Agogo/Gankogui Of Zangbeto: Tones have a healing effect on our bodies, calm our minds and awaken our spirits. The resonance and vibration of sound releases stress and emotional blockages in the body and calms the mind. The calming of mind expands conscious awareness and connection with spirit.
Deity is an offspring of Obatala and Odudua. Aganju, a male Deity (Orisha) representing the land. The word Aganju means ” a desert ,” the worship of the Deity has fallen into disuse. He is syncretized with Saint Christopher. Aganju is strongly associated with Shango, both Deities (Orishas) being members of the deified royal family of Oyo. In the Yoruba areas of Nigeria and Danxome, Aganju is known as a deified warrior king from the town of Shaki in the present-day Oyo State of Nigeria. He was said to walk with a sword. Shaki is in the northern part of Yorubaland that is hilly and rocky. Aganjú is a Deity (Orisha) of great antiquity.
Lukumi followers of this religion believe that Aganjú is a force that, like the sun that is his symbol, is essential for growth, as well as a cultivator of civilizations. Like the volcano with which he is also associated, he forms the foundation upon which societies are built and is the catalyst for the production of vast amounts of wealth and commerce needed for advanced development. He is most highly regarded by Lukumi practitioners for his role in assisting humans in overcoming great physical as well as psychological barriers. Like the volcano, Aganjú is noted for his legendary strength and his ability to bring about drastic change. His significance in Cuba in the past is most probably due in part to the fact that he was said to have delivered people out of bondage and helped one to carry the heaviest of burdens.
As Lord of Caves, he owns all the mineral wealth of the earth and can be appealed to part with some. He also acts as the god of untamed lands, from deserts to mountains and is the navigator, knowing the safe passages and fords across rivers.
His patterns consists of nine beads: two brown, one red, one yellow, one blue, one yellow, one red, two brown is one pattern. He likes offerings of beer and beef. He may try to eat the beer bottles however. It’s one of his favorite tricks. Mediums carrying Aganju may well try and eat glass as well. The name Aganju means uninhabited tract of country, wilderness, plain, or forest.
Aganju is the bearer of burdens, the defender of the helpless, down trodden and enslaved. Aganju is a force of life that overcomes obstacles and does the impossible. Because of this, he was a major symbol of African resistance against the enslaving European culture. In the future, may people everywhere who are persecuted and marginalized be inspired by Aganju and overcome oppression.
Aganju is credited with assisting humans overcome physical as well as psychological barriers, Argayu is regarded as the healer. Agayu is depicted as this great rough giant, that has no rhythm when dancing, when in fact he is one of the most docile, humble and generous Orishas in the Yoruba Pantheon.
Creator of civilization – Defender of the helpless & the oppressed
Aganju the third sitting king of Oyo empire a very brave king. He is a lover of nature and animal. History have it that Aganju domestic a Leopard and keep it in his Palace . He hate oppression, he likes to visit the wilderness and rivers. He normally walk to anywhere with his double edge sword. He loves beads majorly with color red, yellow, light blue, dark blue, green, deep brown,, milky white. Aganjú’s role as a mediator is further developed in his capacity as the ferryman who takes souls from the material to the spiritual plane after they experience death. A ferryman has to know the river he travels very well; he must chart the safest course and keep his passengers out of harm’s way. Aganjú personifies the wise guide who takes people to new places.
***Aganju is the Orisha of Volcano & Wilderness ***
In Cuba, Aganju is a volcano deity for the practitioners of Santeria-Lukumi religion. But there are no volcanoes in Yorubaland, nor is Aganju associated with volcanoes among the Yoruba people.
In the Afro-Brazilian tradition of Candomblé, Aganjú is worshiped as a manifestation or quality of the Orisha Shango, often called Xango Aganjú. Aganjú represents all that is explosive and lacking control. He is the embodiment of the Volcanoes.
*** The leaf is his knife and his wand. Osanyin represents the two sides of herbal power. The same thing that can cure you, if used improperly can kill you.
Herbalists and Priests enlist the aid of Osanyin, the spirit of herbal medicines, in their work against mental and physical illness caused by malevolent forces and individuals. The Yoruba believe the power of Osanyin is vested in a wrought iron staff, called an Osanyin staff, that is placed on altars to this Deity (Orisha).
The staff is composed of a circle of small birds and a shaft in the middle that elevates a large bird above smaller ones. The reason for this division could be to suggest the relaying of Metaphysical powers from the celestial to the Terrestrial realm. The Yoruba reference to Osanyin as “The one who sees everything, like God (Olodumare)” allowing him a vantage point from which he can protect all of humanity below.
The birds, emissaries of Ogun, refer to the Herbalist’s understanding of and power over these malevolent people. There are typically sixteen birds, invoking the most sacred number of divination, surrounding and confronting the central bird, which represents the smallpox God.
Osanyin the Deity of healing credited with all knowledge of herbs, leaves and roots for medicinal purposes. The myths of origin, history and religious beliefs of West-Africa were carried by the slaves across to the Americas and the Caribbean. This factor has maintained a continuity in space and time with the original cult. To the Yoruba, health is a state in which there is a blending of physical, mental, emotional social moral and spiritual well-being. To achieve this harmony they resort to divination to find out the cause of and remedy for their illness. The traditional healers fall into four groups and of these the diviner/herbalist meet the needs of anyone who is ill by providing both diagnosis and medication. Among this group are the Herbalists (Onishegun) who diagnose and provide the remedy through dialogue with the deity and the Osanyin who acquire the knowledge of herbs and the associated incantations through a system of apprenticeship. The herbs are collected by the Herbalists (Onishegun) under whose watchful eyes the medications are prepared.
***There Are No Òrìshás Without Leaves ***
Òsányìn is a deity or divinity of the medical herbage, his importance is primordial and no ceremony within the Ifá philosophy is made without his involvement. He is the one who finds the force, the vitality and the power of performance, no divinity can pass trough, without him. This power lives in several leaves and herbs, the name of these leaves and herbs and their use, is the most secret of the Deity (Òrìshà) cult.
Every divinity has its particular leaves and plants, the use of one contraindicated leave could have harmful effects and harvesting is done with extreme care. In wild places, brush or forest where plants grow freely, the plants that grow in gardens should be discarded, because the forest is the home of Òsányìn.
The priests of this Deity (Òrìshà) wakes up very early without having any sexual activity from the day before and goes to the forest without greeting anyone on their way. The priest offers incantations to strip the leaves, roots, bark and fruits and deposits his offering to the deity before leaving the forest.
These priests are aware of the leaves used interchangeably, among them we note that there are leaves with virtues such as sheet of fortune, happiness, joy, fertility, fame, longevity, courage.. . But there are also leaves of misery, fever and other even more fearsome illness. The leaves come in form of decoctions, baths of purification which are intended to form a magic lake between the divinity and certain objects that are enshrined including the blood of a specific animal. The employment of the leaves is fundamental, because these leaves are used to elaborate the divine powder of the deities and receive a growing force that creates a strong bond of interdependence between the worshipers.
