In the rainy season of the year, the august visitors arrived safely for the Osun-Osogbo sacred grove festival, which was protected by Susanne Wenger. The hotels were crowdedly filled up with people of different backgrounds, colors and sizes. The street was bustled with the foreigners and indigenes who had prepared for the commencement of the festival the next day.
Bayo turned on his radio to 104.5 FM radio station. “Attention! Attention!! Attention!!! This week is Osun-Osogbo festival, we invite the young and old; the youths are called to celebrate with us from all corners of the world. Our tradition and culture will not be eradicated. The announcer is the State of Osun”. He turned off the radio immediately the announcement finished and rushed out to meet his friends.
It had been raining all days in the month of August. Everywhere was wet and roughed by the movement of the politicians’ entourage cars to the shrine of Osun. Everyone was hurrying to get there on time before the commencement of the program which lasted for two weeks. The Osun priest was internationally famous for her goddess consultation because she sought protection for people for the year to come by offering gifts and sacrifices.
Baba okeowo sat down on the chair outside his home when Bayo was running happily toward him. “hey… what’s the matter? It’s not good to run into my house when no danger”.
“I’m sorry sir” he prostrated, “it’s the Osun festival I heard this evening on radio that I want to inform my friend so that we can prepare to go”.
Baba smiled, “little children and their act!” Bayo smiled and walked him to call on his friend.
Baba Okeowo called on his son and his friend. “Okeowo…” he called gently and they both came out to meet him. “are you preparing to honor the river goddess as thousands of people attended to bear witness to the ceremonies?” he asked.
They shook their heads to answered him affirmatory, “yes baba”. Baba knew all about the story of the 700 years sacred grove. He told them to sit down as he began the story. “it was an ancient occurrence led to celebration of this festival. Once upon a time, a group of migrating people who were led by a great hunter called Olutimehin settled on the bank of Osun river, to save themselves from famine. At the riverside, Osun the goddess appeared from the water in front of Olutimehin and requested him to lead people to a special (presently Osogbo town). The goddess promised to protect all the group and bring the prosperity in return for an annual sacrifice to her. The group accepted the proposition. But in the 1950s Osun-Osogbo Grove was neglected; priests abandoned the grove as customary responsibilities and sanctions weakened. Prohibited actions like fishing, hunting and falling of trees in the grove took place until an Australian, Susanne Wenger, came and stopped the abuse going on in the grove. With the encouragement of local people, Wenger formed the New Sacred Art movement to protect the shrine. Today the annual sacrifice to the Osun River Goddess is what is still celebrated as the Osun, or Osun-Osogbo Festival.”
They were astonished to hear the story of the grove. Okeowo asked “who’s Osun?”
“it’s the goddess of river. You can’t see her if she doesn’t want people to see her. It’s female, that is why people called her ‘the mother of plentiful children’. She’s beautiful”.
The traditional cleansing of the town called ‘iwopopo’ began as the king and the chiefs and other witnesses walked from the palace to every T-junction of the town to make sacred prayer. The king white garment flown on the ground with dirt and clay which painted its skirt brown. The priestess said, “as your garment skirt sweep the dirt; Osun had swept the problems and sorrow of your people away. No more sickness again in this land…”
“Ase” all the followers answered. The crowd of people behind the Ataoja of Osogbo was as long as a nation going to an exile. The common dress of the day was white, and everywhere was clear with the transparency of the color because it was getting dark after they have walked for ten hours. They returned to palace to prepare for the following day.
In the following morning, the king and his chiefs together with the priest had gathered to continue the traditional cleansing in the third, which was the last day. People had increased like the sand of the sea, to the extent that the first could not call on the last person. “goodness is the praises of money in the society. Osun shall bring fortune to the land of Osun. The year shall bring plentiful produces and abundant blessing to her people”.
“Ase oo”, the crowd shouted in an echo-wave sound which show rhythmic style of their voices. The priestess repeated the Ifa verses and cleansing prayer often as they got to each notable junction.
Bayo and his friend were walking gently behind the scene, along with the crowd of priests. They were exhausted because of the long distance they had walked. “Okeowo, let’s go home. It’s enough here.” Bayo said faintly as he was dropping slowly to rest on the pole. “you’re right, but we’re going to Oja-Oba at night for night-market”.
People have been waiting for the lighting of the 500-year-old, sixteen-point lamp called ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’. The multitude increased than that of afternoon because some of the attendants did not want to be seen by people who known their religion background. The lighting of the light had begun in the shrine when Bayo and Okeowo got to market to eat. They heard the sound of the traditional drums and began to mimed. “come and see” people around called on others. Okeowo and Bayo were jovial and kind to people who needed their help. They moved their body to the throb of the drums. Their legs were firm and strong on the crust to perform cultural dance. The audience laughed, with full of enthusiasm at their cheerful dispositions. Thereafter, the architect of the cloud applied a light tone to the cloud-surface when the priestesses clocked off for the night; Okeowo and Bayo did the same.
The ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba, Yeye Osun and a committee of priestesses led when it came the ‘iboriade’, an assemblage of the crowns of the past ruler, Ataojas of Osogbo for blessings. The Arugba moved from shrines to shrine to perform certain rituals on her way to the groves closely followed by Osun devotees. The Ataoja, his wives, high chiefs, and royal children followed, then the next group was the herbalists led by the chief’s herbalist. The last group consisted of men, women, journalists, tourists, guests, performers and children.
In the last few days, the celebrations of local artistic traditions, including drumming, dancing, musical performing, wearing of elaborate costumes, speaking of the Yoruba language and recitation of praise poetry took place and the winners were awarded a prize.