According to Yoruba folklore, Egungun is part of the most prominent ancient deities or spirits in West Africa. Egungun is a manifestation of the spirit of the ancestors returning to earth to bless and celebrate with their descendants. This spirit also defends, warns, or punishes their earthly family based on how they interact with them.
When Egungun appears in society during special occasions or festivals, some people follow this spirit with dance, song, drums, and celebration. These events last for days as they are meant to reinforce the relationships that connect families to their ancestors.
Egungun Belief and Devotion
Egungun is based on the belief in the continued presence of ancestral spirits that visit their living relatives. Devotees and worshippers respect this tradition while also expressing passion for daily life and existence on earth. Ifa believers are fully aware of the spiritual, mythical, and physical truth of life or existence. As such, they celebrate the essence of life while respecting the notion of death and those who have passed away.
Egungun provides energy to generate spiritual visions for all its devotees. Historically, Egunguns are treated with respect anytime they appear since they are powerful energies. As such, people honor this spirit through offerings and sacred rites.
Indigenous Yorubas believe that these spiritual energies sustain the entire community. The unseen world exerts a strong influence on the seen world. The spiritual power of our fore-parents serves to heal, protect, and ignite passion within us.
Egungun also contributes to the moral order and stability of society. These spirits play a significant role in maintaining law and order as they serve as a judge among the living. They punish criminal or poor moral behaviors while rewarding just, benevolent character.
Festival is among the most fundamental and necessary components of Egungun worship. Since this practice is a component of the lifestyle, society becomes strengthened during this period. There is an atmosphere of love, devotion, honor, and respect during the festival.
Religious and social values become alive during these festive periods, and communicating with the spirit world becomes potent. There is a link between human beings and spirits. The two worlds are kept at a safe distance – aligning but without interfering.
Humans use such opportunities to seek the blessings and favor of the Supreme Being through their progenitors. Therefore, individuals who participate in such festivals consistently maintain a strong link to their ancestral heritage.
During this festive period, religious values are reiterated and revived. There is interaction with the spirit world and social life. The main aim is to appease the spirits and elicit favor from them. In doing so, order and balance are restored and maintained in the physical world.
Learn more about ancestral elevation in this episode of the African Spirit Reintegrated + Reimagined: