Why are so many Igbo people drawn to reincarnation? Why do the Igbos believe in a supposed transmigration at death of the soul of a human being into a new person?

Reincarnation is found in many ancient cultures and belief system which gives nod to rebirth/metempsychosis. It was upheld by Greek Historic figures, such as Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato.

Most people have always wondered if anything lies beyond the grave; if death is the end of existence or just an entry into eternity, or an intermission between earthly lives. Some teach that the soul reincarnates in many different bodies. Approximately 55% of Igbo’s believe it. Generally the belief in Ilo-uwa (reincarnation) is universal among the Igbos (Basden 1996.286)

To the Igbos, reincarnation is clearly understood as the belief in life after death. Igbos believes that life continues after death and they place a huge significance to  death  because it is a gate into the ancestral abode. The important questions that loom in the mind of every Igbo person is: are people rewarded for living a good life but punished for their evil lives?

It is under the Igbo belief that rewards and punishments give real meaning to reincarnation and therefore it encourages people to do good while alive.

According to Onwu (2002) , death is not the end of life! There is another life after death and the most practical way to make it meaningful is the belief in reincarnation which includes physical resemblance, character traits, oracular pronouncement of which point at the facts that the dead are somewhere waiting for their return to the world of time and space. The nation of judgment which people fear is so clearly spelt out by reincarnation belief.

For Ogbalu (1973) reincarnation is Ino-uwa i.e, a person is born again usually in his family, Umunna or by any of this descendance. For A Abanuka (2004:56) reincarnation is called Ilo-uwa, literally a return to this worldly existence.

Generally in Igbo world view, it is easy to determine how an ancestor has reincarnated within the family kindred or community. When a child is born into the family, the member will consult Afa (diviner) man to determine the ancestors that has reincarnated the child. When the diviner has determined the ancestor, the child is named the dead ancestor’s name. This could be done through religious ceremony. Sometimes a person might wish to reincarnate in a particular family, kindred or community. Most often, the dead ancestor who reincarnated into the child, might have some striking resemblances bodily, emotionally or behaviorally with the child, that is why the Igbos says “Nwata na eme ka onye a” (This child behaves like this man).

To the Igbos, reincarnation offers hope to many, if we don’t get it right in this life, we have another chance the next time around.


References: Basden, Ogbalu, A,Abunaka, Onwu.

Photo Credits: Google Images

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  1. Found you on Community Pool. Anyhow, gosh, I love your post. Very informative and eloquently written, but what I love the most is that you share what you have to say and you don’t overdo it…(if that makes sense). Easy to read, I was hooked on the first few sentences. Very good, love the post, can’t wait to see what you share next.

    © Benjamin Lessard – TheBenLessard


    1. Wow, such a high compliment. Thank you Ben for the compliment and I’m glad my posts have so effect on you.
      I’ve already followed your blog because I love Literature and you wrote some posts about it.
      This is my take away from your blog

      “All in all, I find the real point of literature is the story of life, and all people want to do is to connect to other human beings, so they find meaning in their own life, finding their own truths. This is how literature can show universal truths about the human person.”

      Have a great weekend!


  2. Thanks alot chioma, I have had time to read some of your post.They are really make sense…..i am an igbo man but ashamed to say I know less or nothing about the igbo tradition. .There is diversity in virtually everything we belief in igbo land and that brings alot of confusion and misunderstanding among us…The stigma labelled on the practice of our own tradition makes me to wonder if it’s actually against the worship of God.There is a call to come back to our root and these ur post go a long way to effectively encourage minds that our tradition is not barbaric…Thanks alot and I can’t wait to read more of ur post….


  3. Nice write-up. Chi I’m doing a project on Reincarnation in ìgbo culture. Care to recommend some books? Biko


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