This chapter will examine the thoughts and opinions of various literary articles, literacy philosophers, writers, historians and other reputable educationists and also religious scholars as it affects, supports and opposes the topic. For better exposition of this chapter. The topic will be discussed under the following sub-sections.

  1. What is literature?
  2. What is superstition?
  3. Elements of superstition.
  4. Instances of superstitious beliefs
  5. Superstition in African novels

Raise in the culture where superstition is strictly adhered to and totally admired, especially in Africa as a continent.



      Literature According to Atom Encyclopaedia is the art of written work. The word literature literally means “things made from letters” literature is commonly classified as having Non-fiction and two major techniques – poetry and prose.

Literature may consist of texts based on factual information (journalistic of non-fiction), a category that may also include polemical works, biography, and reflective essays, or it may consist of text based on imagination such as (fiction, poetry, or drama). Literature written in poetry emphasises the aesthetics and rhythmic qualities of language such as sound, symbolism, and meter to evoke meanings, while literature written prose applies ordinary grammatical structure and the natural flow of speech.

The Oxford Dictionary of Current English (fourth edition) describes literature as written work that regarded as having artistic merit. It is used to describe anything from creative writing to more technical or scientific work, but the term is most commonly used to refer to work of the creative imagination including, works of poetry, drama, fiction and non-fiction.

Literature represents a language or a people, Culture and tradition. But literature is more important than just a historical or cultural artefact. Literature introduces us to a new world of experience. We learn about book and literature, we enjoy the comedies and the tragedies of poems, stories, and plays and we may even grow and evolve through our literary journey with books.


Superstition according to Lexicon University Encyclopaedia vol. 18; is a belief, sometime only tentatively held, that cannot be justified in terms of a dominant belief system and may be said irrational. The word also implies condemnation when used by person who assumes that superiority of their beliefs whether scientific, religious or philosophical.

The explorers and missionaries of century, often dismiss much of the world’s view of the people they encountered as superstition. The time is often taken to mean belief concerning magic, supernatural and invisible forces or erroneous natural laws.

The Lexicon University Encyclopaedia    further stated that the earlier folklorist and anthropologist sometimes saw superstition in the medieval Europe traces earlier more primitive culture.

Psychologist, have also taken an interest in the impulses behind superstition, both in its widest social forms and as expressed in individualized personal beliefs.

The Deluxe Encyclopaedia edition (1989) sees most of today’s superstitious beliefs as what can be traced back to those primitive people who had no understanding of the laws of nature. They were surrounded by mysteries of lightening, rain, eclipse, birth and death to mention only a few.

The apparent miracle of a flower growing from a tiny seed or a tadpole and becoming a frog surely proved that there are unseen spirits around. But since life in those times was hard and full of danger, primitive people decided there were bad spirits and good ones. Their problems were to figure out how to keep the evil spirits happy and satisfy so they would not do any harm. They invented charm and tokens as well as all types of counter charms. Thus, out of ignorance and fear came superstitions.

Every country or section of the world seems to have its own beliefs and superstitions customs. In part of Africa, according to the Deluxe Encyclopaedia edition the witch doctor is common. In some parts of Europe and the Middle East, and in many other places in the world, people fear the evil that they belief is directed towards them by the eyes of certain people.


Superstition is synonymous with other related words such as mythical, false, fallacious, irrational, and groundless delusive illusory e.t.c. Attempt shall be made here to establish to a personable extent, the term myth as this seems to enhance some other terms.

Myth according to the Webster encyclopaedia dictionary, is an unpaved collective belief that is accepted uncritically and is sued to justify a social institution. This implies that a culture that currently beliefs in myth are swiftly dismissed as still primitive.

Myth is regarded as a model, of though log of prological people. If this mode was peculiar to early civilizations, what is its significance? Is African mythology of any social or religious value to the communities. According to Dukor (1994) philosophy and science are believed to be a more advanced and rational mode of thought. Can man therefore live and comprehend the universe without falling back on myth? Is philosophy or science completely devoid of any mythological element? Africa was not the only race that lived on myth as we have observed above. There may be wisdom in the myths of an ancient Africa people especially with regards to the supreme belief.

Superstition could be a mythical matter, a fragrant, an unconscious held belief but which renders explanation of social consciousness. But that does not mean that it is untrue or lack of foundation. Even if it is a dream, like yet some dreams are reflections of replay of mans experience in his daily life.

