Discover the community where it is a taboo for pregnant women to die
By Akpokona OmafuaireCorpses are supposed to be buried after death. That is the norm. But not so at Olomu Kingdom in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State. Here, not all corpses are buried, according to their cultures and tradition.
Pregnant women who die with pregnancy or during childbirth are not buried, instead their corpses are thrown into the evil forest near Akperhe-Olomu Community within the kingdom. It is a taboo for a woman to die with pregnancy as it is their belief that if given proper burial, the dead woman will reincarnate, hence the people do everything to prevent her reincarnation.
“Deaths from such circumstances are classified as bad deaths and such corpses are not given proper burial by not being buried in the town”, says His Royal Majesty, Ovie Richard L.
Ogbon, Ogoni-Oghoro I, JP, the Ohworode of Olomu, who is also the oldest person (Okpako-Orere) of Ogoni-Olomu.
The traditional ruler explains further that such deaths are taken that way because of their belief in the reincarnation of women who died from such circumstances.
“It is our belief that women who died in such manners, if buried in town or specifically at home, will reincarnate. In the times of old, there were cases where new-born babies had marks of women who had died from such deaths. This is why we don’t bury them at home to avoid reincarnation.”
In addition to dead pregnant women, the traditional ruler adds that “when someone in a family have mental illness, epilepsy or other disease that are genetical in the family, if such a person is not treated properly or cured and he or she dies with such infirmities, it is also our belief that such people reincarnate by being born as children, and it is usually shameful to the family.”
Such practices, he adds, are also applicable to people who died by suicide, in accidents, or from drowning. Interestingly, those who die in such circumstances are buried in the bush as there are no designated places for such people in Olomu Kingdom, except the women who died with pregnancies, whose corpses are taken to the evil forest, according to the traditional ruler.
Decline in belief, practice
The advent of Christianity has led to trampling upon many native cultures and tradition. Therefore, certain Olomu practices of old which were revered and complied with have been compromised with increasing Western culture through education.
According to Ogoni-Oghoro I, though certain cultural practices are still being observed despite increasing acceptance of Christian religion, especially the non-burial of corpses of such deaths inside town, these practices are declining as many people no longer hold such traditional beliefs. The two factors he believes affected such beliefs are Western education and Christianity.
People now insist that such practices are not obtainable again, so they have rebelled against the practices. He says: “Some families, when they lose a pregnant woman, they immediately carry out surgery to remove the foetus so they can bring her home for proper burial. This is the very wrong practice that is going on now.
The late woman and her foetus are supposed to go to the evil forest. The Church has affected many practices. For instance, many who used to carry out such traditional functions like taking the corpses to the evil forest, have now become Christians and you can’t get people to perform such traditional rites anymore.”
He speaks further: “Many practices have been jettisoned today. People no longer forbid things. When such abominable deaths occur in families today, out of shame for people not to hear that a taboo has occurred in their family, people no longer adhere to the tradition of burying such in the evil forest or bush. They now blatantly bring such dead into town and bury. This wasn’t so in those days.”
Cleansing the land
He believes some of these disregards for cultures and tradition could pollute a community. “The dumping of pregnant women’s corpses at the evil forest or those of other similar deaths at the bush is not the end. The family and the entire community is deemed to be polluted by such deaths and certain cleansing activities are undertaken for seven days till a total purification and warding off of such spirits are attained.”
He explains that there is a certain group among the traditionalists whose responsibility is to take such corpses to the evil forest or bush. When such deaths occur, the traditionalists will be notified and they will come at night to take such corpses away. They are not to be seen by anyone as they sing horrifying songs and incantations.
No one comes out as it is a taboo to see them while they perform the rituals which last for seven days. “They will stay in the compounds of such families for seven days and seven nights, nullifying the powers that led to such death and generally cleanse the families with various rituals.”
The 98-year-old traditional ruler clarifies that presently at Olomu, if a woman dies with pregnancy, the community will not allow her to be buried in the community unless the circumstances of the death is hidden from the community.
“But such a behaviour usually has its consequences”, he says, and adds: “And non-Christians will not tolerate such a person to be buried in the community because it pollutes the community.” The difference between those that committed suicide, died in accidents, or from drowning, and those who died with pregnancies is that the pregnant dead are taken to the evil forest with no proper burial ceremonies, while the others are buried in the bush.
But after three years, their relatives can celebrate their remembrance with certain rites, which is not so with women who died with pregnancies. The remembrance is done for the others because proper burial rites were not done earlier due to the circumstances of their deaths. The remembrance is what gives them the sense of fulfillment that they properly buried their departed loved ones, though it cannot take away the shame of the death.