Òsányìn is the doctor, by a divine mandate and haves a deep knowledge of botany and diseases that afflict humans, he is in charge of preparing the medicine for children and infants. He’s the only divinity that is able to use the corn meal oil to prepare medicinal ointments. All the plants are attributed to this deity, because of the principal basis of his role in the planetary system.
It exist and persists a judgment that Òsányìn is the divinity of sorcery and witchcraft and his followers seek his support against their enemies, in times of disputes, disagreements and fights. This contributes in a double misconception, because the key to the way of living is to live without being attacked and without attacking, however no matter which plan is initiated to any individual, looses the effect if the power of justice is on the individuals side, this because Òsányìn is neither an aggressive deity nor a warrior, he is only a medical deity in the planetary system and he is used to cure and remedy those painful diseases that science has not been able to defeat.
It is a belief that Òsányìn was born with knowledge about the plants and trees, because he did not learn from anybody. There are many different kinds of Òsányìn and the one that is one legged and known as – Òsányìn elésè-kan, is the fiercest and has great medicine knowledge.
Osanyin’s magic is so powerful that no one can unravel his spells. Consequently he is petitioned for any purpose where unconquerable magic is required. Osanyin is often depicted as an extremely disfigured, impish man. He has one eye, one hand, one foot, one tiny ear that can hear even a pin drop, and one ear larger than his head that hears nothing. He keeps all of his magic in a calabash that he hangs high in a tree, out of reach.
*** Ifa staffs usually have one bird and of course the inverted Agogo Bells. However, they are in effect the same thing. The sixteen birds surrounding the one bird is obviously a reference to the Itan of when Orunmila entered the town of the Aje (witches).There is a strong connection between Osanyin and Orunmila and also to Ogun, for the Opa Osun is made out of iron. Ogun lives in the forest, hence his connection to Osanyin.
*** Osanyin herbs have the power to neutralize the Ajogun – negative forces. Both staffs represent the triumph of consciousness -Ori over the forces of illness and destruction. Osun is the male aspect of Oshun, the spirit of the river. The Osun is a staff that is traditionally only given to Awo who have Odu pot. The staff represents Oso – the ability to astral travel. The bird on the Osun is a vulture, representing the Ashe of Oshun. Odu Ifa says that Oso comes to women via their menstrual cycle as a birth right passed from mother to daughter.
*** Being possessed by a female Orisha gives a man the ability to astral travel. When a man is in the astral realm he is in the land of the Mothers and to go to the land of the Mothers is challenging as a man, so Ifa teaches that a male Awo goes to the land of the Mothers disguised as a female bird. That is the reason why when a male Awo enters Igbodu wearing a Mariwo Ede and Beads dangling from his knee. This is the disguise of being a bird. After that, the Ifa Iyawo places his left foot on the Osun staff connection him to the Ancestors.
*** Ifa says that men can develop the ability of Oso as a consequence of receiving Ifa initiation- Tefa. Men are presented to Odu during Tefa. Being presented to Odu during Tefa gives men the ability to be mediums for female Orisha – among other things…
*** Praise to the owner of herbal medicines & leaves: The supernatural one, one-who-turns-all-leaves-into-medicine. One who is versed in the use of roots, one who has a sharp, pointed tail like that of a chick. One who has a liver as crystal clear as a fly’s. One who is as powerful as an iron rod. Aroni, the custodian of secrets who fastens medicine on his chest. One who forcibly takes the clothes from a sick man and staggers. He who fights without being guilty. A big masquerade for whom the mortar is rolled. Leaves in the hand – Leaves in the mouth – There is nothing you can’t do – One whose body is full of medicine . He who can revive and can kill – He who uses medicine to fight death. A leopard that prepares medicine to remove assaults. He drinks some water and uses some to anoint his head. He turns 200 leaves into one – One whose body is full of medicine. The mighty man who preserves the forest for medicinal purposes – The man who uses leaves to do all he wants.
Herbs have enormous magical power, as they hold the Earth’s energy within them. Each herb has unique properties that can enhance one’s magical goals. Herbs also may have medicinal properties. The magical practitioner can draw upon either aspect when performing a spell. Harvest herbs in the morning after the sun has dried the dew but before the heat of the day sets in. Use a sharp magical knife to cut herbs; the knife should be consecrated specifically for this purpose. Thank the plant for its gift, and offer it something in return, perhaps some water. Harvest only the amount of herbs needed, except when pruning the plants, to ensure healthy growth for the following season.
Roots on the other hand – often the most magically potent part of the plant – once chopped or powdered are fairly indistinguishable one from the other. Familiarize yourself with herbs and other botanical. Know what they should look like, and what they should smell like…
Discover extraordinary Carvings & Sculptures designs by talented Artisans worldwide. Throughout history, civilizations have documented life experiences through Carving – Sculpting physical items, Crafting fantastic wood Carvings as well as Stone, Metal & Bronze Sculptures.
Wood Carving is a form of woodworking by means of a cutting tool in one hand or a chisel by two hands or with one hand on a chisel and one hand on a mallet, resulting in a wooden figure or figurine, or in the Sculptural ornamentation of a wooden object.
The making of Sculpture in wood has been extremely widely practiced, but survives much less well than the other main materials such as stone and bronze, as it is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. It therefore forms an important hidden element in the art history of many cultures. Outdoor wood sculptures do not last long in most parts of the world, so it is still unknown how the totem pole tradition developed. Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan in particular are in wood, and so are the great majority of African Sculptures and that of Oceania and other regions. Wood is light and can take very fine detail so it is highly suitable for masks and other Sculptures intended to be worn or carried. It is also much easier to work on than stone.
Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. Durable Sculptural processes originally used Carving and Molding, in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials.
Sculpture in stone survives far better than works of art in perishable materials, and often represents the majority of the surviving works from Ancient Cultures, though conversely traditions of Sculpture in wood may have vanished almost entirely.
Sculpture has been central in Religious devotion in many Cultures, and until recent centuries large Sculptures, too expensive for private individuals to create, were usually an expression of Religion. Those Cultures whose Sculptures have survived in quantities include the Cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean, India and China, as well as many in South America and Africa.
Most African Sculpture was historically in wood and other organic materials that have not survived from earlier than at most a few centuries ago. Masks are important elements in the art of many peoples, along with human figures, often highly stylized. Direct images of deities are relatively infrequent, but masks in particular are or were often made for Religious Ceremonies.
West African Cultures developed bronze casting for reliefs to decorate palaces like the famous Benin Bronzes, and very fine naturalistic royal heads from around the Yoruba town of Ife in terracotta and metal. Akan gold weights are a form of small metal Sculptures representing proverbs and so with a narrative element rare in African Sculpture, and royal regalia included impressive gold Sculptured elements.
