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Table of Contents-----------------------------------------------------------------------------








CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION-----------------------------------------------------1


1.1       Background of the Study---------------------------------------------------------------1


1.2       Statement of the Problem--------------------------------------------------------------3


1.3       Purpose of the Study--------------------------------------------------------------------5


1.4       Significance of the Study---------------------------------------------------------------5


1.5       Scope of the Study----------------------------------------------------------------------8


1.6       Methodology-----------------------------------------------------------------------------8


1.7       Definition of Terms------------------------------------------------------------------- 8



CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW-------------------------------------------11


2.0       Introduction-----------------------------------------------------------------------------11


2.1       Nsi Phenomenon explained-----------------------------------------------------------11


2.2       Brief review of the origin of Nsi ----------------------------------------------------21


2.3       The Reality of Nsi among the Igbo society----------------------------------------23


2.4       Nsi in Mystical and Scientific sense-------------------------------------------------25


2.5      Nsi, Ogwu and Aja: A Question of Relationship-----------------------------------30


2.6       The Dibia-------------------------------------------------------------------------------41


2.6.1   Kinds of Dibia------------------------------------------------------------------------43


2.6.2   Attributes of the Dibia---------------------------------------------------------------46


2.6.3   Roles of a Dibia in Nsi phenomenon. ---------------------------------------------46


2.7       Summary of literature Review. -----------------------------------------------------48






CHAPTER THREE : THE IGBO WORLDVIEW----------------------------------- 50


3.1       The Igbo People----------------------------------------------------------------------50


3.2       Worldview vis-à-vis Igbo worldview-----------------------------------------------52


3.3       The Structure of the Universe in Igbo Traditional Thought---------------------59


3.3.1   Uwa or Enu Uwa (The Visible World) --------------------------------------------63


3.3.2   Ala Mumo (The Invisible World) ---------------------------------------------------63


3.3.3.  Ala Mmadu (The Earth) --------------------------------------------------------------64


3.4       Hierarchy of Beings in Igbo World view-------------------------------------------65


3.4.1   Chiukwu or Chineke (The Supreme Being) ---------------------------------------68


3.4.2   Deities (Mmuo) -----------------------------------------------------------------------69


3.4.3   The Spirit Forces (Arusi/Arusi) ----------------------------------------------------72


3.4.4   Ancestors (Disembodied Spirits)---------------------------------------------------73


3.4.5   Charms and medicines (Ogwu) --------------------------------------------------- 74


3.4.6   Man (Mmadu) ------------------------------------------------------------------------76







4.1       Preamble -------------------------------------------------------------------------------79


4.1.1   Nsi as poison --------------------------------------------------------------------------80


4.1.2   Nsi sent through the air ------------------------------------------------------------- 87


4.1.3   Nsi used to retard   people‟s-----------------------------------------------------luck89


4.1.4   Nsi buried inside the ground --------------------------------------------------------91


4.1.5   Nsi used in Masquerade -------------------------------------------------------------92


4.1.6   Nsi given in dreams --------------------------------------------------------------- 100


4.1.7   Nsi as Mental Poisoning -----------------------------------------------------------102


4.1.8   Nsi prepared to induce stroke ---------------------------------------------------- 105


4.2       Nsi in the pre-literate Igbo society -----------------------------------------------106


4.2.1   Nsi in the view of early missionaries ------------------------------------------- 107


4.2.2   Nsi in the view of Igbo Christians ------------------------------------------------110


4.2.3   Nsi in the contemporary Igbo society --------------------------------------------113


4.3       The future of Nsi in Igbo society. ------------------------------------------------117








5.1       Health Explained -------------------------------------------------------------------118


5.2       Origin of traditional medicine in Igboland --------------------------------------119


5.2.1   Classification of traditional medicine -------------------------------------------120


5.2.2   Classification of traditional doctors ----------------------------------------------121


5.3              The role of Agwu deity in health care delivery system of the traditional Igbo




5.3.1   The role of religious specialist in health care delivery system of the Igbo---126


5.3.2   Priest ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------127


5.3.3   Medicine Men (Dibia ogwu) ------------------------------------------------------131


5.3.4   Diviners (Dibia Afa) ---------------------------------------------------------------132


5.3.5   Mediums ----------------------------------------------------------------------------134


5.3.6   Rainmakers--------------------------------------------------------------------------135


5.4              Traditional  Medicine:  Problems  and  Prospects  in  the  Christian  dominated


Igboland -----------------------------------------------------------------------------135


