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Chapter 5 – Our Ancestors Are With Us Now

chapter-5-–-our-ancestors-are-with-us-now

Photography: Will Coleman, Ph.D.

This is an agere Ifa (divination container).  It is the” house” of various implements used for divinatory purposes.  It is like a microcosm of the universe that is sustained by a ubiquitous feminine power.  Like an “ark of the covenant” it is numinous and conveys a hidden mystery of ancestral knowledge and practices.

OUR ANCESTORS ARE WITH US NOW

If you want to locate your most immanent connection with the multidimensional spirit world, tune within.  Consciously connect with your ancestral DNA and everything else will be revealed through you.  According to one of my teachers, Baba Medahochi Kofi Zannu (of blessed memory), our ancestors are literally inside of us.  They eat what we eat, drink what we drink, go where we go and do what we do.  This is an awesome way of comprehending who we are, wherever we are.  We are living, organic ancestral shrines.

At the same time, creating and working within a  dedicated physical space enhances our focus and appreciation for and connection with those ancestors who have lived exemplary lives before us.  Also, It can become a space of healing.

BUILDING AN ANCESTOR SHRINE

In traditional Ifa culture, everyone is believed to have the ability, and the obligation to communicate with the ancestors on a daily basis. According to Ifa oral tradition, communication with your ancestors is a birthright and requires no special sanction. At times this communication can simply involve remembering a revered ancestor and making use of the memory as a basis for making an important decision. In many ways ancestor communication is an extension of the training and wisdom we receive from our parents and grandparents. In Yoruba culture, it is common for the uninitiated to make direct contact with ancestor spirits. The most prevalent method of communication is through dreams. Information also comes through participation in annual ancestor festivals. Because such festivals are not common in the United States, Ifa worshippers in the diaspora have created several viable alternatives. throughout the Caribbean islands the various expressions of carnival celebrations are retentions of the African forms of communal ancestor reverence. It is also common to build a small ancestral shrine within the home to be used as a focal point for prayer and meditation.

There are a number of traditional Yoruba methods for building ancestor shrines; some of which are very complex and require direct personal training. For those who do not have access to lineage elders, I recommend the ancestor shrine be constructed with minimal elements. Once the basic elements are in place, the ancestors can be consulted directly for guidance on further additions and modifications to the shrine. Once the shrine is built and once you establish a link with the ancestors, they will communicate to you directly either through divination, visions, or altered states of consciousness.

When the altar is finished, it should stay as clean as possible. Ifa teaches that dirt, clutter and disorder can attract unwanted and undesirable spiritual forces. This may seem simplistic, but in my experience it is a very important consideration. Our external environment reflects our internal state of being and either supports or blocks the process of growth.

Find a place in your home or apartment that can be used for prayer and meditation. Clean the area so it will be free from dust. In Native American traditions, sacred space is cleansed through the use of smoke. I find this practice to be effective and consistent with many cultural earth-centered traditions. It is a common practice in Native American and Pagan traditions to place leaves in either a large seashell or clay pot. Any aromatic leaf can be effective, with cedar and sage being popular choices. Light the leaves and fan the flames until you generate a steady plume of smoke. Walk through the entire house making sure smoke gets in every corner of every room. As you fan the smoke say a prayer asking that all negative influences be removed from your home. The container selected for this purpose should be kept near the ancestor shrine and only used for spiritual purposes. A Yoruba prayer may be used to bless the leaves used to create the smoke. this prayer is a dispelling invocation and you may add the kinds of negativity you want removed from the sacred space.

Iba se Egun

I pay homage to the Spirit of the Ancestors

Emi (your name) Omo (list your lineage starting with your parents and working backwards)

We are (you name) child of (lineage)

Iba se Ori Ewe

I pay homage to the Spirit of the Leaves

Ko si ‘ku

Send away the Spirit of Death

Ko si arun

Send away illness

Ko si wahala

Send away all gossip

Ase

May it be so

The prayer is spoken directly over the leaves. When the prayer is completed, breathe on the leaves and say the word to pronounced “toe.” The word means :”enough,” and is used to indicate the invocation or prayer is completed. This is known as placing your ase or spiritual power on the prayer. The word to functions as a seal locking the prayer on to the object that is being consecrated or blessed. The word is also used to indicate the invocation is over so that words spoken after the end of the prayer are not heard by spirit as part of the prayer.

