EGUNGUN: Ancestral Spirits…

***Egungun = Life After Death 

***The concept of Life and Death transcends physical notions of Noise or Silence. It has a metaphysical dimension that is reflected in these words: Those who are Dead are never gone – They are in the brightening Shadow and in the thickening Gloom – The Dead are beneath the Earth – They are in the quivering Tree – They are in the groaning Wood – They are in the flowing Water – They are in the flowing and still Water – They are in the Hut; they are in the Crowd – The Dead are not Dead.

!!! The African, confronts Death with the Rhythms & Music of life !!!

               Light as a feather! This is how softly your Ancestors might speak to you. And this is why you must listen intently – not just with your ears, but with every fiber in your being. They spoke to you yesterday, they speak to you today, they will speak to you tomorrow and they are speaking to you right now. But you’ll never hear them unless you are willing to sit in silence, to hear the powerful messages that are landing as gently as feathers.

Opa Iku

Egungun is regarded as the collective spirits of the Ancestors who occupy a space in heaven, hence they are called dwellers of heaven. These Ancestral spirits are believed to be in constant watch of their survivors on Earth.

EGUNGUN MASQUERADE: Is the resounding voice of Egungun – The compatriot brother of Oro – The death of loved ones is unbearable – while they detest us joining them untimely? The day of its initiation into the realm of Ancestors by “Ikurarafin” is unknown to Man, while that of its sibling remains a mystery to Woman. The gap between human past and present is unmeasurable, It is unfathomable to human brain, but the chain of continuity will not let go. We are here on Earth living the purpose we know not, while you were there with full and perfect knowledge. The communication between the dead and living is unimaginable because no human can stand the radiating glory of Ancestors, necessitate the reason for their superlative decorated regalia called “Eku”. We are far from you, but close to you in spirit. Accept our offering of Akara, that we might receive your blessing to achieve what you do not live to achieve.

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

Egun (Ancestor) = To die Of Natural Causes At An Advanced Age, Leaving Behind Numerous Progeny, Like A Tree Bent From The Weight Of Its Fruits & In Harmony With the Divinities & The Ancestors – To Be Buried With The Performance of All The Rites That Mark The Tradition Which Permit One To Enter Orun. Where One Is Reunited With The Ancestors of One’s Lineage (Isese) to be Later Reincarnated Constitute For Yoruba The Good death.

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

Egungun = Ancestor Masquerade – We are born with death = Without the death of the flesh, there is no resurrection, no immortality. Every birth is the rebirth of an Ancestor. The spirits could be invoked collectively and individually in time of need. The place of call is usually on the grave of the Ancestors, the family shrine, or the community grove. The Ancestral spirits have collective functions that cut across lineage and family loyalty. They collectively protect the community against evil spirits, epidemics, famine, ensuring the well being, prosperity, and productivity of the general community.

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

Although it is regarded dangerous for the Ancestral spirits to dominate day to day activities of the people on Earth, occasional physical appearances of Egungun/masquerades visibly demonstrate the closeness of the Ancestor to their survivors. The lineage or family ties become strengthened as each member displays his or her loyalty. The coming out of the lineage Egungun is a source of blessing and pride to the family. Egungun appearance is a time of festivity and entertainment, a time of apprehension of forces of evil and of engendering deep belief in divine guidance and protection. Above all, having an Egungun is a way of immortalizing one’s name because anytime the Egungun comes out, the drummers and women of the family sing in praise of one, recounting the heroic deeds of the family.

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

To understand Egungun mysteries one needs to understand the historical development of the cults. Every member of a community seems to be involved in the worship of Egungun, since everybody has at least one Ancestor to call upon. The Egungun ensemble acts as the medium for the masker’s transformation into his Ancestors.

