I will start this discussion by stating that ndị dibịa in Igbo cultural beliefs and practices are not “native doctors”. Dibịa is beyond that English tag. In Igbo land, there exist different kinds of dibịa.
I will also want to clear the misconception that what you see in nollywood and the way shrine is being portrayed is a lie when it comes to the reality on ground.
In Igbo land, originally, Dibịa does not kill but heal, see visions, do anwansi, gbaa afa. This brings us to the different kinds of dibịa in Igbo land.
The functions of dibịa afa include asking questions to know what the spirit world is saying. To inquire from the ancestors what could be the problem of a man. They find solutions to problems. Any dibịa afa who ate his onions would be visited by all kinds of people from different parts of the earth because of his expertise.
They don’t kill.
Ọhụụ is vision. The work of this dibịa is to see visions. They can tell you immediately you meet them the cause of your problem and what might happen to you if you don’t do this or that. They don’t kill.
He is more of a magician. He performs different signs and wonders. This kind of dibịa in the olden days prepared charms for warriors or village wrestlers to win their opponents. They have a great power to perform signs. They are magicians.
Not every dibịa can heal an ọgbanje and makes him or her show him where iyi ụwa is hidden. There are dibịas who are trained in this regard. It is their area of expertise. No matter how hard and difficult ọnabuluwa or ọgbanje mmiri is, this dibịa knows how to liberate an ọgbanje from dying again.
They don’t kill. They heal.
This kind of dibịa can be said to be a herbalist but this is greater than the name—herbalist. First of all, through afa and other divinations, they look into what your problem is, the origin of your illness, they will trace it and heal you accordingly.
If it’s madness, they will check why such one is mad. Is it a lineage issue? Is it a curse placed on the family? When they discovered this, they will use herbs and roots to cure such ones. Everything they use in healing one is natural.
Anywhere abomination is committed, this kind of dibịa is sent to kpụọ arụ. Ịkpụ arụ means to clean an unclean person (cleansing). One might commit an abomination by sleeping with his father’s wife, sleeping with his or her sibling, killing somebody unknowingly or cursing an old man. Such person mere arụ. It is the function of dibịa arụ to clean such person and make him normal again in order to associate with others.
In Igbo land, those known for ịkpụ arụ are the Nri people. They go to different parts of Igbo land in the past to do cleansing.
Any kind of sacrifice is performed by dibịa aja. He is the one who would slaughter chicken, goat to perform sacrifices. He does not kill. His work is to do sacrifice and do atonement, pour libation for the land to be healed.
These are different kinds of dibịa in Igbo land. A dibịa can perform different roles. Their shrines were not as depicted by nollywood. Dibịa is not synonymous to killing and poisoning of one another.
Granted, some dibịa out of greed began to misuse their powers negatively. The greediness in them made them leave their roles to perform all kinds of dirty jobs such as preparing charms to kill somebody or causing accident to one. These became strange. In the past, Igbo cannot see the blood of his brother. It is an abomination to kill.
Frankly speaking, killing was never the intent of Igbo dibịa. Igbo dibịa are not helping one to make money unto ọgwụ ego as nollywood depicts. Dibịa na-agwọ otoro o kowere ike ya n’elu? If a dibịa can make you rich why is he not rich?
Some Igbo dibịa have gone to other places outside Igbo land to get charms and act badly but that was never the purpose of institutionalization of dibịa.
Of course there is dynamism in everything—culture, belief, etc. That is why we see what we see today.
When you hear dibịa, do not take your mind to the description of nollywood. Dibịa is not evil. Some are evil base on the narrative of this article.
© Maazị Ogbonnaya Okoro