As you walk through the space fanning the smoke, keep your conscious thoughts focused on the intention of the cleansing. The smoke will magnify whatever thoughts you are projecting into the room so make sure your thoughts support your intention.

Traditionally, smoke has the effect of clearing away all spiritual influences from a room both positive and negative. When starting the practice of regular communication with the ancestors, it is helpful to begin with a neutral environment so that you consciously invite specific ancestors to the shrine and know who is making their presence known. Ifa teaches that emotions have substance and that emotional energy lingers in a room long after it has been discharged. This is especially true of intense emotions like anger, hate, disappointment and jealousy. If these emotions build up around an ancestor shrine for a prolonged period of time, they can have the effect of invoking ancestors who indulged in negative emotions. for this reason, periodic cleaning with smoke after the initial cleansing should be part of the ancestral reverence discipline.

After the space is cleansed with smoke, use the same process to cleanse your physical body. Start with the front of your body moving the smoke from your feet to the top of your head and down your back. Each pass should be made in the same direction. Do not move the smoke from front to back then from back to front because this would be returning the influences to the place where they were removed.

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In Ifa once an area has been cleansed, it is traditional to seal the space with water and herbs. Ifa makes use of a wide range of herbs for the purpose of locking in the positive effect of prayer and invocation. the simplest seal for the uninitiated is clear water mixed with either efun or cascariaEfun is white chalk made from fossilized sea shells and cascaria is an efun substitute made from egg shells. If these materials are not available, it is traditional to add either perfume or cologne to the water. Make sure your choice of fragrance is something you periodically wear. In addition, add a small amount of body fluid to the water, either saliva or urine. By doing this you are placing your own essences in the seal. This becomes a statement to the Spirit realm that they are entering your shrine area and indicates they need your invitation to enter.

A traditional Ifa prayer may be used to enhance the power of the water to function as a seal. This is an enhancement prayer so you may add any of the things you want to manifest as a result of ancestral intervention.

Iba se omi tutu

I pay homage to the Spirit of Water

Emi (your name) Omo (list your lineage starting with your parents and working backwards)

We are (you name) child of (lineage)

Fun mi

Bring me

Ire alafia

the good fortune of peace

Ire l’era

the good fortune of a stable home

Ire omo

good fortune to my children

Ire owo

the good fortune of abundance

Ire agbo ato

the good fortune of long life

Ire iwa-pele

the good fortune of good character

Ire igbodu Egun

the good fortune of an ancestor shrine

Ire l’ona iponri atiwo Orun

the good fortune of the blessing brought by my higher self from the Realm of the Ancestors

Ase

May be be so.

The prayer should be spoken directly into the water followed by the word to. Sprinkle the water over the places that were cleansed by the smoke. Conscious attention should be placed on the matter of claiming the area as sacred space. Most of us have some ancestors who would not be welcome at the altar because of a lack of character development. It is necessary to exclude these ancestors and to make it clear no communication with them is desired. In particular it is important to exclude ancestors who suffered from addictive behavior and those who exhibited violet or sexually abusive behavior. the presence of these kinds of ancestor spirits can unconsciously trigger similar influences. they are identified in Ifa as Spirits who carry a family curse. The seal may include the names of those ancestors who are welcome to communicate at the shrine.

In some instances, there are those who do not know their ancestors. do not let this hinder the process. Simply identify the types of problems you will not allow within your altar space and identify the types of Spirits who are welcome. In time, as your communication with Spirit develops, you will be able to use this skill to begin the process of identifying unknown ancestors.

Construction of the Ancestor Shrine can start after the cleansing process is finished. the shrine is a place to remember; it is a memorial for those who have gone before us. It is a place to consider the wisdom of our lineage and to ponder the ways in which that wisdom can inform and guide us through current problems.

In the beginning, keep the construction simple. Place a box or table in the spot selected for a shrine. Cover the box or table with a white cloth. Place a glass of water and a candle on the cloth. At this point, you have the basic elements that create human beings;  you have earth, air, fire and water. Use the walls behind the shrine to mount pictures of your relatives. This is a place to remember, simply seeing a picture of a revered ancestor might remind us of a way they might have handled a particular crisis. remembering can lead to inspiration and inspiration can lead to resolution. Pictures of our ancestors can serve as a subliminal reminder of the contributions they have made.

