While the Christian faithful and Muslim adherents perform their worship in churches and mosques with God and Allah as their focal point, traditional worshippers also do theirs at their different temples with ‘Eledumare’ (God) as their Supreme Being. However, just as the two major religions have Jesus Christ and Muhammed as their intermediary between them and God, the traditionalists have their various gods as intermediaries.
These gods are placed in their shrines or rather temple where they consult and offer propitiation to the Supreme Being. As the President of the Traditional Worshippers (Isese) in Yorubaland, and Baale Yemoja in Oyo State, as well as, the Chairman, Aborigine Ogboni Fraternity Worldwide, Chief Olukunmi Omikemi Egbelade, told Saturday Telegraph in his Aperin Compound of Popoyemoja area of Ibadan, that traditionalists have their shrines in their different places of abode to worship their gods. The gods in their different names and representations have different functions to their adherents.
He said: “I am the Chairman of Yemoja worshippers in Oyo State. Yemoja is water goddess, which is the mother of Osun. Like the other gods who are messengers of Eledumare, Yemoja descended from heaven to this earth before going back to Him. Our forefathers studied their activities and so decided to follow their steps just like Christians follow the acts of miracles and healing prowess of Jesus Christ and Muslims do same for Mohammed.
But whenever we want to worship Yemoja or any other gods, we approach it through mentioning of Eledumare. “Other gods we have in our households are many and they include: Sango, Obatala, Ifa, Osun, Oya, Esu, Ogun, Oosa Oran etc. If people say we worship gods, it is also in the Bible that Israelites performed sacrifices to appease God.They do it using rams. We traditionalists also perform sacrifices using goats, chickens, ducks, dogs, doves and all other animals that God created for our dominion. What type of sacrifice Israelites performed, we are not made to know.
All sacrifices are done for prayers to be accepted by God, the Supreme One. This therefore means that we are not unbelievers as some people do say. Early in the morning, before we do anything, we pray to Eledumare (God) the “Akodaaye”, Asedaorun.” Those worshipping Jesus and Mohammed do not see them, but they adore them because of the works they had done. “If God were to be against what our forefathers were doing in venerating these gods considered to be powerful messengers of God, there would not have been this earth again. God would have destroyed it.
“But it must be made clear that our shrines are not like those of herbalists or ritualists. Our shrines are in our houses and not in the bushes like the Okija Shrine of the Eastern part of Nigeria. We don’t make sacrifices in our shrines using human beings. There is nothing we do in our shrines that is not open to everybody. We do even invite people to witness our activities.
It is the herbalists who engage in such nefarious activities and you see them in suits, luxury cars going for rituals in their shrines located in the bush or forest. We create our own shrines in a dedicated room in our houses where we consult. We don’t use human blood or human parts for sacrifices. It is herbalists that do such.
“Unfortunately, many Pastors, Imams and even ordinary people have hidden shrines in their houses or worship centres, yet outwardly, people see them differently as men of God. They are invariably herbalists in their practice. Herbal medicine is a job; ours is religion.
Even if we will use herbs, we would have divined and know if what is troubling a person requires medicine or it is a spiritual attack. In our shrines, we have different ways of approaching issues. It pains me when in the news, it is reported that a traditionalist engaged in ritual activity. No! Such should be ascribed to herbalists, not traditional worshippers like us.
Ours is to find ways out of trouble for people that come to us. Herbalists do not have divination system like us who trained for 17 years in the past, and seven years now before being considered qualified to practice. It is part of our practice to act as consultants, give counsel and seek knowledge. Egbelade who is also chairman, Aborigine Ogboni Fraternity Worldwide added: “So, it depends on what purpose you create your own shrine for. In our own form of worship, we traditionalists, are the ones who really define God. Other religions describe Him.
For example, if a child is born, we will divine the baby’s destiny (Isentaye). That is what he will become in life, what principles the ‘Odu Ifa’ will foretell about him or her. Such include: health. It includes what he should or should not eat plus his clothing. That is what type of colour of dresses he can or cannot wear in order not to affect his or her destiny, what he or she can do depending on the spirit of such individual. For example like visiting the sick, attending burial activities, night crawling, type of marriage and the complexion of the partner he or she should choose at adulthood, etc.