According to Daramola and Jeje (1975) in their work in Ati Yoruba’s “anoon  Asa ati orisa ile Yoruba”, the mythical divinity or god ,sango in Yoruba land in Africa was a mortal being who lived a life of extra ordinary dimension. He is believed to have caused fire that burnt him and his family among other things. He was therefore elevated to the status of good, with stories about his life nature and handed down from generation with mythical tones. In short, he was a historical figure which later became a mythical figure, with this can one say that the myth surrounding the god ‘’SANGO’’ lacks foundation or is untrue? Granted that some stories could have been unconsciously invented to further mystify the person of SANGO, yet the foundation and true value of the myth is that SANGO was a historical figure whose achievements and actions were witnessed by some mortal being during his time.

The Igbo of Nigeria stories about the supreme being could also be defended on the basic of this analysis. But this could neither be true or false.

The role of individuals in the world of superstition cannot be over emphasised because superstition cannot exist without them. In Africa, though man lives in a mysterious universe, the gods and spirits have to be consulted, respected and appealed always to ensure and enhance life.

“Superstition’, said Burke is the religion of feeble minds”. It is belief that has no basis in reason. It is the daughter of Ignorance and Fear. The word means, literally, standing over-standing still at a thing in fear and awe.

Superstition said Pascal, ‘is founded on fear or ignorance, and leads men to form false ideas of duty, to dread chimeras, and to lean on a broken reed. Belief in omens and oracles; servile attachment to ritual, usage, form of words; and see- the supernatural in every incident of life-all these come under Superstition.

In religion, superstition means irrational fear of the mysterious and reverence for objects that are no proper objects of worship.

Ignorant savages have no scientific knowledge of what we call the forces of nature. They think the sun and the moon, fire and wind and water, are governed by supernatural beings, which sometimes seem kind, but more often terrible and cruel. These they fear and worship, and try to propitiate them with offerings, sacrifices and senseless rites. And their imagination peoples the universe with imaginary beings-demons, ghosts and fairies.

A tree is judged by its fruits; and the fruits of superstition are all evil. It has been responsible for a vast amount of cruelty, misery and madness.

In old times men offered up human sacrifices to appease imaginary gods. In the middle Ages, the belief ip witchcraft led to the persecution of poor old women, who were believed to be in league with the Devil. The Spanish Inquisition tortured and burnt thousands of innocent people, at the bidding of superstition. And even in civilized countries to-day, superstition produces narrow mindedness, bigotry and needless mental suffering.

Superstition is a thing of darkness; it cannot stand the light. It is a child of ignorance; it hates and flees from the face of knowledge.

As knowledge increases, superstition decreases. Science, which has discovered the real forces of nature, has banished the old bogies of superstition-demons, ghosts, and goblins, and all the creations of fear and ignorance which once made men afraid. But superstition dies slowly; and even to-day silly bits of superstition still linger. There are still people who consult fortune-tellers, think the number thirteen unlucky, and will not walk under a ladder, or start a voyage on a Friday. As knowledge spreads, however, superstition will dwindle till it disappears altogether.

Some of these may in the past have been part of a broader system of ideas and beliefs, but at present they consist for the most part of isolated elements, handed down by tradition, which have not yet lost their potency. A large proportion of such superstitions are concerned with good and bad luck, either as omens or practices supposedly offering protection. Examples would be breaking mirrors, spilling salt, horseshoes, wishing wells, touching wood, charms, talismans, and so on. Others relate to important events in the life cycle such as weddings or christenings, and many occupations have their own set of superstitions. Ill-health is surrounded with them, and folk-medicine is by no means extinct, It is as well to be cautious here, though, because some popular notions turn out to have solid factual foundations. Thus when Edward Jenner, the discoverer of vaccination, was an apprentice in his teens he heard about a local belief in Gloucester- shire that people infected by cow-pox from cattle were thereafter immune from smallpox. Contemporary p refused to pay any attention to such tales, but these probably inspired Jenner’s later experiments. He kept them secret at first, rightly suspecting that his colleagues were not inclined to take them seriously. Nonetheless, while there may be the occasional nugget among the dross, the bulk of folk-medicine probably deserves to be classed as superstition; this is not to say that it may not do some good through the placebo effect, whereby benefit can be derived from any remedy in which one genuinely believes. Most of these beliefs and practices have considerable antiquity; often they become adapted to modern conditions of life (mascots now appear in cars and planes) and new ones do emerge from time to time; chain letters for instance must be of fairly recent origin.

Advantage is taken of peoples continued readiness to accept superstitions by practitioners like fortune-tellers, be they gipsy palmists or astrologers in pretentious offices. Here one sees a professional specialization where somewhat intangible services can be purchased from self-styled experts in the supernatural. Distinct from such occupations which trade in superstition, but partly overlapping with them, are groups of people holding beliefs in common; these may concern mediums and the spirits of the departed, flying saucers and contact with denizens of other planets, or a re-vamped version of old-fashioned witchcraft. All such may be regarded as institutionalized forms of superstition, whereby people not only hold similar beliefs but also interact socially and work together for the furtherance of goals related to these beliefs.