Between the Ivory Coast and the Congo lie Ife, in the Yoruba country, and Benin, in Southern Nigeria, where African Sculpture has reached its highest level. The bronzes are of two kinds. There are figures – either life-size human heads or models of animals or human beings – and there are relief sculptures of complete scenes, animals, human beings and mythological or magical symbols. The principal ivory products are large elephant tusks carved in relief, goblets and tankards decorated either in relief or open-work, and armlets and other ornaments in the same style. The headdress and the rings round the neck of bronze heads, represent the traditional coral decoration still worn by the kings of Benin. Coral beads were an important part of the crown treasures, and when a ruler ceased to wear them it was a sign of bad financial policy.
History of Bronze Sculpture in Benin:According to Bini tradition, brass-casting was introduced into Benin by medieval artists from Ife. The bronzes are produced by what is known as the lost-wax process. A model is made – usually of clay – and covered with a layer of wax. It is the method used in all West African Bronze and Brass industries.
Yoruba Sculpture:There is a vast difference between the Ancient Art of the Yorubas and their present-day work. Modern Yoruba art consists chiefly of wooden figures and masks. With its striking polychrome paintings, it is certainly very decorative, but it is on a lower artistic plane than the old classic Sculpture in Stone, Terracotta and Bronze. The old Carvings in hard stone such as quartz and the old bronze castings are distinguished by an astonishing fidelity to nature, absolutely correct proportions and a lack of conventional features. The technique was excellent and the figures show a marked sense of beauty.
It is probably centuries since work of this kind was produced at Ife, but the antique masterpieces have never been forgotten. Dozens of beautiful terracotta heads were kept in a shrine outside the town until only a few years ago, when they were all stolen or broken. In Ife there is still a ram’s head in granite, almost life-size, and Ceremonial Stools carved in single pieces from solid pieces of quartz. But it is the Terracotta Sculpture & Bronze which show the Art of Ancient Ife at its best. The age of the Ife heads has not yet been conclusively ascertained, but since it is practically certain that the Bronze art of Benin was derived from Ife.
African Stone Sculpture:There are other examples of Ancient African Art in harder and more durable materials than wood. In some parts stone Sculpture has been found which is entirely different from Ife Sculpture. There are stone heads in the Northern Congo in the region of the river Uele. Many West African figures are used in Religious Rituals and are often coated with materials placed on them for Ceremonial offerings.
Head (Ori) = Inu “Inner Head – Destiny” *** Head (Ori) = Akoko “First Head – Designator”
Distinction between Heaven (Orun) & World (Aiye) * Heaven contains: Owner – Deities – Ancestors… * World contains: Human – Animals – Sorcerers…
The Heaven/World distinction is important in understanding Yoruba concepts of Life, Death, Destiny, Reincarnation & Soul. Firstly, Yoruba thought makes a distinction between the physical body & the spiritual elements which inhabit it and give it life & individuality. The characteristics of these two spiritual elements appear as the most important are Breath (Emi) & Head (Ori)
Breath (Emi) is generally thought of as the vital force, without which the body dies. In some accounts it is also thought of as the conscious self. It not only provides locomotion for the body, but can think independently of it, and can travel abroad on its own in dreams. Head (Ori) is more complex it rather than Breath is the seat of the intellect. It is also related to a person’s destiny, as the element which predetermines his success or failure in the world.
Head (Ori) is given to, or chosen by, an individual before his/her birth, creating limits within which success in the world can be expected and within which the Breath is able to act. In contrast to this rather fatalistic model, Head is also to be the Ancestral Guardian Soul – A spiritual entity which can be influenced by humans in efforts to improve life on earth. Each individual has two Ancestral guardians, one on the Head, and one in Heaven which is doing exactly the same things as the individual is doing on Earth. With the support of the Ancestral guardian in Heaven, an individual will live the allotted span of life.
Head (Ori) is believed to be the first and the most important Deity in Heaven. The spiritual and personal Head (Ori) or Divinity possessed by each and every individual. Each person and deity before coming to earth, must visit Ajala – maker of Heads in heaven. If one has the bad luck to choose a less than perfect Head, his/her life on earth will be severely affected. Head (Ori) refers to one’s spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence, and therefore is often personified as an Orisha in its own right. It is believed that human beings are able to heal themselves both Spiritually and Physically by working with the Orishas to achieve a balanced character, Oriwa-Pele. When one has a balanced character, one obtains an alignment with one’s Head (Ori) or divine self. It is also believed that Head (Ori) be worshiped like Orisha. This is because whatever one becomes or whatever happens in one’s life is as destined by Head (Ori)
A person’s Head (Ori) is so crucial to a successful life that it is propitiated frequently, and its support and guidance is sought before undertaking any new task. Personal Head (Ori) shrines are indispensable and are present in most homes, irrespective of sex, religious belief, or cult affiliation. And in the performance of virtually all sacrifices, Ancestral worship, since it determines their favourable outcome.
As above, so below. Ifa offers the term Head (Ori) to explain the exact path from our “Origin” to us and between us and others. It is our portion of the divine spark that is encoded with our destiny. Its components are seated in certain chakra points within and above us. Above -Below or better yet, simply Without – Within” to describe the path by which the two are connected: Our original form of pure energy or true spirit body that manifested first, from our original energy source. Our Head (Ori) also resides in one of the first realms created by that source.
Physical Head:This may even refer to our brain. It houses the next three Ori portals. It is located at the crown of our head. This is the point where our silver cord or chain connects us to our original and true spirit self in Heaven (Orun). The Head (Ori) is vested with great importance in Yoruba art and thought. When portrayed in sculpture, the size of the head if often represented as four or five times its normal size in relation to the body in order to convey that it is the site of a person’s Power (Ashe) as well as his or her essential nature, or Character (Iwa). The Yoruba distinguish between the Exterior Head (Ori-Akoko) and Inner Head (Ori-Inu). Exterior Head (Ori-Akoko) is the physical appearance of a person, which may either mask or reveal one’s Inner Head (Ori-Inu) aspects. Inner qualities, such as patience and self-control, should dominate outer ones.
The head also links the person with the other-world. The Imori ceremony – Head (Ori) is the first rite that is performed after a Yoruba child is born. During Imori, a diviner determines whether the child comes from his or her mother’s or father’s lineages or from a particular Deity (Orisha). If the latter is the case, then the child will undergo Deity (Orisha) initiation during adulthood, during which the person’s Head (Ori) becomes the spiritual vessel for that Deity (Orisha). To prepare for these ceremonies, the person’s head is shaved, bathed and anointed.
Yoruba do not consider the Head (Ori) symbol really complete without an accompanying container to house, honour and beauty it. This is the most costly acts of honour an individual can do to any Deity. It is hard to imagine a more fitting residence for Head, the cause and essence of one’s being. During consultation or Propitiation, the devotee will place Ibori – House Of Head (Ori) on a well-swept & polished floor which has been covered with a white cloth. Devotee offers standard items of sacrifice to Head like water, kolanut, and is free to add other items of choice. Depending on the nature of the request, a corresponding symbolic sacrifice is made.
