17 August 2009

Vampires in Nigeria

"In pre-colonial Africa, among the polygamous Yoruba in Nigeria, the vampire tale took the form of witch-wives. These women were described as jealous witches who secretly sucked the blood of their husbands and of the children of the other wives. The local folklore even said women could be turned into bloodsucking witches against their will if they were tricked into eating human flesh or drinking human blood" (Tyree). "Indeed in Nigera, the main type of vampires is an obeyifo [also obayifo] who is a living person dwelling in the local community who uses his or her vampire powers against neighbors" (Curran 174). "The Obayifo is a living vampire, usually a sorcerer or witch, who actually sheds its skin at night and rises into the air in the form of a blazing fireball. The Obayifo is born with these abilities rather than being the result of a curse; and the sorcerer-vampire revels in the vast powers it possesses. The Obayifo is malicious and though it is a blood-drinker, it apparently also feeds off of the pain and misery caused by its attacks, making it an essential vampire as well" (Mayberry 238).

"The Obayifo only takes a small amount of blood, but either its bite is poisonous or its saliva carries disease germs. The loss of blood is marginal, but the onset of disease is often fatal" (Mayberry 239). "To this end, the effects of diseases such as tuberculosis are put down to malefic and vampiric witchcraft" (Curran 173-4). "If a village suspects that the Obayifo is preying on the children, spells and charms can be used to seal the house against invasion; and denied its food the Obayifo can bide its time by feeding on fruits and vegetables. Apparently it does not need blood for its survival, and the Obayifo is a patient monster" (Mayberry 239).

"Besides sucking the blood of victims, they are supposed to be able to extract the sap and juices of crops" (Williams 175). "To amuse itself it may wither the plants and bring on a crop blight that will do as much harm as the blood-borne disease would have done" (Mayberry 239). "Drowning or strangulation were the preferred methods of execution, so as to avoid spilling the 'contaminated' blood of the obayifo" (Allman 260).

"It was even held that if a man but looked upon a corpse he established that mysterious psychic connexion which would render him liable to be attacked by the spirit of the deceased. Among the Ibo people in the district of Awka, Southern Nigeria, one of the most important taboos which has to be preserved by the priest of the Earth is that he may not see a corpse, so terrible is held to be the spiritual contagion. Should he by an unlucky chance meet one upon the road he must at once veil his eyes with his wristlet" (Summers 269). "The Ibgo people of southern Nigeria wear a protective bracelet that binds the soul to the body and thus prevents an evil spirit taking possession" (Glenday). "This wrist-band or bracelet is a most important periapt or charm since it is regarded as a spiritual fetter keeping the soul in the body, and to bind such a talisman upon the wrist is particularly appropriate, since many peoples believe that a soul resides wherever a pulse is felt beating" (Summers 269).

"Obayifo are essentially at enmity with the priests"(Alleyne 46). "It was as a matter of fact, the exalted religious spirit that principally gave to the various tribal units the cohesive power that formed the Ashanti into a warlike people, and tended to crush down the antagonistic magic of the Obayifo" (Williams 210).

"In Ashanti, the Okomfo [priest with political power] openly combated the Obayifo as a matter of principle, and he had the whole force of Ashanti religious traditions and public sentiment to support him" (Williams 145). "Deaths were often attributed to the watchful god, with the deceased identified either as an obayifo or someone who otherwise had contravened the laws of the cult. To suspicious outside observers, however, the 'sacred water' was believed to be a poison targeted at preordained victims." So strong was the political power of the priest that in 1931 "the deity identified the queen mother as an obayifo responsible for the death of members of the local adontenbene's family" (Allman 129).

"The Yoko people of Nigeria...believe that disembodied witches (sometimes travelling as spheres of burning light) could draw the heart and liver from sleeping victims, or that witches, perched on the roof of a house, could draw up and devour the heart of an individual, simply by magic." "Alternatively, if a witch can obtain a specimen of a prospective victim's excrement, he or she can use it to draw the vitality from that person, leaving them a pale and withered husk" (Curran).

"The obayifo is discovered by a process analogous to the 'smelling out' of witches among the Zulu, i.e. the 'carrying of the corpse'." Some meat is placed at the entrance of the village. If an individual eats but does not offer some to the neighboring priest or passerby, then he/she is an obayifo. "When prowling at night they are supposed to emit a phosphorescent light from the armpits and anus. An obayifo in everyday life is supposed to be known by having sharp shifty eyes, that are never at rest, also by showing an undue interest in food, and always talking about it, especially meat, and hanging about when cooking is going on, all of which habits are therefore purposely avoided" (Williams 175).

Ka odi,

Allman, Jean Marie. John Parker. Tongnaab: the history of a West African god.
Alleyne, Mervyn C. Roots of Jamaican culture.
Curran, Bob. Ian Daniels. Vampires: a field guid to the creatures that stalk the night
Glenday, Craig. Constantine Gregory. Vampire Watcher's Handbook.
Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings...
Summers, Montague. The Vampire, His Kith and Kin.
Tyree, Omar. Omar Tyree Donna Hill. Dark Thirst.
Williams, Joseph. Voodoos and Obeahs: Phases of West India Witchcraft.

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