Sunday 15 May 2022

Egungun [the ancestral divinity]: Learning and initiation into the mysteries of Egungun

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It is crucial that we know there are links between Egungun and Ancestors. And, it is no gainsay to say that Egungun is much more connected to the Ancestors than other Orisas. In fact, it is believed that Egungun is an Ancestor. One may want to doubt these assertions. As a result, I want to discuss about Egberun, an aspect connected to Egungun and Orun in this informational pamphlet.

Egungun and Ancestors:

First, Ancestors are those who lived before us. Orisas and our forefathers, among others, are classic examples. Second, Egunguns are dead members of our own family lineage. Either young or old, once they die, people call them Ara Orun (Egungun). In this vein, the point of contact of Egungun and Ancestors is that the Ancestors come to the earth and form families. And, once they are gone, they are tagged Ara Orun "Egungun". Therefore, it is believed that the same family on earth equally exists in Orun. So, the souls of recently dead members of the family will link with souls of earlier dead members of the family in Orun. In this regard, after the death of a family member, other members of the family come to send messages through the deceased to deliver to their earlier-dead family members in Orun.

Moreover, when someone is sick, which may result in death, either at home or hospital, especially if the sick is aged, he or she claims seeing the dead members of the family; and, claiming the dead are calling him/her to come join them. In addition, should calamities befall a town or family, King or the head of the family, as the case may be, they lament by saying, “What will I tell the previous leaders before me when I meet them in Orun?” Therefore, they seek solutions immediately.  As a result they believing they are heard and theycall their ancestors and dead ones in Orun. They usually say, "My father, my grandfather, my great grandparents, my forefathers such never happened when you were alive. Please, come to my rescue."  This is the evidence that ancestral family exists in Orun.

Supreme Power of Ori in Egungun Cult:

I have previosly written about Ori and the Orisas. Equally I discussed the link between Ori and the Orisa. Thus, there are children who have been initiated into Egungun cult from Orun. We believe Ori has naturally made them to be so. For instance, a male child born with umbilical cord around his neck at birth is called Amusan. Umbilical cord is regarded as Isan. If one sees Isan Egungun, one will understand much better. On the other hand, a female child born with umbilical cord around her neck at birth is called Ato. And, only devotees of Egungun name their children after such names. The Ijebus (a tribe of Yoruba) do not name their sons Ojo, but Aina. Though, Yorubas who are not devotees of Egungun believe Amusan is Ojo while Ato is Aina. These names are believed to be natural names from Orun “Oruko Amutorunwa”.

Egungun Cult in Orun:

This answers the question normally asked that if one can reincarnate into the same family. The straight response is yes!  It is one of the aspects of the Egungun Cult in Orun. One cannot claim that the ancestors send one back to the earth if one does not reincarnate into the same family. There are different ancestors. So, for one to claim one is reborn through the help of the ancestors, one must have reincarnated into one’s own ancestral lineage. If one reincarnates into another family, then one is new in that family. For example, I, Ifanla Ogbeate, was born into a traditional family of Dr. S. M. Opeola, founder Ifa Yoruba Kabbalah Temple. Before my birth, my parents had visited late Araba Oloyede, Chief Araba of Modakeke from whom my father had learned Ifa a long time ago. The visitation, according to my father, seemed to be different. The late Araba of Modakeke was very happy to see my parents. To him, it was as though my father came to show him to my mother. However, it was not so. The reason for the visitation was to consult Ifa through him. So, Araba consulted Ifa and he told my parents that I would be born into the family.   The Araba said, “The child (Ifanla Ogbeate) shall be named Ojeniyi because the ancestors are sending him from Orun to help your family tradition. Also, your wife has a lot to gain from this child. She will become rich immediately and people will start calling her Iya Oje. This child Ifa is talking about is your grandfather.”