Have you ever taken a few extra steps to avoid walking under a ladder, crossing a black cat’s path, or stepping on a crack? If so, there are many people out there who feel the same way as you.

Perhaps you’re not that superstitious, but you can’t help but avoid certain situations because they have been passed down to you from your family. Many core beliefs and attitudes, like our superstitions, tend to be culturally based. In fact our superstitions tend to define growth and evolution within our cultural frameworks. Almost every culture is driven in some senses by the superstitions and beliefs held by the group. Our Superstitions say a lot about who we are, how we feel and think about our world.


It is believed that natural evils (those experiences in human life which involves suffering and misfortunes like disease, earthquakes, storms, drought etc and which originated independently and human action) are caused by some human agencies

Instances of this include:

  1. To most Africans, death is thought to be unnatural it did not exist among men at the beginning but it was due to the faults of some creatures like animals. Sometimes it is blamed on witches and black magicians. According to PARMDER, in Africans three religious as quoted by Dukor 1994, the kano, the sierra-Leone that God told the first men and women that they would not die for hr would give them new skin. He sent them in a bundle carried by a dog. The dog was said to have delayed on the way and foolishly told other animals what was in the bundle, sharing the skins with his relatives. So the snake changes its skin and does not die.
  2. In Igbo community of Nigeria, it is believed that God (Chukwu) once lived with the people. But while a woman and her children were cooking, she had a dirty hand which she divergently cleaned on the sky wall. God was said to be annoyed and retired to distance place. The multicoloured nature of the sky today is seen as the reflection of the dirty hand of the women.
  3. In Africa idea of reincarnation, the soul of a deported one can reincarnate into more than one entities or children. The spirit of ancestors can manifest itself. In more than a child.
  4. African believes that one life is already chartered out by his personal god. According to Dukor”1994”, the idea of predestination (the popularly conceived notion of destiny in Africa that one’s life pattern is casually determined) is predicated on one’s personal god. The personal god is called “ORI” in Yoruba, “CHI” in Igbo “SUNSUN” by Akan of Ghana. Other common in stenches of superstitions beliefs are attributed to common happenings and observation, for instances.
  5. Children were always told not to whistle at night for the fear of evil spirit.
  6. A snake is never called by its name at night.
  7. People must not answer “YES” to a call from outside for fear it might be an evil spirit calling (the concubine Elechi Amadi)
  8. Crossing of fingers: often people cross their fingers while making a wish. They believe this will make wish come through According to the Deluxe Encyclopaedia Edition (1989), this came from the idea that when two lines crossed, the wish was told at the centre of the lines until it came to pass.
  9. Opening of umbrella indoors: There is a belief that opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck and disappointment.
  10. Fridays: Fridays, especially the last Fridays in a month is considered the most unlucky days except for those people whose birthdays falls on Fridays. For them it is a good day. For others no new project should commence on Friday unless it will flow.
  11. Black cats: The superstition about the evil that can come ones way through black cat is well felt in our society. It was believed that black cats where the companions of witches. After seven years of service the cats themselves changed into witches or devils. How could one be sure that the cat coming towards him is not really a witch or satan, planning some devilry? The safest thing to do of course was to avoid cats. The popular saying “A cat has nine live” according to the deluxe Edition, it came from the cats ability to remain inherent from many dangerous falls. T hat cats soft padded fact and flexible spine protect him when he falls.
  12. Sneezes: one’s friends are likely to say “God bless you” when one sneezes the custom of asking God’s blessing according to lexicon Encyclopaedia, began when early man believed that a person spirit or soul was in form of breath or air and was contained in the head. Some even clap their hands and bow to the person that sneezes. The act of looking towards the sneezed was also said to be counter-magic and meant, “may your soul not escape”.
  13. Disease: The cause and curing some diseases are usually attributed to gods. For instance, small pox, a dreaded disease that villagers dare not call it by name (they call it the good thing) was said to be the control by “Ojukwu” in the Igbo land and “Souponna” in Yoruba land. A patient was normally isolated and when he died (at times of starvation) one dared weep (Amadi,96, the concubine)

Some events carved images for the primary aim of curing disease. For instance in “arrow of God                              “by achebe an image okposi was carved for nwafo because of the convulsion, scientifically may be due to brain damage or hypoglycaemia as in prolonged labour hence babies could be fed as early as possible after birth.

