Necromancy and Burial Ceremony in Azikoro Community

by Dogood Izibewulum H.
September 19, 2015dogood id


Burial ceremony is age-long practice which involve morning and celebration of the deceased by the loved ones. This is done according to particular culture in a given society. Research have found that the Neanderthals were the first human species to practice burial ceremony and intentionally bury their dead doing so in shallow graves along   with tools and animal bones. Sociologically burial have been looked upon as an event that helps foster integration of people of different categories in society specifically relations of the deceased. Today burial ceremony has become a worldwide phenomenon which every community embrace as a sacred .Practice of lying to rest the departed. Though, with recourse to the practice of finding out the activities of the deceased while was alive. This process involves consulting the oracle to know mainly if the deceased practice witch craft or not. Nonetheless, whatever the outcome affect the burial ceremony.


Burial ceremony at times comes with great pains as the process of losing a loved one could be very devastating. This is worse if at the time the death occur there is no money on hand. This will make the whole process burdensome on the deceased’s family.

Furthermore, if after consultation as it is practiced in Azikoro community, it was discovered that the deceased practiced witch craft while was alive, the deceased’s family will pained the more. This is because knowingly or unknowingly the process of oracle judging a deceased guilty (witch) can lead to temporal stigmatization of the deceased’s family.


The objectives of this study are to:

  1. Investigate the practice of necromancy in Azikoro community.
  2. Find out burial preparation in Azikoro community.
  3. Find out the process of burying the dead in Azikoro community.
  4. Find out age and burial ceremony in Azikoro community.
  5. Find out the mode of disposal of the corpse and attendant rite in Azikoro community.


  1. How is necromancy practiced in Azikoro community?
  2. What are the processes of burial preparation in Azikoro community?
  3. What is the process of burying the dead in Azikoro community?
  4. Is there relationship between age and burial ceremony in Azikoro community?
  5. What is the mode of disposal of the corpse and attendant rite in Azikoro community?


In this work the following literature will be review

Necromancy and its practices.

  • Burial preparation.
  • Age and burial ceremony.
  • Dead and burial processes.
  • Mode of disposal of the corpse and attendant rite.


Necromancy is a form of magic involving communication with the deceased either by summoning their spirit as an apparition or raising their body for the purpose of divination, imparting the means to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge about the deceased.

On the other hand, burial means the act or ceremony of putting a dead body into a grave. The practice of necromancy in Epie/Atissa specifically Azikoro community largely affect the nature of burial ceremony in the land. This is because the practice is purposely carried out by members of the deceased’s family owing to their belief to uncover the hidden life of the deceased whether when the deceased was alive practiced witchcraft or not.


Necromancy practice in the above community is as old as when the community was founded, though it is not peculiar to the community alone. It is carried out by way of consulting an oracle when someone dies. The oracle is a man made structure that is made up of four pieces of bamboo sticks weaved together in a rectangular shape. The oracle in some part of Bayelsa State specifically Azikoro Community is locally called ‘Aganaga’.

When someone dies, especially an adult or old man, the family of the deceased will come together especially elders to discuss where to go and find out the activities of the deceased. The oracle is usually headed by the most eldest among the other three persons.

According to Joel, A. (2015).The consultation process is usually commenced by carrying out some incantation and pouring of local gin (kai kai) on the ground and commands the spirit of the deceased to climb the oracle (Aganaga). After a while, the oracle becomes heavy. At this point it is believed that the spirit of the deceased has climb the oracle and ready to be communicated. The four men carrying the oracle is now set to dance or move to any direction the oracle dictate or direct them to. It is noteworthy that only the two men in the front have the knowledge of whatever thing that will happen in the whole process. The rest two at the back carrying the oracle are just there to complete the number. According to Adugba, asserted that the two men in front  handling the oracle are all wizard that is why they alone could know if a deceased will be judge a witch or not in the end of the process. He further buttressed the above point by stressing that history has shown that.

In the process of consultation salient questions are ask. The oracle answers questions by moving upward or downward. The upward movement connotes denial of any guilt. While the downward movement of the oracle means the deceased is guilty. Some of the questions ask are:

Did you die a natural dead?

Are you a witch, wizard or not?

If you are, how many persons have you killed?

