Mudcat Café message #1651190 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #88125   Message #1651190
Posted By: Azizi
18-Jan-06 - 06:10 PM
Thread Name: Iko Iko
Subject: RE: Iko Iko
See this description of the Egungun festival:

"EGUNGUN really means "bone," hence "skeleton," and Egungun himself is supposed to be a man risen from the dead. The part is acted by a man disguised in a long robe, usually made of grass, and a mask of wood, which generally represents a hideous human face, with a long pointed nose and thin lips, but sometimes the head of an animal.

Egungun appears in the streets by day or night indifferently, leaping, dancing, or walking grotesquely, and uttering loud cries. He is supposed to have returned from the land of the dead in order to ascertain what is going on in the land of the living, and his function is to carry away those persons who are troublesome to their neighbors. He may thus be considered a kind of supernatitral inquisitor who appears from time to time to inquire into the general domestic conduct of people, particularly of women, and to punish misdeeds. Although it is very well known that Egungun is only a disguised man, yet it is popularly believed that to touch him, even by accident, causes death.

A crowd always stands round watching, at a respectful distance, the gambols of an Egungun, and one of the chief amusements of the performer is to rush suddenly towards the spectators, who fly before him in every direction in great disorder, to avoid the fatal touch. To raise the hand against Egungun is punished with death, and women are forbidden, on pain of death, to laugh at him, speak disparagingly of him, or say he is not one who has risen from the dead. "May Egungun cut you in pieces," is an imprecation often heard.

Egungun is thus at the present day a sort of "bogey," or make-believe demon, whose chief business is to frighten termagants, busybodies, scandalmongers, and others, but it seems probable that originally he was regarded as the incarnation of the dead, and that the whole custom is connected with manes-worship. In June there is an annual feast for Egungun lasting seven days, during which lamentations are made for those who have died within the last few years. It is a kind of All-Souls festival, and resembles the Affirah-bi festival of the Tshi tribes, described in the first volume of this series.[1] Moreover, Egungun also appears in connection with funeral ceremonies. A few days after the funeral an Egungun, accompanied by masked and disguised men, parades the streets of the town at night, and, as in the Roman conclainatio, calls upon the deceased loudly by name. A superstitious and half -frightened crowd follows, listening for any response that may be given to the weird cries of the Egungun. A few days later the Egungun, again accompanied by several followers, proceeds to the house in which the death took place, and brings to the relatives news of the deceased, usually that he has arrived in Deadland safely, and is quite well. In return for the good news the family set food, rum, and palm-wine in a room of the house, and inviting the Egungun to partake of it, themselves retire, for to see Egungun eating is death. When Egungun and his followers have consumed everything loud groans are heard to issue from the room, and, this being a sign that be is about to depart, the family re-enter and entrust him with messages for the deceased.

A large proportion of the slaves landed at Sierra Leone, at the beginning of the present century, from slave-ships that had been captured by British cruisers, were Yorubas, and their Christian descendants have preserved the practice of Egungun, who may often be seen performing his antics in the streets of Freetown. There, however, his disguise is less elaborate than in Yoruba country, and he appears in a long robe of cotton-print, with a piece of cloth, having apertures for the eyes, covering the face and head. Spectators soon gather round him, and though, if asked, they will tell you that it is only "play," many of them are half-doubtful, and whenever the Egungun makes a rush forward the crowd flees before him to escape his touch."

Source: http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/yor/yor07.htm

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Also, does Egungun=Bogeyman?