Coconut Water – Omi Agbon as Head softener (Ero), makes it work more in favour of the owner where that Head is found to be hard. Snails (Igbin)are offered to ask Head (Ori)to avert an impending disaster. Sugarcane – Ground Roasted Corn & Honey are offered to attract good fortune – happiness or joy…
Consequently the Yoruba Concept of Head (Ori), is always conscious of the duality of his being, namely the material mortal self, and the spiritual one. In actual life experience, the spiritual Head’s qualities such as immortality, ever-presence and insuperable power are employed where human efforts fail or appear inadequate. Thus, in extreme conditions of bad or good health, fortune or misfortune, the Yoruba resort to Head (Ori) for rectification or gratification.
***Because of the circumstances of their creation, all Deities have to pay homage to Head (Ori). Similarly, all cult heads & devotees have to touch the Earth with their forehead as an act of symbolic respect for the first Ori-Akoko in heaven who in turn will roll side to side in reverence to Owner of Heaven on behalf of the appellant on Earth. (Ofun-Irete)
All requests must be sanctioned by Head (Ori) before any other Power, Force, or Divinity can act on them, favourably or otherwise. Head (Ori) is the channel of communication between individuals on Earth and the Deities.
Circumcision Is Seen As Necessary For The Individual To Gain Gender…
In Dogon thought, Male and Females are born with both sexual components. The clitoris is considered Male, while the foreskin is considered Female. – Originally, for the Dogon, man was endowed with a dual soul, and circumcision eliminates the superfluous one. Rites of circumcision thus allow each sex to assume its proper physical identity.
Most men, however, have only one wife, and it is rare for a man to have more than two wives. Formally, wives join their husband’s household only after the birth of their first child. After having children, divorce is a rare and serious matter, and it requires the participation of the whole village.
The religious beliefs of the Dogon are enormously complex and knowledge of them varies greatly within Dogon society. Dogon religion is defined primarily through the Worship of the Ancestors and the spirits whom they encountered as they slowly migrated from their obscure Ancestral homelands to the Bandiagara cliffs.
*** Three Principal Cults:Awa – Lebe – Binu ***
The Awa is a Cult of the Dead – whose purpose is to reorder the spiritual forces disturbed by the death of Nommo, a mythological Ancestor of great importance to the Dogon. Members of the Awa cult dance with ornate carved and painted masks during both funeral and death anniversary ceremonies. There are 78 different types of ritual masks among the Dogon and their iconographic messages go beyond the aesthetic, into the realm of religion and philosophy.The primary purpose of Awa dance ceremonies is to lead souls of the deceased to their final resting place in the family altars and to consecrate their passage to the ranks of the Ancestors.
The cult of Lebe – Earth God, is primarily concerned with the agricultural cycle and its chief priest is called a Hogon. All Dogon villages have a Lebe shrine whose altars have bits of Earth incorporated into them to encourage the continued fertility of the land. According to Dogon beliefs, the God Lebe visits the Hogons every night in the form of a serpent and licks their skins in order to purify them and infuse them with life force. The Hogons are responsible for guarding the purity of the soil and therefore officiate at many agricultural ceremonies.
The cult of Binuis a totemic practice and it has complex associations with the Dogon’s sacred places used for Ancestor Worship, Spirit communication and agricultural sacrifices. Major Dogon sacred sites were related to episodes in the Dogon myth of the creation of the world, in particular to a deity named Nommo. Binu shrines house spirits of mythic ancestors who lived in the legendary era before the appearance of death among mankind. Binu spirits often make themselves known to their descendants in the form of an animal that interceded on behalf of the clan during its founding or migration, thus becoming the clan’s totem.
The priests of each Binu maintain the sanctuaries whose facades are often painted with graphic signs and mystic symbols. Sacrifices of blood and millet porridge the primary crop of the Dogon are made at the Binu shrines at sowing time and whenever the intercession of the immortal ancestor is desired. Through such rituals, the Dogon believe that the benevolent force of the ancestor is transmitted to them. Kananga masks form geometric patterns and represent the first human beings. The Dogon believe that the Dama dance creates a bridge into the supernatural world. Without the Dama dance, the dead cannot cross over into peace.
***The Dogon are strongly oriented toward harmony, which is reflected in many of their rituals. For instance, in one of their most important rituals, the women praise the men, the men thank the women, the young express appreciation for the old, and the old recognize the contributions of the young. Another example is the custom of elaborate greetings whenever one Dogon meets another. This custom is repeated over and over, throughout a Dogon village, all day.
The Hogon is the spiritual leader of the village. He is elected from among the oldest men of the extended families of the village. After his election, he has to follow a six-month initiation period, during which he is not allowed to shave or wash. He wears white clothes and nobody is allowed to touch him. A virgin who has not yet had her period takes care of him, cleans the house and prepares his meals. She returns to her home at night. After his initiation, he wears a red fez. He has an armband with a sacred pearl that symbolises his function. The virgin is replaced by one of his wives, and she also returns to her home at night. The Hogon has to live alone in his house. The Dogon believe the Sacred Snake Lébé comes during the night to clean him and to transfer wisdom.
There is also a secret ritual language Sigui So – language of Sigi , which is taught to dignitaries – Olubarū of the Society of the Masks during their enthronement at the Sigui ceremony.
***The Dogon people believe the fox has supernatural powers. In the morning, the diviner will read the fox prints on the sand and make interpretations. The fox is sure to come because offerings of millet, milk and peanuts are made to this sacred animal.
The Nummo were referred to as “Water Spirits.” Although the Nummo were identified as being “Dieu d’eau” (Gods of Water) identified the Nummo as hermaphrodites and they appeared on the female side of the Dogon sanctuary.” They were primarily symbolized by the sun, which was a Female symbol in the religion. In the Dogon language, the sun’s name, (nay), had the same root as “mother,” (na), and “cow,” (nā). They were symbolized by the colour red, a Female symbol.
“Most of the conversations indeed turned largely on Twins and on the need for duality and the doubling of individual lives. The Eight original Ancestors were really eight pairs… But after this generation, human beings were usually born single. Dogon religion and Dogon philosophy both expressed a haunting sense of the original loss of Twin-ness. The heavenly Powers themselves were dual, and in their Earthly manifestations they constantly intervened in pairs…” The birth of human Twins was celebrated in the Dogon culture because it recalled the “fabulous past, when all beings came into existence in twos, symbols of the balance between humans and the divine.”
The Twin Sect:The birth of twins is a sign of good luck. The enlarged Dogon families have common rituals, during which they evoke all their Ancestors back to their origin—the ancient pair of Twins from the creation of the world.
***The Dogon use this entertainment to gain profit by charging the tourists money for what masks they want to see and the ritual itself.
Funeral Masquerade – This particular ritual incorporates the elements of the yingim and the danyim. During the Yincomoli Ceremony, a gourd is smashed over the deceased’s wooden bowl, hoe, and Bundukamba, (burial blanket), which announces the entrance of the masks used in this ceremony, while the deceased entrance to their home in the family compound is decorated with ritual elements.
Great Mask or Mother Of Masks – The Mask represents the Women Ancestors, who are said to have discovered the purpose of the masks by guiding the spirits of the deceased into the afterlife.
