Ancestors

 

One day a man came to Ifa divination for the purpose of finding out what to do in order to improve his life. He was advised to give an offering to his ancestors, so that they shall look upon him through blessed eyes. He did what he was told and received the blessing of his ancestors.

Ancestor worship is one of the best prescriptions you can prescribe to anyone, because with the help of the ancestors one will be able to find solutions to one’s problems. 

The connection to our ancestors is so intimate that in the Yoruba tradition the deceased are buried at home and not at a cemetery. This way they can wish their ancestors good morning every morning and good night every night. They can sit on their ancestors’ grave crying there or laughing, as death does not separate us from life. Death is just a passage to another life.

Therefore, if we love someone we say Odabo – which means ‘se you soon’. This reunion may occur in dreams, imagination, through a feeling that we have lost someone, whom we loved or simply by worshiping our ancestors.

To us death does not set an end to anything. Death is just a new beginning, a possibility to be born again. In regards to ancestry there are two kinds of ancestors: the female and the male ancestors. 

The first thing we have to realize is the concept of death.

Death in Yoruba is called Iku. The word ku means ‘to die’. Death is a process of moving from one world into another.

If we do not acknowledge the existence of death, it is impossible for us to be liberated from its imminent danger. Here we are at the most interesting point: in the African world death is celebrated (not bemoaned). This way people accept the reality of life. Death is comprehended in two ways: socially acceptable death, this means that somebody died at a late age in his/her life and socially unacceptable death. The latter being the tragic, unexpected deaths of young people. Deaths of such people are unexpected, they occur at a young age and in most cases they belong to the energy called abiku – born for premature death. That is why we also worship our ancestors with the intention of avoiding the possibility of premature death before we have lived our fate in full. 

There are also two levels of ancestors, regardless of whether they are Egungun (male ancestors) or Gelede (female ancestors):

- venerable ancestors 

- non-venerable ancestors

Not everyone, who dies is adequate to be a venerable ancestor. In order to be worshiped after one’s death, one had to have achieved a certain level of dwelling and existence in his/her time while being alive. A person, who reaches a certain level of evolution while still alive, practically loses his/her family ties when he/she dies and is generally worshiped as a venerable ancestor. Such person represents the door between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

This means that our behaviour, our manners while alive determine how we are going to be venerated after our death. After a venerable person has died an invocation is made and his/her energy then materializes so it can become the messenger for all people. 

Our character is the one, which determines how we are going to be socially accepted while alive and how we are going to be socially accepted when we die. Your opportunity to assure good reincarnation and good evolution starts now, at this moment. 

Ancestors symbolize community and construction – development. They are symbol of peace and harmony. 

We invoke them to understand our direction in life, to fight for us and our interests.

We also invoke ancestors to give us orientation, to direct us to the right path. We ask them to show us the easiest way to get rid of our problems.

Male as well as female ancestors are represented by masks, which are used by priests as mediums.

For starters it is enough, if we simply pledge to our ancestors for the well-being in our life, in our own language, in our own way or simply as we like.

However, if we want to radically change our life, we will visit a priest, who is initiated into this energy.

Ancestor worship is especially important if we notice the history repeat itself: The same disease, the same habits in the family. With ancestor worship we can erase the problem our precedent generations had and prevent it from passing on to future generations. 

The energy of worshiping ancestors is too spiritual to simply classify it as part of a religion.

There are two ways of worshiping ones' ancestors; two ways how to invoke the blessing of our ancestors:

- we can make an offering – the best way to do that is to give them what they liked the most while still alive

- you can prepare dinner at home for a group of people and dedicate it to an ancestor – this is called ‘Sara for the ancestors’

The basic mean of worshiping is also to clean their graves, to light candles for them. It is of great importance to regularly visit the grave and to talk to ones’ ancestors. It is the verbal communication that is important.    

We distinguish between the physical-biological genetics and astral – spiritual genetics. 

A child brings into this world at its birth the physical-biological genetics of its family. 

The dead ancestors have strong impact on the astral-spiritual genetic line of all those, who are still alive. 