From the foregoing, it is obvious that I, Ifanla Ogbeate had lived before as my father's father. But now the ancestors sent me back to the earth as a member of the Egungun cult from Orun. Furthermore, I was told by my father that his own grandparents were estimable in the Egungun Society. Two (2) years after I was born, my mother did not remember anything said by Late Araba Oloyede. Perhaps, she did not believe his readings. On the contrary, to prove this to my mother, my father called his friends who were Babalawo to make my destiny readings "Ikosejaiye". To my mother's surprise, the same message was read. Then, my parents had to name me Ojeniyi. As a result, my mother became rich immediately and people tagged her Iya Oje. As my destiny read, I once lived. So, whenever I dream, I always find myself in the midst of my ancestors. I see both old and young teaching me mysteries of Egungun. Ever since I was young, I would always dream of Egungun and the mysteries of Egungun. I started celebrating my annual Egungun festival (Isan Egungun known as Egungun Inule/Egungun Ile and Egungun Mask known as Eku Egungun/Egungun inu aso). I started my spiritual life and spiritual journey in Egungun at the age of nine (9) when I wore the Egungun mask for the first time. Because I was young, they called me "Kekere Oje", that is, young masquerade. I learned a lot from my father about Egungun, Ifa, Orisa and indigenous traditions in general. But, my enthusiasm, strong spiritual affinity and attraction towards Egungun, such as my involvements, activities, creativity and participation in Egungun cult, was the result of the activities and mystic revelations of my ancestors which I received in nocturnal visions.

My Mission as Egungun, Opeola Ojeniyi [Ifanla Ogbeate Temple]:

I was born into a traditional family of Pa Samuel Modupeola Opeola (Opelopeola) of Alawiye's compound in Edunabon, Ife North Local Government, Osun State, Nigeria, West Africa. The head of the Egungun Society in my town is called Ojuloge (the Alaagba of Egungun). In 2007, I lived in my hometown for a year because I gained admission into the Obafemi-Awolowo-University Pre-degree study. But, prior to 2007, I had attended Egungun Festivals in my hometown. But I did not participate at that time. Then, I noticed that the Egungun of my family compound called Agbon was not coming out to participate in the festival. So I asked Ojuloge the Alaagba of Egungun why the Egungun of my family was missing from the list of the Egungun that would perform that year. To my surprise, Alaagba asked me the same question!  And, he told me that he wrote a letter to the elders of our compound several times, asking them to present their Egungun mask. But, to no avail. So, I decided to do my research. Consequently, I started the research from my family compound to know the reasons why the Egungun of our compound had been missing out.

I started the research with my father who is an Amusan. Amusan means he who sees Egungun as his best friend. He has used Egungun in several forms to entertain people such as Egungun serving food and drinks at his father's burial; and even, among other things he did, used Egungun mask to drive a car from Edunabon to Gbongan! Also, my father was part of the devotees who made the King of Gbongan to reverse his decisions when the King banned Egungun festival in the town. So, I asked my father why the Egungun of our compound was not coming out during the Egungun festival. He said he was getting old and he could no longer wear Egungun mask anymore. Then, I realised I had a greater task to accomplish. My father, till today, has his Egungun mask in his temple, Ifa Yoruba Kabbalah Temple. He named it Agbon. I do not know the reason he kept it even though he would never pass on his Egungun mask to anyone. But, he told me the Egungun mask shall belong to me when he is no more. Morever I asked him about the Egungun mask of our family compound, he told me what some hungry members of the family, who the Europeans and the Arabians brainwashed to be Christians and Muslims respectively did to all the Egungun masks after they converted. Consequently, they called their forefather's religion evil.

Ironically, some of the best of our Egungun masks were given to churches to act drama, while some were sold to foreigners. The remaining masks were torn to make different attires for church/mosque outings! This is because expensive cloths and materials were used to make all these Egungun masks. I was homesick to hear this. So I made up my mind to present the Egungun mask of our compound at the coming festival which was held in 2008. As I made up my mind, I started having Egungun visions again which I had not had since my youth. I realised that those involved in the destruction of our Egungun sacred masks had already been cursed by the spirit of our forefathers. And, till today the ancestors still demand the Egungun mask that were given to the church to act drama to be returned. But, those who gave it out are no more. So, it became difficult to know where the Egungun mask are today.