Many of us come from mixed ancestry. Within the spectrum of our lineage there might be a wide range of religious and spiritual influences. You might want to represent some of these influences on the table through the use of a Bible, the Koran, Buddhist Sutras or a copy of the I Ching. All that is required to integrate this into an Ifa world view is an understanding of the universal nature of spiritual principles that have been expressed time and again in a variety of cultural expressions.

To use the shrine stand in front of it and light the candle. The first statement that should be made to the ancestors is a commitment to regular use of the shrine for meditation and prayer. Weall this type of agreement self-regulated discipline. It does not matter how often you agree to make use of the shrine; what is important is that you live up to your agreement to make use of it on a regular basis. In my experience it is better to commit to one day a week and keep the commitment than to commit to every day and break the agreement. You are establishing a connection with the ancestors and telling them when you will be available for communication. The white cloth, candle, water and pictures can be thought of as an electron magnet that draws Spirit to the shrine. The current that drives the magnet are the prayers directed towards the white table. If you only turn to your shrine in moments of crisis, the current will be weak. If you charge the batteries on a regular basis, the spiritual connection  will remain dynamic and accessible.

At this point, you may spend time remembering those relatives who have served as role models considering how they might have dealt with any of the circumstances causing problems in your own life.

ANCESTOR OFFERING

Following the opening invocation to the ancestors you may make a food offering to the shrine. the Yoruba term for this type of offering is adimu egun. the idea behind making an offering is reciprocity. If we ask the ancestors for their guidance we need to give them something in return. Offering food is not meant to literally feed a Spirit; it is meant as a gesture of honoring the memory of those who once ate with us.

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In Africa the most common offering to the ancestors is a small portion of every meal placed on the edge of the eating mat. Because Western culture generally eats meals at a table, the offering to the ancestors may be placed on a small plate that is set on the floor in front of the Egun altar or it may be placed on the altar directly. It is traditional in the Diaspora to use a plate with a crack. the broken plate is symbolic of the body that is discarded when the human soul (emi) is elevated.

In addition to food, it is traditional to offer something to drink. A cup of coffee, tea or alcohol may be placed next to the plate. If you are pouring libation hold the bottle with the left hand and cover the spout with your thumb and sprinkle a few drops on the floor.  Flowers can also be used as an offering and they can be placed directly on the altar. It is common practice in the Diaspora to use cigars as offerings to the ancestors. the smoke is used as a method of cleansing similar to smudge. Once you are in communication with the ancestors they will make specific requests for the kinds of offerings they want. You should make every effort to comply with the request, because in my experience it will enhance the quality of communication.

After making the offering, thank the ancestors for all the blessings you have already received. You may express your thanks in your own wrods or you may use the following Yoruba oriki (praise poem).

E nle oo rami o

We are greeting you my friends

Be ekolo ba juba ile a lanu

If the earthworm pays homage to the earth, the earth always gives it access

Omode ki ijuba ki iba pa a

A child who pays homage never suffers the consequences

Egun mo ki e o

Ancestors I greet you

Egun mo ki e o ike eye

Ancestors I greet you with respect

Ohun ti wu ba njhe lajule Orun

Whatever good things are being eaten in the realm of the ancestors

No mo ba won je

Eat my offering with them

J’epo a t’ayie sola n’igbale

Eat richly from the earth

Omo a t’ayie sola n-igbale

The children of the earth are grateful for your blessing

Ori Egun, mo dupe

I thank the wisdom of the ancestors

Ase

May it be so

Feeding the ancestors should be done on a regular basis to keep them close to your shrine. The frequency of the feeding is part of the agreement you make with your ancestors. In Africa, some elders make an offering to Egun at every meal and before they drink any liquids. In the Diaspora, it is more common to make an offering once a week to the shrine. It is acceptable to feed the ancestors less frequently as long as you keep to your schedule and your agreement.

For those who have not been initiated, having an ancestor shrine will give them a place to use the system of four cowries for divination and will provide access to ancestor spirits who will speak through divination. In all the systems of divination based on Dafa (Odu Ifa), the divination is directed towards a specific Spirit. That Spirit may bring messages from a number of sources, but the invocations to open divination are always directed to a particular Egun or Orisa.

By Awo Fa’lokun Fatunmbi

AKA David Wilson

***

PRAYER

Photography: Will Coleman, Ph.D.

Iyami ( mother).  Our mothers are the way through which we are incarnated from orun (the other dimension) into aiye (physical manifestation).  They shape and mold our ancestral DNA.  They carry us in their wombs and support us in very specific ways in this life.