  1. Beliefs in moon posture: people believes that the posture of a new moon communicate a special notion with the people. They attribute moon posture, good or bad fortunes on them. One is likely to alter statements in forms of prayers to the new moon. E. g moon, may your face meeting mine bring good fortunes. (Matefi and Ngoyi Arrow Of God.
  2. Belief in foot: in some aspect of Africa, they belief that if someone kick his or her left leg on a stone, if the person wants to go and visit someone that there is probability that he’s not going to meet the person or if he meets the person at home, there’s assurance he’s not going to meet them well. On the other side a man dashes his right leg against a stone when going to visit someone or looking for something, it means such a person is going to meet good fortunes.
  3. Itching of eyes: in the western region of Nigeria, named Yoruba land. If the upper tip of the eyes itches a person it means such person wants to see good things. And if it is on the other end, when the lower tip of the eyes itches that means such a person wants to cry or he or she wants to see disastrous and ominous things. Yoruba people so much belief in this signs because if really works for them.
  4. Bee: it is observed that, when a bee enters into a person’s house and fly around the house three consecutive times means that such individual wants to receive a visitor that would change his or her status for good. But when the bee comes inside the house of the person and flies around for more than three times means the person wants to receive a visitor that would give him bad news or that would leave the person’s mood untouched.

Spirit Superstitions

Not surprisingly, there is an abundance of superstition and lore regarding deaths, ghosts, ghostly phenomena, and anything associated with the dead. Superstitions have given us one way to explain what seems to be inexplicable, and to protect ourselves from the ruthless whims of fate.

The points below are just to give you an example of various cultural superstitions and beliefs. Who knows, maybe you might decide to use some of them in your own efforts to contact ghosts, put a spirit to rest, or protect yourself from wandering souls.

Animal Omens

In England, a large black snail appearing on the doorstep of a home may be the spirit of a deceased family member If a bee enters your home, its a sign that you will soon have a visitor. If you kill the bee, you will have bad luck, or the visitor will be unpleasant.

In certain African tribal societies, a white bird flying into a prayer hut bears the spirit of an ancestor who brings blessings. The cry of an owl symbolizes death. Where it builds a nest, ghosts will haunt for as long as the bird stays. The crowing of a rooster signals wandering ghosts that it is time for them to disappear until nightfall A bird that flies into a house foretells an important message. However, if the bird dies, or is white, this foretells death. If a black cat walks towards you, it brings good fortune, but if it walks away, it takes the good luck with it.

Crows: Ones bad, Twos luck, Threes health, Fours wealth, Fives sickness, Six is death. Throw back the first fish you catch then you’ll be lucky the whole day fishing, but if you count the number of fish you caught, you will catch no more that day. A frog brings good luck to the house it enters. The bright scarlet fadybug is a luck-bringer, probably because it is traditionally associated by its color with fire. It is a sign of good fortune if one lands on a persons hand or dress. It must, however, be allowed to fly away of its own accord, and must not be brushed off.

A big black moth in the house means a deceased one is just visiting reincarnated through that moth. A wish made on the first robin of spring will be granted.

Superstitious people probably don’t kill spiders because it has been unlucky since a spider spun a web over baby Jesus to hide him from Herod.

Binding a Ghost or Spirit

Tie seven, fourteen, or twenty-one knots into a rope, while naming the soul you wish to restrict. Bury this outside the home to keep that spirit out, or burn the rope to release the spirit into another existence.

In Malaysia, sacred water combined with incense is said to expel the grasshopper demon. Pinching a possessed person and blowing on his or her head banishes the unwanted spirit and returns the human spirit to its body. This tradition also comes from Malaysia. If someone is possessed with the spirit of sickness, have him or her drink coconut juice, followed by a bland diet for at least one week. This person should try to maintain emotional and digestive balance from that time forward to keep the malevolent spirit away.

In the sixteenth century, a common recipe for banishing unwanted spirits was to fast, pray and drink wine mixed with holy oil, and carry appropriate religious charms or relics. Scatter dill mixed with salt, fennel, and mullein all around the area in which the ghost or spirit is believed to reside. Burning frankincense and myrrh may not completely banish spirits, but it helps to give them peace and rest.

Hang a garlic wreath over your doorway. Whenever a spirit plagues you, bite a piece – then toss it away from the house. This carries the spirit with it. Gather knot grass by the waning moon. Take this to the area where the ghost abides and tie one knot in it. Bury this to confine the spirit to the grave.

Burying a person’s shadow in a specific location prior to his or her death will prevent the spirit from leaving that spot.