We also worship our ancestors in order to be more harmonious, to clean our life of turbulences. We are constantly in touch with these ancestors, because we believe that the present is just the continuation of our past and this present moment is just a predecessor of the future. 

It does not matter if you do not know where your ancestors are buried. 

The spiritual, astral, physical and biological genetics are stored in your body and are with you wherever you are. Therefore you can always pray for your ancestors in your own way. When we speak of prayer, we mean the expression of your wishes, what you want them to do. You can ask them for progress, for health, money, good luck etc. For this reason we always say while addressing them: ‘You are the ones, who said my life is going to be sweet, bring sweetness of this planet into my life.’

If we feel our life is too similar to the life of someone of our ancestors, that we do not live according to our own destiny, it is wise to go for a divination. 

 

Egungun 

 

The expressions Egúngún, Egún and Baba-Égún refer to ancestors that are already gone, the inhabitants of Orun that reveal themselves in Aye. The worshiping of the Egungun energies takes a central role within cults dedicated to male ancestors.

The ancestors that already took their path to Orun stay at the side of their descendants at all times and have crucial impact on all aspects of their lives; such as professional as well as relationships within their family. They can sooth the spirit, calm down arguments, encourage solidarity, the spirit of unity and harmony, they can renew our energy for our eagerness to work and over and over again they intervene in situations when the family is threatened to fall apart due to conflicts or problems regarding inheritance. The word of Egungun is always accepted and respected.

The purpose of the Egungun cult is, among others, to repair the effects of the spiritual DNA that reflects in imbalances of all kinds – physical, emotional and spiritual. Every human being receives a biological and an emotionally spiritual heritage or genetic-spiritual-emotional burden from their ancestors. The Egungun cult enables a retroactive operation. It works through destroying unpleasant factors that happened to the last seven generations before the certain person and their consequence were trouble, distress, illnesses and other problems of different kinds. The cult mentioned also enables resolving of family conflicts in which individuals from preceding generations were involved in with the purpose to repair the imbalances that occurred. 

 

The symbols of Egungun are: eta (altar stone); irukere (animal tail with artistic decoration, improved with magic that is worn by priests and kings as a sign of their royal dignity); atori (holly stick); edan (male and female figures made out of metal); cowries and wooden statues with seven heads carved in them that represent seven generations. Their clothes and necklaces are multicolor.

 

GELEDE 

 

Igba Gelede , community, which includes men and women, promotes fertility of all kinds, renovation of social behavioral rules and attraction of ashe. The community is lead by erelú, women that possess secrets and powers of the Mothers Oshoronga. Gelede is addressed as Iya – mother, and Igi, due to the fact that their ritualistic masks are carved out of a holy tree with the same name.

The festival devoted to Gelede that is celebrated during the time of jam harvesting lasts at least seven days. The participants gather in a procession and go to the streets where they accompany Gelede the whole day long. Gelede is embodied by men, but only, when the dusk falls. They sing diverse liturgical songs, efe being some of them. Efe are liturgical songs that with a humoristic tone publicly announce cases of unsuitable behavior and actions of men, women and children within the community that happened during the past year between the two festivals. The role of these liturgical songs has among others a regulative character, because the songs carry on the rules of behavior as well as the ethical and moral order that is always under the influence of the ancestral female power. 

 

During the Gelede festival there are some symbols that are especially highlighted, among others the big masks representing animals and clothes that carry geles, a kind of female turbans.

 

Igunnuko 

 

Igunnuko, the protector of agriculture, takes care of sowing and harvesting. It is the energy of formation and renewal. It combines the cults of male and female ancestors with the purpose of retaining bonds and harmony with our ancestors, so that their energy would promote rich harvest, fruitfulness and fertility, healing, prosperity, just mutual relationships and social peace. Correspondent to ancestral cults the Igunnuko cult strives to eliminate or ease disasters and catastrophes. 

His symbols are lime pots; drums; eta (altar stone); irukere (animal tail with artistic decoration, improved with magic, that is worn by priests and kings as a sign of their royal dignity) and cowries. Multicolor clothing and necklaces are his favorites.