In some diaspora traditions, we call children who die young Black Angels. In Yorubaland, they are called Abiku. Iku means “death” and abiku is essentially, someone who was born to die.
Since nothing created is absolutely perfect because life could not exist in a Universe of complete rigidity, even Death does not always work exactly as it normally would. Since children are very newly physical, their connection with both the physical realm and the Egungun (Ancestors) is highly volatile. So it can happen that if a newly joined Spirit is too early extracted from its physical form, it can enter the realm of “functional” Spirits rather than re-merging with the Egungun.
Having very little or no physical life experience, for a long time in human terms, its perspective of the physical realm can be in terms of the most extreme and malignant narcissism, but without physical constraints. Even if the pregnancy and what little of childhood they experienced was very positive, this can encourage such a Spirit to be very selfish and exploitive in their interactions with physical beings.
In most cases, Abiku simply return to the Egungun to come back to us again the normal way. If they return to the same family and die early again, this is not usually cause for panic (though some do panic anyway). Most of the time, the reason is purely physical/medical, and the parents should reconsider having children through their own bodies, or seek counseling from someone who is very accepting of Death, so they don’t harden and distance themselves from children who are simply destined to have a short life. These children are quite often souls that for some reason need to be processed quickly as scouts of the Egungun. They are just here to look around for awhile and check out the situation, and return to the Egungun with a sort of emotional data so they can send the right souls to balance things to the Earth.
Some will die moments after they are conceived because they were just here to check the state of fertility in humans, and return before they have forgotten what the womb was like. Some are born with severe disabilities so they can see how people with severe disabilities are treated in an area, and report back to Obatala and the Egungun.
So on the one hand, things certainly do not always go the way we like, or “perfectly”, but on the other, the system runs exactly as it should to make sure the Forces of Nature have experiential contact with and information about e v e r y t h i n g.
Sometimes though, things do go wrong. When there is a time of great atrocity, such as a war, forced relocations, famine, rigid societies that essentially sacrifice children needlessly, and other horrors usually caused by human aggressions and/or stupidity, childrens’ souls take on damage that they do not have the life experience to process. What many don’t understand about this is that some of these souls may take many years to find their way back to the species that harmed them.
An Abiku soul who was killed a thousand years ago in a war may be just now finding its way back to humanity, and pick someone to torment because in their child-like brain, they thought the mother was somehow wrong for not being able to protect them from the sword. That the mother may have already been dead or separated from them is irrelevant. The baby or child has no idea that someone who has been stabbed or chopped up or burned alive cannot just get up and shield them. Some who made it to perhaps five years old and did understand what Death is, are angry that someone would bring them into such a horrible world at all.
As a warrior, a powerful and deeply spiritual Ancestor, or close to pure monk is able to leave behind some shards of their identity to aid the living, the child can as well. Just, unlike the warrior or monk, they do not know friend from foe. They only know pain and pleasure. So when they find their way back to humanity, it is unfortunately not their enemies who bear the brunt of their bouts of rage and greed unless the enemies have replaced them in the land or interbred with them. It is the people from whom they came.
This may seem highly unfair in human terms, but consider that what usually goes wrong is the loss of mystics who help to guide the dead back to the Ancestors. Every culture on Earth had ways to deal with death. Even if you look at it from a purely psychological and atheist point of view, grief is necessary. If people have not been properly grieved, then the psychological consequences are astronomical and can affect people many generations later.
A woman can miscarry or a child be damaged in the womb because of psychological traumas. The ceremonies and practices that developed around Death should not be minimized or dismissed as “mumbo jumbo”. We’d need them even if there were no Spirits.
How to deal with Abiku
Abiku return in three ways:
- taking form in order to communicate and usually frighten people (Black Angels)
- vampirically feeding through a child (Blood Angels)
- being repeatedly reborn and dying again (Jumpers)
Healing Black Angels
You may not feel so, but you are fortunate if the Abiku just wants to scare you. Their poltergeist like antics may be dangerous, but these children don’t have too much interest in physical pleasures, just emotional ones.
