Magic Poetry: A Study Of Arugba Invocation In Osun Osogbo Festival

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Magic Poetry: A Study Of Arugba Invocation In Osun Osogbo Festival

Chapter One

1.1 Introduction

It is said that literature reflects life, whether in oral or written works of art. The Eurocentric scholars believe that African is with neither culture nor history which leads this research into some scholar’s definition of culture

Harris (1971, p1) says “culture refers to the learned, socially acquired traditions of thought and behaviors found in human societies “

Taylor (1871:1) holds the view that culture:

… Taken in its wide ethnographic sense is that

complex whole which includes knowledge, Believe,

arts, morals, law, customers, and any other Capabilities

and habits acquired by man as a member of

society.(Taylor 1)

The beauty of our culture can never be underestimated because;it is part of what makes up literature. African literature is classified into two parts; the traditional or oral literature and written literature.Oral literature, which is the focus of this study can further be classified into three parts; oral prose, drama and poetry. The oral poetry, the main focus of this study, is forms which are either chanted on sung. There are different forms of oral poetry; praise poetry, religious poetry, occupational, Lullaby,public funeral, poetry. Invocation is one of the sub-parts of religious poetry, which is the focus of this research work on the Osun Osogbofestival.

1.2 History Of Osogbo

Osogbo is situated about 96 kilometers by rail and 96kilometers by road north–east of Ibadan, the capital of Oyo state. It is 237 kilometers or approximately three hours drive from Lagos, the Nigeria’s economic nerve– centre.

Osogbo’s situation has tremendously changed Osun state since she became the capital city of osunstate on 27th of August 1991. Her area of operation of law has been expanded, there by carrying out the capital territory. The town has become a tourist centre for her famous Osun festival, the celebration of which attracts people from far and near places every year. The other tourists attractions include Osun shines and Susan Wenger’s cultural activities which include, the staging of plays for devotees and visitors that come to pay Osun visit in her house, at Oja Oba, in Osogbo. And generally educating people about Osun. Although a Britain,Wenger was one of Osun devotees.

The history of origin Osogbo begins with both Olutimehin and obaLarooye, who were Ijesamen. They formerly lived in Ipole(Omu) a village which is about ten kilometers from present site of Ibokun, a town in Osun state. They had to migrate from Ipole(Omu), because of the serious and devastating droughtsthere, and find solace in another place. Timehin and other hunter courageously took up the challenge and moved out in search of a better place.

After some bold explorations, Timehin discovered Osun River and went back to obaLarooye. On hearing the news, obaLarooyegave orders that all the remaining people should immediately move to the bank of river Osun which had earlier been found by Timehin and his entourage. They kept moving until their dilemma was solved after a consultation with ifa oracle, which admonished them to move up to the present site now known and called OSOGBO

1.3 Osun Osogbo Annual Festival

Osun Osogbo festival is an annual event where Osun is worshipped and beseeched for blessings and healings. It is believed that Osun has powers to treat any barren woman, if properly approached

It was said that when Olodumare created the sixteen Irunmole (Premarital deities) and sent them on earth, Osun was excluded on account of her being a female. Osun reacted by gathering unto herself the women on Earth and formed the iyami cult (witches). The consequence of this was total chaos, which engulfed the whole Earth. The male irunmole went back to Olodumare to inquire about the female member of the group and was told of her exclusion by the male irunmole. Olodumare advised them to go back and make peace with Osun, which they did, there after peace and normalcy returned to Isaluaye (Earth)

Osun, in her lifetime as a human, was one of the wives of Sango, a former trouble shooter and Alaafin of Oyo. Oya and oba (now riveroba ) were the other two wives of sango. Oya was sango’s favorite, which made oba and Osun to be always jealous. Osun has been described as a very beautiful humane, kind hearted, motherly and highly respectful woman. She was powerful and a great fearless warrior among women.

Sango was exiled from Oyo, a quarrel occurred on their journey, when both oba and Osun told sango that they could not go along with him because Oya is his favorite. Oba and Osun went their different ways after ward. Osun as a human did an aquatic transmogrification on herself, when she made up her mind, she could not live without her husband, and that neither would she die. In order to continue her assistance of barren women and the needy, she transformed into Osun River.

The Osun Osogbofestival is the most pronounced, popular and prominent among the other festivals in Osogbo. It has of recent attained international recognition and standard for tourism. The Federal government of the democratic republic of Nigeria recognized it as an important fund raising and remarkable festival that attracts international attention. The annual celebration spans over twelve days usually held in the early August of every year. Rituals are performed on some of the days leading to the grand finale of the festival.

