Ògún, the god of iron, is the divinity that has the largest number of devotees in Yoruba land. While the worship of other divinities is being wiped out gradually by Christianity and Islam, Ògúnis accepted and recognized by all and sundry. This is because the farmers, who use hoes and cutlasses, the motor vehicle drivers, the hunters, the carpenters and many other artisans believe that Ògúnis the creator of the instruments they use to eke out their daily bread. This may be a right or wrong belief, but the belief is age long and traditional. In Ondo for example, the Ògúnfestival is observed on a more serious note in which many often travelled home even from overseas to mark the great Ògúnfestival. So also are a number of other communities in Yoruba land. They believe that one sure way of averting motor accidents or any misfortune is to mark the Ògúnfestival. Before we discuss the way Ogun festival is performed in Ijesaland in general and Ìjẹ̀bú-Ègbòrò in particular, let us first trace the history and antecedents of this renowned divinity, Ògún.
The worshippers of Ògúnbelieve that this divinity is foremost among the other gods, and that he led the other divinities to this physical world. It is he, according to their belief, who cleared the route through the thick jungle with cutlasses and hoes. Ogun is also portrayed as a difficult and fierce looking divinity, who was always moving from place to place until he was tired of such a nomadic life style. He therefore descended the hills where he has been staying and this led to the rendering of the saying to commemorate the incident as follows:-
“Ni OjotiÒgúntiOriokebo, Asoinal’omu bora
“The day Ògúnwas descending the hills
He wore the clothe of fire “
He wore the clothe of blood”
Ògúnlater got hold of palm fronds (Mariwo) and tied it round his waist, when he arrived the town of Ire, he was proclaimed as the king. Since then re has been described as ÒgúnOnire. All the communities which Ògúnvisited accepted him as their hero. Since he travelled to many places during his journies, he is well known and worshipped; he is also regarded as the pathfinder, path maker and god of hunters and farmers. No one dare swear with the name of Ògúnunless he is sure that what he is swearing about is truthful and genuine, otherwise the person swearing falsely will die within seven days. He may die of accident or gun shot or by any material made of steel or iron.
Food items like fried or roasted yams, palm wine, red oil, kolanuts, dogs are sacrificed to appease the god of Ògún, to avert any calamity which he might unleash when he grows angry. During Ogun festival, motor vehicles, blacksmiths workshops and the Ògúndevotees are decorated with palm fronds. This is to indicate that the Ògúnfestival is being celebrated.
In Ijesaland, ÒgúnFestival is marked as a national ceremony and this is from time immemorial. The Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jesa and the Osògúnof Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà play dominant roles before and during the celebrations. The Ọwá-Obòkun of Ijesaland could not on his own decidewhen to start the celebration of the festival. He has first of all to get clearance from the Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. He would start this by sending gifts to Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà plus messages for the Ogun festival. The Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà would in turn send similar gifts to his Chief Osògúnplus necessary messages to finally fix the date of the year’s Ògúnfestival (The role of ỌbaOsògún has been discussed in some detail in Chapter nine). As soon as the Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà received the Osògún’s messages, he would communicate the date to the Ọwá-Obòkun of Ijesaland.
On the appointed date, Chief Osògúnof Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà who is the Ògúnpriest as already indicated, would celebrate the festival at Ìjẹ̀bú first, after this the Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú would leave for Ilesa to perform the festival there. Until the Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú arrives in Ilesa, the festival cannot commence there. This gives rise to the saying
“Ògúnileni a akoo be, ki a to be to tode”.
“The Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú has to celebrate the Ogun in his domain first, before that of Ilesa”.
The festival is celebrated as a ritual one, which entails the sacrifice of a dog by Osogun in the market place with prayers for the Oba for peace, safety and tranquility. The significance of this is that the blood of the dog will ward off any evil omen throughout the land in the New Year.
