I once had a great conversation with someone about God. I don’t remember who the person was but I remember what we spoke of. Regardless of culture and where ever humans are, how contemporary or how primitive a culture may be, the concept of “God” is there.
My counterpart whom I was having the conversation with (I think he was Nigerian) said to me:
“All that we [human beings] know come from the Ancestors.“
That totally made sense to me. He said they are the ones who go on before us to a world or a place, or places, we don’t know. And then through visions and dreams and other spiritual contacts, they return to us in invisible forms to guide us, teach us, and tell us things that the human is unaware of.
In Yoruba, Ancestors are called Egungun or Eegun or Ara Orun. They are called Masquerades when they are adorned and can be physically seen. Masquerades are often seen at festivals or on the streets with several people following eagerly behind them. The cloth of the Egungun is not ordinary cloth. It is spiritually prepared to host the Ancestor spirit and is so powerful the cloth itself is said to “breathe” audibly at times (of course, this is due to the spirit). The human being inside of the cloth must also be spiritually prepared and initiated into the cult of Masquerade so that when he adorns that cloth, he does not transition also.
During the festivals, Handlers would surround the Masquerade with Ẹgba (Cane)/ Egba Jija (Fighting with Cane). Ishan Egungun is one of the two canes used for Masquerade; it is a symbol of the Egungun and must be present when the Egungun is being “fed” or sacrificed to. The cane is meant to flog people in order to appease or entertain the Egungun, although flogging does not always happen, the symbolism of the cane is important.
When I was instructed by my Padrino many years ago to erect my ancestral altar, I had to add a long stick made out of a particular wood with a particular symbol. It is important for me to “feed” that stick, keeping the force of the ancestors within it and keeping that stick powerful within itself. So when I first learned of the importance of the Egba in Egungun worship, I silently thanked my Padrino for what he had taught me.
In the Holy Odu Owonrin Ogbe, it is said that a powerful man had gone to war with enemies who thought they had killed him, but the powerful man had escaped into the river. After a years time, the powerful man appeared in a dream to his children and told them that he wished to return to the town but he did not want to appear with his human body. And so he instructed them to buy and prepare special cloth to adorn him, so that when he returned he could not be recognized. When he came out into the town, he was beautifully adorned as a Masquerade. He danced, played with children and prayed for everyone.
It was from then that the Yoruba people began to celebrate Egungun in this manner, honoring their Fathers who have transitioned.
Let me be clear: Ancestral worship is done all over Africa and the world.
(Note Anyone who has the odu Owonrin Ogbe, you will probably need to initiate Egungun. In some other odus also, including my own, ancestral worship is imperative).
Every year I bring out my own Masquerade in Nigeria. He will dance and play with children and adults and pray for everyone. Of this, I am proud. When I began my spiritual journey, it was them, the ancestors, who primed me (prepared me) for the road I was about to take on.
In fact, 3 days ago reminded me of that beginning. I had woken up around 5AM. For some reason I was slightly restless and could not fall back asleep. Half in trance and half aware there was something or someone laying to my left in the middle of the bed. I could hear myself speaking to this Being and the Being speaking right back to me. It told me so many things that while in conversation I wanted to get up and write everything down. This was not the first time I had experienced this, however, this was how my spiritual initiation began with invisible Beings teaching me.
Now for you to understand how Ancestors work, let me break this down to you:
In our tradition of Ifa/Orisha, we have the deities (Shango, Osun, Obatala, Esu, etc.) All of these deities are high Beings of Light. This means that they are pure energy attached to Nature within our realm, and magnificent beyond our world. These are extremely High beings who do not operate the same as our Ancestral Beings.
Ancestral Beings are beings who used to have form but are now of Light and still connected to us in way of our elevation and spiritual evolution through their guidance and teachings. They are closer, faster, and more “aggressive” in their actions.
Pure Energies are farther removed, slower, and unconcerned with human emotions/worries. Because they do not operate off of emotions, pure energies do not panic over things that we easily panic or worry about. This is due to their extreme wisdom.
So imagine the sun and how far removed it is from our touch, but it is important in lending its energy and all it does to keep the Earth and its inhabitants alive. So you can look at Pure Energies as how you would look at the sun: still interactive but farther removed.
The ancestors, however, are much closer and are members of our Soul Group, so it is their mission to keep you safe and elevated, because your elevation rewards the entire group. Pure Energies do not need to do this. Always know that spirits, both malevolent and benevolent are working for elevation. A wicked job is still a job, just as well as a good one, and both receive the same reward if it does not interfere with destiny.
One of the differences between the ancestors and Pure Energies is how they communicate with us. The Ancestor will come to your visions and dreams and show you that the Light Company will come and cut your lights tomorrow. The Pure Energies will see the same problem, but (unless consulted) will not alert you as the ancestors would. This is because not only have they seen the problem, they have also already seen that you have solved it and thus find it unnecessary to warn you.
**This is very important to know because if you happen to run into any worrisome problem, but you wonder why were you not warned spiritually (either through dream or oracle) or if God has somehow forsaken you. This is why. Pure Energies have infinite wisdom. Prayers do not go ignored but often times the problem you worry about is already solved, and those that need attending to will always be shown to you by your own Ori/ancestors/guides. No matter who you are, what you believe in, or if you believe in nothing at all. It is the duty of your own Ori/ancestors/guides to warn you. It all depends on how awake you are to notice the warning.
This is why I always say that spirit runs before oracle. Because most often when we receive a dream or warning, we will then consult the oracle.
Also this is important for you to know: The evil Uncle Paul or wicked Aunty Jane is not this character in spirit. However, you may see these ancestors appear to you in that same character when they had form. This is due to the residual shadow essence that they have left here on Earth, like dregs at the bottom of a coffee cup.
We are multi-dimensional Beings in form and out of form. Look at a star and see how it glows and the light that spreads far around it. This is the same for all Beings, including human beings. You see yourself as singular but you are more than what you see. This is why 10 people across the world can dream the same person at the same time, because that person’s Being is multi-dimensional and can splinter itself and be everywhere at once.
It is extremely important to honor your ancestors, not only as a family but culturally. We must all remember them because they work tirelessly on our behalf. As I have told you before, I did not know my maternal grandfather personally, but I grew up with him in my house, right at my altar. He died when my mother was 15 years old. He even went as far as to threaten me one day when I was (unintentionally) rude to my mother. This, alone, shows me that he is still alive – just formless!
I’ll be writing a small guide pamphlet about ancestor worship and how to venerate them. The information will be crucial to all of you who read this blog because believe it or not, many of you were lead here by not only your Ori, but your ancestors.
I salute your ancestors and mine.
Subtlety yields the best results – OM
Obara Meji is a spiritualist, Ifa-Orisa practitioner, and teacher of metaphysics. Since 2011 she has used her online platform to share her personal experiences to those seeking answers about spirituality. Her teachings will expand into short stories, novels, and public speaking to continue her mission of bringing enlightenment to the world.