An Egungun society is composed of Men and Women whose lineages have the right to present the Masquerade. **Men do the masking. ***Women never wear the costume, although they participate in the chorus that sings the (Oriki) Praise poems and histories of the families. Elder Women of high title also perform invocations, prayers, and offerings. The Masker is kept at a distance from the surrounding crowd with the help of attendants dressed in Masquerade costumes of different types… 

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

In African culture it is common for the uninitiated to make direct contract with Ancestor spirits. The most prevalent process of communication is through dreams. Communication also occurs during participation in annual Ancestor festivals. Because such festivals are not common in this country. Worshipers in the West have created several viable alternatives. Using these alternative methods, the first step in the process of honoring the Ancestors is the construction of an Ancestor shrine used as a focal point for prayer and meditation. There are a number of traditional African methods for building an Ancestor shrine, some of which are very complex and require personal training. For example it is common in traditional African culture to bury revered Ancestors under the floors of the family home. The tomb of the Ancestor is the foundation of the Ancestral shrine.

 Egungun DanXome Fon...

ANCESTRAL SHRINES… The power to effectively invoke Spirits comes as a result of initiation and the training that is sanctioned by initiation. The exception to this rule is Egun (Ancestor spirits).  Ancestor initiations (Egungun, Isegun, Ato), but everyone is believed to have the power and the ability to communicate with the spirit of those blood relatives who have passed beyond this life.

Communication with your own Ancestors is a birthright. At times this communication can simply involve remembering a revered Ancestor and making use of the memory as a basis for making life decisions. In many ways Ancestor communication is an extension of the training and wisdom we receive from our parents.  You cannot know who you are if you cannot call the names of your Ancestors going back seven generations. Remembering names is more than reciting a genealogy, it is preserving the history of a family lineage and the memory of those good deeds that allowed to the family to survive and create a home for the continued cycle of reincarnation.

Before a shrine to the Ancestors can be assembled, several preliminary steps need to occur. First the room should be clean and neat. After the Altar is built it should stay as clean as possible.  Dirt and disorder can attract unwanted spiritual forces. This may seem simplistic, but in my experience it is a very important consideration. Our external environment reflects our internal state of being and either supports resistance to change or growth. The idea that if you are confused about anything, remove the clutter and disorder from your home and clarity will surface from the newly transformed physical environment. The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowed and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins. 

The Yoruba afterlife consists of Reincarnation. However, Africans explain that you reincarnate from your Ancestors and into your descendants. The truth is that you can only reincarnate thru your clan or extended-family descendants. It doesn’t have to be your direct great grandchild. It just has to have enough of your DNA code for you to transfer your spirit into it. In theory, you can transfer to anyone who shares your ethnic group DNA code. However, most genetic DNA theories are racist manipulation of science. DNA is not just a physical code but like a keyhole lows you to open doors in the next reincarnation. This is why many Yoruba names point to the reincarnation of people, but always thru the extended-family. Names like Babatunde – father has returned reflect the Yoruba notion that reincarnation is a family affair.

This is why Ancestral veneration is important in Yoruba. You are not just talking to dead people; you are remembering and learning from your past. If you do not learn from your past, in this life and in former ones you will repeat mistakes. That is the purpose of Ancestral veneration – Egungun in Ifa. The Odu Ifa tells us that we will all reincarnate until every single human has reached enlightenment. We are a communal species.

When you don’t understand this truth about reincarnation, you will not take efforts to improve the conditions of your clan or ethnic group because you think you will escape it in death’s heaven or join another ethnic group in reincarnation. Then when you return to Earth in the same oppressed ethnic group, you complain even though in your former life you did not fight to liberate your ethnic group. 

This is why their clans establish strong dynasties and they accumulate wealth not just for them, but for the next three generations after them. They know they are coming back and they want to be wealthy while they sell you the lie that you can die and go to heaven to escape this cycle. A true devotee of the Egungun plans for the next 16 generations of prosperity.

ANCESTORS REINCARNATION: As we walk upon the Earth our feet press against the bones of the Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand. Like most indigenous cultures of the world, Africans believe that those who go before us make us what we are. When we walk on the Earth, we literally stand on the shoulders of those who bodies have been committed to the soil, the water, and the wind. Our Ancestors influence our lives through heredity and human culture. However, there is an even deeper connection to the Ancestors as active spirits who continue to influence our lives. We humans honor them with altars, sacrifice, music, and prayer. They in turn offer us guidance, protection, and prosperity. We treat our ancestors with loving reverence. Asking for help from our Ancestors must first be balanced with honoring their lives. In the African spirituality, we commemorate the work, struggles, and triumphs of our Ancestors.

