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Ogiyan Festival: The Celebration Of The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Ejigbo Ancestors

Ogiyan is the symbol and cultural identity of the people of Ejigbo, Osun State. Its annual celebration, usually held in September is a major festival that unites the people of the town across religious divides and attracts Ejigbo people in diaspora. Kehinde Ayantunji in this report reflects on the 2017 Ogiyan festival and the historical…”
October 7, 2017 11:40 am

Ogiyan is the symbol and cultural identity of the people of Ejigbo, Osun State. Its annual celebration, usually held in September is a major festival that unites the people of the town across religious divides and attracts Ejigbo people in diaspora. Kehinde Ayantunji in this report reflects on the 2017 Ogiyan festival and the historical unity, acrimony and spiritual efficacy that the festival symbolises.

Orisa Ogiyan, is the traditional festival of the entire Ejigbo community. This deity is dear to Ejigbo as Osun is dear to Osogbo. Both muslims and christians, despite their own belief, participate fully in this annual event. This deity’s background can even be traced as far away as Bahia in Brazil, in South America where it is called ‘Osagiyan’.

On Friday 22nd of September, an early visit to the palace of Ogiyan of Ejigbo, Oba Omowonuola Oyeyode Oyesosin 11 will put no one in doubt as to the importance of Ogiyan festival to the people of Ejigbo with the presence of members of Ejigbo supreme traditional councils, Ifa Priests, contingent of the drummers running up and down for the preparation of Ifa Vigil (Aisun Ifa), a major spiritual obligation heralding the festival on Saturday.

The “Aisun Ifa” as it is traditionally known, is characterised by eating of the new yam, pounded yam, singing the praises and praying for the traditional ruler in the usual Ifa incantation tones, and this is punctuated by dancing round the palace courtyard from the evening to the early morning when the traditional “Ewo” skirmish is performed.

As men were seen arranging the palace vicinity, hundreds of women with excitement were pounding yams, the favourite food of Ogiyan at the palace yard, while others were engaging in all forms of beautifications. The whole place was no doubt in the celebration mood as the monarch after dancing round the town was welcoming the visitors inside the palace.

The Statue of Akinjole Ogiyan the founder of Ejigbo

A fascinating scene that attracted much attention that Friday were women numbered about 200 from Ejigbo ruling house in their unison placed firewood on their head, singing and dancing on the streets to the place. The ceremonial firewood fetching to the palace, according to Ifalade Adekunle, an Ogiyan worshiper symbolises solidarity with palace Queens and donation to the successful hosting of the guest. “The women are wives from the ruling houses, some of them are muslims and christians but during the festival, they all have cultural responsibilities to the place, you can see their formation with highest level of excitement”.

After the women possession, the Ifa priests in their white garment, led by the Araba Awo of Ejigbo, Chief Awotunde Jayeola also stormed the place with their traditional gong, praying for the prosperity of Ejigbo. After greeting the traditional chief in the palace, they proceeded to the temple at the back of the palace for the annual ritual. The ritual according to Araba Awo of Ejigbo, must precede any other activities.

Explaining the relationship between Ifa and Ogiyan to OSUN DEFENDER Newspaper, Chief Jayeola said Ifa guided and predicted for Akinjole the custodian of Ogiyan throughout his life time. “The most important thing is that it was Ifa that predicted Ejigbo for Akinjole the founder of Ejigbo; we consult Ifa for our King three times in a year, one is called Isan Isa, when the hunters will hunt for the King and another one is called Agbalu, which will be done in my house in the presence of all the traditional chiefs, and the third is Aisun Ifa, Ifa vigil that we are doing today before we start the main celebration of Ogiyan festival tomorrow.”

“Ejigbo is a culturally enriched ancient town; apart from Orisa Ogiyan which is the symbol of our town, people celebrates other deities which includes Orisaunla, Egungun (Masquerade), Sango, Esu, Ogun and Ifa. Most of these deities have different custodians and worshipers, but one Idol that is serving as cultural and traditional umbrella for all the people in Ejigbo is Orisa Ogiyan brought by Akinjole from Ile- Ife.”