These and many more questions are answered by the oracle. Note, at this point the oracle is taken to be the dead person and not a piece of bamboo stick any more. It therefore means that communicating with it, is communicating with the deceased. In this process, the oracle determines the status of the deceased whether he/she is a witch, wizard or not. The movement of the oracle from right to left indicates that the deceased is not a witch or wizard. On the other hand, the movement of the oracle from left to right means that the deceased is a witch or wizard. In the end of the whole process, whatever be the outcome affect the burial ceremony.

At this point, it is imperative we point out certain fact about the practice of necromancy. It is noteworthy that the practice is not sacrosanct. This is because the practice is subject to manipulation by the deceased’s family and relatives. Knowing the stigma that associate with someone who the oracle has declared a witch, some of the deceased’s family makes sure that they carry out certain rituals to upturn the verdict of the oracle from pronouncing their deceased a witch. So in most cases a perceived witch is surprisingly judged guiltless (without witch). This is owed to manipulation by the families of the deceased. In a similar vein, Johnny, (2015) posited that “in most cases too even the oracle (the four men) themselves manipulate a lot”. According to him, an innocent can equally be judged guilty, especially if the deceased was an enemy to any of the four men when the deceased was alive. In that light, the four men can conspire to ensure that such person was pronounced guilty (witch).

The implication of such sharp practice according to Joe is that those persons whose deceased’s family knew that practiced witch craft, but manipulate to cover it, in most cases, the spirit of the deceased always disturbed the rest members of the deceased’s family. As pronouncing guilty person guiltless means that he/she will be buried in a place where clean people (without witch) is buried, makes the deceased to disturb and kill at times as it is believed the deceased will find the place uncomfortable to stay.


Burial preparation refers to the necessary things that need to be done for the final rite. In Azikoro community, before the final rite, the body of the deceased is dressed in fancy and / or ceremonial clothes. Personal objects of the deceased such as a favorite piece of jewelry may be included with the body.

This practice also known as the inclusion of grave goods, serve several purposes.

  1. In funeral services the body is often put on display. Many cultures believe that the deceased should be presented looking his or her finest.
  2. The inclusion of ceremonial garb and sacred objects is sometimes viewed as necessary for reaching the afterlife.
  3. The inclusion of personal effects may be motivated by the beliefs that in the afterlife people wish to have with them what important to them on earth.
  4. It is also believed that the deceased while in the land of the death would not lack.

Finally, these goods provided to the deceased could be useful to the archaeologist who by their work could trace those clothing and objects provided to the deceased to how the individual lived.


The age of the deceased largely affect the nature of the ceremony. If the deceased died at old age and base on consultation, it was found that the deceased was not guilty (without witch); the burial will be celebrated in a grand style. The deceased’s family will ensure that traditional music is supply for eight days. In these days friends and well wishers will come from every nook and cranny to celebrate with the deceased’s family.

On the other hand, if it was found out by the oracle that the deceased was guilty (a witch), such burial do not attract much people as the burial is always characterized by gossips. In most cases, music can only be supplied on the first, fourth and eight-day of the ceremony. This process hinges on the deceased age at death.


Scholars believed that at the moment of death, the psyche or spirit of the death left the body as a little breath or puff of wind. The deceased was then prepared for burial according to the time-honored rituals. Historical source emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity (lliad, 23-71).

In Epie/Atissa specifically Azikoro community, relatives of the deceased, primarily women conducted the elaborate burial rituals that were customarily of three parts: the prosthesis (lying out of the body), the Ekphora (funeral procession) and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. After being washed and anointed with oil, the body was placed on a high bed within the house. During the prosthesis, relatives and friends came to mourn and pay their last respects.

It is usually characterized by lamentation. The house is usually decorated with scenes portraying the deceased is surrounded by mourners.


The form of disposal of the dead most generally used throughout the world and Azikoro community in both the past and present has been burial in the ground. The practice of burial started in the Paleolithic era doubtless as the most natural and simplest way of disposal.

Scholars believed that primordial man was form out of earth. It may have been deemed appropriate that the dead should be buried. The idea found classical expression in the divine pronouncement to Adam, recorded In Genesis 3:19 “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. There is the belief that the dead were believed to serve a great goddess who was the source of fertility and life in the world above and nourished and protected the dead in the earth beneath.