5.4.1   Problems of Traditional Medicine -----------------------------------------------135


5.4.2   Prospects of Traditional Medicine -----------------------------------------------137


5.5       Contemporary Methods of deliverance from Nsi ------------------------------140


5.5.1   The Hospitals -----------------------------------------------------------------------140


5.5.2.   The use of Traditional Medicine-------------------------------------------------141


5.5.3   The Healing homes/prayer houses----------------------------------------------143


5.6       Critique of these healing methods------------------------------------------------144








6.0        Preamble--------------------------------------------------------------------------148


6.1       The Implication of Nsi in Igbo family system-------------------------------149


6.2       The Implication of Nsi in Igbo political system-----------------------------151


6.3       The Implication of Nsi in Igbo religious  system----------------------------154


6.4       The Implication of Nsi in Igbo economic system---------------------------157


6.5       The Implication of Nsi in Igbo social system--------------------------------160







7.1       Summary---------------------------------------------------------------------------162


7.2       Conclusion ------------------------------------------------------------------------164


7.3       Recommendations----------------------------------------------------------------165


7.4       Suggestions for further research------------------------------------------------166




REFERENCES ----------------------------------------------------------------------------167






The purpose of this research is to expose the multi-referential and the multi-dimensional syndromes of nsi as well as alerting the Igbo community of the harm and damages the nsi phenomenon has had and still having in the lives of the people in both their interpersonal and social relations. This research made use of primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary source involved personal oral interviews with victims of nsi as well as the religious experts that treat the ailment. The secondary source entails the use of materials such as books, journals, newspapers, magazines, internet materials and projects. The data collected were analyzed using the area-culture method of interpretation as this was found very appropriate because of the culture-bound nature of the study. The research exposed both the sensory and abstract levels of nsi thereby demonstrating its physical as well as its transcendental intentionality. Thus, this research discussed nsi in its normal (sensory) and its paranormal (abstract) dimensions. This underscores why nsi in this research is seen as a poisonous concoction or poison which when taken into the body can kill, maim or injure a person or in its abstract levels like in actio-in-distance; as to the cases of iko ara, ido ogwu, iko ntutu, ife aju, and mental poisoning; all which cause serious damages on inflicted individuals. These themes are highlighted within the framework of Igbo consciousness of preservation and enhancement of human life and community solidarity.








1.1              Background of the Study




From ancient times, human beings have believed in some mysterious, paranormal and magical phenomena that can kill, harm or cause inexplicable sickness on individuals. Among the Igbo of Nigeria, these paranormal and mysterious phenomena are understood as nsi. The word nsi has no definite English equivalent but English words such as sorcery, black power, black magic, charm, poison, spell, voodoo, necromancy, clairvoyance and witchcraft are usually associated with the nsi phenomenon.




What produces nsi has not been properly ascertained but it is believed to be ordinary objects which can be manipulated by some individuals who subscribe to various powers in order to influence other individuals or turn events in their interest through their knowledge and manipulation of some spiritual powers. The underlying principle of nsi is to cause harm, inflict sickness that most times defy orthodox medical diagnosis and possibly kill the affected individual. Studies by the researcher conducted among the Igbo in some parts of Anambra State revealed that nsi has its source from a channel ajo ogwu. When ogwu is applied in different forms, using different modes and different incantations or utterances, which must include the name of the intending victim of nsi, it produces different results which explains the polarity of nsi in Igbo religio-social diametric. In this regard, different forms of nsi suffice, such as Inye Nsi, Nko Nsi, Izota Nsi, Iko Ogwu/Ara, Ido Ogwu, Iya Ntutu, Ife Aju and many more. For this reason, Nwala (1985) opined that:


Ogwu could be used as poison (nsi) or as witchcraft (amusu). This is


what                                         has   been   called   blackill-health aremagic‟.




attributed to the power of other malignant ogwu. Lunacy, barrenness, abortion, blindness, dumbness, cough, convulsion etc are attributed to the effectsogwu. (pof.68). others‟




The need for this research is informed against the backdrop of the relevance of nsi in this era of industrialization, urbanization, civilization, Pentecostalism / Christianity in Igbo society. A young clergyman by name Rev. Obed Okonkwo posted to Obeledu on arrival, heard about iya-ntutu (pin casting) which is prevalent in that area. He preached against it as an unreal, powerless and fictitious phenomenon which should be treated with a wave of hand. Few months later, the son of the priest became seriously ill and arrangement was made to take him to hospital but some members of the church objected. They advised him to consult a trado-medical specialist to diagnose the sickness to know whether it is nsi related to avoid giving him orthodox injection which, if given, would facilitate the death of the young man. It is believed in the area that if one is infested with pins, and orthodox injection is administered, the victim may likely die. Reluctantly, the priest obliged and it was eventually discovered that the illness was nsi related one and was treated with the traditional medicine which, to a large extent changed the view of the priest concerning paranormal activity that exists in Igbo society. This has really become a source of concern especially as it is believed to exist even among the educated elite like lawyers, orthodox medical doctors, philosophers, even ordained ministers and so on. This is because the materials that makes up nsi when observed critically and empirically appear to be powerless, which ponders on mere assumption and superstitious but it is real and dangerous phenomenon for the Igbo people.