IWOPOPO (Matching through a road called popo)

This usually falls on Monday, twelve days prior to the finale, and therefore the first of the twelve–day festival. The king,chief, iyaosun, (Osun priestess) Aworo (Osun priest), princes and princesses, devotees and well wishers proceed to Gbemu through other streets and then return to the palace, with the act of singing and walking. This gives the people who want to pay homage to the king and his entourage the opportunity to do so. This act represent the traditional clearing of the town’s main road of weeds, dirt, stagnant water and other things, that may obstruct free movement on the last day of the festival. Also the clearing reflects the removal of any obstacle in the spiritual realms that may hinder the success of the festival.

ATUPA OLOJUMERINDINLOGUN:- {sixteen- point lamp}

It was initially a spirit’s lamp {Osanyin}, a deity in charge of healing. The lamp is about 17 centimeters high with sixteen lamps points on it. It is believed that both Larooyeand Timilehinfound the lamp in the forest, when they first

settled at ontoto, which is now a street in Osogbo. The lamp is ignited at about 7:00pm on Thursday, the king dances around it three times before he is joined by his wives, chiefs, particularly the iwefa{Priests in the palace} and devotees.IyaOsun and her companion do the singing and dancing until the next day which is Friday. It is a taboo to allow the lamp to burn out before the stipulated time

OJO AJO- OBA {Ataoja committee’s day}

This is a day;Ataoja feasts his chiefs, princes, princesses, other family members and friends. He also gives alms to beggars and other indigent people. This occurs on three days after the igniting of the sixteen-point lamp.

The following Monday is set aside for sacrifices to the beaded crowns and heads of Osogboking. This is the day Ataoja calls into reminiscences the lives of his ancestors and former kings. All the beaded crowns are assembled at a place, inside the palace and sacrifices are offered to them.

The next sacrifice comes before the last day of the festival. Its holds on Thursday, The Alare (a chief that attends to visitors, when the king is either not around or busy) on behalf of Ataoja receives and entertain guests in the palace. These guests include the ogboni group {a cult group that serves as a police force} and other well wishers. The king himself remembers and offers sacrifices to the past Ayaba or Olori {wives of his Predecessor}.

Osun Festival Finale

Osun festival finale often falls on the second Friday of August in every year, except there are very important unforeseen and unexpected incidents or circumstances. This is one of the greatest and remarkable days in Osogbo, when the town receives very important personalities and visitors both from within and outside Nigeria, who came to watch and add to the glamour of the festival. It is indeed a historic day. Many visitors, well wisher, inquisitors, particularly barren women from all over the world, who fervently prays for children are always found on the road that leads to the groove on the day of the festival.

It is also characteristic of the day to see excited young men, carrying cane stick in their hands thrashing one another with abandonment. Thisserve as an exhibition of valor. Young ladies or damsels dance around the town in groups. They sing praises to Osun, the kind hearted and philanthropic spirit of the water. She is acclaimed to be general and kind, giver of children to barren women. The glorious day witnesses, the thrashing feasts, gunshots into the air and regular supply of pulsating rhythms from native and artistic drummers, singing to the process of the great celebrant, which serve as prelude to the arrival of Arugba (votary maid)

There are two sacrificial places in Osogbowhere Osun is appeased. One in the groove, the lower part of Osun river, while the other takes place in the palace of Ataoja. There is a house at the palace of Ataoja of Osogbowhere, an image of Osun is created, surrounded by other antiquities that depict her chiefs

aides, and messengers when she was alive. The statue of Osun is surrounded by cowries which indicate that Osun was a wealthy woman in her time. There are guns and sword made of brass around her to depict how powerful and mighty she was there are also a mortar made of brass and soup pots to symbolize her legendary motherly attributes. The ritual is performed by Iya Osun (Osun priestess) who is helped and supported by other Osun devotees.

After the sacrifice the traditional calabash is filled with some relics of Osun. These relics include cowries, brass mortar, segi beads, Iyun beads, brass sword and pots (concoction pots) The calabash is then ready to be carried by a virgin princess (who would have been chosen before now) to the groove. Two women would have taken some of Osun relics to the groove in order to bring the consent of the spirit goddess before Arugba majestically arrives and the final sacrifice is made.