EGUN (The Ancestors)

Egúngún kiki egúngún,

Praise to the mediums of the Ancestors,

Egún ikú ranran fe awo ku opipi.

Ancestors who have preserved the mystery of featherless flight.

O da so bo fun lewo. Egún ikú bata bango egún de.

You create the words of reverence and power. The drums of the Ancestors announce the arrival of the Ancestors.

Bi aba f’atori na le egun a sede.

On the strong mat you spread your power the Ancestors are here.

Ase.

May it be so.

___________________________________________________________________________________

EGUN JE WA MEMU (Pouring Libation  to the Ancestors)

Iba se Ose – Oyeku.

I respect the sacred scripture that guides our communication with the ancestors

E nle oo rami oo.

We are greeting you my friends.

Eiye dudu baro Babalawo la npe ri.

The black bird touched the dye in the name of all diviners.

Eiye dudu baro Babalawo ma ni o.

The black bird touched the dye in the name of all diviners in his name.

Igba kerindinlogun a dana igbo Ose.

Sixteen times we make a fire in back of Ose.

O Digba Kerindinlogun a dana igbo Ose ‘na oo rami o.

The sixteen fires do not harm me

O jo geregere si owoko otun.

The roaring fires burns to the right.

O gba rere si tosi o.

The roaring firs burns to the left.

Ora merindinlogun ni won ima dana Ifa si.

Sixteen places we make fires of wisdom.

Emi o mona kan eyi ti nba gba r’elejogun o.

When I did not know the road to follow, I should have followed destiny.

Ase.

May it be so.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

ORIKI AWON BABA MI (Praising the Ancestors of the Spirit of Destiny)

Egungun gun ani o gun, Akala ka ani oka lekeleke foso.

Spirit of the ancestors mount the mediums smoothly, the vulture circles the ceremony like a snake.

Ani ofun fun a difa fun. Orunmila Baba n’on ko lase lenu mo.

The white-feathered bird cleans us in flashes of light. The wisdom of the Spirit of Destiny is emitted in flashes of light.

Woni kolo pe Baba pe lode Orun. Tani Baba Orunmila, morere ni Baba Orunmila.

The wisdom is acknowledged as coming from the Owner of the Realm of the Ancestors. Look to the Spirit of Destiny, all good fortune comes from the Spirit of Destiny.

Mije morere no o. To ase si ni lenu morere mi o.

Seven blessings is the power of light. The seven blessings of light as the spiritual powers that come to us.

See also  SUNDAY SERMON

Ase.

May it be so.

HERMENEUTICS/INTERPRETATION – ORIKI EGUN

Photography: Will Coleman, Ph.D. Iiyami (mother).

ORIKI EGUN

ORIKI EGUN are invocations for the collective Spirit of the Ancestors. In the Yoruba language the word for a single ancestor is Ara Orun, meaning person in the realm of the ancestors. EGUN refers to the collective spirit of all the Ancestors in a person’s lineage. It is this pool of collective memory that forms the foundation for consciousness and is reborn through reincarnation.

These invocations are usually used in conjunction with marking the Odu Oyeku Meji twice on an Ifa tray. One mark of Oyeku Meji is used as a portal to Orun (the realm of the Ancestors) and the second mark of Oyeku Meji is a portal to aye (the return to earth). These invocations may be used to honor the Ancestors at public rituals, to ask for the blessing of the Ancestors at initiations and to make offerings to the Ancestors as prescribed by divination.

EGUN JE WA MEMU

(Pouring Libation to the Ancestors)

Iba se Ose – Oyeku.

I respect the sacred scripture that guides our communication with the ancestors

E nle oo rami oo.

We are greeting you my friends.

Eiye dudu baro Babalawo la npe ri.

The blackbird touched the dye in the name of all the diviners.

Eiye dudu baro Babalawo ma ni o.

The blackbird touched the dye in the name of all diviners in his name.

Igba kerindinlogu a dana igbo Ose.

Sixteen times we make a fire in back of Ose.

O digba kerindinlogun a dana igbo Ose ‘na oo rami o.

The sixteen fires do not harm me.

O jo geregere si owoko otun.

The roaring fire burns to the right.

O gba rere si tosi o.

The roaring firs burns to the left.

Ora merindinlogun ni won ima dana Ifa si.

Sixteen places we make fires of wisdom.

Emi o mona kan eyi ti nba gba r’elejogun o. Ase.

When I do not know the road to follow, I should have followed destiny. May it be so.