In Denmark, there is a tradition that you can pin a ghost to a location using a wooden post. If the post is pulled up, however, the ghost will be freed.

Preventing Ghosts

Closing the eyes of the dead before burial keeps their spirits from wandering.

In Greece, dancing around the burial site of an enemy was to keep that person’s spirit from returning for revenge. Wash the threshold of your house immediately after a dead body is removed. This keeps the spirit of that person from returning. Within the burial site, always place a cross of iron. This will keep the spirit of that person in the grave.

Egyptians wrapped their mummies in sweet spices so the soul smelled pleasant to the guardians of the next world, who would then allow the soul to enter its new existence.

Provide the body with things that it loved in life – a few coins, some good wine, and so on. This brings contentment to the spirit.

In Spain, to guarantee that the soul rests peacefully, people at the wake danced seven times around the body.

In India, placing a sprig of basil in the coffin provided the spirit with a peaceful journey. Open all the doors and windows in the area where the person died so the spirit can have quick passage.

If a person did not receive a proper burial or cremation, give him or her one. This will stop a haunting.

Protection from the dead

Lodestone is a protective talisman against spirits. This may be due to its association with iron. Plant house leeks on your roof. The Latin name for this plant, sempervivium, means ever living, and the dead cannot bear its presence

Cover all your mirrors immediately after a death. This keeps a spirit from using them as a portal or getting confused.

Jump into running water, or cross it. A spirit cannot follow you there: moving water represents life.

The Aztecs considered jimson weed a sacred plant that would protect from ghosts any area in which it grew.

Bonfires and other light sources drive away malevo spirits.

In the Middle Ages, people left candles near their beds to drive away spirits.

On Hallows specifically, people carried turnips with candles inside – the original of the Jack-o-Lantern – for protection.

Place a sprig of rosemary inside a seashell. Bind it within, using a read thread. Carry this with you as an amulet against ghosts.

Hang rowan and St. Johns Wort over the doorway of your home, and no malicious spirits can enter therein.

Write the letters AGLA in the center of a hexagram and carry this token with you. The hexagram repels evil spirits and misfortune. Cabalists used this formula to banish spirits.

Angelica and nettle worn or carried as an amulet will protect the bearer from evil spirits.

Bathing in fennel water, or drinking it, protects one against the spirit of disease.

In Greece, growing violets in or round a home was considered an effective ward against wandering spirits.

Seeing or Attracting Ghosts

A child born at midnight, known as a chime child, has the gift of sight, as does the seventh son of a seventh son.

Mayas of the Yucatan draw a chalk line from the grave to the hearth of the deceased’s home. The spirit can then find its way back to visit, whenever it wishes.

If you know a spirits true name, you can evoke it.

Ghosts are more readily seen and contacted at midnight (the time in between day and night), and on the anniversary of their death.

The veil between worlds grows thin and ghostly activities increases, during New Year’s celebrations, and on festivals for the dead

Halloween is both.

Medieval spell books say that burning a mixture of aloe, musk, saffron, vervain, and pepper in a cemetery will allow you to see the spirits that reside there. In the Middle ages, some felt that washing a clean piece of steel in mugwort juice would summon a spirit. Children born on Christmas will be specially blessed: they will never see a dreaded spirit.


Basic superstitions can be broken down into three broad categories: Predictive, Causative and Conversion.

Predictive superstitions are when people believe that a particular superstition will predict an on event, such as a black cat predicting bad luck or a woman who catches the bride’s bouquet at a wedding being the next to get married.

Causative superstitions are based on someone actually doing something to make something bad happen. For example, breaking a mirror is said to bring you seven years of bad luck. Also, if you open an umbrella inside a house you will receive bad luck. In this case opening the umbrella isn’t said to have predicted bad luck, but to have made the bad luck happen to the person who opened it.

Conversion superstitions generally combine predictive and causative superstitions. If you spill salt, you will receive bad luck (which is a causative superstition). However, if you throw some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder, you will avert the bad luck. You have converted or negated the negative superstition!


       According to Oladele Taiwo (1986), Nigerian novelists, unlike other writers have been influenced by their environment and the circumstances in history which helped to make the environment what it is today. They write partly to explain the social dilemma of the group to which they belong and partly to portray a way of life which might have survived and to some extent has it certain historical event  had not so drastically affected Africa and the attitude of Africans not only people of other races, but also their own selves. Therefore, no Nigerian (nor Africans as a whole) novelist are not in one way or another and sometimes in several ways at once preoccupied with his country’s indigenous culture.

The attempt to create a line between tradition and modern experiences poses many problems which some novelists have tried to solve in his/her particular ways.

