Wednesday 19 June 2024

Abiku: The Returning Spirits of Children

In Yoruba belief, "Abiku" refers to the spirits of children who die before reaching puberty. A child who dies before twelve years of age is called an Abiku, and the spirits responsible for these repeated deaths are also known as Abiku.

Cycle of Birth and Death:

Abiku spirits are thought to return to the same mother multiple times, being reborn repeatedly. These spirits are believed to have no intention of "staying put in life," showing indifference to their mother’s suffering and grief. According to tradition, Abiku spirits dwell in trees, particularly the iroko tree.

Emere and Abiku:

Emere and Abiku are similar in that both are children who make a pact in the spirit world regarding their life span. Upon the expiry of this agreed time, they die and reunite with their spirit world companions. Oral traditions suggest that some Emere might even have spiritual marriages and children in the spirit realm. In the human world, Emere often face difficulties in marriage and childbirth.

Names as Pleas:

Yoruba parents often give Abiku children names like Duro-Orike, Durosinmi, Durojaiye, Igbokoyi, Jokotimi, Malomo, and Kosoko. These names are pleas, asking the child to stay and not die again, thereby sparing the parents further grief. The belief is that Abiku bring misfortune to their parents, deriving joy from their mother’s tears, which are considered valuable in the Abiku spirit world. Abiku's time in the human world is typically short, with their deaths often occurring during moments of happiness, such as marriage or graduation.

Understanding the Abiku belief sheds light on the deep spiritual connections and the cultural ways in which the Yoruba people deal with the profound grief of losing a child repeatedly.

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