On his arrival in Ilesa, and after performing the festival, the Oba of Ijebu (i.e. Elègbòrò) would remain in Ilesa for one month after which he would return to his domain. This return was referred to as “Abolegun” i.e. returning home after Ògúnfestival in Ilesa. During the celebration in both Ìjẹ̀bú-Ègbòrò and Ilesa, Egunmo drum is always beaten, fresh palm fronds are the distinguishing features of the god of Ògúnduring the festival. It is of great importance to note too, that the Ogun shrine at Ìjẹ̀bú-Ègbòrò, was the centre for the condemned criminals in the whole of Ijesa land after their sentences should have been confirmed by the Elègbòrò, the Oba of Ìjẹ̀bú-Ègbòrò. Hence the saying
“Owa a danipak’Ìjẹ̀bú-Jesamomo”
Èṣùis another deity that the ancient people of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà held in high esteem. It is not like the Biblical Èṣùor Satan or the devil who was the promoter of all evil things. Rather, he is the divine messenger and the Inspector General of every ritual. It is also described as’ “Agbeboyorun” One who delivers rituals to heaven”.
Èṣùhas no particular place of worship but his shrine could be located in an open space or at cross roads. His symbol is Yangi, a type of rugged granite and its statute could be placed in front of the houses of its devotees because of its treachery and almightiness, he is feared by other divinities. In Yoruba land Esu is appeased and acknowledged in all things the devotees do so that success may attend to every act they put forward.
Among the materials offered to Esu are fried corn, snail, salt, oil, hen, black goat, palm wine, pounded yam and so on. On the other hand, Esu has nothing to do with palm kernel oil (Adin). Anybody who offers Adin to Esu will meet with instant death, or at least will be afflicted with serious sickness. Alcoholic drink like palm wine is poured as libation to appease Esu. The Babalawos are the chief priests of Esu.
Its devotees bear such names as Esutomisin, Esudairo, Esubunmi, Esugboungbe etc, Esu loves music especially Agogo music which is its favourite dance music.
We have the statutes of Esu in special places in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà like:
(i) EsuileLilere at Odo-Ese Street
(ii) Esu lie Fatodu also at Odo Ese
(iii) EsuObarisa at OdoOja
(iv) EsuInu-Oja or Ẹrẹ́jà at the market square and
(v) The front or corner of every Babalawo’s house.
The following short poem epitomises the attributes of Esu.
“EsuLatopa, okiri aka
A baniwaoran, baari da,
Dugbon baba onirugudu
A baf’ekunsunkun, kierubaelekun
Literally this means
“Esu is ubiquitous, it is Esu who finds trouble for innocent and harmless people. It is the confusionist and trouble shooter. He that helps or assists in weeping with those who weep, when the grief sends tears, Latopa, Esu, sends blood in place of tears.”
It is the belief of our people especially Esu’s devotees that Esu helps many people to prosper in their business. Apart from his ability to give wealth and good health and also protection against evil or danger, he could also give children to the barren women.
Ọwárìis a deity worshipped as a hero in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. He was formerly a king and warrior as well as a great and famous farmer. It was the belief of its worshippers that he used to bring farm produce to Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà market in order to arouse the interest of his devotees as well as to promote sales in the market. One of the two markets in existence in the olden days was named after him ‘Ọwárì’, while the other was named “Ori-Jebu.”Ọwárìfestival is marked and celebrated in the month of August. The Chief Priest goes by the name Oba Jimo(Bajimo) and other minor chiefs are Jagemo, LoojuOwari, YeyeLoojuseand LootunOwari. The shrine is situated somewhere on the other side of Atiba square.
Ọwárìis also worshipped at IpoleIjesa, and the celebration of its festival starts from Ipole, Ilesa and then Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. All the worshippers would dress and dance to Lúkòrígí drum. Guest worshippers of other deities like OlokunIwoye, Sango from Ìjẹ̀dá join in the celebration of the festival of Owari in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. Their presence at the traditional rites goes a long way to add colour to the ceremony whenever it takes place.
