Friday 21 June 2024


Libation in Africa is a ritual of heritage, a drink offering to honor and please the Creator, the lesser divinities, our sacred ancestors, humans present and not present, as well as the environment (Nehusi, 2015: 3).

Libation is found throughout the African world: on the continent as well as in the Americas, the Caribbean and other parts of the world where Africans dwell. The significance of this ritual transcends its distribution across the immense time/space correlation that is occupied by the African experience of life. Libation is an immensely important part of the African cultural equipment. In fact, this ritual is a marker of African identity (Nehusi, 2015: 1).

The oldest sources of information on the ritual of libation are those generated by ancient communities in km.t (Kemet) in particular, and the Nile Valley in general. Perhaps the oldest known source is an incense burner found at Qustul, though the more recent uncovering of a settlement and worshipping complex at Napta Playa in the south of Kemet may attest an even earlier date. By virtue of their attestation of the ritual complex in which libation normally occurred, both the Nabta Playa temple complex and Qustul burner may constitute indirect references to the practice of libation in organized political entities that existed before and beyond the state of Kemet. (Nehusi, 2015). “Pour libation for your father and mother who rest in the valley of the dead… Do not forget to do this even when you are away from home. For as you do for your parents, your children will do for you also…”- From The Papyrus of Ani dating around the 13th century BC in Ancient Egypt.

Libation can be poured at other occasions, such as to mark the settlement of a dispute, before chopping down trees (individually or parts of a forest), at the Enstoolment of Chiefs, at the many festivals on the African calendar and other African spiritual gatherings, and indeed in every ceremony and gathering in the African way of life. A libation may be poured with any drinkable liquid, including water, milk, wine, beer, or strong (alcohol), though alcohol has been the dominant choice for some generations now, especially in West Africa. More often than not clear spirits are chosen on important occasions: gin in Ghana, clairin in Haiti, white rum in Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and other places. The choice of liquid depends on the nature of the libation and prayer and what your aim is in invoking (awakening) the Ancestors.


Nehusi, Kimani S.K. (2016). Libation. An Afrikan Ritual of Heritage in the Circle of Life. University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-6710-4.

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