“Christians and Muslims will say pork is generally abominable for consumption, but none of them identifies the type of food or clothing that can work against one’s destiny or spirit; the type of work he or she can do to prosper him or her. Everything has time and the traditional religions describe all these, and it works for our adherents and families. My father died at the age of 135 and his teeth were still intact. I have travelled to Brasil, the USA and some other countries where I taught them in their universities about our traditional practices, and many foreigners are coming to learn ours here.
It is because they see some distinctions in our religions. Some of their professors have been heard saying: ‘I have now come back home.’ “Our adherents worship with us in our temples or shrines (Ijiogbe, Osemeji, Oyekumeji Temple or different names (to seek knowledge, and not to do rituals like the herbalists do. Many of them come to us to seek solutions to their problems like barrenness, premature deaths, sicknesses, ill luck, attacks etc. We consult our gods and cast divination that will give us direction as to the cause of the problems and the way out.
Orunmila who is the secretary or memory keeper of Obatala speaks through him in the Odu Ifa that we have. He is called the “Father of Wisdom”. “Of all the gods, masquerade (egungun) was the first that came. It came to know how the world would be appropriately arranged. After it came the head which knows where ever one would settle. My head said that I would be a traditionalist; yours said you would be a journalist; it divines who will be a king etc. It was that said Sango’s home would be Oyo; Ifa would be in Oke Igeti; Yemoja settled in Oke Ogun; Osun is in Ekiti, not Osogbo as is popularly known.
That is why Osun is praised as “Ayaba Otoroefon” (wife of Otoroefon).” There are however different days for worshipping of the different gods. He stated: “Wednesday is for Ogun for example. But the day which is very important for all worshippers in any month is Jimoh Oloyin (Honey Friday).
There are four Fridays in a month, viz: Ologede (banana), Alaadun (sweet cake), Olori (sheer butter), and Oloyin (honey). The Honey Friday falls on Jakuta day which all the adherents set aside to worship. Here in Ibadan, that day is Saturday wherein all worshippers converge to pay obeisance to their different gods like Muslims do on Fridays and Christians on Sundays.” The Isese leader said they believe in the efficacy of the spiritual power of their gods as symbolised in the effigy picture. “Our fathers were calling on them and they were answering them.
So also, we inherited the gods and as we call on them, they answer us. Any non-initiate may not want to believe this, but to us, it is real. It is like the Hadith left behind by late Imams or some forms of Bible, not the revised editions left behind by Pastors or Bishops. Their inheritors still make use of them. That is the truth of the matter” Chief Egbelade said.
One of the prominent shrines in Ogun State is the Madam Tinubu Shrine located at Ojokodo Quarters, Abeokuta.
The shrine is named after Efunroye Tinubu, a powerful female aristocrat and slave trader during pre-colonial and colonial Nigeria. Born in Abeokuta in 1810, Madam Tinubu became a politically significant figure and liberator who helped to free her people from the onslaught of the Dahomey. She supplied arms and munitions against the invaders and her activities during the Dahomey War later earned her the chieftaincy title of the Iyalode of Egbaland. In fact, she was the first Iyalode of the kingdom. Madam Tinubu died on December 3, 1887. She was buried at Ojokodo Quarters in Abeokuta.
Tinubu Square on Lagos Island, a place later known as Independence Square, was named after her. In Abeokuta, there is a place also named in her honour known as Ita Iyalode. A trip to her shrine reveals interesting facts about this heroine of the Egba people. She is still greatly revered. In fact, the Tinubu family plans to celebrate 131 years of her demise in December. One of the priests at the shrine, who identified himself as Nurudeen Tinubu, says the place was modernised by the Ogun State government.
The shrine, which houses the tombs of Efunroye and her late mother, was given a massive facelift in 2012 and the rehabilitation was concluded in 2014. The sacred place is now well fortified with iron door, burglary proofs, tiled flooring and the accoutrements of religious ritual. Inside the building, there are several deities known as Orisa in Yoruba culture. Some of them include Osun, Obatala, Shango, Ota and Erinle.
Their spirits are often invoked to influence human affairs. Nurudeen explained that people from all walks of life do come to visit the shrine and seek help of various forms. According to him, the place is agog during the annual Tinubu Day celebration. He said: “I used to be a butcher in Lagos, with over 20 years work experience. But in the course of my life journey, I was asked to return home and stay with this Orisa. “Every December 3, is set aside for celebration of Tinubu Day. But apart from that, people do come here to worship on other days.
