Villagers believe if they are touched by an Egungun, they will die thinking any contact whatsoever with an Egungun can prove deadly for both the Egungun and the other person
Each Egungun is accompanied by a “minder”, who is also a member of the Egungun society, who carries a large stick to drive curious individuals away.
Benin is a small country sandwiched between Nigeria to the East and Ghana and Togo to the West.
Tradition holds that the bizarre robed figures cannot be touched otherwise both they and the person who laid hands on them will perish
The Egungun cover their bodies head to toe in dramatic robes and are thought to be a connection to the ancestors
Each is accompanied by a minder who carries a large stick to beat away anyone who may try to touch one of the Egungun.
The Egungun are one of Benin’s Secret Societies who appear as masked men representing the spirits of the Living Dead.
Formerly the French colony of Dahomey, little is known about the country prior to around the 15th century when it was occupied first by the Portuguese, followed by the British, Dutch and lastly French who took control in 1894.
They are Living Ghosts, and thought of as a link the ancestors.
Their role in village lice is to settle local disputes, and their knowledge is often consulted in times of trouble within their village.
The Egungun speak in a high-pitched and altogether un-human and unsettling falsetto Punch and Judy style voice.
Some say they derive their name from the Northern Nigerian language Yoruba word for “bones” or “skeleton”
Their words and advice are believed to com directly from the gods
They are believed to be both dead and ageless by the locals and our brought in to settle village disputes
The ghosts arrive in villages, pass judgements and give advice with their word believed to come directly from the Gods.
All members of the mysterious and secretive order are male
They speak in a high pitched tone of voice which has to be translated for the locals to understand
Each Egungun appears as a robed figure – giving the impression that the deceased is making a temporary reappearance on Earth.
This impression is enhanced by the large costumes of they wear with the cloth and design used to expresses the power of the ancestor.