In 2008, before the festival, I had a sacred dream. In the dream, the ancestors stopped me from presenting the Egungun mask of our compound because they were still annoyed. So, I went to my hometown a week before the festival where I participated in the twenty-one (21) days of the Igbale. I fed the Egungun of our compound. But, I did not present any Egungun mask that year. My participation made the Alaagba of Egungun to be very happy with me and he called me Agba Aiye Atijo, that is, someone who lived before. Years after, I went to Chief Dr. Amusan Owoade, the director of my father's temple for financial assistance. With his help I was able to make an Egungun mask. Then I phoned and informed the Alaagba that I would present the Egungun mask of our compound that year. Since then all members of the Egungun cult were rejoicing. They called me Oje, Omo Oje, Moriwo, Awo Oje and so on.

During this celebration someone was inspired by the ancestors to ask if the Egungun mask of our compound should be part of the festival that year. After a series of consultations and readings, the ancestors declined. I was not happy. Then, I decided to consult Babalawos, Olorisas and some members of my family compound who were into the tradition. As a result, I realised that my father's grandfather loved the Egungun mask that was given to church to act drama. This was because he spent so much money to make the Egungun mask. So, he was annoyed that the mask was given to a church to act drama. I requested for the pictures of the Egungun mask. I could not get the image in the picture clearly.  First, it was white and black pictures. Second, the pictures were almost damaged. The night I looked at these pictures, I dreamed as usual. I saw several Egungun masks that looked like those I saw in the pictures. The next day, I made divination and consulted Ifa by myself to know if those masks were the same masks I saw. My readings said yes; and Ifa said that I should add some attires to the Egungun mask that I had already made. Most especially Ifa said that the the cloth should be much more attractive. It should have a reflective material that people would not be able to look at it in the sun. Without much ado I followed what was revealed to me.

The Revival of Egungun Mask in my Family Compound:

The following year, 2009, I told the Alaagba about the new development. He was happy. And a few days before the new festival I contacted him, to inform him that I would present the Egungun mask of our compound.  In fact, I demanded the readings again like we did the previous year when the ancestors declined. As a result, a reading was made and the result was positive that year. Two (2) days to twenty-one (21) days in Igbale, like we normally do every year during the Egungun festival, I dreamed again. In the dream, I was told not to make use of the name of the Egungun of our compound to present my Egungun mask. But before I was told this, I saw two Egunguns, Erinjogunola and Erinfolami, that came with my ancestors. They bowed at my left foot three (3) times. The first was called Erinjogunola and claimed to be senior to Erinfolami. I realised my father's grandfather was named Erinjogunola while his father was named Erinfolami in Orun. I cannot tell if they have the same name on earth when they lived. No one told me if both names ever existed in our compound. Following the day I dreamed, I went to inform the Alaagba of Egungun that I would love to change my Egungun mask’s name to Erinjogunola. And, that was how I came out with other members of the Egungun cult in my home town that year.

I was given a day by the Alaagba of Egungun to present the Egungun of our compound to the entire public because the Alaagba of Egungun gave a specific date to each member of the Egungun cult in my hometown to perform. This was done to avoid chaos, because it always turned out to become a fight when two Egungun met except the first and last days of the festival when all the Egunguns would come out enmasse. The last day of the festival is called Egungun gbaja. This means all the Egungun would come to the market square to end the festival.

