby questioning the credibility
'of such ~irac'es. Rumours have it that Eddy Nawgu of Aniom3 Healing
home uses diabolical acts for his miracles. Devils and its agents are now
enthroned in the church since many pastors seek for evil'(mysterious)
In Igbo traditionaLJeligion, certain deaths are attributed to deities, some
confessions from the custodians of such deities revealed that mvv: elf
these deaths are perfJetualed-by the custodians of such <:leiti% using
Nsi phenomenon, ~h~ ~t'2ry of Okija shrine is an eye opener.
Igbo traditional society knows only of subsistence economy and trade by
barter. Land, food, crops, communal work, pure craftsmanship and
attention to the gods of economy are m-ain-factors of traditional Igbo
Economic life system.
__Civilization has enlarged the scope of Igbo economic system. The Igbo
are very industrious in the area of commerce and industry. Every
individual in business want to make excess gain and stay in business.
This constitutes the reason why the business men visit many native
--.- . -- ---_._-_._--~_._~- _.-
doctors for "Ogwu Afia" (medicine for business) Ogwu Afia cannot be
grouped as Nsi but some of the business men advance further than
Ogwu Afia and seek after "Ajo Ogwu" (bad medicine) that will be used
to-eliminate their opponents -in order'iocavoidcompetitioD. When ajo
ogwu is used to achieve ~':~ aim invariably~fhe result it will produce is
Nsi phenomenon.
The implications ()f ~~i p~~nofT1enon in the economic system of the Igbo
people are: - The economic system of the Igbo people is flooded with a
lot of e~il and wicked tendencies or acts attributed to the use of Nsi
\. ~
phenomenon. This has resulted in many uncounted mysterious deaths in
the economic sector of the Igbo people.
The use of mysterious phenomenon (Nsi) in the ec.onomic sector has
engendered distrust, lack of love arnong the masters and their servant.
, The serv\ants after serving ::leir masters will be 'settled' with Nsi infected
J \i
. ,money. Thereby channul;',lg the gain of the settled servant to the
master. This has made a lot of Igbo youths to loose confidence in trade
and thereby turned them into bandits andarmed robbers
Furthermore, the progresses of most of Igbo youths are believed to be
tied in a padlock. This is achieved by the use of Nsi phenomenon by the
wealthy business men. People are afraid to receive gifts from business
men for fear of using Nsi phenomenon to channel th.eir destiny to the
person offering the gifts. The use of Nsi has removed the appreciative
natureotman. Since when ::;~usinessmsll-offers gifts to the motherless
babies, or cow to Umunna (kindred~ people will be afraid' to take and
appreciate these gestures for the fact that it is believed that the giver will
take their destiny if they accept thegifts offered for humanity sake.
The Igbo have different sociai activities that unite them together. Among
these social activities include, fishing, hunting, wrestling, masquerading,
dancing etc. On each oftlie outings, those that would participate in this
will first of all acquire the needed skills and most importantly fortify
"ihemselves/oneself with 'Ogwu' to enable one perform with ease. For
instance a master wrestler (dimgba/okamgba) never embarks on any
competition without fortifying himself with 'ogwu' (medicine)Bdministered
by a medicine man. The act of administering the ogwu is referred to as
"ika aru" (fortifying tile body).
The ika aru may not necessarily be 'Ajo Ogwu' (bad medicine) i.e. Nsi
but with time, ajo ogwu was introduced as a weapon to discredit one's
opponent Hence the-Igbo saying "I~a asi si akona Nsi, asi si pfena aju"
(The law which forbids harming others, doesn't mean you will not make
them di;zzy). The act of making one dizzy may last for hours but it does
not neg~te the fact that Nsi was used to manipulate an opponent.
The implication of Nsi in the social system of the Igbo is that it removed
thE;)spirit of sportsmanship and enthrooe:CLthesprit of wickedness. For
instance, during, 1994 ofala festival in Igbariam community, two
masquerades engaged in a battle of who is greater. Battle in the sense
that they were exchanging the Nsi they came with. BecclUse the b.,ttle is
a mysterious, magical and spiritual one, the audience didn't observe
what was going on until one of the masquerade caught fire and started
to burn. Nobody knew where the fire came from. The burning
---- masquerade was immedio,dy ousteEl-out-4rom the crowd to avoid "ita
mmuo" (revealing the secret of masquerade) and all efforts to stop the -
fire or save the masquerade proved abortive. This led to the death of an
individual, all in the name of masquerading.