Wives from the Ruling Houses in Ejigbo Fetching Firewood to the palace as part of traditional rites of the festival 

The Ifa priests were joined at the temple by an Ogiyan priest from Salvador in Brazil, who identified himself as Efunwale Ogiyan and explained that Orisa Ogiyan is prominent in Brazil as many other Yoruba deities. He said he was named Efunwale at the World Ifa Temple in Ile –Ife as an Ogiyan priest.  “It is our heritage, we believe in it, and Ejigbo is the source of Ogiyan to any part of the world, I am here to worship and celebrate the festival, they are also doing the festival in Brazil as I am talking to you”.

As the rituals were going on at the temple, the palace vicinity was already rowdy with the heavy presence of Ejigbo indigenes from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, traditionalists from neighbouring communities among other spectators. It was really an all-night ritual, prayer and dance till daybreak, as a musical stage was set to entertain the people till daybreak, while the Ogiyan was dancing with the chiefs, people from ruling houses among others.

On Saturday, the Oluwin of Ejigbo Land, Chief Isiaka Salami led what is known as Eeni traditional rites across the town from the location of Ogiyan shrine located few kilometres from the town to the Ogiyan palace. He was accompanied by other traditional custodians of Ogiyan such as Ore, Enla, Salotun, Elewedi and Osupiri.

As Oluwin led the possession of those who carried the deity from the shrine, with their faces covered; as the priests were moving, Elewedi was shaking an object to produce sounds and alert the people that the priests were passing with the deity.

It is also the day of “Ewo” which many considered as the bad and ugly aspect of the festival. Although, civilisation has reduced the effect, but it is part of the festival whereby people beat themselves and throw stone especially from the area with existing superiority jealousy. According to history as documented by the current Ogiyan, Oba Oyesosin, “Ewo” originated from the first Ogiyan.

He recounted that the then Ogiyan of Ejigbo had a visitor one day and the visitor had to live with him in the palace. “He was so loved that the Oba would prefer to go without meat than leaving strangers to suffer. Later, the stranger had sexual dealing with one of the Queens in the palace, and he had to be driven out with ignominy, and beaten to death with sticks and stones. The stranger died where the Ejigbo people refer to as “Iya Osi” till today. After the death of this mystic visitor, famine and pestilences entered the town and the Ifa oracle when consulted, made reference to the ordeal of the stranger as being responsible for the sufferings of the people. As an atonement of this, the community was commanded to beat themselves from morning to night of that memorable day, and this has thus been in operation in Ejigbo since that time”.

Ogiyan Priests Leading the Traditional rites 

In the past during ‘Ewo’ fighting, the whole town would be physically divided into apparent warring camps, such as ‘The Oke Mapo and Isale Osolo’ among others, but civilisation has reduced such conduct to the barest minimum. During the 2017 festival, it was just a light beating, with tiny cane to discourage all manners of acrimony or division, moreover that the people of Ejigbo recognize Ogiyan festival as a festival that unite them.  It was also learnt that the Muslim Community after the last renovation of the Central Mosque directly opposite the palace which was the battle ground for Ewo fight held several meeting with the concern stakeholders on the need to protect the roof and window glass of the mosques which is annually affected by the stone throwing.

The third stage of the ritual was ‘Boosa’ where the Orisa Ogiyan was served with the pounded yam made with the new yams for the year. This was strictly conducted by the Ogiyan priests. According to an Octogenarian, Pa Ismaila Adigun, the major food items of this Orisa are snails, starred into egusi soup and vegetables with pounded yam, made mainly from all kinds of yam excepting the “Iganganran” yam (Yello Yam). Pa Adigun explained that the Alawe of Ejigbo always serve Ogiyan with 16 different vegetable varieties.