_______________________________________________________________________________

ORIKI EGUN

(Praising the Ancestors, invocation for consecration of Ancestor shrine and Aso Egun)

Egungun kiki egungun.

Praise to the mediums of the ancestors.

Egun iku ranran fe awo ku opipi.

Ancestors have preserved the mystery of featherless flight.

O da so bo fun le wo.

You create the words of reverence and power.

Egun iku bata bango egun de.

The drums of the Ancestors announce the arrival of the Ancestors.

Bi aba f’atori na le egun a se de.

On the strong mat you spread your power, the Ancestors are here.

Ase.

May it be so.

________________________________________________________________________________

ORIKI EGUN

(Praising the Ancestors, invocation for consecration of Ancestor shrine and Aso Egun)

Ile mo pe o o. Egungun, o pe o o. Egungun, mo pe o o. Egungun, mo pe o.

Earth Weall on you. Ancestor, Weall on you. Ancestor, Weall on you. Ancestor, Weall on you.

Eti were ni ti ekuute ile o. Asunmaparada ni tigi aja o.

House rats are very alert. Rafters never change their position.

Ago kii gbo ekun omo re ko maa tati were.

Rat does not disregard the cry of its young ones.

Awa omo re ni a pe o; a wa lati se oun re.

We, your children, gather here for your annual ceremony.

Maa je ki a pa odun je; maa je ki odun o pa awa naa je.

Do not let us die during the year.

Olodun kii pa odun esin run. Egungun kii pa odun esin run.

Those who give the annual offerings do not willingly abolish the practice. The society of mediums does not abolish its annual practice.

Maa je ki a ri iku omom maa je ki a ri iku obinrin.

Prevent the death of children and wives.

Maa je ki a ri ija igbona. Lile ni ki a maa le si, maa je ki a pedin.

Save us from disease. Let us multiply and increase.

Ase.

May it be so.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

ORIKI ADIMU EGUN

(Praising the Ancestors when offering libation and cola nut)

Egungun wa yana wa neni, je wa memu.

Ancestors please call on us today, and drink our palm wine.

Egungun Baba Iya yana wa o, je wa gb’obi pa.

Ancestors, Fathers and Mothers, please come so that you may accept offerings and split the cola nut.

Egungun wa yana wa.

Our Ancestors please call.

Ase.

May it be so.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

ORIKI AWON BABA MI

(Praising the Ancestors of the Spirit of Destiny)

Egungun gun ani o gun, Akala ka ani oka lekeleke foso.

Spirit of the ancestors mount the mediums smoothly, the vulture circles the ceremony like a snake.

Ani ofun fun a difa fun. Orunmila, Baba n’on ko lase lenu mo.

The white-feathered bird cleans us in flashes of light. The wisdom of the spirit of Destiny is emitted in flashes of light.

Woni kolo pe Baba pe lode Orun. Tani Baba Orunmila, Morere ni Baba Orunmila.

The wisdom is acknowledged as coming from the Owner of the realm of the Ancestors. Look to the Spiri of Destiny, all good fortune comes from the Spirit of Destiny.

Mije morere no o. To ase si ni lenu morere mi o.

Seven blessings is the power of light. The seven blessings of light are the spiritual powers that come to us.

Ase.

May it be so.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

OFO ASE EGUNGUN

(Invocation for Ancestors to mount the mediums)

Egungun ajuwon lukuluku gbugbu. A rago gbale egungun kiki egungun.

The mediums of the Ancestors have the power to transform death. We sweep the earth to salute the wisdom of the Ancestors.

Togogo oku yi gbe ni eni ara kan ti nj’ijo awo, iso ran l’okun nde l’agbure,

The Spirit of Death guides the head to touch the mat of those Ancestors who have met in secret, to speak of the bond of secrecy,

igba ti ng o s’oran okun, kil’e m’okun, so mi l’apa si omo keke mo sa

it is the oath of sea water, sea water offered to the earth, it is a sign that water is the child of growth,

mo ny sewe k’apinni, Abaja mo bu mo mu sewe l’agbure,

we drink without negativity; We wear body marks as a sign of my oath of secrecy.

gombo mo wa mo mu sewe l’igbori, tori igbori mi l’oyo – mo – ko.

They show that I pledge my loyalty to the spirits, from this oath I receive the food of learning.

Ase.

May it be so.

_____________________________________________________________________________

By Awo Fa’lokun Fatunmbi

AKA David Wilson

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