Also, the useof.Nsi phenomenon in the social system ofthe Igbo has
resulted in lack of interest of the youth's men and women to develop and
showcase their talent5 in order to improve and-enhance the Igbo social
system. The belief t.h~t ~siphenomenon is used in the social activities of
the Igbo has killed the spirit of competition. No one wants to compete
with another fellow especially those people that are regarded as the
champidns in the community for the fear of being infected with
mysterious and magical phenomenon. Hence the Igbo saying "Okoro
elughi elu wara ogodo, itwku bia 0 buru ya na ogodo y_a"_(When one
has not reached the age of tieing wrapper"-the strong wind will carry him
and the wrapper) ..
This study concludes that Nsi phenomenon arose as a result of
manipulation and transformation oLOgwu_(medicine) to serve some
wicked and evil purposes. The specialist in therflaking of medicine is
Dibia (medicine man). It is worthy to note that not all Dibias indulge in
making of bad medicine (Igwo ajo ogwu) which invariably gives rise to
Nsi phenomenon.
This study also concludes that what gave rise to Nsi phenomenon is not
ikpeh~Arusi (idol worsnip), Igbo(AfncarflcUl@'e~ traditional and religion
but a product of man's wickedness, envy, strife, jealously, malice,
suspicion etc. The fact that Nsi phenomenon is link to the educated
class, political elites, and even ChrlstiCT.ns attest to tbe above fact that
Igbo culture, tradition and religion are. not synonymous with Nsi
Furthermore, this stu~y. c:oncludes that the Igbo traditional health care
delivery system is very efficient and effective when it comes to treatment
of ailments associated with Nsi phenomenon. However, the rigid
maintenance of secrecy on the part of herbalists has led a good percent
of Igbo people to doubt the authenticity of the drugs/medicine, methods
of drug administration and the entire traditional health- care delivery
system of the Igbo people.
The following are the findings of this work
-- That the Nsi phenomenon is a reality as far as. theJgbo people is
concerned though it cannot stand the weight of empirical proof.
- That Nsi phenomenon eXIJosed the fact that there are much
Pdt~ntial in nature which man can make use of and if possible
redirect or channel these potentials toa useful purposes.
- Nsi phenomenon_ though perceived from a negative or evil
standpoint, acts as agent of behavioural control. In other words, it
acts as a c;:heck to crimes. People prepare ajo ogwu/Nsi to
safeguard their properties from intruders or criminals.
- In some Igbo community, perpetrators of Nsi enjoy some kind of
respect or regard because people in the comml.J~ity wi!1 not want to
argue with them for fear of being infected with Nsi phenomenon.
- T~at perpetrator of Nsi is seriously p~ish9by the community
when there are proven and established cases. They are not friends
of the community.
- That people no longer trust themselves. They feel threatened and
unsafe in the midst ofotherpeopiEf-They now !indJt difficuato
associate'wHh others. Even when one is engage in social activities
such as dancing, hunting, wrestling competition, fishing,
masquerading etc they feel insecure for fear of possible infliction of
Nsi phenomenon." .
- That ailment attribuied to Nsi phenomenon most a times defile
m~~ern kind of treament, this makes the Jgbo traditional health
care delivery system the beat alternative when it comes to
treatment of Nsi phenomenon.
This work has much knowledge in stock for the broad minded seekers of
truth. It gives a number of important contributions to the understanding of
Nsi phenomenon. It is a mind opener that goes beyond frontiers to
expose the dreadful Nsi phenomenon among the Igbo' people This work
will act as a guide to scholars who are interested in Igbo culture and who
are willih,g to explore and expand the Nsi phenomenon among the Igbo
people. This is because this study exposed the phenomenon of Nsi and
gives adequate information concerning the phenomenowin a lay man's
understanding. This study enables us to-know that there are mysteries in
all created things especially thp roots and herbs. That man being at the
centre of creation has the knowledge and potentials to explore and tap
there potentials or mysteries embedded in nature to better the society
This study is an eye opener which exposes ttie neglected and
abandoned Igbo traditional health care delivery system in Igboland. It
would enable traditional sceptic;-t~-h;~;-an opti~-i~tic look on traditional
medicine rather than the bigoted approach towards it. Finally, this study
is an important contribution to the larger society in the on-going effort to
unravel Igbo mystical and magicaLphenomer:1on coupled with thelgbo
traditional heal!h-:Gare delivery system and its practises: The research
also exposed the roles of certdin actors like dibia, agwu, traditional
priest, Pentecostal churches and man thatjJlay a significant role in Nsi
phenomenon and.the_health caredelivery system of the Igbo people.
