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Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2020

Urhobo Metaphysical Thoughts On Earth, Abode Of Dead And Heaven


By Young Erhiurhoro
LAGOS JANUARY 23RD (URHOBOTODAY)-In every culture or tribe, there are some important beliefs, totems, taboos and cultural values the people hold in esteem. These chains of cultural values formed the spiral of what we now referred to as metaphysical thoughts. However, before we go further on this short discourse, we must equally understand that, though these metaphysical thoughts are found among all the races of men; but they are more prevalent in the African continent.
For instance, metaphysical thoughts are found in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Urhobo, Ijo and every other tribe in Nigeria. On a more serious note, these metaphysical thoughts may not be the same among the different ethnic groups in Nigeria. This difference could be as a result of aboriginal circumstances (place of origin) or migratory processes. For instance, the migratory processes of the Urhobo people is originally linked to the Youruba through Benin according to the Urhobo folk history. This is why some of our metaphysical thoughts are similar to those of the Benin and Yoruba.
However, let’s go straight to our subject of discussion. Akpo in Urhobo language means “earth or world”, Erivwin means “land of the dead or spirits” while Odjivwu means “heaven or sky”. According to Urhobo metaphysical thoughts, Akpo is the abode of the living. It’s where the higher and lower living beings reside. It’s the home of man in flesh and blood, inhabiting the spirit as a second being. Secondly, the Urhobo people believe that Erivwin is the abode of the dead. In Urhobo cosmology, the people believe that the spirit doesn’t die. Death to the Urhobo man is a spiritual process of changing the mortal body through decay while the spirit moves to join his ancestors in the land of the dead. This metaphysical thought is almost the same in the whole of Africa. This was widely buttressed by the literary works of Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Zaynab Ankali, Ngugi Wa Thiogo and many other literary authors across Africa.
Still on this Erivwin as the abode of the dead, it must be understood that not only ancestral spirits that live in Erivwin. It’s also the home of some evil spirits. The spirits of those that died mysteriously are among these evil spirits too. We have peaceful death and mysterious death. Ancestral spirits are the spirits of those that passed through peaceful death while those that passed through mysterious death are grouped under evil spirits. The ancestral spirits are to protect their generations from evil while the evil spirits are messengers to some satanic beings (deities) also inhabiting the Erivwin.
Thirdly, the Urhobo people strongly believe that Odjivwu is the abode of Oghene, the Urhobo name for God. According to the metaphysical thoughts of the Urhobo, it’s not only God that lives in Odjivwu. The same way evil spirits are messengers to some harsh satanic beings in Erivwin, the same way we have angelic beings that are messengers to the Almighty God. But however, the supreme inhabitor of Odjivwu is the Almighty God.
More importantly, the essence of this study is to enable us know that these metaphysical thoughts of the Urhobo people also formed their religious beliefs and practices. For instance, because the Urhobos believe that the dead only passed from Akpo to Erivwin, they are always watchful of what takes place here in Akpo among their kinsmen or family circles. This belief therefore brings about the religious practice of ancestral veneration or sacrifice. This is done from time to time by those family members that are still alive to appease them that are living in the land of the dead. Also, this same metaphysical thought among the Urhobo people made them to believe on reincarnation and second birth. The Urhobos believe one can die and be born again in the same form as a human being or a lower living thing like a tree.
In the same way, the Urhobo people believe that, there is a supreme being that creates and controls all the activities of both the Akpo and Erivwin. The Urhobos call that supreme being “Oghene”. They so much reverence this singular being. Because God cannot be seen with our physical eyes according to the beliefs of the Urhobo people, his actions can only be felt by using some of the heavenly elements to speak to us. For instance, the Urhobo people believe that when the sun or moon turns red suddenly, it’s a message of blood shed or crisis in such an area. The same way if there is a whirlwind blowing on a sunny day, the Urhobo people strongly believe it’s a message of mourning or death of young people from God. Also in these metaphysical thoughts is when there is a rainfall amidst sunshine. The Urhobos believe that it’s a sign of strange occurrence in the land. Another one is when there are no stars on the sky but the moon is brightly shining, the Urhobo people believe that it’s a sign of war or crisis. Another metaphysical thought among the Urhobos is when the sun or moon is shining dull or in halves, it means a traditional head or a great man would die in the land.
In another development, do you also know that the Holy Scriptures described so many metaphysical thoughts as depicted by the writings and prophecies of great Biblical leaders and teachers like Moses, David, Joshua, Paul, John, Peter and even Jesus Christ? The Bible is in tandem with these Urhobo metaphysical thoughts as well. For instance, Moses in his writings in the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus etc talked so much about the heavenly elements and thier communications to the Isrealites. For example, Genesis 1 vs 1 reads: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” In fact, the Biblical creation story in Genesis chapter one dwelt much on the heavenly elements of sun, rain, wind, moon, stars etc. In the same way, David wrote so much on the same heavenly elements in his Psalms and Proverbs. For example, Proverbs 26 vs 1 says thus: “As snow in summer, and as rain in harvest, so honour is not seemly for a fool.” Solomon also talked much about the heavenly elements in his writings especially in Songs of Solomon. Take time to study each of these Biblical books as mentioned, it’s there you will agree with me that metaphysical thoughts were also part of the religions of Isreal and thier captor, Egypt. What about the writings of Peter, Paul, John and even Jesus Christ in the New Testament? All thier writings are flooded with explanations on how to understand the languages of the heavenly elements. For example, in the book of Revelation 21 vs 1, John, the author of the book wrote, “And i saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” In fact, the Urhobos read meanings to all the heavenly elements and all these therefore formed thier belief and religious systems.
To conclude this discourse, we must equally look at the correlation among these three mystical planes or abodes of Akpo, Erivwin and Odjivwu. First, apart from Akpo, which is a physical plane, the other two are spiritual abodes meant for different categories of higher beings. In this case, there is a distinction between Akpo on one hand and Erivwin and Odjivwu on the other hand. The physical man cannot see all the activities taking place in Erivwin and Odjivwu but he can see clearly what is happening around him on the earth plane. In retrospect, those beings in both Erivwin and Odjivwu are permitted by natural forces to intrude and manage earthly activities. Despite this, there is a group of men endowed with spiritual knowledge and understanding that can understand much better the words of the spirits. These are scattered all over Africa, of which Urhobo is no exception. These are soothsayers, herbalists, priests to epinonymous deities etc. These set of physical beings came about according to Urhobo metaphysical thoughts, as a result of reincarnation or second birth. These are people that once came to this earth in time past but could not achieve their missions here on earth. After they have gone to the land of the dead or spirits, they came back again with a higher spiritual acumen and strongly backed up by one or more spiritual beings like a deity.
According to Urhobo metaphysical thoughts, only these people can understand the languages of the heavenly elements like rain, sun, moon, stars, wind etc and communicate same to those that have a higher percentage of mortality than immortality. These people too are also permitted to interpret the words of the spirits, ancestors and deities to those of us that don’t understand such strange words. It’s so because they once lived there with them before they now came back again and again to this earthly plane to complete their unfinished missions. However, there is a two way to a coin: the head and the tail. In the same way, man is not only made of mortality but also wearing immortality, even still unknown to so many people. This may be as a result of sheer ignorance among them. Urhobo metaphysical thoughts on Akpo, Erivwin and Odjivwu are spiritual tools for the Urhobo people to attain spiritual santification and satisfaction every time.

Young Erhiurhoro;Kjc is a reporter and a member of the Urhobo Historical Society.

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