Eggun is singular and Eggungun plural. Most simply put, the eggun are the spirits of the dead. Often eggungun are referred to as "the Ancestors", but this is not entirely true, though your Ancestors are certainly included among the eggungun. Our personal or fundamental eggungun will of course include our deceased family members as well as the priests and priestesses who are "Ibae (have passed away) in our godfamily. But also included among our personal eggungun are our spiritual guides, who may or may not be family members.
To be able to explain the origin of the Word Eggungun, it is necessary to separate its parts: e gu (n) gu (n). 'E' is a vowel that is required in many Yoruba names. On the other hand, 'gu' is a modified or adopted form of 'Khu', an ancient Egyptian word that refers to the spiritual soul that lives forever, or a heavenly being. Gu (n) gu (n), is therefore, a reiterated repetition or given to confirm.
One important thing to remember with eggun is that they are the spirits of people. And just as there are the good and the bad, the liars and the reliable, and the refined and the crude on earth, so it is with the world of the eggungun or spirits. And it is up to us to determine which sort of eggun we have relationships with; just as it is up to us what kind of living people we associate with. We always have the choice of whether we befriend people who will lift us up or find our friends among the more dangerous elements, such as the mafia, in this world or
Eggun are always taken care of first, as the old saying says, "Eggun before Ocha, always". In any rite in the religion, first Olorun (God) is saluted, then Eggungun, the Orishas being reserved for last. We always get the permission and approval of the eggungun before proceeding with any rite from simple Obí divination to the highest initiations in the religion.
Your eggungun are also a fundamental part of who you are and where you come from. In fact, when saluting your eggun, you are declaring who you are in a direct way by the act of declaring where you came from. By connecting with your eggun you affirm the continuum from the distant past towards the distant future as we can all look forward to becoming eggun one day.
In Lukumí Spirituality, there are two main and necessary ways of tending to our Eggungun. One is the Afrikan based worship (fig. 1), in a corner of the house previously prepared in an area marked off with efun, we bring offerings; an opa ikú or eggun stick (a stick consecrated to eggun using nine colors of ribbons with bells attached) is used in calling them. The other which is the most common interaction with the eggungun for most people is the practices of Mesa Blanca (fig. 2), which has its roots more in Kardecian Spiritism than in Afrika.