By remembering them and remembering their lives we continue to have them with us. To know the stories of your Ancestors is to know your history. To know your history is to know where you are from. To know where you are from is to know where you are going. To know where you are going is to have the ability to dream outside the box that others may try to put you in. To dream outside the box is to know and believe in all that you could possibly become in the world. And to do that would honor your ancestors deeply because all of their hard work and sacrifice would have not been in vain!

Our Ancestors who anchor us on the face of this Earth. It is the reverence of our Ancestors and paying homage to our ancestors that gives us the strength that will keep us on the face of the earth for a long time. Ancestor rituals help to heal the ancestors themselves and our connections with them. Ancestors are at a disadvantage because they know how to improve things and yet they do not have the body required to act on what they know. We are at a disadvantage because, although we have bodies, we often lack the knowledge required to carry out things properly. This is why Spirit likes to work through us. A person with a body is an ideal vehicle for Spirit to manifest things in the world. It is important to understand that when we feel that something is missing in our life, when we feel somehow disconnected or displaced, that these feelings are a sign for us to repair our connection with the world of the Ancestors and spirits.

Egungun also we all know is the deity of the departed Ancestors. The belief of Yoruba people and Ifa is that even departed ancestors are still part and parcel to the larger family. Below are ten facts you should know about Egungun. They are present in the family and they guide the living member of the family. – Egungun Maternal and Paternal are fed so that will continue to guarantee protection, safety, prosperity, good health and all ire for the living.

Egungun should be fed at least twice in a year – Egungun comes out in the form of Masquerades which are called “Ara-Orun-Kinkin” that is, “The inhabitants of heaven”. – Egungun symbols are: Decorated switches and whips, a hand woven coarse cloth used as Egungun, socks and foot wear. This cloth is known as “Aso Iyamoje”.

 Egungun taboos: Palm kernel oil. Women are declined to enter Egungun’s shrine. Obatala devotee must not carry Egungun Masquerade. Egungun face must not been seen or disclosed to anyone. Egun Masquerade must not enter a blacksmith  – Egungun is fed in three forms; while kneeling, sitting or bending.- If the Egungun to be fed is a specific Ancestor all the feeding materials will be taken to the tomb site of the Ancestor and all the necessary ritual performed there.

There are various types of Egungun  among  are; Egungun Eleru, Egungun Olopon (Masqurade with big load on their head), Egungun Janduku (switch carrying Masquarade), Egungun Alate also known as Tombolo etc. other categories of Masquarades are Gelede and Aabe. The hunters Egungun are known as “Egungun ode”. Egungun Alare/Onijo (The dancing masquerade) Egungun Onidan (The trickster and gymnast masquerade) Egungun Olore/Onija (The fighting masquerade who fights as a ritual performance)

Egungun feeding materials are: Obi-kolanuts, Orogbo-bitter kola, Atare-alligator pepper, Water, Wine, Palm Oil, Smoked rat, Smoked fish, Rooster, Goat, Ram, and Edible food offerings etc. 

Worshipers of Egungun: Alapinni  =  The head chief priest of Egungun – Alagba =   The head of the Oje – Alaran =  Third in command  – Eesorun =  Mostly Women, they are fourth, most important title , and revered position in the cult of Egungun – Oje =  The name given to all Egungun worshipers…

***It Is Only After Separation With The Flesh Can Man/Woman The Creation Of God, See God Face To Face. It Is Forbidden To Unmask Any Egungun Masquerade. The Face Of The Spirit Is for the Spirit To See, Not The Human Eyes…


 !!! POINTS ABOUT EGUNGUN ***The word Egungun has no translation in to another language – Egungun is not a masquerade – Egungun is a sacred representation of the Ancestors – Egungun worship is dedicated to the people who lived on the earth and died “Ara Orun” – Egungun worship is part of every traditional Religion – Egungun is not an Orisa – Egungun is representing forms of human of deceased – Egungun is covered from head to foot with cloth like the deceased – Egungun dress consists of cloths of various colors – Egungun dress can be as well with feathers of different kind of birds – Skins and bones of different animals can be used too for Egungun dress – Egungun cloth is called Eku – Egungun shoes are made of Iyamoje cloth – Egungun speaks with an unnatural tone of voice – Egungun drums Bata, Gangan, Agere, Dundun, Adamo, etc. – The mysteries of Egungun are held sacred – Egungun mysteries are not known by Women – Ato is a name given to a female child, who belongs to Egungun since birth – Ato born with a veil covering the face of the newborn baby girl – Ato has access to the mysteries of Egungun since a tender age.