Some of the paranormal experts of today say that if you just ignore them they will go away because paying attention to them gives them energy. The problem with this is that if they don’t get it from you, they will get it from someone else, and unlike other ghosts, they are not shards but full souls. They will get what they want or they will graduate to become more aggressive vampiric Spirits or Jumpers.
So if a Vodun or diaspora priest tells you it is a child ghost, it needs healing before things get out of hand. However, remember to start with Eshu in communicating with the child. If you ask the child things directly about their life and what they want without going through Eshu, they may trick you into giving offerings or doing silly things for them forever and ever.
Whatever you say to them should be said through Eshu. Whatever messages you get from them should be through Eshu.
Most likely, what they need in order to be convinced to go back to the Egungun is whatever a proper funeral was in their culture. If the child had the orientation of a mystic at the time they were born, this may mean a proper funeral according to their ancestral culture.
Healing Blood Angels
These are Abiku who have gotten to the point of enjoying the pleasures of being a baby or child somewhat vicariously through other children. If your child is eating a lot and isn’t hyperactive but is still skinny as a rail, and doctors can’t find anything wrong with them, they may be carrying a Blood Angel. I don’t mean normal eating a lot and still being thin because of growing. I mean eating a whole lot of food almost all the time, and still losing weight to where you can see their ribs.
Sometimes this is not such a bad thing, especially in the case of the death of a twin. The survivors of a multiple birth in which one or more have died may be eating for two (or more). Unless real weirdness starts to happen, you can be fairly sure that you are still feeding your own children, and that at some point the one(s) who died will return to the Ancestors or maybe stay on as Guardians of the survivors. They are aware, and their experience is growing with your surviving children. This can also be the case if you had multiple miscarriages and/or stillbirths before having a healthy child who is fit enough to be able to spare some calories for their siblings.
If it goes too far though, and your surviving child becomes ill, it is clear that the Spirit plaguing them does not have an interest in the survivors’ protection. Again, get the child fully checked out by more than one conventional doctor before assuming that it is an Abiku who is responsible. Move quickly though.
In such cases, in a panic, parents and priests of the past, and some crazy ones closer to the present, have done all manner of horrors to extract Abiku from children. They have put heavy chains on children, tortured them, and put them through many traumas attempting to scare away the Abiku. They are seldom effective and usually just end up harming the child.
The way to handle a Blood Angel is to convince them, again through Eshu, that this is not the way to satisfy their hunger. They are not at the point of rebirth, so they should be convinced to return to the Egungun.
This may take some doing. Find a priest and do not balk at their instructions (so long as they’re reasonable, and if they’re not find another priest). You may have to actually count calories for your kids and only give them what they need to thrive. You may have to stop giving them any sweets and tell everyone who might do that to stop. You may have to be more strict. The point is to be aware that some other entity is capitalizing off of whatever excesses you give to your child.
By the way, not over indulging your children is protective of them. Blood Angels usually pick out children who are coddled and spoiled to the extreme. So sane discipline is the way to go for more reasons than just raising responsible adults. Teach them the value of trust and resources, and save the sugary sweets for weekends and special occasions.
In some cases, they pick out children who are not spoiled, but just disabled or ill, and have to be indulged a bit. Strictness won’t work on these children, and the Abiku does not understand that the child does not have an easy life. The Abiku envies the child. So the family has to get Eshu to explain this to them and as he guides us in the right direction when we’re messing up, guide the Abiku in the right direction to the Ancestors.
Jumpers are a special case. They are at the point of rebirth, but they are vengeful against humanity. They are angry and have no care that they are harming people when they are conceived or born and then die repeatedly.
Since they are being conceived or born and not just contacting or capitalizing off of humans, they need to be convinced to stay. This can be very difficult in a world where there is still extreme poverty, war, and hate.
In this case, again with Eshu as the intermediary, the priest and parents must convince the child to stay. In some cases, the child must be forced to stay.
Just like a person who wishes to commit suicide needs a weapon, so does the Jumper. This is usually a stone, stick, or poisonous plant or substance growing near someplace the pregnant mother is or goes day to day. For a time, the next time the mother conceives, she may need to be kept in a place with no stones that a baby or small child could pick up and throw, no pointed sticks that are or could easily be dislodged from a tree, and no plants that could be poisonous in an amount that could fill a baby’s stomach.
