The Egungun masquerade

Egungun refers to all kinds of Yoruba masquerades or masked costumed figures representing ancestral spirits from the land of the dead. It refers to the Yoruba masquerades connected with the ancestors, or to the ancestor’s lives. The singular form for a masquerade is called Egun.
Among the Yoruba people, the annual ceremonies in honour of the dead serve as a means of giving their forefathers a place among the living souls and a chance of interacting with them in any way. The Egungun are celebrated in festivals known as “Odun Egungun”, and in family ritual through the family custom. It is the family elder mostly called “olori ebi” or “Alagba” that presides over ancestral rites. He may be a member of the local Egungun society and he may not. When it deals with the whole communities, Egungun priests and initiates who are well trained are assigned to invoke and bring out the ancestors. They wear elaborated costumes in form of masquerades. The Egungun performers are believed to become possessed by the spirits of the ancestors through drumming and dancing.
Many people gather to watch the activities or performances of the masquerades, they cheer and jeer whenever the masquerade make some fantastic and exciting moves or stunts. Powerful “Egun” (Masquerade), like the “Oloolu” and “Alapansanpa”, who belong to Ibadan land, are never dared by the people, they keep a distance to the spot where the masquerade is performing, because when possessed, it can do the onlookers some harm. Egungun festival is loved by all and sundry in Yorubaland, and people wait annually for the festival to come.


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