The Lébé Sect worships the Ancestor Lébé Serou – the first mortal human being who in Dogon myth was transformed into a Snake. The celebration takes place once a year and lasts for three days.
Certain researchers investigating the Dogon have reported that they seem to possess advanced Astronomical knowledge, the nature and source of which have subsequently become embroiled in controversy. Puzzled by this Sudanese star system, and prefaced their analysis with the disclaimer. The problem of knowing how, with no instruments at their disposal, men could know the movements and certain characteristics of virtually invisible stars has not been settled, nor even posed.
= We have in the Dogon information a predictive mechanism which it is our duty to test, regardless of our preconceptions.
“The Dual Soul Is A Danger; A Man Should Be Male & A Woman Female. Circumcision & Excision Are Once Again The Remedy.”
To understand Olokun nature we need to look at the nature of the bottom of the sea, a vast mostly unexplored dark habitat. The deep sea floor is a seemingly hostile environment and yet life thrives down there. In fact scientists believe that there is more life in the dark abyss of the Earth’s oceans than in all of the tropical rainforests put together. The only way to survive at such great depths is either through chemosynthesis, hunting or scavenging.
Like her world, so is Olokun the Keeper of Secrets.Anything that falls to the bottom of the sea floor remains intact forever more, never to be laid eyes on by anyone other than herself and her underwater children. Olokun is believed to hold the secrets of the past, the present and the future. She knows all and guards that knowledge well. Olokun holds the key to the mystery of exactly what happened to their ancestors on those fateful journeys across the Atlantic. Many didn’t make it and thus entered the Realm of Olokun. Olokun is all-knowing, She is the Keeper of Wisdom and Divination. She is the Goddess of the Unknown -Darkness – Realm of Dreams & Unconscious.
Olokun is the Goddess of Death:Her Domain is the Graveyard of the Earth, cold and dark nature being the perfect environment for the suspended animation of Spirits. Olokun is also the Goddess of Rebirth and Renewal: At the bottom of the deep sea from Her Dark Watery Womb new life springs forth every moment, contributing to a vast and incredibly adaptive ecosystem. Olokun is associated with great riches, She is said to be a Goddess of Wealth and Abundance. Women pray to Her to conceive a child as well as for good health and worldly possessions.
Olokun is often depicted as a beautiful black Mermaid.One of the animals that symbolize Olokun is the mudfish… The Goddess Olokun is also linked to the red coral, a beautiful red gem-like colony of tiny animals that are joined together through the skeletons of their dead ancestors. As corals grow they form reefs which purify the water, provide shelter for other sea creatures and encourage the growth of wildlife habitats beneath the sea.
***In the New World:Especially amongst the Lukumi people in Cuba, Olokun and Yemaya are seen as different aspects of the same Goddess. Yemonja at the surface of the ocean is exposed to sunlight and the pull of the Moon. She is the Goddess’s life-giving and nurturing side, while Olokun in Her impenetrable abyss is the Goddess’s mysterious, dark and unknowable aspect.
When we speak of the Ancestral Waters of Life , we speak of waters that has a form of Natural consciousness that flows and nourishes, that incubates and feeds and the essence of Maternal caring that relates to the protection of children.
Omi Orun – Ancestral Waters:The idea of heavenly waters may seem symbolic to us but yet holds the ring of truth since the most commonly found substance is hydrogen particles throughout the universe . Science agrees that the combination of earth and water is what created the womb of all living creatures on the earth in consequence of the union of these elements.
The Olokun was given the title and name of the combined words OloOkun – Owner of the Oceans of Ode Aye – Earth. As well is her representation of water and birth and in fact a principal part of the human spirit of consciousness as well as it makes up part of our bodies. Throughout time and most ancient religions of the east a Female dominate deity took hold of the Title of the owner of the great oceans of earth.
When Olokun is angry she causes the sea to be rough and stirs up a raging surf upon the shore; and it is she who drowns men, upsets boats or canoes, and causes shipwrecks.
Olokun Sea Goddess– The owner of all the riches under the oceans, the greatest Bead maker, the most powerful Deity whose mantles are the rolling waves of sea water, is a most beautiful divinity to behold. Her long, braided hair flows with the waves of the undulating waters, her ebony dark skin glistening like priceless pearls under the motion of ceaseless seas.
Olokun heard about the plan to establish human abodes on earth, and became angry. She was fully prepared to turn down the request to use earth for the human project mainly because she was already using the space for her Bead-making studio. She made Beads of all colors and shapes, but her favorite Bead was the indigo colored, tubular shaped segi bead, so luminously dark that it seems to capture light within its luxurious entrails. It was her love for Bead making that caused her to move her seat to the depth of the ocean, which nobody wanted at that time. But after she succeeded in taming and ruling the vast ocean, after she salted it and stocked it with priceless jewels, after she had transformed the vast and empty space into a home for herself, they began to plot behind her back to take her space from her and turn it into a general home to lodge humans. She found the human project totally unacceptable if it would be at the expense of her own studio work of Bead making.
It was totally unacceptable for the divinities to take her sanctuary away from her, and populate it with strangers. She sat down in a reflective mood in the midst of her vast collection of Beads. She calmly picked up some of the most colorful and exquisite Beads ever made, and slowly rubs the warm gems against her dark brown skin. She would not give up her craft, she resolved. She would fight for every cup of water in the vast ocean of the earth. It was clear to Olokun that they chose earth because she had developed it so artistically that nobody could take their eyes away from it. But they also thought that she had no fighting power. It was only if the power of the others overwhelmed her that she was going to surrender.
Olokun & The Chameleon…Her secret contact in heaven informed her that they were sending the Chameleon to her. She considered that to be a sign of their contempt for her because they could not be sending a more inferior fellow as an emissary. She knew that every act is a sign of another thing. They were telling her that she was ugly, slow and contemptible, and the chameleon would be a clear deliverer of the message. They were telling her that she was beholding her own reflection in the mirror when she saw the Chameleon riding the Snail as a horse. Right before her eyes, she saw the Chameleon climb down from the back of the Snail. To her astonishment, the skin of the Chameleon glister with a lustrous light that radiated around it. Olokun, to her surprise, wanted to touch it, but she quickly checked her impulsive spirit.
She went into her chambers and began to attire herself in her gorgeous garments, woven in multicolored patterns, using different yarns and textures. She then looked for various combinations of Beads, both brilliant and dull Beads, large and slim, round and angular shaped gems, and she wore them. She then reappeared before the Chameleon, to show off herself, and display how beautiful she looked. “As usual, you are the most elegant and attractive being alive,” the Chameleon said to her, when she came out looking exceedingly beautiful in her attires. But even as the Chameleon spoke, it began to transform, and its skin began to reflect the splendor of the color of Olokun attires. The only exception is that the mirror even looked more splendid than the original, which puzzled Olokun.
