HAVE you ever felt so good, so… so wonderfully good that you could have given God a peck? I felt that way that evening.
The information that sent me into near-raptures had dropped on my laps after months of fruitless sifting through literature on the origin of the Egungun (masquerade) cult, especially among the Yoruba.
My search was sparked by a hunch. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but the semblance between the egungun-in-costume and the astronaut-in-spacesuit had suddenly struck me. I was probably flitting through pictures of astronauts.
And I froze…
My mind went into a spin. Why! The costumes actually look similar… And the Yoruba describe the egungun as Ara Orun (visitor from heaven/the skies). But the astronaut is also Ara Orun – Traveller in, or from deep space.
In Yoruba, not only the spiritual heaven is orun but also the starry heavens, the skies.
Perhaps, the general belief that the egungun are spirits of the “dead from the spiritual heaven” is mistaken…
After all, the egungun are called Ara Orun, not oku orun (The dead of heaven). Oku orun is reserved for the dead. Just like oku eko – frozen fish arriving dead from Lagos.
Like in the phrase Ara Eko (residents of/arrivals from Lagos) or Ara Ibadan (residents of/arrival from Ibadan) Ara Orun suggests live beings resident of arriving from orun (the heavens, space).
In fact, Yoruba folklore relates encounters between Earthlings and Ara Orun which depict the latter as flesh and blood beings who, according to some accounts, relish some of the carnal joys of we humans, e.g. palm wine.
And so I mulled and mulled…
But then another thing got me curious. The full description of the egungun by the Yoruba is Ara Orun kin-in-kin. That kin-in-kin suffix fascinated me. The Yoruba hardly waste words. That kin-in-kin must have a purpose. What does it connote?
My mind was all aglow now.
Two phrases immediately sprang to my mind: Gbin kin-in (Grunt deeply) and Rin kinkin (Be deeply soaked).
When someone grunts, the Yoruba say, O gbin. But when he grunts deeply, they say O gbin kinin (he/she grunts deeply).
Also, when a piece of cloth (or some other absorbent material) is soaked, the Yoruba say O rin (it’s soaked), but when it is deeply soaked, the Yoruba say O rin kinkin (it’s deeply soaked). Back in my younger days, there was a stream in our Yemetu neighbourhood of Ibadan called Arinkinkin.
In all these instances, kin-in / kinkin connotes thoroughly, deeply: is Ara Orun kin-in-kin the Yoruba description of live visitors/travellers from the deep heavens (outer space)?
Speculations, speculations, speculations…
But then, there remained one puzzle: Why would the Yoruba link visitors from outer space with the spirits of long-dead ancestors returned to visit their relations?
I found this puzzler really hard to crack. For days, I mulled over this one… in the kitchen, in the toilet, at work, etc. Even asleep, my mind kept vigil, nudging it, turning it, kicking it round and round.
Then, one day, I remembered Time Dilation. Time dilation is a proven phenomenon in Physics. According to the acclaimed Father of Modern Physics, Albert Einstein, who first “discovered” it, time is “elastic” and passes at different rates for those of us on Earth and those cruising in space at close to the speed of light, that is 300,000 km per second.
Put simply, in a spaceship travelling at such mind-boggling speed, time slows down considerably.
A table from Mayer’s Handbook on Space (published on P.50 of In Search of Ancient Gods by Erich Von Daniken) shows the following differences in time passage between such a spaceship propelled at one G (i.e. 9.8m/sec) and the Earth.
Years for spaceship crew Years for Earth inhabitants
The figures look really crazy, I agree. But physicists know that Time Dilation is a reality.
From that table, we see that when 15 years passes on the spaceship, 80 years would have passed on Earth.
The implications of these are as illuminating as they are staggering. It means that a 25-year-old man (or astronaut) who left a three-year-old daughter on Earth to go on a trip in such a space ship, will return 15 years later at age 40 to meet his daughter a toothless woman of 83 years!
More startling still, if his 83-year-old daughter had her first child at age 30 then the returnee’s grandchild will be 53 years old — that is, 13 years older than her grandfather.
Imagine what “commotion” such a returnee space traveller (Ara orun kin-in-kin) would cause in the family circle. Should we then be surprised if the Yoruba of those far-off days regarded such a space traveller as a returned grandfather/ancestor who is immortal (perpetually young) or who had somehow resurrected from the dead?
Even our so-called modern time did not get a whiff of Time Dilation until Albert Einstein came with his Relativity Theory.
In fact, as the table shows, if our space traveller had spent 20 years instead of 15 in space, 270 years would have passed on Earth when he returned at age 45. Who would he meet?
If he succeeded in convincing those he met on his return that he was actually their great, great, great… grandfather, how would they describe him?
A returned ancestor!
It was while pondering these matters that the information that sent me into near-raptures came from the airwaves.
It was Wednesday November 20, 1999 in Ibadan. The day dawned like any other. Nothing spectacular. Then at 9.30 p.m., when the day was almost done, I tuned to Radio O-Y-O for my favourite Ifa programme.
The programme was being anchored then by Wale Rufai. It featured question and answer sessions with an Ifa priest, Gbolagade Ogunleke Ifatokun, from Saki, Oyo State.
As usual, Rufai poked the Ifa priest with sundry questions. Then, in one of the Ifa priests responses, he mentioned in passing that Egungun ko gbodo na Babalawo – it’s taboo for an Egungun to whip or harass an Ifa priest.
A curious Rufai asked why that was so. And the Ifa priest’s explanation was this: Nigba Iwase (in antiquity) when there occurred a deluge which threatened to wipe out all life on Earth, it was a collaboration between the Egungun and Orunmila, the patron saint and founder of the Ifa school, that saved the world.
According to Ifatokun, the Irunmale (divinities) were on Earth then. And it was one of them, Orunmila, who sent a Save-Our-Soul (SOS) to “Awon Ara Orun.”
The Ara Orun, in response to the distress call, then came down in “special costumes” to dry up the rising waters.
It is these Ara Orun, he said, who were thereafter hailed far and wide on Earth as Mayegun – those who set the world aright.
According to the Ifa priest, it is the name Mayegun – those who set the world aright.
According to the Ifa priest, it is the name Mayegun that eventually metamorphosed to Egungun. In fact, he added, it is the special class of Egungun called Babalago whose costumes most closely resemble the ones worn by the original Mayegun of antiquity.
It is not difficult to interpret this account in modern terms: Orunmila contacted some technologically advanced civilization in outer space (very likely his home planet) whose astronauts (hydrologists) came to Earth in spacesuits (and, by inference, spaceships) to dry up the flood that threatened the world.
In short, the Egungun costume is an imitation of spacesuits worn long ago by visitors from other space. And the Egungun cult is in honour or commemoration of extraterrestrial intelligences…
Now, frankly, do you blame me for feeling like giving God a peck that evening?
That was 10 years ago…
Other findings, before and after, have put the lie to many claims made fashionable by the West and its media – which Africans have accepted without question.
There are civilizations in space by far more advanced technologically than our so-called “Super Powers.”
They came in antiquity l-o-n-g before Uri Gagarin’s great, great great, great grandfather…
And many of the “gods” (divinities) are extraterrestrials – including Orunmila and that famous one most favoured of the West: Yahweh.