#13 Evil Spirits: The Suicide
     (Northcote W. Thomas, 1913)

Among the Ibo… the evil spirit known as akalagoli, ekwensu or ajomwo excites the apprehensions on the people.

The akalagoli is said to be a person who had no wife, no child, and no money, and has committed suicide. They try to kill others after death, and more especially fortunate people.

Occasionally, one may see various devices in a house for catching akalagoli, or for driving them away. A pot with a broom in it is placed against the wall just inside the door; or a forked stick hangs from part of the framework that supports the roof of the wall and so on. The akalagoli is supposed to catch its foot in the fork of this stick—exactly as the witch is supposed to be caught in the witch’s ladder in England—and every month a fire of palm flowers is lighted to expel the akalagoli. Ordinarily, however, it is held to be sufficient to light palm flowers over the spot where the akalagoli or ekwensu is buried and to renew the ceremony every month.

Occasionally a person dead within comparatively recent years can be identified as an akalagoli, the remedy is to dig the body up. When this is done the doctor gets medicine, draws a circle round the grave, plants his horn upon it and runs round it; all this to secure that the akalagoli does not escape. Then he takes a piece of earth and rubs the heart of the dead man and burns it. He cuts off the head and cuts up the body.

[#13] Igbo: “Evil Spirits,” from Northcote W. Thomas, Anthropological Report on the Ibo-Speaking Peoples of Nigeria. Part I: Law and Custom of the Ibo of the Awka Neighbourhood, S. Nigeria. London: Harrison and Sons, 1913; reprint: New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969, pp. 39-40.

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