EGUNGUN: Ancestral Spirits…

                    Egungun  =   Life After Death    

                  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 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 (Isheshe) 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.

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…

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.


Egugun 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 Masquarade. 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 thier 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 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…

Reference Sources:  Ogunsina Olayinka Adewuyi = Wikipedia = Awo Falokun = Les plus Belle Egungun Benin =

ZANGBETO = Enforcement & Order…

 Zangbeto Masquerade Have Supernatural Powers

Zangbeto are the traditional Vodun guardians of the night in the Yoruba religion of Benin and Togo which are known as the “Night- Watchmen”. As a nominal, it represents a group of men who are involved in policing the community and who also double as members of Zangbeto as a cultural masquerade group during public performances. Zangbeto is also used to convey the notion of a socio-cultural phenomenon made up of a series of beliefs and practices. As an institution, it is backed by an oral history that accentuates its origin as an Egun concept, not an alien or imported one. Sources consulted on the origin and history of Zangbeto asserts that it has existed before we were born and was handed down to us by our forefathers .

In centuries past, The Zangbeto masquerade provided security for the community and ensured discipline among the Egun society (the people of Badagry), and although it is no longer relied on to play these roles, it is still a cherished cultural icon in Badagry, particularly in Ajido-Zangbeto festival is celebrated every three or four years, during which the Zangbeto appease the gods, pray for the immediate community and generally offer good wishes for all households, after which the people expect to reap a plentiful harvest, farmers and fishermen alike. The Zangbeto masquerade is clothed in Asho-Gbeto, made from locally sourced palm fronds and is dedicated to breathtaking showmanship, dazzling its audiences with spirited and ‘magical’ displays. During a Zangbeto performance, you are likely to see fire burn in dry sand or white cloth sprout from underground!. Watching the Zangbeto wade through the water, spinning and shuffling is a rare thrill in itself. Zangbeto never walk alone and are always accompanied by minders know as Kregbeto, whose role it is to guide the masquerade’s every step.

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Zangbeto is believed to have supernatural powers, and is communal, rather than the initiative of private individuals or a self-defined group. Its origins lie in the pre-colonial history of the Egun people of Badagry and the coastal region of PortoNovo in neighbouring Benin.

*** One of the responses given by the head of the group in Yeketome, Badagry, is that Zangbeto dates back several centuries to when an Egun man was said to have been pursued by his enemies and needed to flee from his hometown unnoticed in the night. Using supernatural powers, he disguised himself by covering his body with dried leaves and raffia and by making scary sounds with the horn of an animal. Thus he was eventually able to leave the town unharmed and undetected by his enemies. He later founded a settlement, which he named Hugbonu (Porto Novo, Benin) and subsequently had the men with him dress in a similar manner and keep watch over the new settlement by night to ensure that his enemies did not attack him in his new home. Since then, Zangbeto has been used to keep watch over settlements and towns of the Egun community.***

As regards traditional precolonial ‘night watch’ institutions, the Oro and Egun cults of the Yoruba are the closest masquerade groups to Zangbeto. Earlier studies of both institutions have shown that in precolonial times, in addition to other cultural and religious functions, they were also security outfits mandated to guard the community against foreign or enemy invasion. They are also both regarded in their respective communities as personified representations of ancestral spirits, and their presence is an assurance of the ever-protective and supportive help of the ancestors for their descendants. The Ancestral spirits have collective functions that cut across lineage and family loyalty. They collectively protect the community against evil spirits, epidemics, famine, witchcraft and evildoers, ensuring the well-being, prosperity, and productivity of the whole community generally.

Form and Content of Zangbeto In contemporary Badagry, including the Egun villages surrounding the coastal town, the Zangbeto society is headed by the Zanga, a highly respected elderly man who is well tested and reliable. The Zanga occupies a position of responsibility in dealing with sensitive issues affecting individuals, families and the larger community. Zanga is not just the head of the Zangbeto group, but is also a representative of the people. The Zanga is in effect a traditional chief who functions within the Zangbeto group and in the larger community.

Traditionally, the Zangbeto were the policemen of Benin and were the main guardians of law in the country before the official law establishment. They are said to form a secret society which can only be strictly attended by Zangbeto, and when in a trance are said to have magical abilities such as swallowing splinters of glass without coming to any harm and scaring away even witches.

Zangbeto as spirit and messenger; Zangbeto as peacemaker, moral spokesperson and custodian of Egun culture; Zangbeto as an indivisible whole; Zangbeto as a non-religious group; and Zanga as the honorable one. It is important to note that Zangbeto songs are contributed at different times by members of the group. As with most songs in African oral literature, no single person can claim sole authorship: songs are considered as creations of the group. Moreover, these songs do not possess a singular theme, but themes that underline the circumstances of the creation of such songs and their performance.

The appearance of Zangbeto masquerades during cultural festivals or public performances is usually announced by short but pungent praise. This is a kind of formulaic verse that is not so flexible, in the sense that the words and phrases used retain their structure and content in most performances. The chanter, usually a woman, stays at a distance neither too close nor too far from the masquerade.

The opening chant is translated thus: He wishes to be heard, But the horn would not let him, The horn that makes sounds, the horn that breathes. This introduces Zangbeto as a being with a ‘horn’ and a desire. The horn, located at the tip of the mask and is used to symbolise the position of Zangbeto as a leading group in the community. The masquerade is only a constitutive part of a whole. Zangbeto is a group, an institution, and even a way of life that is represented in physical form by the mask. ‘He’ is then used to represent the form under this mask.

*** Zangbeto may be chiefly about social order within traditional Egun society, using oral forms of art, rituals and cultural practices, some of which have been adapted to the security needs of the town’s inhabitants in the face of the state security agencies’ inability to satisfy the demands of law enforcement and order.

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