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In Efik mythology, Abassi is considered to be the creator god. His wife, Atai, is known as the mediator. It is believed that Atai convinced Abassi to allow two humans (one man and one woman), also known as their children, to live on Earth, but forbade them to work or reproduce. The children were required to return to heaven with Abassi whenever he rang the dinner bell. These rules were established so that the Efik people would not surpass Abassi in wisdom or strength. Eventually the children disobeyed and Abassi killed them both. Abassi and Atai were disgusted and gave the human race two gifts, chaos and death. The gods also turned away from the people. It wasn’t until the Efik people started making human sacrifices for their sins that they believed Abassi and Atai started to hear their cries for help again.
It was believed that Abassi and Atai lived in the Sun. Abassi was thought to be the god of health. The tribesmen would often chant aloud to the sun in hopes that Abassi would hear their cries and heal them. It is believed that Abassi gave certain tribemen the ability to heal the sick through necromancy. Whenever someone in the tribe was ill, the chief would summon the witchdoctor. If the witchdoctor was unable to heal the ill person, the ill person was to be immediately killed because Abassi did not want them to be healed. Within a healing ceremony, the tribesmen would start a fire. All the people of the tribe were required to gather around as they sang songs of worship to Abassi. If the witchdoctor was unable to heal the sick person, the ill person would immediately be thrown into the fire.
As time went on, the Efik people started believing that Abassi was the god of nature. Eventually this caused the people to begin worshipping the sun in the belief that it was Abassi himself. The Efik people began making human sacrifices to Abassi in order that they may receive a plentiful harvest. Sometimes the Efik people would burn one of their tribesmen alive; other times they would impale them with a large object. During the ceremony the tribesmen would shout aloud to Abassi. Communication with Abassi generally consisted of the same traditions.
It was also believed that twins were a disgrace to Abassi. It was thought to be evil for a woman to give birth to twins; the woman would be burnt alive and the twins were taken and left for dead in the bush (the desert). There was also an option for the tribe to eat the twins rather than leave them in the bush.
The Reverend Hope Masterton Waddell came among the Efik people on 10 April 1846. The Efik people specifically requested for the evangelization of their kingdom in writing and the letters are dated 1 December 1842 and 4 December 1842 from King Eyo Honesty II and King Eyamba V respectively. Mary Mitchell Slessor came to Calabar in 1876. The Atai referred to as the wife of Abassi was the third Edidem of the Efik people. He was the king who led the Efik people out of the country of the Aros into Uruan country.
Efik people today worship many different gods. Some are Christian, and others still worship Abassi and Atai. Islam, atheism, and many other belief systems also exist among the Efik people.
- Benge, Geoff (28 July 1999). Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar (Christian Heroes: Then & Now). YWAM Publishing. p. 203.
- Jackson, Dave (1 May 1994). Trial by Poison: Mary Slessor (Trailblazer Books #12. Bethany House. p. 144.
- miller, basil (6/1985). Mary Slessor (Women Of Faith Series). Bethany House Publishers. p. 144.
- Livingstone, W.P. Mary Slessor of Calabar.