The ‘Elegun’ that is the Chief Priest of Ọwárìwho is a woman dances frantically. As she dances, she falls into trance and foretells the future to those present.
Ọ̀rìsàLágboríye was said to be a female warrior originally before its deification as Orisa or deity. She upheld the saying that what a man could do a woman could do even better. She was endowed with fortune telling especially about the movement of enemy forces against Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. She would use this first hand information about the movement of the enemy forces to make her husband to get prepared against the enemies,
In addition to this ability to foretell the future, she also could heal people with her herbs and super natural powers. She had many. followers who were mainly women and children because she used to dole outgifts such as food, clothes, sugar cane and a lot of other things. Also she had the power to attack women that are possessed, so witches and wizards dared not move near her because she could readily destroy them. Finally she disappeared or sank into the ground and her devotees worshipped her at that spot.
Aríyanwas a powerful and famous leader in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. He also possessed wonderful charms which he used to suppress the enemies of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà in war. Aríyan helped those who moved close to him by teaching them the art of native medicine and magical devices. He was deified and worshipped by his adherents because he either disappeared into thin air or sank into the ground alive.
Aríyan festival comes up in August of every year. The eating of new yams is delayed till this time, because it is forbidden that new yams be eaten before the festival is celebrated. Obaloye is the Chief Priest of Aríyan, and Aríyan’s shrine is located in Obaloye’s compound at Ita-Atibain Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà and at Oke-Awun in EfonAlaye.
During the festival, the worshippers dance to Agogo music and sing as follows:-
Oro di isanni, o L’atiba etc.
“When is the festival coming up at Ita-Atiba.”
The Odun Oba comes up after the ninth day of the festival. The OdunIje is also celebrated after the seventh day of Odun Oba.
The same materials are used to celebrate these festivals. The worshippers dance to Agogo music and palm wine and food are served to the visitors. A magical bag named “Apo Ase” is held by Oba Loye, and a lot of incantations are recited to invoke the spirit of Aríyan. Other materials used are tortoise, snail and assorted herbs which are sprinkled on the floor of the shrine and on people. All Aworos of different divinations are invited from far and near to take part in the performance of the festival every year.
All sorts of problems ranging from ill health to poverty are referred to this deity for solution. Materials like food, money, clothes etc are given to thank Aríyanfor granting the requests of the devotees. Those who are barren believe that it can cure them of their infertility. The celebration is brought to a close with a grand finale in form of ‘ÌjeOrò‘ i.e. the seventh day or closing ceremony of the festival. All the Aworos (Chief Priests) of various divinations and the family of Aríyanwould dress gorgeously and dance to the Agogo, Ikoko and Lúkòrígí music.
6:The Ìrókò Ojà
ÌrókòOjà was a huge and gigantic mahogany tree which stood by the side of the main market in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. Tradition has it that the tree was plantedby the first Oniroko who is also known as High Chief Sajiku (as presented earlier). The tree was believed to have mystical powers; hence it was worshipped with all seriousness and dedication by the devotees. Although the ÌrókòOjàhad been cut down since 1974 when the Ilesa-Itawure road construction took place, there is another smaller Ìrókò tree under a roof very close to the market place.
Although the ÌrókòOjà was not a deity or divinity like Ogun, Sango, Esu and some others the devotees worshipped it with zeal and dedication as if it was one. They believed that if they dropped “, some food items like aadun, sugarcane, agira, yams, goat and bits of commodities which they intended to sell in the market or the market days at the foot of the lroko tree; this act of giving tothe tree would make them sell fast and bounteously. In a similar way, when the day’s market was over, they dropped bits of gifts at the foot of the tree in appreciation of the Ìrókò’s help that enabled them to sell fast and bounteously.
