Apart from the fact that the Osun Osogbo festival is celebrated annually in Osun State of Nigeria, what else do you know about this cultural festival of the Yoruba people? Well, here are six facts you need to know today about Osun Osogbo festival:
1. History of the Osun Osogbo Festival
The origin and story of Osun festival started over 700 years ago when a group of settlers led by one great hunter Olutimehin, settled at the bank of the river to escape the famine in their former dwelling place. Osun, the water goddess was said to have appeared to Olutimehin and requested him and his group to move up some bit to higher ground – the present Osogbo town.
Osun revealed herself to be the goddess of the grove and of the river and pledged to protect the group and make their women fruitful if only they would offer the annual sacrifice to her in return. The group agreed and vowed to sacrifice annually to the goddess if she would honour her vows. Today, the annual sacrifice has gone past just offering sacrifices to a river goddess, it has become an international celebration of cultural events attracting people from all over the world.
2. Osun Osogbo festival is an international cultural event
The Osun festival started as an annual sacrifice to a river goddess, it later became a celebration of a river goddess, but today an international celebration of cultural events with attendees from all over the world. The Osun Osogbo festival is no longer a cultural event of the Osogbo or Yoruba people, it has become a global event with people attending from Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Spain, Canada, and the United States.
Adherents or believers in the Osun goddess travel from all over the world to attend the annual cultural event in Osogbo, Osun State. The traditional ruler of Osogbo Town, the Ataoja of Osogbo – HRM Oba Jimoh Olanpekun Larooye II, the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) representing the federal government, and the Osun State government all collaborate to make the annual event a great success.
3. The main festival
The Osun Osogbo festival usually lasts for two weeks, and it is celebrated every year in August. The festival commences with Iwopopo, the traditional cleansing of the town from evil, and three days after this the Ina Olujumerindinlogun (16-point lamp), a 600-year-old is lighted. Following this is the Iboriade, an event where all the crowns of the past kings or Ataojas are assembled for blessings by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo, the Arugba, the Yeye Osun, and a committee of priestesses.
4. The Arugba
The Arugba (Calabash carrier) is the key feature of the Osun Osogbo festival. She is a votary virgin (a cultural version of the Virgin Mary) who bears the Osun calabash on her head; the calabash contains sacrifice materials to appease and worship the Osun goddess or river. The Arugba is not only seen as a virgin maid any longer, she is regarded a goddess herself and people make prayers and cast all their problems on her as she bears the calabash and passes on to lead the people to the river.
The current Arugba, Osuntomi Oyetunji, is the young daughter of the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo. She took over from Abolade Oyewale, who carried the sacrifice calabash to the river goddess and was herself considered a goddess for 10 years.
5. It’s not only about the sacrifice
Do not think that the Osun Osogbo festival is all about sacrifice in the Osun groves; it is also a celebration of cultural events. Many business organizations and companies now take part in the celebrations – seizing upon the opportunity to showcase their products and sell their services. You can see branded cars, give-away shirts, and promotional business activities ranging from advertising to marketing of new ideas and existing goods.
6. The festival was upgraded by Susanne Wenger
The story of the Osun Osogbo festival would not be completed without mentioning the huge contributions of Susanne Wenger, an Austrian who since the early 1950s devoted the rest of her life to restoring the glory of abandoned shrines. She renovated the abandoned shrines again and remodeled the gods in sculpture and ceramics, representing over 75 cultural gods in artful representations.
Wenger stopped people from abusing the integrity of the groves and prohibited hunting, fishing, felling of trees in the grove, and she personally rebuilt the customary shrines and groves again until her death. She had been briefly married to Horst Ulrich Beier, better known as Ulli Beier in Nigeria for his pioneering works in literature, drama, poetry, and visual arts.