METAPHYSICS OF ABIKU: MYTH AND REALITY
1.1 Background to the Study
Over the centuries the Abiku mythology has seen to the fate of thousands if not millions of children who die and seemingly are reborn through the same mother in Yoruba land. The myth is of a very strong form of unmitigating and vengeful form of reincarnation. In this case a particular child actively brings him or herself to be born into the same family and by the same mother. The child can die up to four times and come back to the same mother. Usually it is a female child. Often, when this cycle continues for an unbearable length of time, the child is given a mark so that they are sure that it is this same child. It is found that when this child dies and reincarnates another time, it often returns with the mutilated part.
At the turn of the centuries and with colonialism and empirical sciences making its entry into the African shoes, most Yoruba’s began to exercise other explanation for the pattered death and birth known as Abikus. Cases of sickle cell anaemia has been used to explain away what used to be viewed as the torturous reincarnation if an Abiku.
However, science hasn’t entirely been able to explain the part where the mutilations on the dead child is seen in the returning on. The same thing with its Igbo equivalent known as Ogbanje. This is why the issue remains unrested like the Igbo killing of twins and some other superstitious western Nigerian beliefs.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The issue of Abiku was only put partially at rest and it didn’t help that writers like Wole Soyinka and J.P Clark took up the the myth and turned it into a very strong archetype in African criticism which was responded to with equally reverberating critical attention and literature on the subject thereby blurring the lines between what medicine has come to show us as the reality in the issue of Abiku and what has been written into it’s myth alongside the population of people who still cling to the old understanding of the Abiku's.
The implication is that an academic lacuna is left which should have thrown more light on the real and mythical dimensions of the Abiku metaphysics. This is the issue that this research has set for itself namely to study the metaphysics of Abiku in its mythic and real manifestations.
1.3 Research Questions
1.3.1 what explanations are often submitted for the Abiku phenomenon.
1.3.2 What factors influence the relevance of the traditional explanation of the Abiku factor even in present times and even across the Yoruba culture.
1.3.3 What religious doctrines suggest the relevance of the Abiku phenomenon.
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The research work which we have taken up here aims at studying both aspects of the Yoruba Abiku phenomenon namely its mythic and real aspects. It will establish the various backings of both understandings which has made even with the advancement of the empirical sciences in the minds of the most religious of persons to still cling to the mythical account of the Abiku phenomenon.
The research will put to rest the Abiku myth and reality dichotomy in that it will delineate the various manifestations of both in the general sociopolitical tone of the Yoruba culture till present.
1.5 Significance of the Study
Apart from formulating a comparative reading of the two stance of the issue and putting to rest the Abiku myth and reality dichotomy, it will shed a critical light on the influence of its literary significance to language and culture. Much of what most people especially none Yorubas know about the issue is always relative to what is preserved in art especially of the literary one which often jumbles between the myth and what can be explained by the empirical sciences.
1.6 Research Hypothesis
The research is working on the assumption that the question of Abiku can only be grappled with sufficiently through both its mythic and real aspects.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The work is divided into two as far as the discourse is concerned namely that which inquires into the mythic dimension of the Abiku phenomenon and that which looks at the real aspect of it. By so doing the work will grapple the myth through its rendering in folktales and literature and other less scientific accounts while real aspect would attempt at studying other explanations submitted for the phenomenon and other scientific explanations. The conclusion will aim at reconciling the differing understanding of the same issue.
1.8 Limitations of the Study
The major limiting factor of this research work is that of time to go through the tons of interdisciplinary literature on African and western forms of humanism.
1.9 Definition of Terms
This is a Yoruba myth which refers to children who die at a very young age and reborn through the same mother only for the cycle to continue endlessly as a way of torturing her family. However, with the advancement of sciences the Abiku phenomenon is now being explained by such factors as the sickle cell anaemia.