In the olden days, the devotees ran to the Oniroko who was said to own the tree to help them in time of war or in case of epidemics. The Oniroko would now declare to the devotees what the Ìrókò requested them to present to it as a ritual to avert the unhappy situation out of the town of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. After the problems had been solved, different materials like Kolanuts, aadun, agira, sugarcane, goat, snail, etc would be dropped at the base of the tree. A white cloth would also be tied round the trunk of the tree to show that the tree was sacred and special to the devotees. Apart from all this, drumming, singing and dancing were always displayed to show appreciation for the wonders the Ìrókò has performed. Up till today, some days are set aside by the Oniroko to celebrate the ‘ÌrókòOjà festivities. Indeed, it is the tradition of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà citizens that no fresh yam should be sold in the open market until the Oniroko has performed the traditional yam rituals.
Ọ̀rìsà-Ọ̀sun-Ùrágbùjí came from the village called Ataroa, near Ijana not far from Ilesa. The Osun Uragbuji is celebrated yearly in the month of June amidst pomp and pageantries. The worshippers would be notified of the- date of the festival. Materials like yam, meat of different types like antelope, deer, goats, rams and fowls would be prepared and served with food – Iyan and egunsi stew with palm wine or ogoro. Prayers are said profusely to appease the god of Uragbuji for more blessing. Agogo and Lúkòrígí are the drums supplied. The music is chanted by the worshippers who fall into trance and predict or foretell the future.
The twin babies (Ibeji) are special children to the parents in the Yoruba Land. While the women loved to be called Iya-Ìbejì (Mother of Twins) so also the men love to be called Baba ÌbejìThe Yorubas believe that the Ìbejì(Twin-Babies) come from OrisaÌbejìand the said Orisa is appeased by the expectant mother or those who love to have Ibeji so that they could be blessed with such gift – (Ìbejì) by OrisaÌbejì, hence they sing as follows:-
“Eponbe, Ewanbe0 (2 times) Aya mi 0 ja, 0 yee
Aya mi 0 ja lati bi ‘Beji0, Eponbe, Ewanbeo.
“I have palm oil, I have beans I am not afraid if I gave birth to Ibeji I have Palm Oil, I have beans”
The song above testifies to the statement that, women love to have Ibeji and that they pray to have Twin-Babies as children. Although, OrisaIbeji has no shrine there is a corner prepared for offerings to the spirit of Ibeji. This corner features prominently when one of the children is no more alive or when both are dead.
Instead of saying that death has occurred to the Babies, Yorubas, would say that they have gone to buy clothes from a very far distance. When the above incident happens a wood is carved in the image of the lost children, placed in the corner and objects of worship are offered. In Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà as well as other parts of Yorubaland, only those who have Ibeji in their family worship the spirit of Ìbejì. Beans, akara, yam, goat, hen, cock, oil, food, drinks, kola nut, salt and fine dresses are the objects of worship.
OrisaÌbejìis believed to be rich, bounteous and graceful. She prefers hearing the voices of the poor families to hearing the voices of the rich ones. That is why OrisaÌbejìis called ‘Ọ̀rẹ́ Aláàkísà’ (i.e. the friend of the wretched ones). It is their belief that if the children are notwell cared for; they can easily pass to the world beyond.
9: Òrìsà Lúmọkọ̀
The ÒrìsàLúmọkọ̀ hailed from Ilora. Some said he originated from Esa-Oke before he finally settled at Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. He was very powerful but generous. His priests lived at Odo-Ese and had Eja-Lumoko as his chief priest.
The worshippers assembled round the shrine and offered libation on the shrine. Lumoko is celebrated yearly while goats, snails, tortoise and hens were freely used to appease the god Lumoko. The chief priest ‘Aworo’ would break kolanuts and translate the message divined by the kola and offer prayers for blessing. Through out the festival the worshippers would eat and drink palm wine and dance to the Lúkòrígí drums, Agogo and Ikoko. It was their belief that anybody who violates the Lumoko rituals would become deaf.
