“Pour libation for your father and mother who rest in the valley of the dead… Do not forget to do this even when you are away from home. For as you do for your parents, your children will do for you also…”- From The Papyrus of Ani dating around the 13th century BC in Ancient Egypt.
From ancient times, Africans in traditions like Vodu have revered God, spirits in nature, and their ancestors by offering libation. Libation is defined as “ an amount of alcoholic drink or water poured out in honour of a god or a dead relation.” In modern society, although this sacred practice is not as prevalent among contemporary Africans, we see some Diasporan Africans (or African Americans) make reference to this tradition by “pouring one for the (deceased) homies” with a bottle of liquor in popular culture.
In the spirit of Sankofa (an Akan word signifying going back to one’s roots for strength), in this article, I will share five simple steps to offer a libation to your ancestors and spirit guides based on my experience as a third-generation Vodu and Afa (Ifa) priest. There are other ways to offer a libation but this is what I have been taught by my elders. While it is customary for devout practitioners and priests to offer libation every morning, it is also okay to just offer libation when you can or do so once a week. You can also do a libation at any time of the day except around noon when the Sun is at its highest point in the sky.
Step 1: Be barefoot and face East. In Vodu tradition, it is considered disrespectful to engage in spiritual work while wearing shoes because shoes are considered dirty objects unfit for sacred spaces or rituals. You face east because this is where the Sun rises from every morning and you want your prayers to be heard just like how the Sun rises.
Step 2: Pour water or liquor in a glass, mug, or plastic cup. In traditional communities even today, it is common for people to use a mixture of water and cornflour (called Dzatsi) as well. For liquor, if possible, the drink should be clear (not dark alcohol like whiskey or rum unless specified by the deity or ancestor) to ensure that…