The way ahead a future lies in the realistic manner in which novelists like Achebe, Aluko Okora and Ekwensi intelligently adopted the English language to their artistic need.

“Achebe’s works are extremely useful in the demonstration of some of conditions which must be satisfied, if Nigerian novelists concerned with indigenous culture is to communicate effectively (O.Taiwo 1966): there is the need to employ themes which have a significant bearing upon real life and give a clear insight into the aspirations, hope, and fear of the age society, the novelist is writing about. The background must be either be fully realised as in The Return of The Water Spirit convincingly depicts the picture of any changing or developing situations presented as in the concubine, no longer at ease as a man of the people.

A critical examination of some African novels would show clearly how they have been able to portray the issue of superstition in the African community.

  1. THE BURNING GRASS: Cyprian Ekwensi the burning grass, focuses on the Fulani’s were very superstitious as we see in the books. Legends were highly headed to, for example, when Mai Sunsaye died, ”they buried him in a great pump on the spot where his first camp had been. They cleared away in great haste. For legend, hold that the place where a man has died is bad luck.(pg.118)

During an encounter between the Hodio, Mallam Shehu and his slaves, Hodio saves himself by making use of a talisman- the Baduhu. The Fulanis according to books, ‘were well known in the Northern Nigeria for their magic. By magic, they camped without a fence and no lion dare seize a beast. By magic and superstition, they live and die. Then Mai Sunsaye and his son Riku accordingly attacked Ardo (this rural to the Doknoro chieftaincy), the dog in Ardo’s compound are stopped from barking with magic meant.

Mai Sunsaye’s wife Shitu, is described as the leading of life “like that of any other cattle. Fulani’s ruled by beliefs for which she could find no logical explanation” ,worthy of note also is the supported oral misery surrounding the movement of Fatimah the slave girl, whose cattle are white and she dressed in white and moves only at night in company of a lion.

The superstitious nature of their lives not with standing, the Fulani’s is strong adherents of the laws of Islam. Even in his wondering, Mai Sunsaye always finds time to prayers at the right time and in the correct manner.

One cannot do but noticed the fact that magic and charms even poison were practiced and accepted as parts of every life. Herbs and roots formed the major or basis of medical treatment for the sick.

  1. THINGS FALL APART-Chinua Achebe.

According to Adewale (1992) Achebe in a response to questions on dignity in  relation to Europe more ways of measuring the worth of a society and that the spiritual values of pre colonial Africa were in no way inferior to those Europe, merely different.

In Things fall apart, he goes to great pains to evoke the life of a discrete community in Eastern Nigeria before the coming of the Europeans. An important lecture in the life of this community is the gods within it.

The people live in harmony with each other and with the natural around world them because they acknowledged the existence of power which are greater than themselves and to whose dictate they willingly submit. It should remember, according to Maja Pearce (1992) that”there goods are not remote beings, but living presently in the life of the community. They speak through the ancestors, who are themselves the fathers of the clan”. The ancestors, in turn, inhabit the bodies of the elders of the community, who will themselves become ancestors in their own turn. We learn, for instance, that Ani, the powerful. Earth goddess and the source of all fertility, was in close communion with the departed fathers of the clan whose bodies had been communised to the earth (pg.26).

Consider them the fate of Okonkwo the hero in the novel. He is a man haunted by the fear of failure who rises to greatness by hard work. But as everything appears to be going his way, he accidentally kills a fellow clansman and he was banished from the village for seven years when he return, he discovers that in his absence the European missionaries have made great inroads and that even one of his own son, Nwoye has been converted into the new religion. He is at a loss to explain why his people have permitted these strangers to establish their rival authority so quickly and so firmly. At the meeting of the elders following a transgression against one of their most deeply held beliefs, he urges war. His demand of all on deaf ears. Perplexed by their inability to act decisively, he shrugs his shoulder in contempt and kills one of the native clerks bringing mass from the District Commissioner. Then he retires to his hut and hang himself. Because suicide is an offense against the earth (pg.147), his corpse is cut down by strangers and he was thrown into the evil forest.

We were told, that his suicide is an offence against the earth, who then reject his corpse and thereby denies which is physical death is nothing, in fact, he offends the earth goddess on follows according to Adewale (1992).

First he breaks one of his wives during the week of peace because; she is late with his evening meal. That same evening he is visited by the Ani’s priest, who reminds him of the consequences of such a transgression.

“The evil you done can rain the whole clan. The earth goddess whom you have insulted may refuse to give up her increase, and we shall all perish.(pg. 22).

