Libation is one of the many rituals (an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner) celebrated here at Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore. Like any set of rituals (prayer, communion, altar call, etc.) it is important to understand the meaning and the relevance in order for people to believe in and practice it in our worship experience.
The act of pouring libation is historically common in many ancient societies and religions. It continues as part of many worship experiences today. It was an essential part of the Greeks and the Romans sacrifices. Groups or individuals used liquids such as oil, milk, water, honey but mostly wine as the drink offering poured to their higher power. Even the vessels used in the ceremony often had a significant form that distinguishes them from non-spiritual items.
The pouring of the libation is a tradition and an essential part of some African cultures. The ceremony is to give homage to the ancestors and to invite them to participate in all public functions. Generally, an elder performs libation. The libation, offered in the form of a prayer, concludes with an invitation (and invocation) to the ancestors to attend.
In the Bible, the Hebrews poured a hin (an ancient Hebrew unit of liquid measure equal to about 1.5 United States gallons or 5.7 liters) of wine over the sacrifice after killing it and before placing several pieces on the altar for their burn offerings. Genesis 35:14 records Jacob act of pouring libation or a drink offering.
"And Jacob set up a Pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a Pillar of Stone; and he poured out a drink offering on it, and poured oil on it".
Using libation as a metaphor, Isaiah 53:12 describe the end of the Suffering Servant as; “…because he hath poured out his soul unto death…”
The intent behind celebrating libation at Unity Fellowship Church of Baltimore is to honor the ancestors. Those who in one way or another helped us to get to where we are today. At the beginning, the minister will introduce the ritual and invite everyone to participate. During libation, we ring bells and beat drums to alert the ancestors to the pouring of the libation. We ask those that can, to point their right hand to the earth from where God created humankind and to where we will return. Some individuals will move into the aisle and kneel on one knee as a sign of respect. The minister will blow into the vestal holding the liquid offering back to God the breath of life given them.
The minister will then tap the vessels together three times honoring the three manifestations of the God Spirit. While pouring libation the minister will say a prayer honoring our pass and our ancestors. During the service, we use the libation liquid to anoint those needing prayer. After service, a deacon will take the libation across the street to the park and pour it out in a counterclockwise motion in the earth. The counterclockwise motion represents the pass we came from and returning the libation to the earth to bless our future.