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A run through ( and photos) of the main features of the Osun Osogbo Festival

Feel as if you were there with these articles and photos of the Osun Osogbo Festival activities

The anticipation

“A fever of expectations is building up. It’s the dawn of the annual Osun Osogbo fesitval. The festival kicks off …. with the Iwopopo, the traditional city cleansing.

It would be a day royalty would mix with the high and the low. A day when the people of Osogbo would again rekindle the spirit of their common ancestry, celebrate their humanity and generally thank their creator for seeing them through the full circle of their tradition year. It is the traditional town cleansing day that also ushers in the official count down to the grand finale of the annual Osun Osogbo festival ”

 

The Iwopopo rite

“Activities will kick off with royal procession led by the Ataoja of Osogbo…The royal procession would kick off from the Ataoja’s palace, following pre-determined route. The Ataoja would be the harbinger of good tidings to his people. Every step he takes tells the people their ancestors and gods have preserved them for another year and that the people should rejoice. As he takes each regal step, he is also wading off every form of evil in the land and ushering in a period of festivity and celebration. The oba, along his route, will receive homage from the high and the low, princes and commoners, kingmakers and ruling houses would also be on hand to pay homage to the oba.”

 

The lighting of Atupa Oloju Merindinlogun

“the traditional lighting of the 16-point lamp (Olojumerindinlogun), would also take place. The lamp is not just apiece light stand. It is history in itself. The candle stand has witnessed the rise and demise of kings in Osogboland. The candle stand is reputed to be about 500 years in existence. The lighting of the lamp is done in the night and the light burns till the dawn of the next day. It is done as part of directives given by the Osun deity.

After lighting the lamp, the king, at interval, during the night, would come out and dance round the lamp. This continues till the next morning. Early in the morning, the lamp will be turned and returned to the custodian to be kept till the next yext.

However, in lighting the sixteen pints of the candle-stand, it goes deeper to signify the riddance light brings into a community.”

 

The history of the festival

“The Osun Osogbo festival has been in existence since the establishment of the Osogbo. The festival, according the indigenes, is built on a kind covenant between the Osun deity and the ancestors of the Osogbo people. According to the history of the town, many centuries ago, hunters from a nearby village (Ipole Omu), Larooye and Olatimehin, and their subjects migrated in search of water.

They finally settled at a place very near the Osun River in present day Osogbo. Later, Larooye became the first Ataoja (King) of Osogbo, as one of the initial builders of the settlement. These men and their subjects knew nothing about the administration of the goddess of the Osun River. As time passed by, members of the established community were engaged in preparation of the grounds for a planting season when a tree fell into the river and a mysterious voice was heard from the Osun River saying:“Larooye, Olatimehin, gbogbo ikoko aro mi leti fo tan”, meaning, you have destroyed all my dye pots. Having heard this mysterious voice, they were afraid for they never knew how the goddess of the river knew their names. After Oba Larooye and other lesser spirits within the community pacified the goddess of the river by saying: “Oso igbo pele o; Oso igbo rora”. The ancient city was said to have derived her name from the mysterious voice the lesser spirits made to pacify the goddess of Osun River, thus Oso igbo pele o; Oso igbo rora, was abbreviated to Osogbo. Same goes for the royal title, Ataoja which was derived from the function which the goddess of Osun River advised the first Oba (King) to perform during the last day of the then festival, Atewogbeja, which is abbreviated to Ataoja.

The dense forest of the Osun Sacred Grove on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo is one of the last remnants of primary high forest in southern Nigeria. Regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility, Osun, one of the pantheons of Yoruba gods, the landscape of the grove and its meandering river is dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other deities. ”

 

The above excerpts from  Okorie Uguru’s Nation Online article on the 2013 Osun Osogbo festival describes the traditions and rites beautifully. The traditions around the festival remain the same every year with +- 1 day date changes, and only the person of the Arugba (whose function the author missed off completely!!) possibly changed yearly.

 

However, this Guardian article below about the preparations of the  Arugba ,  Virgin maiden and most important aspect of the Osun festival fills in the gap.

