DIBIA- BEYOND THE MICROSCOPE, TEST TUBE AND SLIDE
A paper on Nkporo Trado-Medical Research Center and traditional healing in Nigeria, presented to the Parapsychology Society International Inc. at the Somerset Inn, Big Beaver Road, Troy, Michigan, USA, on June 28, 1978, by His Holliness, Ahanyi K.O.K. Onyioha, Ogbaja of Chiism (Godianism), Chairman, Organization of Traditional Religions of Africa and Advisor to the Association of Traditional Healers in Nkporo, Nigeria.
Parapsychology is a science concerned with the investigation, especially by experimental means, of events that are apparently not accounted for by natural law, and that are considered to be evidence of mental telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis--psychokinesis, which is a production or alteration of motion by influence of the mind without somatic intervention in objects discrete from the subject's body.
Upon this fact, parapsychology hits right on the head of the metaphysical aspect of- traditional healing in Nigeria, and makes Nkporo Trado-Medical Research Center the appropriate place to which you all need to come for the work of your Society. Nkporo Trado-Medical Research Center is the first of its kind in Nigeria and in the world--first of its kind in the sense that there traditional healers have agreed to come off their various shells of secrecy to work together, exchange notes as a means of passing their knowledge from generation`to generation.
At Nkporo Trado-Medical Research Center, the traditional healers have as well agreed to make their knowledge available to the world through working together at the Center with orthodox medical practitioners who may care to come there from any part of the world. To Acomplish this, Ahanyi, K.O.K. Onyioha was initiated into the membership of the Association of Traditional Healers (and, in consequence, was unanimously elected their Advisor) before they were able to expose their secrets to him and to accept his advice to open up. His first effort to organize cooperation of traditional healers was in 1970 when he formed the East Central State Association of Native Doctors.
Before his initiation, Ahanyi had thought that it was an easy thing to become a Native Doctor in Nigeria--that one gets initiated just because one wants to be. Little did he know that among the Nzes of Nigeria one's family background has to be investigated in order to find out whether the one seeking initiation descends from fore-parents who had been practicing traditional healing. If your family tree is checked out and none of your paternal or maternal fore-parents is found to have been a traditional healer, you can't be initiated. So that traditional healing is an inherited practice. That is why expertise in certain areas of traditional healing is more pronounced in, if not exclusive to, certain families. A family may by inheritance be a specialist in bone mending, in psychiatry, in clairvoyance, or in gynecology. It is for this reason that a traditional healer has to invoke the spirit of his fore-parents to come to his or her aid when handling a case in which his or her family is specialized because he or she inherited the expertise and implements of work in that field from them.
An appeal to their ancestors in their practice derives from the belief of Nigerians in the immortality of the Soul and in reincarnation. In lbo cosmology there is a belief that no man ever dies--that death is but a temporary putting away of the physical expression of existence by the soul or spirit which is the real "I," the possessive "I," which is the immortal part of man having permanent individual existence. When we say my" head, "my" hand, "my" leg, it is the soul who is the possessive "I" in lbo belief. It is this possessive "I," the soul or spirit, which, after tarrying for some time in metaphysical existence, can pass into another body either human or animal or even plant and reincarnate. In this belief in the immortality of the soul is also contained the traditional healer's belief that his or her dead ancestors in metaphysical existence are still very much around playing the role of protectors and helpers to the living members of the family in their hour of need, in the same way as they did when they were alive and in physical existence.
