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Create An Egun Shrine To Honor Your Ancestors

Who are Egun?

Egun are the spirits of the departed. Every ancestral line is believed to be made up of a collection of familiar energies. When a person is born, some of this energy incarnates into a physical form. During life, they acquire knowledge and experiences before returning to that collection of energies.

Egun translates to "bones" in the language of the Yoruba, and it is a collective representation of all of one's ancestors. They are not distant figures -- they are present all of the time and can draw attention to aspects of ourselves that we have been neglecting. Their goal is to leave the cycle of reincarnation, and ancestor worship helps give them the power to do that.

Egun are not just blood ancestors. They may be religious or spiritual ancestors as well. Not all ancestors are worthy of worship -- some ancestors are considered honorable, while others are non-honorable. In death, as in life, a person's conduct and character determine how they are treated.

What is an Egun shrine?

An Egun shrine is a shrine to one's ancestors. It can be simple or complex, and every tradition that practices ancestor worship has their own way of creating a sacred space.

How can I make one?

You can create a simple ancestor shrine by:

Choosing a sacred space.

Pick a space that will be difficult to ignore. You do not want your ancestor shrine, and therefore your ancestors, to be neglected!

Cleaning the space well.

You want it to be free of dust, dirt, and clutter. Physical mess translates to stagnant energy, and dirt can attract malevolent forces.

Smoke cleansing the area.

This space is traditionally cleansed using sacred herbs. You can use herbs from your tradition, choose them intuitively by asking your ancestors for help, or use white sage or cedar.

Pray over these herbs, specifying what they are to do. Be sure to identify yourself and your lineage as follows:

"I pay homage to the ancestor spirits.
I am [state your name] child of [state your lineage, beginning with your parents].

I pay homage to the spirit of the leaves.

The goodness of peacefulness,
The goodness of stability,
The goodness of wisdom.

I thank you, leaves. So be it."

Cleanse the space with the smoke from the herbs, then cleanse yourself in the same way.

Sealing the space with cool water.

Take a bowl of fresh, clean water and add a tiny amount of perfume or cologne to it. (Whatever you choose, it should be a scent you enjoy and regularly wear.) Follow this by adding a tiny amount of bodily fluid.

Pray over the water just as you did over the herbs. After the opening portion introducing yourself and your lineage, say:

"I pay homage to the spirit of the cool water.
The goodness of peacefulness,
The goodness of stability,
The goodness of wisdom,
The goodness of tranquility.
Thank you for water's many blessings. So be it."

Using your left hand, sprinkle the water around the space.

Setting up the shrine itself.

Set a table or other elevated surface in the sacred space you have prepared. Cover it with a white cloth, and add a glass of water and a white candle. You can also decorate it with images of ancestors, both blood and spiritual.

Dedicating yourself to venerating your ancestors.

When you are satisfied with your shrine, stand before it and light the candle. Make a commitment to using it regularly. It does not matter how often this is, what matters is that you keep your promise.

How do I use it?

Use your Egun shrine by keeping your promises to your ancestors. Every day, replace the glass of water with a fresh one and say a prayer. When you make food, set some aside for them. You should also learn a prayer of libation. Libations are an offering of water or another liquid to provide coolness and refreshment to the spirits and the Earth. Your tradition is likely to have its own prayer of libation similar to:

"Cool waters,

May the Earth be refreshed.
May our spirit guides be refreshed.
May our ancestors be refreshed.
May our heads be refreshed.

I praise the universe.
I praise the Earth.
I praise the sun and sky.
I praise all of nature.
I praise my spirit guides.
I praise my ancestors.
I praise all of my deities.
I praise the mother and father who created me.
I praise the mother of Orisha.
I praise the father of Orisha.
I praise my God Mother and God Father.
Protect me from a sudden death.
Protect me from illness.
Protect me from passion and hot-headedness.
Protect me from obstacles.
Protect me from loss.
Protect me from evil.
Protect me from interference.
Let me not meet Death."

Offer a libation to all of the directions, as well as the Earth and heavens. Next, call the names of all of the ancestors you can remember, and acknowledge those you cannot.

An Egun shrine attracts the spirits of the ancestors so we can communicate with them. It allows us to connect with the lineage of spiritual energy from which we come, ask for help, and make offerings to appease and strengthen the spirits of our ancestors. Your shrine may be very simple -- the important part is that you use it regularly.


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