** Iya Gan is a title given to an elderly Woman – Iya Gan can have access to the mysteries of Egungun – The high priest of Egungun is called Alagba – In a big town each quarter has its own Alagba – Next to Alagba in Egungun is Alaran – Next to Alaran is Esorun –  Next to Esorun is Akere – Akere is the one who carry the Atori whips – The highest rank in Egungun worship is the Alapinni – Alapinni is one of the seven noble men of Oyo Mesi – Alapinni is a political leader – Egungun Festival symbolizes the re-appearance of the Ancestors – Egungun is divided in 4 categories – Egungun Babalago represents the worship of the Ancestors – Egungun Apidon, Orebe, Paka, Eleru, Alagangan have the function of entertaining showing their power – Egungun Alagbo has the function to protect the community, in the Olden days led the war – Egungun Layewu belongs to the Ode (hunters) to chant Ijala – Alapinni’s Egungun is called Jenju – Egungun Ologbojo is Baba Egungun – Alaafin’s Egungun is called Mohuru – Egungun chanting is called Esa – Egungun priest is called Oje – Egungun shrine in the bush is called Igbale – Egungun shrine in the house is called Ilesanyin – Egungun initiation is done on the feet.  

Reference Sources:  Ogunsina Olayinka Adewuyi = Wikipedia = Awo Falokun = Les plus Belle Egungun Benin = Sangodele Ibuowo = King Bolarinwa Olayemi = Oluogunjobi = Egungun Sakete =  Oludamola Adebowale = Google Search/Photo = Akilas Pictures =

7 thoughts on “EGUNGUN: Ancestral Spirits…”

  1. Oluwakemi Omolara Ige = Aboru boye baba o . though I don’t know u but am fascinated by isese tradition and was trilled when I read your profile. Kee pe o baba. Thank you for the knowledge you are given to us all given more insight into our history.

    Orlando Acevedo Cárdenas = El culto a nuestros ancestros es fundamental y va primero que todo. Gracias a ellos estamos de vuelta al gran mercado…Ase..Ase..Aseo..!!

    Betty Alridge = Maferefun Egun, and thanks you for giving us more enlightenment on our spiritual journey.

    King Bolarinwa Olayemi Asa = So we were told that at the right time right people would champion the movement of the divinity, here we are baba,seeing your page revealled to us that olodumare had saved the best for the last.

  2. Samantha Nzimande = Good morning Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu I am a Tswana female from South Africa and I am currently undergoing some spiritual consciousness. However, I am troubled. My father killed himself last year and my mother in-law passed on this year. I am hurt, I dream of them speaking to me but cannot comprehend because sometimes I would dream of my father and he would not even say a word, or he would be just smiling and sometimes shouting. When he was still alive, he was a man who prayed and often said that no matter where he would be, he will always be with us spiritually. Please help me Sir with some cleansing ceremony and I would like to also contact my father who is now in another realm .

  3. Amelia Barnes = Something that other religious groups don’t consider or think enough about. If the thought about how ancestors don’t want to be forgotten was truly understood then communications would be a norm. I have the blessings of communicating with spirit at times & it’s delightful to hear from them. There are those who either see, smell or hear a spirit so what’s up? Let’s not forget love ones, friends or family especially knowing one day you’ll be one!

    Marisa Roman = As I was sitting in my hammock reading my book on ancestral healing and focusing on a particular family member who passed, a small sweet little feather beautifully landed on me. And to see this post, so sweet.

  4. Thank you for this post a higher power brought me here when you wrote about our ancestors speaking to us all the time we just don’t listen closely enough I felt as if someone brought me to this very post to realize something bigger than me Aseó

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