Ọrẹ̀is another deity which had many worshippers in Ìjẹ̀búJesa in the olden days. Nímọ̀Ogun, a renowned warrior was the one who introduced the deity to Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà and the deity was brought from Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yorubas. The said Nímọ̀Ogun was the chief priest of Ọrẹ̀.
The devotees of Ore mark its festivals when new farm produces are harvested. New yams, new maize, new kolanuts food, drinks, goats, alligator pepper and some herbs are used to appease the god of Ọrẹ̀. This is done whenever there is any epidemic or major crisis in the town. It was the belief of the devotees that once this sacrifice was performed, the epidemic and crisis would be wiped away. The worshippers of Ọrẹ̀and Ogun the god of iron are one and the same people.
11: Orisa Lámóye
Lámóyewas one of the deities which had devotees in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà in the olden days. It was brought from Aramoko-Ekiti and introduced to Òkènísà in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. He was a very powerful man who was also vast in traditional medicine for healing. Owing to his fame as a magician and healer who loved to render free services to mankind, he was deified by his followers and beneficiaries. Among his followers who revered and deified him were those who were his patients and those who were desirous of learning magical skills from him.
His chief priest was AworoLámóye. The Aworo was always consulted by various people for the solution to their problems. Those who request enhancement and prosperity, wealth, good luck in business, and who are barren owing to infertility find ready-help in this Orisa. The Orisa was stationed at Oke-Iloro in the olden days; it has now been shifted elsewhere.
Some of the objects of worship are alligator pepper, fried yam, snail, oil, palm wine kolanut etc. During the annual festival, the worshippers of Lamoye inflict corporal purnishments using cane and àtòrìon themselves; they do this with relish. The festival is named “ỌdúnỌ̀páLámóye”.
Àgbójàis a popular stream that runs through a section of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà on the road that leads to Ilesa. It has many fishes in it, but people were forbidden to catch any of the fishes. It is the general belief of the people of ancient Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà that River Àgbójàfavoured them in many respects. They believed that it gave them prosperity and good luck, and helped them to attain victory in battles.
Once upon a time, the Ijesas from Ilesa travelled to Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà to fish inside the Àgbójàstream. This was done with the belief that it was Àgbójàstream that gave Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà people supremacy over them in the battle field; thus they believed that the Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà people would be easily subjugated if the Agbojastream was rendered ineffective by catching its fishes.
Those who caught the fish became dazed and did not know which way to take back to Ilesa. They tried several times to locate their route back to Ilesa, but all attempts proved futile. It is only when the people turned towards Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà that the way would be through.
When several fruitless efforts were made to locate their way back, the fish was dropped. But as soon as the fish touched the ground, it became a huge stone like a fish. Hence it is named “Ọtáforíjẹja” a stone that resembles a fish. As a result of this mysterious change from fish to stone, the people of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà deified the stone and started to worship it. Its adherents would drop food items on the stone with the belief that a lot of sales would be made on their way to the market on market days. The fish-like stone was later removed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, and is at the custody of National Commission for Museum and Monuments, an Agency of government, at the Ile-lfe Museum where it can now be found.
One other god which had worshippers in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà in the olden days is the god of small pox, also known as Sànpọ̀ná. The god of Sànpọ̀náwas said to be tall, fierce looking and fearful. The god always moved about with his herd of dogs. Every dog of Sanpona was said to have four eyes instead of two which every normal dog has. This god liked moving about in the hot sun, and anyone who roams about in the hot sun, or who sings or whistles in the hot sun could be attacked by this spirit of Sanpona. Parents always warned their small children and wards to keep away from the hot sun and not to whistle or sing at this time.
