The annual Ọ̀ṣun-Òṣogbo Festival takes place in the capital city of Osun State in Nigeria and lasts fourteen days. The festival celebrates the discovery of the large river in Òṣogbo by Prince Ọlároóyè in the 18th century. Oba Ọlároóyè was a prince of the city-state Iléṣà, about 20 kilometers from Òṣogbo, who had led an exploratory expedition due to water-shortages in Iléṣà. Yorùbá mythology describes the expedition encountering a powerful goddess, Ọ̀ṣun, dwelling within the river who granted permission to these pioneers to settle near the river.
On the first day of the festival the senior priests and priestesses of Ọ̀ṣun perform a ceremony called Wíwá Ọ̀ṣun (“to search for our goddess Ọ̀ṣun”). Dancing to the sacred music of Ọ̀ṣun, the priests and priestesses visit the homes of the royal family of Òṣogbo, the official leaders of civil society and finally proceed to the marketplace to solicit gifts from the traders and customers.
In the following praise-poem (performed by an unnamed Ọ̀ṣun priestess in 1970), Ọ̀ṣun is exalted for her beauty, prosperity and benevolence. Through her praises the Ọ̀ṣun priestess weaves the qualities and virtues of the goddess into the fabric of Òṣogbo. Ọ̀ṣun is celebrated as the power that supports the throne of the ruler of the city, as the source of the wealth that the city’s traders enjoy, as being responsible for defeating the Jihadists who raided Òṣogbo in the nineteenth century and for the healing powers of the river that first brought the settlers to this region.
Invocation of Osun
Aládékojú, I am calling on you (1)
Hail My Beloved Mother Aládékojú
The Beloved one from the town of Ẹ̀fọ̀n Èkiti (2)
Hail the Powerful Mother Aládékojú,
The descendant of the one who uses the crown made of brass
We travel to the town of Èjigbò (3)
Where we visited the Ògìyan (4)
The one who dances with the jingling brass
My wondrous Mother!
Who owns plenty of brass ornaments in the town of Ẹ̀fọ̀n
She moves majestically in the deep water
Oh spirit! Mother from Ìjẹ̀ṣàland (5)
The land of the tough and brave people
Men who would fight to secure their wives
Even to the point of killing themselves
Along with their wives if everything fails
Hail the great Mother Ọ̀ṣun
Whose whole body is adorned with brass
She joins the Owá to celebrate his festival (6)
She shares her holy day (Friday) with Ṣàngó (7)
She waits at home to assist barren women to bear children
Ọ̀ṣun has plenty of cool water to heal diseases
Death to the Tapa (8)
Ọ̀ṣun surrounds her whole body with Edan
With the shining brass as a Lantern at night,
She very quickly moves round the house
To fetch her sword, ready for battle
Hail the Mother, Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo
My mother, the marvelous cook
My Mother who makes succulent fried bean pattie,
bean cake, and corn cakes as well
Those who refuse to hail my Mother
Will be denied tasteful bean cakes and corn cakes
My mother who provides bean cake for the Ẹ̀fọ̀n people
When my mother wakes up, she prepares food for her household
My mother will then proceed to the kolanut stall
As she trades in kolanut,
She is also carrying her corn to the mill to grind
At the same time she is also dying clothes by the sideway (9)
There is no task my mother cannot do (10)
She even keeps a stable for rearing horses (11)
My mother lives in the deep water
And yet sends errands to the hinterland
Aládékojú, my Olódùmarè (12)
Who turns a bad destiny into a good one
Ọ̀ṣun has plenty of brass ornaments in her storage
The favorite wife of Ọ̀rúnmìlà (13)
The owner of the indigo pigeon
In vivid colors of the rainbow,
Her image appears brightly dressed on the river bank
Aládékojú, the owner of the mortar made of brass
Ọ̀ṣun fights for those she cares about
Human beings do not want us to eat from a china plate
Ògbónmèlé, do not allow the evil world to change our good fortune into a bad one
Do not let the wicked persons overcome us
Once, Ọ̀ṣun was plucking medicinal leaves
Ọ̀sanyìn was also plucking his own leaves (14)
Before Ọ̀sanyìn turns around,
Ọ̀ṣun had taken Ọ̀sanyìn’s leaves from the grinding stone
Only Ọ̀ṣun can mold my destiny
So that it becomes as strong as rock
Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo, I greet you
Òṣogbo oròkí emerges from afar off,
And the crowd in the market went wild with joy
The Oba’s beloved water, do not forget me
Ọ̀ṣun who stands on the hill
And beckons at the kolanut seller in the market to bring kolanut
Ládékojú stands on the river bridge
And calls the seller of honey in the market
She beckons at the palm wine seller to bring her wine
The palm wine sells at an exorbitant price;
But my mother does not buy overpriced goods
The mighty water is rushing past
It is flowing to eternity.
Performed by an unnamed Ọ̀ṣun priestess, 1970.
Translated by Jacob K. Olupona,
from Ọ̀ṣun across the Waters: A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the America’s,
Joseph M. Murphy and Mei-Mei Sanford editors
- Aládékojú: A praise name for Ọ̀ṣun
- Ẹ̀fọ̀n is a Local Government Area of Èkiti State, Nigeria. The Osun river has its source in Ekiti.
- Èjigbò a prominent town in Yoruba Land.
- the Ògìyan: The ruler of Èjigbò.
- Ìjẹ̀ṣàland: Ijeshaland is located in a forested region at the heart of the Yoruba.
- the Owá: The King of Ìjẹ̀ṣà.
- Ṣàngó: Yoruba Orisha of lightening and thunder, spouse of Ọ̀ṣun.
- Tapa: Refers to the Nupe people in the neighbouring Middle Belt region of Nigeria. Many Nupe converted to Islam at the end of the eighteenth century and were incorporated into the Fulani Empire established by the Jihad led by Usman dan Fodio after 1806. In the nineteenth-century Fulani Muslim Jihadists, including Nupe warriors, were defeated in Òṣogbo. This was a decisive battle which prevented the expansion of the Fulani Jihadists further into Yoruba lands in south-western Nigeria. Òṣogbo mythology credits Ọ̀ṣun as having been responsible for the victory over the jihadists by transforming herself into a food-vendor and selling poisoned vegetables to the Fulani soldiers.
- Textile dyeing has traditionally been one of Òṣogbo’s primary trading industries and the town remains is a major dyeing center in Nigeria.
- Praise poems for Ọ̀ṣun frequently celebrate her entrepreneurial talents, as a trader of kolanuts in the marketplace, as a baker of cakes and as a dye-maker. Whatever trade she turns her hand to will flourish.
- Ownership of a horse stable indicates great wealth and political power.
- Olódùmarè: The supreme creator God in Yoruba mythology. Stories about Olódùmarè describe this Orisha as distant from human affairs and historically no shrines or sacrifices are offered to him. In some myths Ọ̀ṣun is the only Orisha who communicates with Olódùmarè.
- Ọ̀rúnmìlà: Orisha of divination.
- Ọ̀sanyìn: Orisha of herbal medicine. In some Yoruba narratives the first expedition to reach the Òṣogbo grove in the 18th century encountered and fought with spirits living there who were led by Ọ̀sanyìn. Ọ̀ṣun is credited as having used her benevolent, healing powers to counteract the malevolent, harmful curses created by the spirit-followers of Ọ̀sanyìn.