Olokun thought about these things and decided that they were too bizarre for her to deal with. Certainly, things have changed in Heaven, and they were no longer as they used to be, if the ugly Chameleon could look so beautiful, and the Snail could be as swift as a horse… She decided that she had underestimated the power of the forces of Heaven. She told the chameleon “I want no trouble from those who sent you here. But you cannot take all of my space. Tell those who sent you that you can have some of the planet, which you may turn into solid ground for human habitation. But I will still continue to reign over the larger portion covered by the waters.”
***Olokun however remembered her word, because one’s word is what is most important. And her word remained that she consented to the establishment a human colony here on earth. So she has to honor and keep her word, for that is the nature of her own graceful character. At one time She was the Goddess of all Waters and all of the Oceans, for Her name means Owner of Oceans – Lord of the Sea. Today, especially amongst the New World Yorubas, Olokun is generally associated with the dark and cold bottom of the sea.
==Both Olokun & Mami Wata use mirrors which represent water and is used as a vehicle into the other world. White Kaolin is used for the Olokun while Talcum powder is used for the Mami Wata.
The worship of Olokun deity in Benin may be because the land of the living is surrounded by limitless water into which all rivers flow and that human souls must cross these waters “Olokun realms” either to be born or depart on their way to the spirit world after death.
The Gelede spectacle of the Yoruba & Fon is a public display by colorful masks which combines art and ritual dance to amuse, educate and inspire worship. Gelede Celebrates Mothers – Awon Iya Wa, a group that includes female Ancestors and Deities as well as the Elderly Women of the community, and the power and spiritual capacity these women have in society. However, this power may also be destructive and take the form of witchcraft; therefore, Gelede serves the function of appeasing this power, as well. The Gelede social agenda rests on – life is delicate and should be lived with caution and with an emphasis on diplomacy, consideration, respect and harmony.
Most Yoruba myths of origin can be found in the divination narratives knows at Odu Ifa which contains a number of poems called Ese Ifa. An Ese Ifa explains the origins of Gelede as beginning with Yemoja, “The Mother of all the Deities and all living things.”
Yewajobi – Yemoja could not have children and consulted an Ifa oracle, who advised her to offer sacrifices and to dance with wooden images on her head and metal anklets on her feet. After performing this ritual, she became pregnant. Her first child was a boy, nicknamed “Efe“- Humorist; the Efe mask emphasizes song and jests because of the personality of its namesake. Yewajobi – Yemoja second child was a girl, nicknamed “Gelede” – Obese like her mother Gelede loved dancing.
After getting married themselves, neither Gelede or Efe‘s partner could have children. The Ifa oracle suggested they try the same ritual that had worked for their mother. No sooner than Efe and Gelede performed these rituals- dancing with wooden images on their heads and metal anklets on their feet- they started having children. These rituals developed into the Gelede masked dance and was perpetuated by the descendants of Efe and Gelede.
Although Gelede ceremony may be staged at any time of the year to better the lot of an individual, to cleanse the society of pestilence, to induce rain, to enrich human fertility, to enlist the support of supernatural forces and the – Powerful Mothers in wartime, and to honor the dead, the most elaborate performance occurs during the annual festival.
Once the exact dates of the festival are fixed, usually through divination, the Chief Priestess – Iyalashe notifies the head of the community and the important chiefs. Messages then go out to all members of the Gelede society outside the town or working far away to return home for the celebration.
The festival begins with an all-night concert called Efe, which features the Efe male mask, who uses satire to entertain and educate. Given the concern of the Gelede society with peace and social stability, it is not surprising that didactic themes recur in Efe songs. After the Efe dance, most of the attendees spend the morning sleeping in preparation for the afternoon dance, which takes place in the marketplace and features pairs of male dancers who perform to fast-paced music with a vigorous beat.
The Gelede ceremony involves carefully choreographed dance, singing and music, and especially drumming. The performances are given by men, wearing masks that feature sculpted images of scenes including animals and people or sewing machines and drums. The pairs of men masquerade as women to amuse, please and placate the mothers who are considered very powerful, and who may use their powers for good or destructive purposes. These powers are especially linked to childbirth. The abilities they possess may be activated either consciously or unconsciously.
The Gelede “Mask” is more accurately a headdress, since it rests on top of the head and the wearer’s face is covered by a cloth veil. The headdress takes the form of a human head, on top of which are motifs that are intended to entertain onlookers but, in addition, usually address social concerns that may also be expressed in songs that are part of the masquerade. Individuals or families will usually go to any length to make their headdresses as attractive and humorous as possible.
Most of the headdresses have facial adornments, ranging from lineage marks to decorative tattoos, which are either incised or painted. The headdress is to the costume what the Head – Ori is to the human body. It is an index of identification and the essence of the masker’s personality as long as he is inside the mask. In spite of the comical representations that often appear on the headdress, the face below the superstructure remains serene, as if stressing the paradox that is life-and the need to live life with special care.
The Ketu-Yoruba people are credited with the invention of Gelede sometime in the latter part of the eighteenth century according to Oral traditions throughout the region. A popular Yoruba saying proclaims, oju to ba ri Gelede ti de opin iran – The eyes that have seen Gelede, have seen the ultimate spectacle. Gelede effective power and impact comes from its multi-media format in which the arts of song, dance, costume and music combine to create moving artistic experiences.
Gelede pays homage to the Spiritual Powers of Women, especially Elderly Women known affectionately as “Our Mothers,” Awon Iya Wa. The powers possessed by such Women, comparable to those of the Gods, Spirits, or Ancestors, may be used for the benefit or the destruction of society. When manifesting their destructive dimension such Elderly Women are termed Aje – Witches. If angered, they can bring down individuals and entire communities.
The Yoruba & Fon Markets Are Controlled By Women…To honor Women’s economic power and contributions, many Gelede headdresses depict Women’s heads carrying the goods they sell in the marketplace. Many Gelede masks depict animals that serve as metaphors for human actions and attributes as well as illustrations of popular proverbs and songs that often accompany the mask’s appearance. Animals in devouring motifs are an important means of conveying the concept of competing forces in social as well as spiritual realms.
This Gelede mask displays two snakes wrapped around gourd rattles at the sides of a peaked hairstyle. The rattles are the regalia of priestesses whose spiritual powers are evoked by the snakes. Notice that the face of the male performer is clearly seen through the thin veil of cloth. Unlike other Yoruba masking traditions where the performer’s identity must be hidden because they deal with spiritual forces, Gelede maskers can be seen since they focus on forces in the world.
As dusk approaches after a dazzling array of masqueraders imaging countless aspects of Yoruba life and thought, a final masker – one that synthesizes Goddess, Ancestress, and Priestess appears to conclude and bless the Gelede spectacle. Her white ensemble glowing in the growing darkness,Iya Odua (Mother Odua)moves with measured stride toward the marketplace accompanied by her priestess, her attire mirroring that of the masker visually to unite spiritual and earthly realms. Iya Odua slow, stately tread conveys herAge, Wisdom, and Sacred Power.Her whiteness symbolizes her cool, covert demeanor and her post-menopausal purity for she is the creative, protective, nurturing mother of the gathered crowd, her offspring. Iya Odua appearance assures the community that the lavish spectacle has pleased and placated her, and that the Mothers will use their power and influence for the benefit of all.
