However, asking for help must first be balanced with honoring their lives. In the orisa tradition, as in many other traditions around the world, we commemorate the work, struggles, and triumphs of the people who lived before us.
“Egun are the spirits of departed ancestors, whether related by blood or by religious lineage. Honoring one’s ancestors can be viewed in simple or in complex, metaphysical terms, which we will examine here.
When an individual is born, her soul incarnates, that is, takes on a physical body. This soul comes from a constellation of energy that continuously incarnates within a family line. This is a very broad concept, because all family lines eventually return to one people. However, it is commonly believed that familiar energies tend to stay together, which is why we bear the traits of our recent ancestors.
While the soul is here, it gathers wisdom and knowledge through its experiences on this plane. When the individual dies, the spirit dis-incarnates and returns to that constellation of energies, the cull of souls, if you will, to await reincarnation. Because time is not a reality but a series of labels we put on reality to be able to comprehend events in some sort of order, we must understand that all incarnations of all souls exist simultaneously. We are all living one big life. This is why so many people can cite so many varied experiences in past lives and why so many people experience the lives of famous people as their own past lives. This is also the main reason we revere our ancestors: to revere our source, those experiences that our souls have had beyond those which they are having in their current incarnation.
When I give offerings to my grandfather, I am “feeding” that part of myself and my family line that lived the life my grandfather lived. When I continue my relationship with a deceased family member, it is because, in some way, that relative still exists, whether the particular energy that powered the particular body of that family member has reincarnated or not. To have existed at one time is to exist eternally.
To deny the importance of the experiences that our souls had and continue to have on other planes of existence is to deny our very selves. When we are told that an Egun has a problem with us or that an Egun wants our attention, what we are really being told is that we are neglecting some part of the experience of our ancestral soul that needs attention and the energy that a particular offering can give. We must remember that those souls, even though they are a part of us, have their own feelings, thoughts, and emotions that remain autonomous.
Our Egun can be happy, sad, or upset. They are not static pictures of our past lives. They are still our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and grandparents regardless of our understanding of the metaphysics behind their existence. An important side to our understanding of Egun is to realize the importance of our treatment of each other. To realize that we are all living one big life is to realize that the evolution of each individual is important to the evolution of the community as a whole. To treat each other poorly is to go against the positive evolution of the whole.
To foment that evolution, we must create and maintain firm and fruitful connections with all of our relations, living and dead. It is the realization of our interrelated existence and the willingness to contribute to its productive growth that will heal our world and carry us into ever-improving creation.”-Egun-Ancestor Reverence by Shloma Rosenberg ( Ibae bae tonun Afolabi /Oni Yemaya )
Egun is the collective representation of the Ancestors. We often call our Ancestors by the name, Egun, which in Yoruba language means bones.
As we walk upon the Earth our feet press against the bones of the Ancestors on whose shoulders we stand. Like most indigenous cultures of the world, Africans believe that those who go before us make us what we are. When we walk on the Earth, we literally stand on the shoulders of those who bodies have been committed to the soil, the water, and the wind. Our Ancestors influence our lives through heredity and human culture. However, there is an even deeper connection to the Ancestors as active spirits who continue to influence our lives. We humans honor them with altars, music and prayer. They in turn offer us guidance, protection and prosperity. We treat our ancestors with loving reverence. Asking for help from our Ancestors must first be balanced with honoring their lives. In the Orisha tradition, as in many other traditions, we commemorate the work, struggles, and triumphs of our Ancestors.
By remembering them and remembering their lives we continue to have them with us.
To know the stories of your Ancestors is to know your history. To know your history is to know where you are from. To know where you are from is to know where you are going. To know where you are going is to have the ability to dream outside the box that others may try to put you in. To dream outside the box is to know and believe in all that you could possibly become in the world. And to do that would honor your ancestors deeply because all of their hard work and sacrifice would have not been in vain!
Our Ancestors who anchor us on the face of this Earth. It is the reverence of our ancestors, and paying homage to our ancestors that gives us the strength that will keep us on the face of the earth for a long time.
Ancestor rituals help to heal the ancestors themselves and our connections with them.
Ancestors are at an disadvantage because they know how to improve things and yet they do not have the body required to act on what they know. We are at an disadvantage because, although we have bodies, we often lack the knowledge required to carry out things properly. This is why Spirit likes to work through us. A person with a body is an ideal vehicle for Spirit to manifest things in the world. It is important to understand that when we feel that something is missing in our life, when we feel somehow disconnected or displaced, that these feelings are a sign for us to repair our connection with the world of the Ancestors and spirits.
Types of Egun
Egun baba/lya: Souls of our immediate family.
Egun ilu….souls of the founders of a clan/community/town
egun idile …souls of ones relations/blood lineage
Egun eleko: Spirits of friends met in past lives.
Egun enia sasa: Souls of great priest/priestess/great/famous people
Abiku: Souls of children who continually die during childbirth or shortly there after.
Ebora: The spirits of fire and lava.
Eleye/Aje : Witches
Oso: Souls of warlords and indigenous medicine men. .
Egun gun olufe: Souls of Babalawos
Egun Igi: Souls which inhabit trees
African Heritage Online
Source: The Yoruba Religious Concepts