The exact day I was told to come out with my compound’s Egungun, I got a phone call from my friend Adebiyi Segun.  Segun and I were friends right from the university.  We both studied Political Science Education at Obafemi Awolowo University.  We were so close maybe because we are indigenes of a town. He saw my car at the front of the Alaagba Egungun's house. So, he phoned to inform me that he was waiting where I parked my car. That moment, I was about to enter into the secret grove. But, I asked him to wait that I would join him soon. So, I left the secret groove to the Alaagba Egungun's house. On getting there, I saw my friend. I recognised him. But, he could not recognise me because I had already born the Egungun mask. I called his name, "Segun." And, he quickly bowed to receive the ancestor's blessings. I was smiling in the Egungun mask because he was still waiting for me, not knowing I had already come.

Meanwhile, I couldn't reveal my identity to him despite that we were friends.  This was because he was not an initiate of the Egungun cult. In fact, when I passed through our compound to pay homage and seek the blessings of the elders; and also to bless my people in return, some members of my compound wanted to know where the Egungun came out from.  I smiled in the Egungun mask because one of the drummers told them the Egungun belonged to our compound. They were marvelled! So, they wanted to know who was in the Egungun mask. But, there wasn’t any response. As we all know, it is forbidden to reveal the identity of the person who is wearing the Egungun mask.

Some of the elders in the family couldn't believe what they saw. So, they went to Igbale "the secret grove" and waited for my arrival to know the identity of the person in the Egungun mask. After my activities in the town, especially at the King's palace and the Market square (the market has always been the final destination for all Egungun), I left the market for Igbale and met the elders sitting.  They had waited for hours. Finally, the elders saw me! They started crying in joy and they blessed me. They said I was just like my father. In this vein, I brought our compound’s Egungun mask back on the list but with a new name.

My Egungun Masks:

Presently, I have three Egungun masks.  The first and second were categorised as part of Egungun Onijo (the Egungun that dances to entertain) while the third under Egungun Oloro (the Egungun that comes to scare people). The first, named Erinjogunola, was dedicated to my compound. The second, named Erinfolami, is used to celebrate my personal annual festival, while the third is named "Maduro Marose". As a youth, I always love to present my third Egungun mask, Maduro Marose, to participate in any Egungun festival apart from the Egungun festival in my hometown in which I used to come out with Erinjogunola mask.

I became an Egberun through Egungun because Egberun means group or mates. Hence, the definition I provided above about Egungun, that Egungun as deceased members of ones family lineage indicates the link and connections between both. It is obvious that a family unit can be categorized as a group. Moreso, if Egunguns are dead members of the family who still exist as a family in Orun, then let us take my own case as an example, that dead members of our family compound that existed in Orun sent me back to the earth.

If you claimed to belong to Egberun through the river, stream, lake, sea or ocean, you would always dream of water in any form, either in form of a well (drawing water from well or seing a bowl of water), a clay pot filled with water and Osun stones (Ota Osun) called Oru Osun, river, stream, lake, sea or ocean. You might even find yourself swimming in any of those mentioned above. It should be noted that all these symbolise the female deities such as Osun, Yemoja, Olokun and so on. I will conclude the aspect of female deities subsequently. Meanwhile, I want to discuss the relationship between Egungun and Egberun.

The link between Egungun and Egberun:

The relationship between Egungun and Egberun can be like a vicious circle. Egberun means groups or mates in Orun, and Egungun means people from Orun 'Ara Orun'. Both are connected. Hence, to discuss their relationship, let us consider them through the aspect of divine dreams.  In a dream, one may meet old or young, kid, babies and sometimes families. Also, one may, among other things, like attending parties, festival or conference; finding one’s self in market setting, school settings and an unknown location such as in the river, lake, stream, sea, ocean, bush, forest or banana plantation, having sex or eating etc. For instance, if one dreamed of having a party in a location one is used to; or, one had been before, like buying things from market; seeing fruits, new cloth, new cap or headtie, cat fish, new foot wears and so on; then, it is Egberun dream.

