Believing in ancestral spirits is a myth

AT death, the body and spirit separate. The body is buried and the spirit is sent to its designed destination from where it will continue to exist.

Onesimus Ngundu

And the spirit cannot come back on its own initiative.

Only God will reunite the spirits of the dead with their bodies at the time of the resurrection of all the dead.

However, in African society, the spirits of the dead, variously known in sub-Saharan Africa as amadlozi or amatongo (Zulu, Xhosa), balimo (Sotho, Tswana), psikwembu (Tsonga), medzimu (Venda), midzimu (Shona), mikishi (Bemba), Orisha (Yoruba), maimu (Kikamba), etc, are believed to continue living in proximity from where they can watch over the affairs of their living family members.

And the departed ancestors are generally credited for helping and protecting their living family members.

Success in business, job security, conception after years of infertility, protection from fatal accidents, etc, are all usually attributed to the intercession of one’s ancestral spirits.

However, since things just don’t happen in African culture, when calamities like mental sicknesses, miscarriages, singleness, death, etc affect us, people naturally conclude that they have been caused by aggrieved ancestral spirits.

So, in response, the affected persons or families will seek the advice of the diviner to inform them of the kind of appeasement ritual to be performed.

These rituals tend to vary not only from ethnic group to ethnic group, but also according to the relationship between victims and the crime that provoked the spirit of the dead.

During the appeasement ritual, someone claiming to be possessed by an ancestral spirit will fall into a trance while supposedly uttering the grievances committed against the ancestral spirits, and how to make things right.

If successes and calamities are common to all people, why do only Africans tend to attribute them to the activities or inactivity of their ancestral spirits? Think about that.

The Hindus believe in a cycle of death and rebirth of life called samara.

They believe that after death, souls of people reincarnate in animals like monkeys and cattle.

Hence, it is not surprising to see so many animals roaming around undisturbed in Indian residential areas because animals are regarded as the habitat of the souls of the dead relatives.

Belief in African ancestral spirits living in the proximity of their living family members, and belief in Hindu samara are examples of human ignorance of what actually happens to the human spirit after death.

If one wants to know the meaning of a particular English word, they consult a trustworthy dictionary like the Oxford Dictionary.

According to the Bible, God’s life dictionary and instruction manual, when a Christian dies his spirit or soul goes straight to heaven to be in the presence of God: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:1, 6, 8), and that of a non-Christian is sent straight to hades or hell where it will await the final day of judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 20:13).

In the meantime, neither the spirit of the Christian nor that of a non-Christian can come back from its assigned place of abode (Luke 16:19-31).

Only God will bring them back and reunite them with their bodies at the second coming of Jesus Christ.

At the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, all the raised Christians will live with God forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:12-16, 51-55).

On the other hand, at the second coming of Jesus Christ, it will be the day of judgment for all non-believers.

Their spirits will also be reunited with their bodies before they are judged and cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).

A Christian is someone who has personally accepted the good news of the Gospel that when the innocent and holy Jesus Christ was crucified, He died for my sins.

He died on the cross for me and on my behalf. None of us can attain a right standing before God by doing good works (Ephesians 2:8, 9), or by living a good life (Philippians 3:4-11), or by trying to keep the law (James 2:11), or by belonging to a particular church denomination (1 Corinthians 1:12-18).

There is only one way to God. That is through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Romans 10:13).

Now the question is: If the spirits of the dead go straight to their designated places of abode from where they cannot return on their own initiative, then, who masquerade as ancestral spirits?

The Bible teaches that it is the devil and his demons.

In the Garden of Eden, the devil posed as a serpent when he broached a conversation with Eve.

He talked to her as someone who was really concerned about the couple’s welfare even if it meant disobeying God.

She believed his lies, and the consequences of her disobedience to God affected the human race and the universe (Genesis 3).

The devil and demons can coherently speak through persons and in the name of someone (Acts 19:11-20).

They can also ask for some special treatment (Mark 5:8-13). Today, we hear some people identifying themselves as habitats of certain spirits.

By their attire, and in some cases by their type of music, they claim to represent certain ethnic ancestral spirits.

If God says the spirits of the dead are currently confined to their places of abode waiting for resurrection day, one can confidently conclude that the devil and his demons do masquerade as ancestral spirits.

God warns us against the disguised operations of the devil and his demons in this life. “Be aware of the schemes of the devil” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

If we accept the biblical view of life after death, then, belief in ancestral spirits is a myth.

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