Egungun is a deity with a colourful dress , it is one of the greatest divinities in the land of Yoruba. Among oral traditions, there are lot of stories about EGUNGUN cult and how it sprouted up among Yoruba race
IFA told us about a man called KUJENRA who turned the cloth of ORO to EGUNGUN , which attract people’s adoration of this said cloth and consequently led to the object of worship. While other myths made us to know that EGUNGUN and ORO are of the same family that is brothers. The myth went further that both ORO and EGUNGUN were good merchants . They took their trade to neighbouring cities . ORO was a spendthrift , squandered and a compulsive shopper. He had no reserve ,while EGUNGUN was found of pleasing himself with various cloths and meticulously dressing himself to taste. When it was a time to go back to their town , EGUNGUN put on beautiful , elegant and flamboyant dresses while ORO could not have a good wear on his body because he was a wastrel. This brought shame , dishonour and indignity to him. In disgrace , he was forced to enter into forest very close to their city, while his brother EGUNGUN entered the city with exotic and ostentatious dresses that befitted the glory of OLODUMARE and his statues as a revered deity. ORO , lived in the forest nearby but designed a mean to intimidate people in the market place whenever he wanted to buy food with his strange noise of ‘’NO MU UN , NO MU UN’’ . This unusual attitude was to bully and frighten the people in the market to run and leave their good behind. When people ran helter-skelter for their lives , ORO would cease the opportunity to take all what he wanted and the food to support his continues stay in the forest. That was how ORO became a fearful being that eventually turned to a deity ,worshipped by men, while his brother EGUNGUN also become an attractive deity among Yoruba and the cult later spread to the other part of the world.
Egungun festival is part of the Yoruba religious system sometimes referred to as “orisa”. Egungun is celebrated in festivals and the rituals through the custom or masquerade. An elder from the egungun family called “Alagbaa” sometimes presides over the ancestral rites, but egungun priests are the ones in charge of invoking the spirit of the Ancestor and bringing them out. The invokation is done when the egungun worshippers dance, drums, and possessed by the ancestral spirits, that they beat everybody they see with their Whips. They believe using the Whip against people could help to clean the community from wickedness. After this, the egungun priest advice, warn and pray for their spectators, and people give them money which evidently results to the priests becoming richer.
Egungun is otherwise known as the masked ancestors of the Yoruba kingdom which assures the people that the dead are among the living. The chief priest of egungun that does invoke the spirit of the ancestors is called “Alapini”. The festival is celebrated annually in the Yoruba kingdom, in almost all the towns and cities and this has tremendously contributed positively to the Nigerian economy, and also helped to foster unity among indigenous people.
Egungun masks are also performed during specific funeral rites, marking the death of important personalities. The festival is common among the” Egbas, Egbado, Oyo, and other parts of the south west; and is usually carried out within November to April, when there is no rain with the belief that their ancestors should not have to suffer in the rain.