Through the pieces of information gathered in the course of this research, it is important to note that the practice of nsi in the Christian dominated area, is prevalent. Therefore, belief in nsi is still something that remains persistent and strong in the minds of the Igbo despite modern breakthroughs in science and technology, Christianity and globalisation. The rate at which the educated elite, politicians, businessmen, government officials and even clerics fear the potency of nsi or seek the services of medicine men for one kind of protection or another against such paranormal agents attest to reality of nsi among the Igbo. This indicates the belief in and strength of nsi practice within the Igbo religio-social life. It is something that needs not be ignored. Hence, the intention to investigate the condensation and polarization of nsi phenomenon within the Igbo socio-religious environment is highly worth doing.



1.2              Statement of the Problem


The above background study reveals that the belief in nsi as a „cultural h remains strong and persistent in the minds of the Igbo despite the developmental


breakthroughs in science and technology, civilization, globalization and Christianity. This indeed warrants an investigation of the phenomenon which, from all indications, is real in the minds of the Igbo.




The researcher‟snthecentralobservationsub-cultureofIgborevealedithat people are afraid to associate freely with their fellow individuals in villages, social gatherings for fear of possible contamination/infection of nsi. This can be understood against the backdrop that conflicts, crisis, greed, doubts, disunity, hatred, wickedness and so on




have been identified as some of the possible factors that give impetus to the infliction and transmission of nsi.




Ordinarily, the observable materials that constitute nsi do not include guns, machetes or any visible weapon. Yet, it is largely believed by the Igbo that it kills, pins down its victims, controls actions of individuals in terms of certain restrictions, and gives the individuals that perpetuate in nsi some kind of confidence, possibly, because of some mysterious powers inherent in ogwu that leads to nsi. Therefore, the matter and form such as spoken words used in preparing nsi, are believed to carry some potencies with them. Thus, the dreading of nsi since there is no way a non-initiate (in the act of preparation of charm) can explain the workings of the paranormal activity such as nsi.


When people, who would ordinarily live in mutual trust and harmony are suspicious of one another, then healthy interpersonal and social relationships become a mirage, values are eroded and meaningful development becomes an illusion. This indeed goes contrary to Igbo spirit of unified view of reality, community consciousness and preservation and enhancement of human life which is summum bonum in Igbo cultural life.




Furthermore, the Christian activities under the guise of Pentecostalism that is currently prevalent in Igbo society has done little or nothing to curb the increasing cases of nsi practices. Can it be said that Christians who constitute the large proportion of the Igbo populace see no evil/harm in the nsi practice? Can it also be said that the current trend of nsi practices aligns with the Christian or Igbo worldview? Is there any benefit associated with the practices of nsi which gives room for its polarization within the Igbo religio-social life? These and more constitute the




research problems which will be given adequate investigation and analysis in this study.




1.3              Purpose of the Study


The purpose of the study is to investigate the Nsi phenomenon, its prevalence and effects among the Igbo of Nigeria.


Specifically, this study aims at investigating the following;


To explain the content and origin of the nsi phenomenon among the Igbo of Nigeria. To explore the condensation and polarisation of nsi in Igbo trado-religious and social life.


To ascertain the roles spiritual forces play in nsi phenomenon


To find out the influences of nsi phenomenon in shaping the behavioural pattern, value scales/systems and attitudinal orientations of the Igbo


To examine the structures, characteristics, symbols and venues for nsi practice To investigate the relationship between nsi, ogwu and aja.


Finally, to find ways of alleviating the nauseating trauma which nsi phenomenon causes in the lives of the people.




1.4              Significance of the Study


The Igbo people will benefit through this research in that they will be reminded that the value of life cannot be compared with any other thing. To the traditional Igbo, Madu (2002) writes:


The summum bonum or the highest value is life (Ndu). This is made manifest in Ndubisitheir‟-life is namesofsupreme importance,eg


Nduka-life  is  greater,  Ndukaku  life  is  greater  than  wealth,




Nduamaka –life is good. In this, the supremacy of Ndu is both the cosmological order and in the day to day life and activities of the Igbo is reflected. (p. 26).




With regard to the above, the traditionalists, the Igbo Christians are confident that the incessant loss of human lives through nsi will be drastically reduced through seminars, talk shows, flyers, posters, internet facilities, drama and sermons.


The human element or action on distrust, suspicion, accusations, counter accusations, gossip, envy, strife, which often are understood as the reasons why individuals indulge in nsi will be given much appraisal and discourse in this study. This is with the intention that at the end of this research any reader of this work will see the need for enthronement of peace, stability, love and unity among the individuals in the society. These are made possible through social re-orientation in churches, shrines, political parties, seminars, conferences, symposia, as well as distribution of posters, handbills and billboards. The use of these will go a long way in changing the mindset of individuals that have been infested with hatred, enmity, vindictiveness, malice, and other vicious thoughts which brew the nsi practices.