If all the previous children have died at specific ages, the mother and child should be watched at all times by people who are either initiated or have reached the level of practice that they are capable of easily sensing malevolent spiritual activity, until the child is seven months past the usual death age. The child should wear protection amulets until the age of 12 both for external and internal forces.
In summary, the way to heal an Abiku is to properly grieve and show them the benefit of either going back to the Egungun or being reborn. The aggressive methods of the past are highly unecessary. They may have been in the past, but they are no longer. If it is the case that they were very necessary in the past then this may be because people were less rational then, or just more brutal, so even an afflicted child needed a heavy show of force. My gutt feeling though, is that these severe means were never needed, and humans simply misinterpreted instructions to be strict to mean being brutal in the extraction process.
By the same, I am not saying that we should adhere to western style coddling when dealing with the Spirits. That would be silly since the Spirits do not care what year it is in the terms that we do. What I am saying is that certainly harming a Blood Angel afflicted child or a settled Jumper doesn’t help their view of the Earth as a good place to be born into.
At the Orisha Online Altar, I’ve made a list of Orishas and Lwa. In this article, I will focus on Allies of Obeah and Hoodoo. Even though Hoodoo was in the past considered more “Baptist” and less deity dependent, lately there has been more of a merging between Hoodoo and Obeah in North America. So I don’t think it wise to view them as so far apart. Another thing to note about this list is that some of these are Spirits from Native American belief systems who have been brought in by people of mixed culture or ancestry.
Ancestors – In diaspora systems, one may venerate their own ancestors as well as others’ and notable people they admire. Marie Laveau is a common appearance on many Hoodoo, Voudou, and even some Obeah practitioners’ altars. If they were very powerful in their earthly life, some of their identity may be retained aside of the collective Ancestors (Egungun). So they can be called upon for help or advice.
Animal Spirits – Every animal including man, has a Spirit who is in charge of them. This being represents the both the ideal and the baser side of a particular creature. One of the key features of Obeah is that it addresses evolutionary chains, the connection between animals. For instance, humans and chimpanzees share connection to the Papa Ape, and all vertebrates share a connection to the Papa Snake. This is one reason for keeping various animal parts around. A rippling in a jar or twitch of a preserved paw can give us information about what is going on around us and even tell us whether or not someone is telling the truth.
Sometimes animal Spirits will take on a human or semi human form or speak with a human voice in order to relate to mankind, give a person a message, or perhaps for general mischief. There are stories of these encounters in just about every culture.
Archangels – The Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Refael among others, are often called upon in root work. This is a “Baptist” tradition because non Catholics did not generally name Orishas after the Saints, but also comes from the influence of works such as the Key of Solomon and the Book of Abramelin.
Black Angels, Blood Angels, Jumpers – The restless Spirits of children who were killed due to the horrors of slavery. They can be angry and take out their anger on people for many generations because they are frustrated and afraid to go back to the Ancestors because it would mean being reborn into this world. Sometimes they will be almost convinced, and then as a trial or to be purposefully cruel, inhabit the body of a child when a woman is pregnant, and then leave, causing her to miscarry repeatedly. Because they did not go to the Ancestors, they are still angry and carry that pain. To stop the repeated miscarriages and stillbirths, the ghost child must be convinced to go to the Ancestors or that the parents will make sure nothing happens to them that happened before. Often when they do finally settle down, the child is born extremely intelligent, but with some disability to mark them as a special child of Obatala. Related to Abiku in Africa, the souls of children who died before the age of 12.
Bone Spirits – Closely related to the main animal Spirits, these are the spirits of individual animals whose bones or other parts one is using for divination or other mystical purposes. Though many are uncareful about this, it is important to gain the consent of the animal as an individual or to appease its Papa and/or Mama Spirit before using its parts. Someone at the priestly level doing their own harvesting would be expected to gain consent from the individual and appease the Parent Spirit. A layperson would just need to be sure to appease the Parent Spirit since they are less sensitive and probably not actually using the parts except as clothing, food, ornamentation, or good luck charms. If one has not appeased the Parent Spirit, a good luck charm can be a bad luck charm. Another important thing to note is that at some point, the bones or other parts may wish to be lain to rest. They should be given a proper burial or cremation and dispersal.