Okonkwo offends the goddess a second time, when he partakes in the ritual execution of a hostage, a young boy, Ikemefuna, whose death, ordained by the oracle, its an act of compensation for the killing of two members of the clan of the village. He (Ikemefuna) later not only become a brother to Nwoye but almost a son to Okonkwo.

“As the man who had cleared his throat drew up and raised his matchet, Okonkwo looked away. He heard the blow. The pot fall and broke in the sand. He heard Ikemefuna cry, ‘my father will kill me,’ as he ran towards him. Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his matchet and cut him down (pg.43).

The worst effect of tradition, it is left to Obierika his long standing friend, to articulate the enormity of his action.

You know very well that, Okonkwo, i am not afraid of blood, and if anyone tells you that i am, he is telling a lie. And let me tell you one thing. My friend, if i were you, i would have stayed at home. What you have done will not please the earth. It is the king of action for the goddess wipes out whole families (p.46)

Okonkwo’s third and final offence is the killing of a clansman when his gun explodes in the course of a funeral. Accidentally or not, however, it was a crime against the earth goddess to kill a clansman and a man who committed it must flee from the land (p.87).



This chapter is going to dwell on the following items:

  1. The author : Pepetela
  2. Synopsis of the novel –The Return Of The Water Spirit by pepetela.
  3. Superstition in The Return Of The Water Spirit.
  4. Analysis of four leading superstitious characters in the Return Of The Water Spirit.


Arthur Carlos Marurico Pestana Dos Santos (born 1941) is a major Angolan writer of fiction. He writes under the name Pepetela.

Pepetela was born in Benguela, Portuguese Angola, to white Angolan parents. He fought as a member of the MPLA (People Movement for the Liberation of Angola) in the guerrilla war for Angola’s independent. Much of his writings deals with Angola’s political history in the 20th century. (Mayombe), for example, is a novel that portrays the lives of a group of MPLA guerrillas who were involved in the anti-colonial struggle in the Cabinda, Yaka follows the lives of members a white settler in the town of Benguela, and (a Geracao da utopia)reveals the disillusionment of young Angolans during the post-independence period. Pepetela’s earlier history in(a gloriosa Familia and Lueji), and has expanded into satire with  his series of Jaime Bunda novels. His most recent works include (predators), (a scantling critique of Angola’s ruling classes), (o quase fim do mundo), (a apocalyptic allegory and (o planalto ea Estepe), a look at Angola’s history and connections with other former communist nations. Pepetela is a Kimbundu, word means “eyelash” as does “pestana” in Portuguese. The author received this nickname during his time fighting with the MPLA.


Set in Angola in the late 1980’s, a time of war, and when the Marxist-oriented ruling elites became engulfed by corruption, nepotism and rampant capitalism. Three centuries earlier, a hideous crime occurred, the beheading of slave who had had inappropriate relations with his master’s daughter. Now, in the very Kinaxixi Square in the city of Luanda buildings are falling down one by one baffling the country’s engineers. Many describe this mysterious process as “Luanda Syndrome”, God’s punishment on a degenerated society. Drawing on the essence of African mythology which had all but obliterated by history, could this be explained by The Return Of The Water Spirit (the Kianda)? The novel focuses on the interplay between these two forces, the forces of old and new. Just like faith can move mountains, the return of the water can move cities. This book is a scathing critique of Angola’s ruling elite, for abandoning their socialist principles in the favour of rampant capitalism.


“Covenant morality’s dead and gone. We are now living under a market economy”. In this way Carmina Evangelista, a member of Angola’s ruling elites, justifies abandoning the socialists principle of her youth in favour of rampant capitalism. “While the war-turn former colony collapses under the pressures of corruption and rivalry, buildings in kinaxixi square in the city of Luanda baffle the country’s engineers as they fall down one by one. Many described this mysterious process known as Luanda syndrome, as God’s punishment of a degenerated society. But joao Evangelista comes to believe that the explanation lies to built-over lagoon, once home to a water spirit. And that which the European masters has built houses on and turned into a peninsula. Joao Evangelista further buttress his research by saying the water spirit named kianda has returned to reclaim the land which belongs to her.

When the first building in Kinaxixi square fell, Joao Evangelista, the main protagonist, had just married Carmina, a stand-out member of the ruling party who later becomes a member of the new Angolan bourgeoisie. People blame the wedding of this new couple as the cause of the falling of the first building in Kinaxixi square which was the building which the couple were bind together, old Mateusz nagged at his wife Dona Mingota, who was the mother of the groom, saying that “it was time they off since this was a fake wedding, one without any sort of religious ceremony.” He said to his wife.