Gelede masquerades are spectacles performed by the Yoruba people in Nigeria and DanXome that celebrate theMystical Power Of Women. Gelede refers to the concept of honoring women and their innate powers so that the entire community may reap the benefits of their life-giving forces. There are many different variations of the Gelede spectacle, which varies from region to region, but this concept remains consistent throughout all of them.
It is an incredible artistic manifestation of the power of Women which is evident in the concepts, costumes and masks, and location of the spectacle. The World is fragile, meaning that the Gelede celebration is warring with the evil of the world without killing. The preservation of the Gelede celebration and its significance and homage to Women is a critical foundation of a community in so far as its cultural and social identity.
The festival involves colorful masks, striking headdresses, festive music, and miraculous performances and importantly the celebration of Womanhood.
**Santeria Rituals & Experiences In An Afro-Cuban Religion**
Of all the New World societies, Cuba received captives from the greatest mix of African origins. They came from all parts of the coast and interior of western Africa. The size, diversity, and continual replenishment of this population allowed a rich array of African-inspired religions to flourish there, even beyond the end of the slave trade. It has long been common to call Cuban Oricha-Worship “Santería” because of the identification of the Orichas with the Saints. However the term is now being rejected by those who think it overemphasizes the Catholic and syncretistic elements. Increasingly, many within the Afro-Caribbean tradition prefer to call it La Regla de Oricha, “the order of the Orichas.
Is a system of beliefs that merges aspects of Yoruba mythology that were brought to the New World by enslaved Yoruba people, along with Christianity and Indigenous American traditions. The Yoruba people carried with them various religious customs, including a trance and divination system for communicating with their Ancestors and Deities, animal sacrifice, and sacred drumming and dance. The need to preserve their traditions and belief systems in a hostile cultural environment prompted those enslaved in Cuba, to merge their customs with aspects of Roman Catholicism. This religious tradition evolved into what is now recognized as Santería. In order to preserve and shield their traditional beliefs, the Lukumi people syncretized their Orichás with Roman Catholic saints. As a consequence, the terms “Saint” and “Orichá” are commonly used interchangeably among practitioners. Spanish colonial planters who saw the enslaved African people celebrating on Saints’ days did not know that they were actually performing rituals related to Orichás, and assumed that they were showing more interest in Catholic Saints than in the Christian God—hence the derisory origin of the term: Santería – Worship of Saints
The historical veiling of the relationship between Catholic saints and Orichás is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of Santeros in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, are also Roman Catholics, have been baptized, and often require initiates to be baptized in Roman Catholicism as well. The spread of Santería beyond the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean, including to the United States, was catalyzed by the Cuban Revolution of 1959.
Rituals and Ceremonies: Santería does not use a central creed for its religious practices; though it is understood in terms of its rituals and ceremonies. These rituals and ceremonies take place in what is known as a House-Temple or casa de Santos, in the homes of the initiated priests and priestesses, to the different Orichás, which creates a space for worship, there is a display of three distinct thrones – draped with royal blue, white, and red satin that represent the seats of the Queens, Kings, and the deified Warriors.
To become a Santero or Santera, the Initiator must go through an intensive week-long initiation process in which the teaching of the ritual skills and moral behavior occurs informally and nonverbally. The initiator’s Padrino – godfather cleanses the head with special herbs and water. The Padrino rubs the herbs and water in a specific pattern of movements into the scalp of the head. However, if a person is entering Santería for the need of healing, they will undergo the rogación de la cabeza – blessing of the head, in which coconut water and cotton are applied on the head to feed it. Once cleansed, there are four major initiation rituals that the initiator will have to undergo: obtaining the Ilekes – beaded necklace, receiving Los Guerreros – Warriors, making Ochá – Saint, and Asiento. The first ritual is known as the acquisition of the beaded necklaces Ilekes is bathed in a mixture of herbs, sacrificial blood, and other potent substances and given to the initiated. The initiate most often receives the necklace of the five most powerful and popular Oricha, as the multicolored beads of the Ilekes are each patterned for the primary Orichás -Eleguá, Obatalá, Yemayá, Changó, and Ochún, and they serve as a sacred point of contact with these Orichás. When the necklace is received, the initiated must bow over a bathtub and have his/her head washed by the Olorichá. The Ilekes serves as the sacred banners for the Orichás and act as a sign of the Orichá’s presence and protection; however, it must never be worn during a woman’s menstruation period, nor during sex, nor when bathing.
Los Guerreros – Warriors:The third ritual, known as “receiving the Warriors”, is a ritual where the initiated receives objects from their Padrino that represents the warriors; Iron tools to represent Ogún; an iron bow and arrow to represent Ochosi; and an iron or silver chalice surmounted by a rooster to represent Osún. This ritual begins a formal and lifelong relationship that the Initiate will have with these Orichás, as the orichás devote their energies to protecting and providing for the initiate on their path.
Asiento = Ascending the throne:The last ritual of the initiation process is known as Asiento, and is the most important and the most secretive ritual in Santería, as it is the ceremony where the Iyawo becomes “born again” into the faith. This ritual is a culmination of the previous rituals, and cannot be made unless the others have been completed. Asiento is a process of purification and divination whereby the Initiated becomes like a newborn baby and begins a new life of deeper growth within the faith. Once the initiation is completed, depending on the individual’s “house”, there is a year-long waiting period, known as Iyaboraje, in which the newly appointed Priest and Priestess cannot perform cleansings and other remedies. It is a time where the Iyawo or Bride of the Orichá must follow a strict regimen of wearing all white and must avoid physical contact with those who have not been initiated. Once the Ebo del año has been completed there will be an end of year ceremony, which will enable the Priest or Priestess to consult clients, perform cleansings, provide remedies and perform initiations. They are also regarded as royalty in the religion, as they are considered representatives of the Orichás and are vested with the power to work with the forces of those Orichás in full.
Priests are commonly known as Santeros or Olorichas. Once those priests have initiated other priests, they become known as Babalorichás, “fathers of Orichá”, and as Iyalorichás, “mothers of Orichá”. Priests can commonly be referred to as Santeros and Santeras, and if they function as diviners using cowrie-shell divination known as Dilogun) of the Orichás they can be considered Italeros, or if they go through training to become leaders of initiations, Obas or Oriates.
Santería traditional healing practice has a spiritual aspect. Santería has a holistic approach, acknowledging the connection with heart, mind, and body. In Santería, the world flows with the primal life energy called aché or growth, the force toward completeness and divinity. Aché is the current that Santería initiates channel so that it empowers them to fulfill their path in life, because Aché is connected to all that has life or exhibits power; Aché comprises blood, grace, and power. When a person is sick, the healer thinks, interprets and reacts, considering the illness not just a physical dysfunction but also an interface with suffering and bad luck in life, believed to be brought on by the activity of bad spirits.