Brigitte, Miss Brigid, Mama Brigitte – Basically Maman Brigitte. She is the nice older White lady in stories who helps slaves escape or brings food to the poor or teaches Black people to read and otherwise support themselves and then magically disappears. She looks very frail, but has super strength and the power to make glamours to hide people. When nothing else can be done, she waves her hand and attackers die from the draft it creates. She is very benevolent but very powerful.
Death or Mr. Bones – Everyone who walks the “path of bones” in earnest has met Death. All that lives has an appointment with him. Although some may view dealing with Death as the creepy side of Obeah, they should remember that many of the good things in life are because of Death.
If you have clean water it is because the germs in it were killed. Plants and many other living creatures died to make the soil fertile for your food to grow. If you eat meat then obviously some animals died for that. If you’re a vegetarian, your vegetables were grown on Death. Petroleum is long dead animals and plants. So your computer on which you are reading this right now is made of Death and metal. Death is necessary for there to be life.
Devil – Basically how Eshu the Trickster combined with Eshu of Tragedy is perceived in the west. Depending on who you ask, it could instead refer to Balzvuv (Beelzebub) who is a negative entity that every mystic should beware because he convinces people to do harm for “good” reasons that are not really good. A misanthropic or greedy person could enlist his aid in getting people to follow him to their destruction.
Diggers – These are beings said to live in the first foot or so of the ground. In some ways they resemble Gnomes, but may be a bit more cruel in their mischief. There are stories of them braiding or tangling people and animals’ hair in the night. They may do this to protect them from harmful Spirits or humans who cannot resist a knot, and must untie it before they can continue with whatever bad deeds they had planned. So even though they may cause some mischief, only bad people hate the Diggers.
John, Jonny – A name for Eshu. Stories are often told of a clever slave (Eshu the Trickster in disguise) who always outwits his master.
Jumbie or Duppy - A Carribean term for ghosts or spirits of ancestors, or for demons, depending who you ask.
King Snake, Grand Snake, Li Grand Zombi – A name for Damballah, especially as the King of Snakes. He is able to strike enemies from a long distance because he is in all of the sky. He is often called upon to grant wishes or to gain justice when someone flees from punishment.
Mama Raccoon – Similar to Oba, she is the guardian of marriage, female fidelity, and protective motherhood. Some symbols used for her are alternating stripes of black, pink, and gray, or a diagonal grid to symbolize a secure net or nest.
Mami, La Sirene, Mama Siren, Mommi - Basically Yemaya, but also residing in fresh water.
Manitou – The name some use for the Supreme God. It is an originally Native American Siouan term.
Moon Children – Semi-spirit beings who are children of the Moon and live for one lunar month. They die and are reborn every full moon.
Nadella – Also known as Needler or Neesa, or simply the Unquiet Spirit. She disturbs people until they do what a working was made for them to do. She is sometimes called upon in love spells to cause the person to not be able to rest until they go to the person on whose behalf the spell was done. More often, she is called to plague someone’s enemies so they cannot rest until they make amends or die.
Papa Raccoon – Similar to Shango, but more specific to sexual prowess and sexually motivated aggression. He is called to keep people away from one’s wife or girlfriend. Raccoon bacula (penis bones) are given as love gifts to keep a woman from messing around, and also as protection talismans for non romantic reasons.
Raster – An incubus similar to the Unquiet Spirit who takes the form of a man and brutally rapes women in their dreams. He is usually called on in cases of false rape accusations. If someone who has been falsely accused, they can have a work done in which Raster will take on their form and torture the woman. He is said by some to have been first summoned by the mother of a man who was lynched because of a false rape accusation.
