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The Belief in Reincarnation Among the Igbo of Nigeria1

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The modern Igbo of Nigeria, even when adhering to the Christian religion, have preserved many features of Igbo traditional religion. The belief in reincarnation seems to be particularly strong. The Igbo believe that reincarnation usually occurs within the same immediate or extended family. They try to identify the reincarnated ancestor by means of birthmarks, statements a child makes when it becomes able to speak, and behavioral resemblances between the child and the deceased person of whom it is the presumed reincarnation. Oracles are frequently consulted to make or confirm an identification. The Igbo believe that deceased persons inhabit a discarnate realm, but they conceive this as an undesirable limbo from which discarnate souls are eager to return to a new terrestrial life. The Igbo concept of reincarnation includes belief in a group of souls called ogbanje who are born, die in early life, and are reborn in the same family, often repeatedly.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry University of Virginia School of Medicine, Virginia, U.S.A.


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