Aligning and harmonizing with the forces of nature, practitioners of the Regla de Ochá invoke on the guidance of Orichás. There are three foremost orichás that are predominantly concerned with folk-healing, however, other Orichás may be invoked to help a person with a specific problem. These main Orichás are: Osaín, the Orichá of the herbs; Babalúayé, the Orichá of contagious and epidemic diseases; and Inle, the patron of physicians. Aside from the use of herbs and divination, the Santería traditional healing is achieved through rituals that include animal sacrifice, offerings, altar building, music, dance, and possession trance.
Santería is mainly found in the Spanish speaking Americas, including but not limited to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Mexico, as well as in the United States, mainly as a result of migration from these countries, especially Cuba and Puerto Rico. A similar religion of Yoruba origin called Candomblé is practiced in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
**Santería rituals there are musical ceremonies and prayers that are referred to as Bembé, Toque de santo, or Tambor. It is a celebration dedicated to an Orichá, where the Batá drums are played in the Orichá’s honor.
“Pour libation for your Father and Mother who rest in the valley of the dead. God will witness your action and accept it. Do not forget to do this even when you are away from home. For as you do for your parents, your children will do for you also”
Libation in Africa is a ritual of heritage, a drink offering to honor and appease the Creator, the lesser divinities, our sacred Ancestors, humans present and not present, as well as the environment. This ritual is also practiced in many other parts of the world. The ritual achieves this objective by promoting and The ultimate purpose is to promote the cosmic order of oneness and balance of the beings and things in the universe. Safeguarding the correct relations among and between all the beings and things in existence. The origins of libation are so old that the first records of the ritual can be found in the legends, myths, sacred literatures.
Libation is found throughout the African world: The continent as well as the Americas, the Caribbean and other parts of the world where Africans dwell. The significance of this ritual transcends its distribution across the immense time & space correlation that is occupied by the African experience of life. In fact, this ritual is a marker of African identity. Its persistence across place and places, and time and times, says much about the origin of all Africans, about their relation to each other and about cultural transmission in general.
Divinities are the central characters in the worship, which is a parable on the maintenance of the entire cosmos, not just humanity. Most of the action takes place in the realm of divinity, for in the African worldview, it is ultimately here that power lies. Humanity is initially the active source of discord, but the human role very quickly becomes purely passive and is in fact outweighed by divine intervention, ultimately with libation to save the world.
The drink offering in this myth is literally as well as figuratively an exchange for the blood of humanity and the restoration and preservation of the cosmic order. The role of liquid offering is central in the ritual of libation, the ultimate meaning of which is the necessity for the restoration and maintenance of the cosmic order. The regular performance of this ritual drama is therefore made mandatory upon all African.
The central concept in almost all these meanings arises from the state of satisfaction and even pleasure that is born from the absence of discomfort induced by the cooling property of water. It is this basic meaning that is extended to embrace the many shades of meaning that arise in all of these words. Thus, aspects of the person, places and even actions may be cool, be in a cool state or be done in a cool manner. This notion represents the meaning and objective of libation, which is to ensure the oneness of all the beings and things in the cosmos through the maintenance of this divine cosmic order. The overall emphasis is upon maintaining the correct behavior towards all beings and things in the cosmos, and therefore the correct relationships with them.
A libation may be poured with any drinkable liquid, including water, milk, wine, beer, or strong spirits, though alcohol has been the dominant choice for some generations now, especially in West Africa and the West.
In African practice there is a sharp distinction between some things that are done with the right hand and other things that are to be done only with the left hand. Libation is poured with the right hand because this is the hand reserved by African tradition for such activity as offering, eating and drinking. A libation often accompanies offerings of food and other things considered good and worthy of the higher powers, but libation should not be confused with those other offerings or with entire ceremonies of which it may form a part. For example, from the earliest known times, libations are always poured as part of the rituals which mark the African cycle of life: Naming Ceremonies, Initiation Ceremonies, Marriage Ceremonies and Transition Ceremonies. Libation is also poured at other occasions, such as to mark the settlement of a dispute, before cutting down trees, at the Installment of Chiefs, at the many festivals in the African calendar, at the opening of Vodou, Candomblé and other African spiritual gatherings, and indeed in every ceremony and gathering in the African way of life.
The general purpose is to safeguard or make amends and seek forgiveness for infracting any of the relationships in the cosmic order, but the specific occasions and themes in libation may be many. If properly done, the person, the family, the clan, the community or those present and participating and or those on whose behalf the libation is poured may receive several benefits from a libation. They may benefit through being fortified by the renewal and or restoration which this ritual offers. They may also receive benefit through the security that comes from the knowledge of the spiritual connection and oneness with the Supreme One, with the divinities, with the Ancestors, among themselves singly and collectively, and with the physical environment. It is the preservation of these connections and the beneficial results of understanding and maintaining them that this ritual represents and promotes.
Libation, like any activity that is at once both sacred and communal, is useful and important because it helps to overcome fears, anxieties and frustrations. It promotes knowledge of and respect for Elders and the Ancestors, hope and healing, unity and harmony, all through the reinforcement of common bonds. It also lends itself towards the achievement of solidarity, which results from common participation in any such communal activity. Libation also functions beneficially by helping those present to be psychologically prepared for a task at hand, especially through the self-confidence that grows from the knowledge – not only that all is well in their relationships with the higher and lesser powers in the cosmic order, but also by becoming focused upon what is to be done during a specific forthcoming undertaking.
Libation is founded upon the oneness of the universe and the relation and interdependence of all beings and things therein. Its function is to maintain: the harmony, balance and unity of the cosmos through maintaining the optimum relations among the various beings and things, preventing any of these relations from being impaired, or nullifying the threat of such impairment. The significance of libation transcends the ritual itself…
The truth is that both people and culture have made this immensely long journey, for when a people migrate, or are made to migrate, they do not leave their culture behind. That is not possible, for culture is a defining characteristic of a people and inseparable from its agents. Libation is therefore, in the terms of, both ‘trans-generational and transcontinental’. Since libation defines the temporal and physical boundaries of the African world, it may therefore help to define the boundaries of African Studies, the study of the African world.
!!! On the matter of what to offer the Ancestor or Deities, we have the choice of Water, Wine and “Hard” Liquor. The choice of liquid depends on the nature of the libation and prayer and what your aim is in invoking (awakening) the Ancestors.
Water is for cooling and healing and creating or reconciling relationships. Liquor is fiery and is usually used to rouse, cement, ignite, protect and perform strong purification. Wine is mid-way between the two and is good for friendly relations, between man and spirit. This is an important matter as many of us do not realize that when you pour libation you are awakening the Ancestors.
Ideally, once you have poured libation you should be talking to the Ancestors like you talk to any other living person. You should converse and build the relationship. Over time, you will hear messages in distinct ways. Sometimes several people will hear the message or hear parts of the message that then can be pieced together to make one complete communication from the Ancestors.
** The person officiating Libation must possess the spiritual force to open the way to Spiritual communication. We go with the safest route during this occasion and choose to allow those that are older, trained or more versed than us conduct such affairs. “Libation is a powerful spiritual science. Learn the steps well”