Socially, the significance lies in the fact that it will contribute immensely to the Igbo search for mutual dependence in common goodness. This research will promote order, solidarity, unity, stability, discipline and patterned way of behaving in accordance with the social objectives and values of the Igbo.




Religiously, the study will help to direct the Igbo to thread the pathway of asceticism/holiness, identity, value consciousness, oneness, harmony and balanced interaction.



This             is   in   line   with   Metuh‟s002)thus:   view   as   quote




The goal of interaction of beings in African worldview is the maintenance of the integration and balance of the beings in it. Harmonious interaction of beings leads to the mutual strengthening of beings involved, and enhances the growth of life. A pernicious influence from one being weakens other beings and threatens the harmony and integration of the whole. Thus one of the basis on which the African mode of life rests is in participation or profound communion with the universe. The main objective of the African is to live a life of harmony with humanity and with nature. (p. 20).


Academically, the study will promote the study of traditional Igbo religion and practices in nursery, primary, post primary and tertiary institutions where children will be taught the rudiments of Igbo cultural values. It will also educate the public especially the perpetrators of nsi on the need to keep away from the dreaded phenomenon.




To this end, the beneficiaries of this research include research students especially in the field of African Studies and African Traditional Religion, university libraries, historians, securities‟ operators and promoters of modern African (Igbo) religion/practices who of course will find the study very informative and useful.




1.5              Scope of the Study


The scope of this research work entiltled, “TheCondensation and Polarization of Nsi


Phenomenon in the Igbo Religio-social Dynamics”is on the central sub-culture area of Igboland, which constitutes the present Anambra State. However, emphasis will be laid on Omabala and Anaocha areas of Anambra State which are the home town and resident area of the researcher respectively. The researcher believes that these areas will provide more insight into the study. This is because the rate of nsi practices in these areas is alarming. This will justifiable provide a comprehensive corpus for a research of this nature.



1.6 Research  Methodology



The data for this work were gathered through;


(a)    Oral Interviews: The choice for this emanated due to paucity of literature on the subject matter Also, many of the respondents in this work are illiterate. Thus, this endorses and validates the choice of this method of data collection.


(b)    Written materials both published and unpublished were consulted. These materials include presented conference/seminar papers, brochures, academic journals and so on.


The data collected were analyzed using the area-culture approach of interpretation. This was found most appropriate because of the culture bound nature of the study.



1.7              Definition of Terms



Nsi- This is a deadly concoction/mixture prepared from herbs/leaves or any harmful materials by a specialist (dibia) which has the ability to harm or kill an individual. It can be said to be poisonous substances designed to afflict or take life. In the Igbo




society, it is believed to be mysterious and operates in the atmosphere spiritual and metaphysical.




Condensation: Literally, it means drops of water that form on a cold surface when warm water vapour becomes cool or the process of a gas changing to a liquid. Condensation has to do with the great economical value of symbols. They serve as great stores of meanings, encapsulating through the cognitive processes of contraction, suppression and transformation of a variety of likely originally disparate ideas. Nsi like symbols are multi-referential rather than uni-referntial (Ejizu, 1986). For the purpose of this work, it means different manifestations of nsi on an individual. These manifestations occur as a result of changing from point of administration from physical to spiritual owing to its (nsi) mysterious nature among the Igbo.




Polarization: It is derived from the word „polariz people separate into two groups with completely opposite opinions. Polarization of


meaning is directly related to the attributes of condensation. The differentiation of the feature of polarization of meaning is useful to facilitate the task of interpretation of the dense meaning-content of ritual symbols. Turner in Ejizu (1986) distinguished two poles of meaning; the sensory and the ideological. In this study, polarization denotes different shades of nsi phenomenon and its manifestations in normal (sensory) and paranormal (abstract) dimensions.




Ogwu (medicine): The Igbo have a firm belief in the power of medicine. Making or preparing medicine from herbs is known as Igwo Ogwu. This same term translates the making of every kind of medicine whether curative, protective medicine made to




secure good luck or offensive medicine. Most medicines are made from herbs, hence


the Igbo proverb: Ogwu agwu n’ ofia,(medicineafifainthebush nacan aku og never be exhausted because medicine is extracted from herbs) Different herbs produce


different medicines and successful Igbo herbalists can cure many body ailments by their use.




Dibia: This term refers to doctor; native doctor. A dibia is someone who is endowed with the knowledge in the mysteries of making medicine and manipulation of medicine. In Igbo society, there are various types of dibia such as dibia afa, dibia ogwu, dibia agwu, dibia aja, dibia ohu, dibia ogala mmuo, dibia nsi and so on. These dibias in Igbo society perform various functions.