Magic for Medical Healing in Igbo Society: Ogwugwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart
Hossain Al Mamun, PhD
Abstract: In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo’s daughter Ezinma falls sick and is treated according to the local religious belief of the Igbo that relies on magical power. Ezinma’s treatment presents dual magical acts performed by a regular medicine man and the medicine man or agadi-muayi or Chielo, the high priestess of the Cave of Oracles that houses Agbala, the unseen deity. This magical power provided by the gods and goddesses supposedly brought into light by the priests and priestesses and the medicine men puts the Igbo men and women in awe and makes them respect their deities. The presumed magical power of the deities not only heals the illness but it can also cause good or bad harvest. The way the high priestess of Agbala and a local medicine man treat Ezinma who has been a sickly child since birth shows that it is the fear of magic that works as the main factor of healing, not the magic’s actual manifestation, as there is no concrete indication of any magical event in the text other than some remote references to magical occurrences, which cannot be substantiated. Therefore, the magical power of gods and goddesses is mainly a presumed or anticipated power. It is, in fact, the Igbo people’s faith in magical power that has founded the basic religious constructs in Igbo society while the practitioners of magic or the presumed magical power attributed on them treat the sickly and explain the bodily-hitch behind illnesses or the reason for premature death. This paper focuses on the performance of this alleged magical healing and the very faith in it that has been a part of the Igbo tradition to project that the fear of magical power is the main facilitator, not its actual manifestation. This paper examines Okonkwo’s daughter Ezinma’s birth and sickness and demonstrates the treatment she gets by the different medicine men in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This paper also explores the underlying issues of Ezinma’s treatment as to whether it is a “magical practice” or the “fear of magic” that actually works.
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Published in 2016