The Arugba (votary maid) is the most glamorous and important aspect of the festival. A young virgin princess is traditionally scheduled to carry the calabash from the palace to the shrine in Osun groove. Arugba is always chosen by the ifa priest through divination. Irrespective of this child’s age once the divination picks the person, nothing can hold her back. During this research Araba of Osogbo, Chief Elebuibon made it known that, during the divination, two or more princesses can be acknowledge, but the one with the most advantage

carries the calabash. It is compulsory that the Arugba comes from the reigning king’s family. For example, the present Arugba hails from Matanmi’sfamily. She has been the Arugbaof Osogbofor the past eight years. She was chosen when she was just eleven years and has been a virgin since that time. It is compulsory for the Arugba to be a virgin and she must remain so for as long as duty calls.

The Arugba tends to be the most important person during the festival. Without her, the festival can never be held. She carries the sacrifice to be accepted by Osun. It is her purity that makes it worth while it worth. Even if the king dies and a new one has not been installed, the festival will be held. However, Arugba can never be overlooked or underestimated that is why whenever she is sighted by the huge around, there is ecstatic shouts of joy in the air.

Arugba is not allowed to eat certain foods like, fish, snail, guinea corn, because Osun does not take them. She is protected by Osun in all ways and from any form of danger. She is the delicate, most precious, most important, person in this festival.

The ritual calabash is always covered with a light red velveteen cloth. The Arugba herself is fashionately dressed with while bangles on her two arm wrists and ankles. She ties white wrapper, with beads on her neck. The outing of the Arugba to the shine is always heralded by the traditional talking drums. Immediately the drums sound, everybody bursts into songs of joy and praises.

  • Ooreyeye o
  • Osun Osogbogba mi o
  • Olomo yoyo gba mi o
  • Ooreyeye o
  • This means
  • Good mother
  • Osun Osogbosave me
  • Mother of many children, save me
  • Good mother

Arugba is always unconscious during the procession to the Osun groove. She alternates between dancing and walking until she, followed by the people, gets to the shrine. She is surrounded and supported by the chief priest (Baba Osun),Aworo (Osun priest),iyaOsun (Osun priestess ) and devotees. Chants are chanted after her and devotees pray for her get to the shrine without accident. This is because she must not hit her feet against stones neither must she fall. Arugba and her chaperones are dressed in while attires which symbolize purity

The groove is a large open space with the river surrounding two thirds of the land; it adds to its credit a sculptured metal gate with images of mermaid, hunters and drummers. The gate is the entrance to the sacred stream to which

many of the visitors usually throng when the Arugba arrives, there are always loud ovations with beating drums and dancing. Meanwhile the chief priest, priestess and other relevant devotees enters the Osun shrine with the intention of making sacrifice. Invocation is raised by the priest, while the whole groove is filled with silence by the people. Ataoja is called into the shrine where he sits on the monumental stone of which the first oba Larooye sat on. He offers prayers then the priest, priestess fervently prays for the Ataoja, Osogbo and participants. when the sacrifice is carried to the river by the chief priest for offering, Ataoja moves back to his seat and people move to the water to take out of it in the belief that the water can solve their problems.

After the celebration at the groove the king leaves the shrine with other dignitaries. Arugba the Osun priest and priestess, other relevant devotees are the last to leave the shrine. However the Arugba enters the palace first before the king. She symbolizes purity,soshe enters into the palace first to cleanse it for the others. After the calabash has been taken off her she goes to sleep immediately.

1.4 Purpose Of Study

The main purpose is to examine the aesthetics in the invocations rendered during the festival. Through this the importance of Arugba in Osun Osogbofestival will be fore grounded.

1.5 Justification

The study is to justify that good; the invocative poetry rendered during the Osun festival makes its religiously dynamic with metaphysical attributes. This research will explain the religious poetry aspect of the festival that makesit to be different any other form of traditional celebration.

With this study I believe it will serve as a reliable literary metrical for future study in religious poetry particularly in the area of Osun festival.

1.6 Scope And Delimitation

The study is focusing on the invocations rendered during Osun Osogbo festival, the metaphysical attribute in it that makes it important to the festival. It is restricted to the invocations done on the last day of the festival especially as it concerns the Arugba that carries the calabash.

1.7 Methodology

This research is based on the study of poetic forms in the Osun festival.

Hence the data collection method will be by interviews which will take place at different location, visitation to Osun shrine during and after the festival. This will ensure that actual performance is also witnessed. Library and internet search from other scholars about the topic will also be reviewed.

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