Libations 101

What are libations
A libation is an African ritual that involves pouring usually a liquid as a sacrifice in memory of the dead (ancestors and other spiritual entities). 

Libation substances
The offering most commonly involves pouring a liquid. The most common liquids used for libation are water, coconut water, wine, other stronger alcoholic beverages (like rum), olive oil and honey. 

The type of substance is significant. For instance, water is used for a subtler effect when doing work that involves healing and blessings. Conversely, alcohol is used for more fiery ceremonies that may involve deploying energy, striking back at enemies and so on.

Apart from liquids, grains like rice may also be used. However, grains are used to a lesser extent.

Purpose of Libations

Libations are used to pay hommage and maintain a connection with spiritual entities or even living beings like other people (present or otherwise). The living being may even be the earth.

Libations may be used daily as with connecting with ancestors or for special occasions like weddings, a child's birth and so on.

The Process of Pouring Libations

Do not worry about being perfect. Sincerity is most important. 

  • Kneel while pouring the libations. Specifically, place the right knee to the ground. Remember to proceed in comfort. Consequently, if your knees are hurt, stand.
  • Pour the libations into something of spiritual significance like a clear ceremonial bowl on an altar or into the earth. If you wish to pour libations into the earth but are in an unsuitable location, pour the libations into the soil of a house plant.
  • Pour a bit a time for each line of your your prayer and or after the name of each ancestor to whom you are paying hommage. After saying a line example 'I salute all the spirits of nature' and pouring each small amount, say 'Ase' / 'Axe' [pronounced AH SHAY'] which means 'power' or 'Amen' which means 'so it is'.

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  • If you have any, make any requests for guidance, etc before closing with your word of supplication (like 'ase' or 'amen') three times.


  • See how to awaken and invite the ancestors with libations.
  • Use libations at your altar at home.
  • See a gentleman pouring libations with water for his ancestors at the 'Door of No Return' on Goree Island in Senegal. This was an historic point from which captured Africans were placed on ships to cross the Atlantic to their slavery.

  • See a group libation session with Dr Umar.