Ingredients for Orisa Egberun:

Feeding or initiation into Egberun and Egungun involves offering a he-goat. And, when considering the materials used to make Orisa Egberun, it is just an Isan with a clay pot or vase. Sometimes, three Isans are tied together with thread of different colours. Then, the three Isans are tied together with red cloth, each at the top, middle and the bottom to make Isan Egungun or Orisa Egungun.

Interpretations of some Dreams:

Whenever one dreams of any dead member of one’s family or lost loved ones, such as one’s parents, friends and so on, it is an Egungun dream and not an attack. But, if one dreamed of masquerade and the masquerade chased or scared one, then the dream is an attack from the mothers of the earth "Awon Iyami".  Whenever one dreams of a masquerade, and the masquerade did not chase or scare one, it is an Egungun dream which can still be considered as Egberun dream. Only that it speaks much about Egungun and shows the difference between those who belong to Egberun through the water/river "Omi" and those who belong to Egberun through Egungun.

Homage to the Forebearers:

I won't end my story without first appreciating my father's Temple Director, Chief Dr. Amusan Owoade. This is because his knowledge and experience in the Egungun cult really helped me. Chief Dr. Amusan was born into a traditional family of Late Aterifa Ola Asake Owoade of Alagbede, Ogun's Compound in Ipetumodu, Ife North Local Government, Osun State, Nigeria, West Africa. His family were and are devotees of Ogun more than any other Orisa. When I narrated my stories to him, he also shared with me his own experiences on how he added Egungun to become part of his compounds Orisa.

According to him, he said he loved his late father so much. And after the death of his father, he decided to make an Egungun mask in his father's name. He said, “I, Dr. Amusan Owoade reside in Lagos. I was so sad when I lost my father because it was when my father was benefitting from me as his son. Though he had always been enjoying my love since I was young even untill I became an adult. I did my best to provide most of his needs before his death. Anytime I remember my father's care for me, I always weep. I went for Ifa divination and consultation to learn on how to invoke the spirit of my late father from Dr. S. M. Opeola (Founder of Ifa Yoruba Kabbalah Temple). 

The founder of Ifa Yoruba Kabbalah told me to make an Egungun mask in my father's name. I could clearly remember the message of the readings. The essence of the message was that my father had a lot to give to me (both materially and spiritually).  Despite my father’s death, I realised the dead could still help the living. I did as the readings said. So, I made an Egungun mask in my father's name. Then, I had my first Egungun festival in Lagos, where I reside. This surprised many neighbours because such a thing had never happened before. People who loved tradition gave me their appreciation, recommendation and praise and I became the topic of the matter, and the talk of the town.  I believed my ancestors, most especially my late father, were very happy with what I did because I got improvement in all aspects of my life immediately after I had celebrated the festival.

After the festival, I went for a consultation. And, a divination was made by Dr. S. M. Opeola. He told me that my ancestors requested I should not have my Egungun festival in Lagos any more. Instead, I should go back to my source (Ipetumodu, Alagbede Ogun's Compound). I was surprised when the Egungun I made in my father's name in Lagos refused to follow me to Ipetumodu for the next festival. My father's spirit said he would always be in my house in Lagos. Till today, the Egungun mask is still where I placed it. It becomes a benefit to me because I always pray before it every morning. Next year after the festival I had in Lagos, I built a temple where my forefathers laid. A room was separated to be Igbale Egungun [the secret grove of egungun]. I also made two Egungun masks.

The first Egungun mask still retains my father's name, Aterifa Ola Asake, while the second Egungun mask is my personal mask which I named, Atayese. I was popular with the name Atayese before I made the second Egungun mask. I have earned many Chieftaincy titles, to mention a few Atayese gbogbo ile Yoruba and Olori Asawo Ifa Yoruba Kabbalah Temple. That was how I started having my Egungun festival in Ipetumodu. And, I have chosen every January first, to be the date. I always start the new year with my ancestor's blessings and most especially with my father's blessings.

By Olu Awo Ifanla Ogbeate Temple

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is very informative. thanks for Sharing this blog.


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