Later the bride and the groom also got to know about the happening at their wedding reception. They reacted differently, Carmina screamed “it was sabotage” and that the terrorists who were engaged in the act should be brought to book, Joao repelled, “no! There was no bomb. No one was hurt, if it was bomb, and if it had power to bring down a seven-storey building then Kinaxixi Square would be redder with blood than all the modern films that we see on TV.” Joao Evangelista thanked some protecting deity from his childhood hoping they were the ones that saved people from death in the process of the fall. (Pg.5)

However, it was said that what man thinks before he sleeps would definitely reflect in his dreams, this happened the night Joao Evangelista and Carmina slept in the fear of being taken by surprise as their flat down. Their dreams were full of fall and all sort of other accidents. (pg.92)

In the ancient times in Africa, going naked is highly forbidden talk less of when legions of people go naked on the streets, that is a real sign of misfortunes for what they are going against. It is observed that, in Senegal 1944 the women of the country went naked in the streets in their quest of fighting against the government that deprives women of their rights to be a business owner. This repellent attitude of nakedness led to the fall of that present day government in Senegal. This kind of act was also observed in the novel The Return Of The Water Spirit, when Honorio instigated and led the “naked revolution movement” that eventually or coincidentally led to the disastrous happenings in Luanda.

       Another superstitious instance was seen in (pg59), when Joao was going to see his friend Honorio when his house also fell to the ground. On his way he saw a prophet prophesising and lamenting bitterly saying “this is a punishment from God because kinaxixi has failed to pay their tithes to the church and that she starves the servants of God”, Joao thought of it in his mind that “can this be the cause of all this chaos?” And that was it written in the bible that if a particular society starves the servant of God, they’ll witness different types of misfortunes? He now referenced his old man’s saying that “if a man or society neglects the servants of God they’ll witness the wrath of God” shouldn’t the servants of God work to feed his/herself?


Joao Evangelista is the son of Mateus Evangelista and a grandson to Rosario Evangelista. Joao was married to Carmina who was one of the elites in Luanda. Joao is a very lazy man, he dropped out of the university because he couldn’t cope with some courses like maths, chemistry and also physics. This was the cause of his low classed job which couldn’t feed his own mouth talk less of feeding his family. This made Joao a vulnerable willed man who allows his wife to boss him around, all he’s addicted to is his computer game, he plays it all day and night without working. In this novel Joao Evangelista was a flat character, he never changed from been lazy. He was like that until the last building which was his building which ends the wrath of the water spirit named Kianda.


Carmina Evangelista is the wife of Joao Evangelista the main protagonist in the novel. She has possessed a bossy attitude even when she was still at the college and this attitude she uses over her family at a very tender age of fourteen. She do call her father and her four brothers “lazy bones” and all other filthy names, she still possess this cruel attitude when she married Joao. She is a woman who has flare for politics, politics entices her very much. She started participating in politics when she was very young, and also became the leader of the youth wing of the MPLA when she was eighteen. People do call her CAF meaning Carmina arse face because her look is very feary.

Carmina portrayed a round character in the novel. At first she went against the capitalist government and condemned the people who joined the moving train of the capitalist government. Later she changed and also danced to the tune of town.


Honorio is a friend of Joao Evangelista. He works in the same company with Joao, Honorio on like Joao was a very fierce man, he’s a man of great honour despite of the fact that he is a low classed citizen; he still portrays a good male character. He is also an active member of the Youth movement of MPLA in Luanda not until his building also fell to the dust. This incidence destabilized him both physically and materially. He lost his house, job, and mostly, he lost his wife. This got him so helpless and hopeless that he decided to go naked on the street with some other affected citizens of the country.

Honorio started this movement with few participants in which he later succeeded in making them legions matching against the anti-colonial rule in Angola. Honorio is also a round character in the novel. He was part of the nationalist movement which was called the “Y” before he noticed the rate at which corruption has penetrated deeply into the root of the administration of this so called nationalist movement.


Mateus Evangelista is the father to Joao Evangelista and also a son to Rosario Evangelista. He is a reverend in an evangelism church in Muanbo. He is a very religious man; he takes his religion with iron hand ‘he doesn’t joke with his religion’. He raised his son Joao up in the ways of the holy book “bible” so that he may also take after him but reverse is the case. When the first building fell in Kinaxixi square, he believed it was the unworthy and ungodly marriage that took place between his son and an atheist named Carmina that was the cause of this disastrous happening. For this reason, he hated the marriage of his son that he decided not to go to their house to visit them no matter what happens.

Mateus Evangelista is a round character in this novel, because he changed from hating his son’s marriage a messiah to his son and his wife, when they were looking for a house to live he offered them a place in his house because the disastrous and mysterious fall has gotten so close to their place.

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