 

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The time is 9:45am or thereabout. Arugba Osun (votary maiden), Osuntomi Oyetunji is seated on a stool decorated with colorful cloth. A white Ogboni sash is hung on the wall behind her. She herself ties a colorful sash made of sanyan over white alari cloth.

Her left hand bears golden bracelet while her neck is encircled by red and blue beads. In spite of the flurry of activities around her, the young girl remains calm.

Close by are statuettes, big gongs, a rattling gourd and a couple of talking drums. It looks like Arugba and her minders recently ended a dancing session, but her drummers are no longer in sight .

Placed in her front are two calabashes containing ritual items; one brown, the other white. Another brown calabash the size of a drinking bowl sits beside her on a tray made of raffia. Remnant of kola and alligator pepper served to Osun goddesses are inside the calabash.

One of her chaperones reaches towards the brown calabash and picks one lobe and begins to chew it, Arugba does not for a second look at the man’s way.

Then an old woman approaches her, says a few things to which Arugba only responds with hand gesture. Then an Osun priest and minder of Arugba , Chief Adigun Olayiwola Olosun who has been holding consultation session with other Osun disciples, walks closer to Arugba.

He wants to find out if the teenager is ready to begin the journey to the grove. The young girl nods in response. “Without her consent, procession cannot commence,” says Olayiwola.

The chief priest stretches hands out to pull up the young Arugba, and she rises as if on cue. Then tumult sets in within the small room where Arugba has been seated in the last one hour.

The bata drummers who have been waiting eagerly outside get the drift that the hour has come, and they begin to strike hard at their drums; a man in free white gown starts to clank at a bell, his rough face became hardened; a battery of photographers become instantly restless, they are eager to get the best shot of Arugba; and the security men who are previously relaxed assume alert position.

They form a human wall around the small alley which Arugba will pass through. The crowd outside immediately get the hint, and everyone roars in exultation as their expectation goes a notch higher.

The chief priest holds on tightly to the girl and leads her towards the gateway where one of the previous Arugba, Abimbola Adeyemi, stands waiting to place a decorated Calabash on her second successor.

At around 10:30 am Arugba steps out amidst a coterie of minders , and as soon the waiting crowd sighted her, the whole town went agog. “Ore Yeeye o!” They thunder.

Their noise is heightened by the sound of dane guns coming from different directions. Cane bearing young men go into frenzy as they begin to beat one another recklessly.

The crowd joined them by praying fervently for self, their family, their community and the nation.At the other end of the palace, Ataoja is also stepping out. His surrounded by his council of chiefs, community people and visitors.

He enters a black jeep with his wives. Other vehicles bearing the VIP follow, with Arugba in the lead. And so the procession to the grove begins. As bata drums guide her steps, Arugba dances left and right At this point, it is believed that the votary maiden has become a goddess herself.

She no longer hears the voices of the earthlings, but the voices of many Irunmole who dutifully guides her feet to the shrine of the Osun goddess. In the last 600 years, the spirits have never failed in discharging this duty, said Chief Olayiwola.

And on this Friday morning, they did not. Arugba is successfully delivered of her load at the grove by 12 noon or thereabout.

 

(The photos in this post from various Facebook sources are all from this year’s 2016 Osun Osogbo festival)

Each year, I wait patiently all day for the photos and articles to trickle in so that I too can experience the magic of Osun, these two articles did the job for me. But there was one other article which stood out…(below)

 

… Coming soon at the Osun Osogbo Festival?

Mr Gani Adams of the Oodua People’s Congress said about the Osun Osogbo Festival ….

“I am not pleased in any way with the organisers of this event for their way of not arranging anything to eat. We don’t celebrate Christmas without eating anything and Ileya ( Eid el Kabir) too. How can we call this a festival when you don’t give the people just a sachet water.”

 

You mean people do all that walking and no food ? Maybe with Mr Adams admonishment now food will also be served at the 2017 festival? That would be great, or would it dilute the spiritual atmosphere of the festival? Anyway food vendors get ready….

 

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