This belief in the ancestors being around is not a matter of imagination. It is born out of experience. In Africa before Christianity came to ring mission bells and scare the spirits away from close relationship with African Christians who were consequently taught to bury their dead in cemeteries at churchyards, black Africans buried their dead fathers and mothers inside their homes. Thus they lived with the souls or spirits of their dead parents under the same roof. This made the ancestor spirits readily available to them in their hours of need. This is no fairy tale, but it is the true experience of Africans, on several occasions, that a woman leaves her baby and runs to a farm just to get one thing or the other and come back quickly. The child begins to cry. The spirit of the dead parent comes out of her grave and takes up the child and disappears. The spirit bathes the child, rubs it with body ointment called "Ufie" in Ibo, or red calmwood in English, and feeds the baby. The mother comes back from the farm and looks for her baby and does not see it. She raises alarm, everybody turns out, and a search begins all through the house including the store. Nothing is seen. The mother and relatives begin to cry. All of a sudden the child appears in the house and in the very store which had earlier been searched. It is seen carrying a piece of yam in its hand with its body painted with the red body ointment or "Ufie." For some time it sits speechless and moping at the astonished crowd of its parents and other sympathizers. The mother rushes at it, carries it and rejoices that she has got back her child from the spirit of her dead parents. This experience is called "Enwu-Manwu" in lbo and it means the carrying away of a child by the spirit of a dead parent. The belief is that the spirit of the dead parent always lives in the store of the house and comes out to carry away, care for and placate a crying child when the mother is away. It sounds like a strange fairy tale. But it is common experience in Africa.
The western world does not seem now to observe this strange phenomenon in the relationship between man and the spirits of his or her dead parents because, early Christianity with its inquisitions against scientists as heretics, alienated the west from concern with and observation of metaphysical phenomena such as Christianity upheld when ultimately scientists began to command attention and a hearing of their scientific theories.
In Africa, our traditional cosmology compromised metaphysical science with physical science as expressed in the fact that in traditional healing there are two kinds of healers: (1) the "Dibia Nsi," which means the herbalist who uses the herbs and can be placed side by side with the pharmacist in orthodox medical practice; and (2) the "Dibia Ogba Aja" who is the metaphysician who employs clairvoyance as his diagnostic method and works hand in hand with the Dibia Nsi--the equivalent of the physical scientist in traditional healing.
Given the above narrated true story of the African's "Enwu Manwu" experience of the spirit of as dead parent being very much around in the home and still willing to extend help from its metaphysical distance in the care of the members of the family, the traditional healer pours libation to, and invokes the spirits of the ancestors to come to his or her aid when a client is faced with a health problem.
In this belief borne out of the "Enwu Manwu" experience, it became the general custom of African societies, particularly in Nigeria, to perform elaborate burial ceremonies to honor and please the souls or spirits of their dead parents.
Chiism upholds this respect and link with the dead. In traditional healing, some chronic diseases and mental disorders can be traced through divination by "Dibia Ogba-Ajas" or the metaphysicians in traditional healing to a patient's disenchantment with the spirit of his dead father because he had offended it from his failure to perform the necessary burial ceremony in its honor. The dead father's spirit got angry with the patient and began to upset his health and his affairs generally. In the circumstance, the traditional healer prescribes ingredients with which sacrifices should be made to appease the angry spirit of the dead father.
Orthodox medical practice does not concern itself with the metaphysical aspect of therapeutics. To orthodox medical practitioners every ailment is a biological and physiological malfunctioning which drugs therapy or physiotherapy can handle. As a result orthodox medical practice soon gets to the end of its tethers after prescribing and re-prescribing various kinds of drugs at great expense to the patient, and declares the disease incurable. Sometimes doctors of orthodox medical practice even tell a patient that he would die in three days and discharge him from the hospital.
In 1955, according to Ahanyi, a friend of his who is a renowned orthodox medical practitioner gave his wife, Nneoha up as an incurable case who would not have three more days to live, and discharged her from the government-owned General Hospital in Umuahia. Ahanyi took his wife to a traditional healer called Mama Lucy who cured her within three days--by paranormal means. Nneoha who was declared as good as dead in 1955 is still alive today--58 years after--very much alive with ten children, to the utter embarrassment of orthodox medical practice! Where orthodox medical practice had failed, traditional healers had succeeded. Cases given up by hospitals as impossible, traditional healers in Nigeria had picked up and cured. There are many instances of such metaphysical approach to hearings by traditional healers in Nigeria in a recent article entitled “Metaphysical Background to Traditional Healing in Nigeria,” * published here in America in 1977 and which Ahanyi strongly recommend to anyone to read who is interested in discovering more positive proofs of successes of metaphysical approaches to human ailments by traditional healers, where orthodox medical practitioners had failed.
