Theological Analysis of Syncretic and Paganistic Beliefs and Practices in Catholic Funerals in Igboland Nigeria

  • Edwin Chukwudi Ezeokeke The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Faculty of Theology
Keywords: syncretism; paganism; igboland Nigeria; burial; funeral; beliefs; ractices; inculturation; purification; atonment; evil spirits, revenge and retaliation


“Death is generally seen as the cessation of the connection between our mind and our body”. Most people believe that death takes place when the heart stops beating. Death occurs when the subtle consciousness finally leaves the body to go to the next life. “In order word death is the termination of all biological functions that sustain the living organism.” According to Catechism of the Catholic Church, “death is the separation of the soul from the body.” At the moment of death, the soul separates from the body.

One particular belief that cuts across all cultures and religions is that all human beings must die and ought to be buried as a sign of respect and farewell. The question is what is the nature or rather what should be the nature of the burial and funeral rite of a deceased person? Do all human beings have the same or common burial and funeral rites or do our burial and funeral rites vary according to our religion, faith, beliefs, culture, age and understanding? Catholic Church teaches that death is a transformation and not the end of life. It is the teaching and belief of the Catholic Church that there is a resurrection and life of glory in heaven where those who have done well while on earth see God face to face.

Catholic Church also teaches and believes that on the last day, both the body and the soul will rise to see the glory of God. For this reason, the body of a dead Catholic deserves some respect and dignity. This corpse should be given the respect and dignity it deserves during burial. However, this is not always the case especially in Igboland, Nigeria. There are some syncretistic and fetish beliefs and practices associated with some Catholic burials and funerals in Igboland.

This paper therefore sets out to bring to light these syncretic, paganistic and fetish practices and beliefs associated with Catholic burials and funerals in Igboland. It will also offer some theological implications of these practices as well as the possible ways through which they can be curtailed and stopped.


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