He said, “The first Alawe who came from Ilawe Ekiti that time sneaked out of Ilawe when the whole community discovered that he was having a secret affair with a woman in the town which was an abomination. He left Ilawe Ekiti with the woman and stayed in Ejigbo for years, his wife never conceived. He approached Akinjole, the founder of  Ejigbo who took him to Orisa Ogiyan and his wife gave birth before the following annual festival. Alawe was a farmer and hunter, he has nothing to offer as sacrifice for Ogiyan than 16 varieties of vegetable in his farm and searched for big snail to prepare soup for Ogiyan. Since then, the Alawe has been offering 16 varieties of vegetable as a sacrifice for Ogiyan.

To the Ejigbo people, this deity is a protective god that has saved their ancestors from the various Fulani raids during the wars, and has always intercepted epidemics from entering the town. To the believers, this deity gives children, health and joy. One of its dancing songs has the following wordings:- “Olojogb’omojomukulumuke” (The owner of the day dances heartily with child), “Orisagb’omojomukulumuke” (The Orisa dances heartily with the child) “Olojo’omonimowagba, nkogba’ke” (The owner of the day, it is child I want not a hunch).

Oral history established that the founder of EJIGBO was Akinjole, the son of Origiyan, from Ile-Ife. Origiyan was one of the youngest sons of Oduduwa. He left Ile Ife at the time Oranmiyan returned from Benin to the Old Oyo Empire. Being the custodian of his fathers’ god – Orisa Nla, he left Ile-Ife with it to found Ejigbo. The god later became known as ‘Orisa Ogiyan’ in Ejigbo.

It is the believe of Ejigbo people that Ogiyan is the spirit that reflects God’s manifestation in the prospects of Ejigbo people at home and in diaspora, therefore some priests are designated traditionally for the spiritual rites of the deity.  Those priests are those responsible for the sacrifice and preparation of Ogiyan annual festival; as the custodian of the deity, they understand the secrets and all ritual necessities before, during and after the festival.

Orisa Ogiyan has six major priests who are responsible for the day to day traditional rites and management of the shrine.  They are: Oluwin, Ore, Salotun, Enla, Elewedi and Osupori

Oluwin is the head of all the six priests, is regarded as Babarisa of Ogiyan, he is the custodian of the priest that interprets the wish or predictions of the deity and always in close contact with the traditional council. He carries out periodic and appropriate sacrifice to appease and seek favour from Orisa Ogiyan.  Oluwin is the one that serves the foods and water for the deity, decorates the shrine and annually consults Ifa priest to pick appropriate date for the celebration of Ogiyan festival.

Efunwale, an Ogiyan Priest from Brazil and the Ogiyan Ejigbo, Oba Omowonuola Oyesosin, the Ogiyan of Ejigbo.

Ore is the second in command to Oluwin, he works directly with Oluwin. Ore is from Oko, under the present Surulere Local Government, Oyo state.  Ore at a period in Ejigbo history met the founder of Ejigbo, Akinjole, in the quest for the expansion of the community, Akinjole offered him the opportunity to be residing in Ejigbo and worship Orisa Ogiyan; he consented and Akinjole allocated some portion of land to him for farming. Up till date drummers always praise Ore in relation to Oko, (Oko Omo Isese).

Osupori is the third in hierarchy among the Ogiyan priests who assists other priests in the day to day worship of Orisa Ogiyan.

Salotun is also one of the powerful priests, who understand the traditional management of Orisa Ogiyan, he is the fourth in hierarchy of the Ogiyan priests who assists other priests in the day to day worship of Orisa Ogiyan.

Meanwhile, a tourism expert, Dr Adedokun Salaami during the festival in an interview with Osun Defender expressed concern over the negligence of the government and other investors in developing the festival, saying the festival has potential to generate substantial revenue for the government.

He said “ogiyan festival do not require infrastructure, all it requires is global marketing and support for the priest and encourage hospitality businesses in the town, the festival need to be marketed for more awareness and promotion.

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