THE PRACTICE OF NECROMANCY IN AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGION.
Necromancy is the act of communication with the dead, usually in order to obtain insight into the future or to accomplish some otherwise impossible or difficult task. The practice of necromancy in Africa is as old as man, the practice was current in the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. the practice was classified as unclean by the church in the medieval period.
Necromancy in Africa today is different from the way it was practiced in ancient Greek, Egypt, Roman, Israelites etc. The Israelites believes in raising the spirits of the dead and inquiring from them about the future, though King Saul of Israel practiced it (1 Sam. 28:7), it was condemned by Jehovah Deuteronomy 8:11.
When things are going fine in the African society there is no need to engage in the practice. The Africans mostly engaged in the practice when they are about to bury a dead person, it is a taboo to bury a witch or evil person in Africa, such persons are thrown into the bush to be eaten by wild animals so as to discourage his spirit from reincarnating back to life. The practice helps to determine the cause of death and the kind of burial to be given to the dead person. For the Africans there are two types of death, these are the good death, which is death at ripe age 70yrs and above, and bad death, i.e. those who are evil, those who did prematurely.
The Urhobo of Nigeria strongly believes in the practice, when somebody dies the family of the deceased would consult a native doctor (witch doctor or spirit medium), to request from the gods of the land if the death that killed the person is a good one or bad one, or if the person is clean or evil. The native doctor would bring seven fresh palm fronds binded together with white and red pieces of cloth to be carried by two people on their head and a blow of water in front of one of the person carrying the palm frond, the native doctor will then call the name of the dead person seven times and ask the person to drink from the water in the blow that is in front of one of the people carrying the palm frond.
If the people who are carrying the palm frond moves and hit the blow of water and throw the water away it means that the dead has drank the water and he is clean, but if after calling the name of the deceased seven times the people bearing the palm frond did not move it means that the person is evil and that the death that killed him is a bad one. For the Benue people in the North central of Nigeria, the practice is different from that of the Urhobo of the south-south of Nigeria, the Benue people will invoke the spirit of the dead person back to posses the dead body and would ask the lifeless body to go and touch the person that killed him/her, everybody present will see the lifeless body move from the ground where it is lie and walking like a zombie, if the person that killed him/her is around it would go and touch the person, but if the person that killed the person is not around the deceased would remaining standing, this will show that the deceased was murdered or he died a bad death. On the other hand if the deceased moves round and go back and lie down on the ground it shows that it died a good death and was not murdered
Though the practice has slight variation among the different people of Africa, the philosophy of the practice is the same for them. It has help to checkmate evil practice in the land and has increase the belief and dependency on the gods and ancestors of the people.