The researcher is ilTitated wilh the degradation of morality in our Igbo
contemporary society which paved way for the use of Nsi phenomenon.
There is no better time tha1 now for traditional values to be re-examined
to see what hope it hOlds in stock for the society. The research
discovered that Nsi is a misdirection of Ogwu to achieve wicked and
selfish purposes. Therefore, the researcher is of the opinion that there
will be an enlightment campaign targeted especially to the native doctors
and traditional medicilie men for them to desist from making bad
medicine (igwo ajo ogwu) also there will be a massive re-orientation in
the minds of the Igbo people for them to desist from embarking in ugly
Nsi phenomenon.
The secrecy surrounding the traditional practises such as Ogwu
(medicine), dibia (Native Doctor/Medicine Man) etc needs to be played
down on. This secrecy creates d barrier for researchers from getting
adequate information for their research.
- -Furthermore, the traditiona: doctors-sholollEl-make their discoveries open
to public criticism for improvement. The conservative-and secret
attitudes of the traditional practises should be discouraged and they wlli
be ready to accept useful suggestions..
There is the need to give traditional praditioners some training and
responsibilities to enable them carry out their functions efficiently qnd
Finally, this should not be the end of their research. The study continues.
There are other aspects of mystical and magical phenomena which have
, nofbee~:.exPlored given adequate attention. These should be surveyed.
Thu, students of Africc'n culture, philosophy and religion, all and sundry
are challenged to take up the task of getting interested in-the traditional
practises. By so doing, people will begillloappreciate and tolerate the
traditional ritual practises.
__The researcher wishes to give the following suggestions to interested
future researchers.
The influence of the culture or cosmology on any particular group
should be considered, because it is from culture or cosmology of a
--- ---~----_.-
people that their practices and beliefs are rooted. For meanirlgful
results, a viable methodology should be adopted rather than mere
speculations, over generations and impositions of one particular
practice on another. -
Finally, the cresearcher strongly suggest that the study on Igbo
culture practices should continue, to enable families, communities
who are related but were sep-arated by religious influences to co-
exist and be united. once more, for further understanding of their
cultural practices. With this, a lot of exposition on cultural practices
wa\~ld be made. This would help to bridge the cross road spiritual
batt:e between individuals, communities and religions.
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"7 ,),
I , "I
The mast~r's degree research work is on Nsi phenomenon (Poison): Its
implications on the health care delivery system of the Igbo. The Nsi
phenomenon has not been -givenadequat~attention and as a result, its
role has not been known.
The essence of this is to gather first hand information from elders who
are versed in the Igbo traditional practices.
Programme in view:
Ajaf<oT Emmanuef.
Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
Igbariam--:_= _
Anambra East.
Master's Degree.
a. What is Nsi?
b. \Nhe~e and how does the word 'Nsi" came about?
c. Is Nsi the same as 'Igwo Ogwo' (Preparation of medicine)?
d. How can you explain Nsi further?
a. What are the factors that necessitate Nsi Phenomenon?
b. Are these factors still valid today?
a. What gives Nsi phenomenon the vilality -and fJower It claims 10
b. Are these powers still valid today?
C. Without the 'dibias' (native doctors) can Nsi phenomenon be
d. Does Igbo traditional religion uphold the Nsi phenomenon?
a. What is the connection between Nsi, Ogwu and Aja?
b. Can there be Nsi without Ogwu and Aja?
c. What is the role of AJa in Nsi phenomen5n?-
a. What are the types of Nsi phenomenon you know?
b. Some Nsi Clre more- drea'dful than others. Why, How?
c. What are the likely effects of Nsi on its victims?
a. What are the cures of NsHhat youknew?-
b. Is the Igbo heqlth care delivery system capable of treating ailment
caused by Nsi?
_ c. If yes, what kinds of medicine are used. in treating ailments caused by
d. What do you think is the Future of traditional healtn care delivery
system? .