At this point, it is important to add that an Asaba woman in charge of the Gynecology Department of the Nkporo Trado-Medical Research Center, in Imo State of Nigeria, had delivered a bouncing baby boy from a pregnancy which western-trained doctors in Benin General Hospital of Nigeria had given up as non-existent. Another woman too, wife of a friend of Ahanyi, carried her pregnancy for two years. Doctors in Enugu General Hospital diagnosed her case as not pregnancy but tumor of the womb. She is a devout Christian of the Cherubim and Seraphim variety, and she began going to her church for prayers and spiritual healing. That would not help. Then she put the Bible behind and went to a traditional healer who divined and by clairvoyance discerned her problem to be the handwork of a woman of dabbled in the occult with whom she had a quarrel. The traditional healer then turned to dispelling the influence of the woman through appropriate sacrifices which he prescribed that the pregnant woman should make. In the long run the woman delivered a stillborn baby girl which looked very much like a freak. Joy filled her heart that she was at last rescued from the torment of a wicked woman, and she ran to Nneoha who is her friend to celebrate it. Both of them knelt in prayer of thanks to Chineke (God) in the joy Nneoha shared with her, because she comes from the same village as Nneoha, and during her plight Nneoha shared her sorrows and on various occasions wept with her.
High-powered traditional healers, of necessity, dabble in the paranormal to help their clairvoyance, protect themselves, their clients and medicines against the interferences of evil forces. For if a traditional healer is handling an ailment inflicted by sorcery, the sorcerer always puts up a counteracting fight in various ways, either by turning the ailment on the traditional healer for trying to snatch from his or her clutches the victim--a counter-offensive which might cost the traditional healer his or her own life--or by neutralizing the effect of the traditional healer's medicines to render the victim's ailment chronic.
It is a pity that African traditional healing practice is generally regarded as evil, whereas basically it is an attempt by a person to bend the forces of nature to his or her will. Nigeria has two kinds of paranormal practitioners. The Ibos call evil paranormal practitioners "amosu" or "ugbasi." The Efik/lbibios and Ejaghams call it "ifut." The Yorubas call it "aje." Other ethnic groups have various names in their various tongues for it. This puts the fact of the existence of evil paranormal practitioners above doubt. Not all paranormal practitioners acquire their power for evil. Top traditional healers and titled men and chiefs in Nigerian societies acquire powers of the paranormal to enhance their clairvoyance, to protect themselves and their families, to elongate their lives, or to acquire wealth through what one might call psychokinesis by which a wizard can remove a person's money to his house without touching it but by the force of his mind wishing all the money were his. This the lbos call "ikpu-ego." To prevent this, those who understand put needles in bags which contain their money.
Traditional paranormal practitioners who want to live long store away their hearts in elephants, so that even if you inflict serious injuries on them in a fight they will survive, since the injury would not affect their hearts which is tucked away in an elephant which lives far away in the bush. This kind of paranormal power is common among the Ejagham or Ekoi speaking people of Nko Clan in the Cross-River State of Nigeria.
The lower class of paranormal practice is called "ifut" while the higher class of paranormal power is called "ekpinan." It is the lower class who are evil, who engage in exercising the power of paranormal forces to kill and to afflict their enemies with woes. And do you blame them? Many of them are poor people who cannot spend money to acquire the higher type of paranormal power for self-protection, for life elongation and for wealth. But just for the joy of exercising paranormal powers, they accept anything that can make them get out of themselves at night to wreak such vengeance on their enemies as they never would have been able to do in normal wake-a-day life.
We hope that the Society of Parapsychology will not talk of experimentation in the paranormal because it would be a risk to say you want to see a person with paranormal powers to believe it. But if you insist you want to see it, you do so at your own peril.
Though we equated Dibia Nsi, the herbalist, to the physical scientist of the pharmacy class in the context of traditional healing in Nigeria, yet he or she is not totally divorced from the metaphysical culture of the people. Animism, which holds that the immaterial soul is the vital principle responsible for every organic development, attributes conscious life and a discrete indwelling spirit to every material form of reality including such objects as plants, water, stone, land and such natural phenomena as thunderstorms, etc. The traditional healers uphold this concept which plays a great part in their healing practices.