Born to Die: The Mysteries of the Ogbanje Spirit

Ogbanje spirit

An Ogbanje is a phrase in Odinani (Igbo) for a child termed as an evil spirit that purposefully brings misfortune to a family. Ogbanje translates as “one who comes and leaves”. In Igboland, an Ogbanje belongs to the spirit world and the goddess Nne Miri and Onabuluwa. They are born as humans who have to go back to the spirit world. This spirit comes through the mother over and over, torturing her and her family.

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Ogbanje deliberately dies to be reborn as the next child of the family and subsequently repeats the cycle, causing much grief. It is also believed that ọgbanje are born into the same immediate family all the time; they can even be born into an extended family. Ogbanje can be born into a family from a spirit between gestation and birth. Another way is by introduction to an ọgbanje group.

A child suspected to be an Ogbanje won’t live long, they die at stillborn or when it is discovered that they are Ogbanjes; as a result, may bring bad luck and sorrow to their parents.

The Ogbanjes who are never suspected to be Ogbanjes die before they’re married. In Igbo culture, marriage makes one ‘complete. Ogbanjes who eventually marries will not bear any children of their own.

After marriage, the female Ogbanje die during pregnancies along with the baby, while the male ọgbanje die before the birth or death of a wife’s baby.

Watch mysteries of Ogbanje Spirit Below

Exorcisms of  an Ogbanje spirit

There is a totem that the Ogbanje hides, usually by burying, which tells them where to come back to when they are reborn. The evil spirits are also said to have stones called iyi-uwa, which they bury somewhere secret.

The iyi-uwa serves to permit the ọgbanje to return to the human world and to find its targeted family. Finding the evil spirits’ iyi-uwa ensures the ọgbanje would never again plague the family with misfortune.  Furthermore, the hold of the Ogbanje can be broken if the iyi-uwa is found and destroyed

To perform an exorcism on this bad spirit, a priest is called to dig out and destroy the iyi-uwa. The child is then confirmed to no longer be an ọgbanje after the destruction of the stone, or after the mother successfully gives birth to another baby.

Another way to prevent an ọgbanje from returning after the child’s death is by mutilating or making marks on their body. Some ọgbanje, however, were said to return bearing the physical scars of the mutilation.

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  1. Sharing food with unseen people.
  2. Talking to oneself
  3. Hearing voices
  4. Falling and screaming from unseen blows
  5. Fighting unseen people
  6. Violent dreams
  7. They are usually very good looking.

Trying to identify an ọgbanje that lacks mutilation scars can sometimes be difficult. Other things that have helped families identify them are birthmarks the child had, the first words they said, and behaviour similarities from the child that has been reincarnated. Families paid a lot of attention to these types of characteristics, and most of the time would go to an oracle to confirm that the child was an ọgbanje. Another sign of an ọgbanje is a child who frequently becomes frequently ill or is often in trouble.



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