Seven African Powers – The main or most important seven Orishas in human life vary somewhat from person to person. Most people who are more into Vodun have a top 10 or 20 actually. However, seven is a catchy number and so there are many products labelled “Seven African Powers…” for effect. Generally, when people use this term, they’re referring to Eshu, Obatala, Yemaya, Ogun, Shango, Oshun, and Oya.
Sun Children – Semi-spirit beings who are children of the Sun. They die and are reborn every solar year at the summer solstice.
Swamp Queen, Mama Gator – The Mother of all alligators, she takes the form of a giant alligator or a strange old swamp witch, and sometimes a beautiful young woman dressed in tattered, wet clothes. She must be appeased before one is allowed to hunt alligators with any luck. She can make someone get lost in the swamp or everglades or be bitten by a snake. She can also help someone to navigate and survive snakebites that would normally be fatal. Some believe that Mama Gator is Oshun Ibu Ana or Nana Buruku’s closer to Earth manifestation.
Tall Man (mainland) or Moko Jumbie (islands) – A Spirit who manifests as a giant or extremely tall man. In the U.S. mainland, he is said to live in the forest. In the islands, he can show up just about anywhere. He is generally thought to be malevolent towards humans, though some other Spirits who appear as giants may be wrongly thought to be him. Some view him as the protector of the forest whose permission must be gotten before chopping down any trees.
Vampires or Soucouyant – Unlike the undead popular in European folklore, these are Spirits who feed on blood. In many cases, the night time antics of rats, bats, and even thorn bushes have been called vampire attacks, the signs of an actual attack are clear. The person being attacked goes into a trance like state, marks appear on their body, and afterwards they feel very weak. There are many stories of vampires appearing as a ball of light or fire, but this is likely how they appear to some people being attacked. Those who have observed attacks not as the victim, report that it is more like a bubble of darkness and extreme cold. A shadow will pass over the person, they will begin to bleed often in multiple places on their body, and then when it is gone, the person falls from weakness.
Sometimes it is not blood they are after, but vitality, energy, or something else. They can exploit vulnerabilities caused by the evil eye, and often do this as a way of being undetected. Evil eye gets the blame for the person’s misfortunes, and the wrong protection methods will be used that allow the vampire to continue to feed.
Hierarchy of Spirits
This is a general hierarchy, but there is plenty of overlap except in the case of the Supreme God.
Supreme God – The Most High, Unfathomable Supreme Be-ing, Original Creator
Witness Deities – Those deities who were created before the physical Universe, or specifically to witness the creation of the physical Universe, and manage or embody various spiritual or metaphysical principles.
Angels – Attendants of the Supreme God sent when specifically divine intervention is required in any situation.
First Cosmic Deities – Those created at the creation of the physical Universe, and assigned to manage, create, and/or embody specific laws of Nature and existence, planets, or other celestial bodies.
Elemental Deities – Also created at the same time as creation of the physical Universe, they manage and embody elements and the interactions between them.
Earth Specific Forces
Planetary Forces – Those who manage and embody various natural forces on specific planets.
Life Guardians and Animal Spirits – Those who manage and embody the primary energy of specific categories of living things.
The Ancestors/The Dead - The force of spiritual energy to which souls return after death and from which new souls are formed. These may not be Earth specific for everyone.
Earth Specific Attendants
Spirits of Light (Earth Angels or Life Affirming Demons in some languages) and Spirits of Darkness (Demons) – Spirit beings who reside on Earth and may be working in the interest of affirming or sustaining life, or destroying it. Whether it is good or evil depends to some degree on perspective. They are like the day-to-day duty or “lesser” Angels.
Gardener Beings – Faeries, Gnomes, Diggers, etc. maintain various ecosystems and situations. They seldom have an interest in the lives of humans unless humans are messing something up or they like a particular person or family because they’re helpful.
Predatory Beings – Vampires and others who exploit living things to sustain themselves.
Persons – People at about the same general level that we are in 3 dimensions, who simply live at higher dimensions, who can move within our dimensional range. They are physical beings in their dimension, but appear to us as solid, ethereal, or wraith-like. Some may be mages or just very talented people where they are from. Some may be gardener or predatory beings from other worlds.