The priest of Sànpọ̀náis known as Ẹlẹ́gun-Sànpọ̀náand the devotees bear such names as Òbíwùmí, Òbíwándé, Òbísọlá, Òbíkúnlé etc. At times when there were no health care devices like vaccination, innoculation etc, the worshippers of Sànpọ̀náwere very popular in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jesa. It was believed then that one sure way of averting being affected by small pox was to be an adherent of the spirit of Sànpọ̀ná.
The worshippers of Sanpona would not waste any time to bury any victim of small pox; all the items of property of the victim would be seized by these worshippers. Palm wine, kola nuts, hen, yam, eko, palm oil, ram etc are sacrificed to appease the god of Sànpọ̀ná.
Oríwhich is the word for the physical head is to the Yoruba in general a mere symbol of the OríInu i.e. the internal head or the inner being of a person which is also the essence of one’s personality. Therefore the Yorubas believe that the “Orí” is the controller, director and vital force that controls men’s endeavours and destiny.
Oríselects man’s destiny when coming to this physical world from Àjàlá “Alámọ̀ tí ń mọ Orí” i.e. Àjàlá who moulds the Orí (The Inner Head). The Yorubas believe that those who are in good, positions or the achievers possess a kind of ‘Orí’ that has good qualities, while the unfortunate ones possess “Oríburúkú” i.e. bad destiny. Sharing of Orí is believed to be destiny,Ìpín, sharing or ‘Ìpín-Orí’, sharing of head is also referred to as destiny. The belief in ‘Ìpín-Orí’, is constantly adhered to, among the Yorubas, hence, Yorubas pray for good assistance of Orí in all their daily activities.
There is also a strong belief that Destiny, which one takes from Olódùmaré is unalterable. It can neither be adjusted nor rectified. When the Yorubas are in either good or bad condition, they offer sacrifices to Ori through the physical head and this becomes the object of worship and the people of Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà are no exemptions from such worhip. In Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà, like the people of the other parts of the Yoruba land, the following materials are offered when worshipping Orí: kolanuts, orógbó, goats, ram, fowls food, wine, fine dresses, fish (ẹjaaborí or ẹjaàrọ̀) etc.
When any new ventures are to be taken up, the Orí is wor-shipped and offered the materials mentioned in order that Orí might support one and in order that successes might be achieved in such ventures. Orí is also worshipped in order that one might get a good wife or husband to marry.
In order that we may be assisted by Ori at all times, we must adhere to the following practices:-
(a) Ori must be kept in good condition at all times so that it may be well with the possessor.
(b) Onemust be in good terms with one’s Ori so that the Ori may favour the owner.
(c) Ori must be attended to, one must offer sacrifices to it and worship it more than the lesser gods.
That is why Yorubas usually give the following statement when referring to Orí, “Orílàbábọ, tí a báf’òrìsàsílẹ̀” “Oríẹniní í gbeni” Despite the fact that civilization is wearing away the traditional religion, yet, many people worship Ori before their day-to-day activities in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà.
Ẹlẹ́fọ̀n was a deity who conjured rain at his disposal. He was referred to as a ‘Rain Maker’ who used to plait his hair, like that of a woman. He was very powerful. He came from Efon-Alaaye, and settled with Aríyan – the ỌbaAríyanlóyè at ÌtaÀtìbà in Ìjẹ̀bú-Jẹ̀ṣà. His favourite foods include red Èsúrú and red palm oil with salt. People from far and near came to him for assistance. Farmers contacted him to invoke the rain spirit to bring rain on their farm for bounteous harvest. He could only prevent rain from falling. He could also control rainnotto cause much havoc in the town.
Ẹlẹ́fọ̀n bequeathed his power of making rain to his descen-dants and up till today they are making judicious use of it. The worshippers of Ẹlẹ́fọ̀n are those whom he had helped in one way or the other. The ceremony usually comes up in August of every year. Red èsúrú, epo (red oil) and palm wine are served to people when celebrating Ẹlẹ́fọ̀n. They dance to Agogo, Ìkòkò and Lúkòrígí music amidst pump and pageantry.