By Olatujoye Olumoroti
Marcus Garvey founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League(UNIA-ACL) once said;
‘A people without knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots’
This knowledge of past history and culture is what the state of Osun is most popular for. The Osun-Osogbo festival is one of the most celebrated African festivals in the world, and the time has come to once again to celebrate roots and pray for a future yet unknown for the people of Osun.
According to history, this festival evolved from a yearly celebration of the river goddess who serves as the protector of the community. It was said that a group of people lead by 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. The river goddess had promised to protect the people and bless their women and land with fruitfulness, and in return a yearly celebration to her was to take place every year.
Centuries after this the Osun-Osogbo festival has become even bigger than the people of Osogbo ever envisage it would be, and it has often been recorded that the river goddess has been blessed visitors as well as indigenes with fertility.
The Festival is a two week event that starts with “IWOPOPO” a three day ritual to cleanse the land from evil and also said to reveal the schemes of evil doers in the community. Followed by this is the lighting of the 600 years 16 faced lamps called “Ina Olujumerindinlogun”. It is said that this lamp must all through the night without going off at any point.
The “Iboriade Ritual” comes next. This is a ritual that requires all past kings (Ataoja) to come for blessings by the present Ataoja, the Arugba, Yeye Osun and a group of Osun Priestesses.
The “Arugba Ritual” is the highest part of the festival. The Arugba is a young virgin who carries the sacrifice to appease the goddess round the community before taking it down to the river.
According to tradition as the Arugba moves round with the sacrifice, the people seeing her as a representative of the goddess, cast their problems on her and say prayers.
To the people of Osogbo and Osun at large, this festival is not just about the rituals of thanking the river goddess and committing the coming year into her hands, it’s about a reminder of their heritage and an opportunity for family reunions.
The festival has become a worldwide event that many tourists from different parts of the world see as a rebirth of cultural rejuvenation. Tourists come in their hundreds to see the rich culture and tradition of Yoruba nation which has been described as epic.