Ebira Traditional Beliefs about Witches (Opochi) – The Women of the Calabash (Ipa).
To all the psychology and sociology students raising questions about witches (known as Opochi in Ebira Language), scientist will tell you seen is believing and that the women of the night is just some lame stories to scared the children but it’s not. The Opochis really exist and they will continue to as far as the life goes on.
The study of witchcraft, both as it exists in contemporary cultures and as it has existed in the Western community at different periods in the past, raises a number of interesting questions for the student of psychology and sociology. If witchcraft is not a genuine phenomenon, why is the witch fantasy so prevalent in so many different cultures throughout the world?
When I wrote two very similar articles to this Opochi story I am about to unveil to you, some groups in Ebiraland invited me to their gathering for questioning and how I know so much about supernatural forces and to know if I really know what I am making public. Though I cleared their doubt and told them I will be writing more articles in the future to make people know Ebira People too are not going to sit back and let the good tradition and culture go into exile.
So I did my homework again and I reach a very good conclusion about the traditional beliefs of Anebiras, regarding the women of the night. So read all the facts below…
Opochi (Witch) is nothing more than a supernatural phenomenon inherent in nature which, when tapped into by humans or manifest itself in humans, can be used to achieve either a good or bad end depending on the motive and character of the possessor. This energy manifest itself mostly in women than men because 95 percent of those who possess this energy are women while the remaining five percent are men.
THE NATURE OF THE WITCH (OPOCHI)
It is clear then that in Ebiraland, witchcraft is a feminine art and has its power from God the lord of all.
This power is generally attributed to older women, but young women or even girls can sometimes be involved. According to some informants, witchcraft power is a kind of immaterial substance which may be kept in a calabash (Ipa) or Pot (Unoko) hidden in a hole in the wall of the witch’s house, or in a hollow tree. The power itself may be lodged in the roots of a tree or even in a young child (age 1 to 8 years).
In the latter case the witchcraft power will not harm the child but, on the contrary, will protect the child from other witches as the child is serving one of them as a refuge. The red tail-feather of the parrot (Parrot is Aja in Ebira Language) is used as a sign of witchcraft power, and may be placed in the calabash, pot or in the tree containing the witchcraft power. (I have been unable to find out the origin of this use of the red feather or why it should come to have this association with the witch.)
Other informants regard the power as a more concrete substance which is present in the woman’s abdomen. As one man said: “I have seen two women vomit it out. It was like a stone or a hard ball of something. Witchcraft seems generally to be held as a desirable skill because of the great power it provides; however, there is also the idea that the spirit of the witch after death becomes a restless and disconsolate ghost who wanders about the world in a distraught state.
Also Read – The Ebira Concept Of Ozi-Emasu And Enebe.
The power is usually passed from mother to daughter, but it may also be bestowed as a gift, or may be purchased. When passed from one person to the other it is often given mixed with certain foods. It is sometimes held that a woman cannot die possessing witchcraft power but must pass it on to someone before her death; in fact, she will not be able to die unless she does so.
Perhaps some actual comments by Ebira informants would help clarify these aspects. “Witchcraft power is like a breeze, you can’t see it but it has effect. A woman can’t die possessing it-when she dies, she vomits out the invisible witchcraft and it passes to her daughter.”
“A woman can buy witchcraft power or may, as well, inherit it from another person. This mostly depends on the interest or love the witchcraft woman has in the person that is going to possess it. Some people when they suffer too much, seek for this power. In this case she has to buy it. But it is very necessary, and matter of must, to give this witchcraft power to somebody before she should die. In this case, if she could not get anybody either to buy it or to give it out as a gift to her friend outside, or to have a daughter she loved that can inherit it, she has to take it to an Iroko tree that is very young. This will become a spirit in the tree. Other witches will be coming to this tree to have their meetings. It is such trees that herbalists carry their sacrifices to in case they have a patient that is seriously sick.”
“Through many informants I believe that a woman may buy, inherit or be presented with this power. This is not given directly. It can be given through foods such as baked beans (Akara), Kola, Porridge, water Yam (Evina) and many other native foods. When this is taken the power will start to grow, until when the person will start to fly in the night.”
THE POWERS OF THE WITCH (OPOCHI)
Witches are considered to have great power-“They are the rulers of the world, they get their power from God who gave them permission to kill. They have no mercy. They can do anything.” They are said sometimes to have favourites whom they protect and make wealthy but these positive aspects are not emphasized-they are mostly spoken of in connection with their malevolence. The Ebira word for witch is Opochi. Word Opochi is avoided as much as possible or at least spoken in a whisper (for fear of attracting the witch’s attention or offending her).
One of the commonest fantasies about the powers of the witch is that she can transform her “heart-soul” (Ayi) into a bird or animal. This occurs at night and her physical body remains in a deep sleep while her transformed heart-soul moves abroad. A woman who sleeps on her back with her mouth open and arms outstretched is probably a witch. She cannot be awakened while her heart-soul is abroad and if someone captures the bird or animal into which her soul has been transformed she will not be able to wake up; if the creature is killed the witch will die.
Most witches transform themselves into night birds of some type… these have been variously described to me as “a white bird with a long red beak and red claws” or “a brown bird like a bush fowl with a long red beak” Alternatively they may transform themselves into owls, cats, rats or bats, the common feature being that these creatures are all active by night, for it is believed that witchcraft is a nocturnal thing, the witches being most active between 12 and 3 a.m. in the realms of dream and nightmare. If the witch’s activities are brought into the light of day, they lose their potency, e.g., by confession. It is believed that the witch bird perches by night in a tree close to the victim’s house. An owl perched in a tree near a man’s house will cause considerable alarm to the householder.
The actual manner in which the witch bird damages her victim is obscure but I have been told that it pecks its victim’s head or neck and sucks out his blood.
Witches are considered to take part in some obscure nocturnal orgies (Ebe) for which one member of the witch party must supply a human child.