The mode of burial was as well characterize by the used of coffins of various substances base on the deceased status while was alive, and determined by the practice of necromancy. The use of coffin was intended probably at first to protect and add dignity to the corpse. Coffins therefore became important adjuncts in the mortuary rituals of many religions.


Place of burial refers to where the deceased could be buried. In Azikoro community in the 90s, the community had two places where the deceased could be buried. One, a site (burial ground) which was called Azivie (good bush) where evil people (witch) were buried. According to Lawson, B. (2015), the irony of this name Azivie (good bush) is that it is used to mean a scary bush where it is believed that those who are buried there at night come out from the grave to commune.

By implication, no one is permitted to enter the bush to farm. Thus, such bush become as fertile for agricultural production as it is believed that the decomposed of the deceased serve a good source of manure.

Two, a place where those the oracle has judged to be clean (without witch) are buried. This could be the deceased’s own house or nearby house. Though selection of site is done according to the deceased’s age and status while was alive, these factors determine where he/she could be buried.

The most important factor here is the age of the deceased. When a man or woman died at old age, it is only imperative that he/she be buried either in his/her house or at the back of his/her house that is for those that are clean. On the other hand, those that are not old, either age 30 or below are normally buried in the bush, though not Azivie (good bush), where evil people are buried. The reason is that if people of such age are buried at home, it is believed that such person will not be comfortable so they are buried in the bush. Same thing is applicable to those that are not clean (witch), if they are buried at home, they usually disturb to the point that some of them can even kill their family members unless ritual is done to appease the deceased before he/she can free the family members and rest in peace (interview on the implication of burying a witch at home, 2015).

But today, such practice is on the decline as development has taken every part of the community. Today there is no place like Azivie any more. Houses have been built every where in the community to the extent that the deceased’s family at times becomes worried over where the deceased could be buried. In most cases they have to take the deceased to the cemetery for burial. But this makes the family to spend money that perhaps could be use for something else in the burial ceremony.


  1. Respect for the physical remains. If left lying on top of the ground, scavengers may eat the corpse considered disrespectful to the deceased’s family.
  2. Burial can be seen as an attempt to bring closure to the deceased’s family and friends.
  3. Many cultures believe in an afterlife. Burial is some times believed to reach the afterlife.


In this work data were collected mainly from primary sources which include: in-depth interview and key cultural consultant as there was dearth of information on necromancy and it’s practiced in Azikoro community. While content analysis was used in the work. Content analysis is a method of analyzing the contents of documents or other non-statistical material in such a way that statistical comparisons could be made between them.


Necromancy: the act of finding out if a deceased is a witch or not by consulting an oracle.

Burial: the act or ceremony of burying a dead body.

Ceremony: a public occasion that includes a series of formal actions.


So far this study highlighted the culture of Epie/Atissa in Bayelsa State specifically Azikoro community on how deceased has been buried. The study showed the various processes and procedure of carrying out burial rite. It was revealed that before a deceased is buried, the body has to be wash and dressed then place on elevated bed for the deceased’s relatives to pay their last respects. And that the mode of disposal of the deceased is by digging the ground and lowering the deceased into the grave and covering it with sand.

We also highlighted the practice of necromancy in Azikoro community. We said that the practice is to find out the activities of the deceased while he/she was alive. And that this practice is done through the oracle which is usually represented by bamboo stick weaved together in a rectangular shape; handle by four men.

This practice is held sacred in Azikoro community as it reveals if a deceased practiced witch craft or not. And since the outcome of this consultation always affects the burial ceremony either positively or negatively, its practice is still cherish in Azikoro community.


Bosch David. The Traditional Religions of Africa. Study guide

Genesis 3: 19.

Guiley, G.E. (2006) “Necromancy” the encyclopedia on magic and Alchemy. New York City, NY: InfoBase publishing PP.215-315

Iliad 23-71.

Interview on the implication of burying a witch at home (2015)

Joel, A. (2015). What are the processes of consulting oracle?

Johnny, (2015) the oracle themselves manipulate a lot.

Lawson, B. (2015) Key cultural consultant

Lewis, J. R. (1999).  Witchcraft today: An encyclopedia of Wiccan and Neopagan Traditional, Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO.

MSR 203 Tshware: university of South Africa, 1975.


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