Spirit mediums.You can dial premium rate numbers to get hold of them in the UK. You call them up and they talk to you and pass your message over the phone, or you visit them and sit around a table and they let you know if grandma is happy now, or whether you will fall in love next year.

Do spirit mediums who can relay messages from the dead to the living exist in Yoruba spirituality? Yoruba believe that our dead are reincarnated, do we also believe that we can contact them before reincarnation?  In my limited experience of Yoruba Spirituality, I’ve never heard of a Babalawo offering the service of contacting dead ancestors..

Yamaya  Cruz says on the subject of spirit mediums,

“…. spirit possession is more than a supernatural or paranormal event. It is a means of healing and communication.

Remember, energy cannot be destroyed, so it slips into a parallel reality until it is rediscovered. This means that there are no new ideas; no original inventions, and the whole concept of creation is really just an illusion. This is because everything that you can possibly imagine already exists in a parallel reality. But it needs to be manifested, transferred from the world of the invisible to physical matter, through the power of intention.

This is why the spirit possessions are so important in African diasporic traditions.
Our ancestors believed that it was a means of communicating with the dead. Today, we operate from a different paradigm, where we think that the dead are buried twelve feet deep in a cemetery. However, our ancestors didn’t see it that way. They believed that the dead consisted of ideas, problems, solutions, events, yet to be discovered by man.

Through spirit possession they allowed themselves to be transferred to another world, also known as an anti-world, or a parallel reality. In these worlds, they were able to find most of the solutions to their problems. There are some people who are able to see past events. These are the people who are able to communicate with their ancestors. Others are able to see events in the future such as psychics and spiritual mediums. And others could see illnesses in the body like holistic healers and medicine men. ”

Makes sense… Read her article on Spirit possession

I have seen photos of worshippers in trances i.e. Spirit possession but I never understood that they were able to pass on messages from the dead, in their somewhat incapacitated state. Am I wrong? 

Pierre Verger  documented his observations of spirit mediums in Yoruba religion. (Trance and Convention in Nago-Yoruba Spirit-Mediumship).

“A medium may … be called

Elegun orisha (‘the one climbed on by the orisha’),

Eshin  orisha (‘horse of the orisha’),

Adoshu orisha (‘the one whose head is the bearer of the orisha’s oshu’)”.

he … dances dances among them for several hours. …

He wears a strange expression, half cunning, half benevolent.”

“They walk bent forward and with large paces, raising their feet very high.

… Their faces are contracted and their mouths open.

They pull their tongues and shake them.

They open their eyes wide.

They take on … blinking their eyelids continuously and speaking tremulously”.


And Oga Onsa, chief of the egbenla, interfered frequently in the dialogues between the various orisha. …
Ijishe, who is the first to appear in possession, utters a loud shout … . … He walks restlessly here and there, shaking left hands with the audience. He walks with stiff legs, hopping from one to the other, looking at the sky. …

He … from time to time makes violent shoulder movements known as ijika.
At this point, Iyafero enters into trance and begins to dance calmly.
Oga Onsa comes … on a place called idomosun where the osun irons representing the dead ancestors are planted. …
After this the iyaworisha dance … in front of the temple where Alashe shakes his bell to salute them.”


Seems to be all about the dance and the rites for Yoruba spirit mediums possessed in a trance by the Orisha. Where does the passing of information from the dead to the living come in, if at all ?

Egungun are the representatives of the ancestors among the living, do they pass on ancestors’ messages to individuals or communities ?  Is the Opon Ifa similar to the ouija board in conveying messages from spirits to the living? Who can answer these questions? 







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