Those that come would supply white clothing and other sacrifice items and then make respective pledges to the deities.” Corroborating him, another member of the family, Rasheed Tinubu, stated that eminent personalities, politicians and business owners, among others, are usually visitors to the shrine. He added that the place had also become a tourist attraction for many people, researchers and students on excursion. Adjacent the shrine is an earthen pot called Ikoko Osun. This mystical pot has now been upgraded into a well. It is said to have healing powers. The water therein can be used for washing, bathing and drinking but it is forbidden to be used for cooking. “It is a taboo to cook with the water. Though we don’t know the reason for this, we have been warned not to use it for cooking. The well never dries allyear round. If a child is feverish, the water can be used to bathe and heal him,” Nurudeen said.
The most prominent shrines in Osun State are: Osun Osogbo, the river goddess and Oranmiyan Staff in Ile-ife.
The river goddess festival today attracts people from all walks of life from all over the world who come annually to pay homage to the rivers and appreciate the great work it is doing in the lives of the people especially in the provision of sons and daughters to the barren ones and solving of other problems. It is now a historic festival and event celebrated annually in the country to seek the face of the river for solace and also serve as a tourist centre.
The activities of Osun Osogbo is like Christmas celebration to its worshippers as the festival is observed for two week every year, specifically in August. One of the adherents of Osun Osogbo who identified herself as “Iya Osun,” stated that the festival usually starts with Iwopopo, the traditional cleansing of the town from evil, and three days after this the Ina Olujumerindinlogun (16-point lamp), 600-yearold is lit. Following this is the Iboriade, an event where all the crowns of the past kings or Ataojas are assembled for blessings by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo, the Arugba, the Yeye Osun, and a committee of priestesses.
She described The Arugba (cala bash carrier) as the key feature of the Osun Osogbo festival saying: “she is a votary virgin (a cultural version of the Virgin Mary) who bears the Osun calabash on her head; the calabash contains sacrifice materials to appease and worship the Osun goddess or river.” According to her:
“Arugba is not seen only as a virgin maid any longer; she is regarded as a goddess herself and people make prayers and cast all their problems on her as she bears the calabash and passes on to lead the people. It is this Arugba that carries the sacrifice calabash to the river goddess and will be considered a goddess for 10 years.”
Iya Osun added that those who usually visit the shrine are the barren women, the hopeless, the unemployed and those who are suffering from acute problems, and whosoever makes a request during the festival in a year will definitely come to testify the following year that Osun Osogbo has granted his/her request. The Osun Osogbo festival is an international celebration of cultural events attracting people from Cuba, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Spain, Canada and the United States.
Oranmiyan Staff and its shrine in Ile-Ife
Opa Oranmiyan on its part is found in Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba and the staff is as important as the race itself because of its symbolism and significance to all reigning kings in the ancient town. It appeals to insiders and foreigners because of its height put above 28 feet and some dignified designs that ensure it is a cynosure of all eyes. It is imperative for adherents of Oranmiyan Staff to be appease it at its shrine at the Arubidi quarter of Ile-Ife because of a strong belief that the staff is a living soul and must be appeased.
As a result members of the two families, Eredumi and Akogun, who are involved in its worship up till today could not be negligent in their duty because it also serves as a protection for the Ifes whenever there is war. Speaking on the staff, Mrs. Omileye who claimed to have come from one of the families where it is worshipped told our reporter that, the staff serves as shield and banner to the warriors of Ife. “Whenever there are drums of wars, the Ifes would consult the staff before going to war and the staff always help them to subdue and conquer all their enemies at the war front.
“Its appeasement is constant also because of the pacesetting roles it plays in both the installation of a new Ooni of Ife since the staff is an embodiment of not just the spirit of Oranmiyan but of all the other Oonis that had ruled Ile- Ife and other traditional rulers in the Yoruba land. History has it that before some kings are installed, the sword of office for each of these kings must be re-moved from the shrine and handed over to them before they could have peaceful reigns in their different domains.” Also, Chief Lawrence Omidiora, an Ife indigene, revealed the myth and story behind the staff. According to him:
“Oranmiyan was a great warrior and he had a sword. At the point of his death, he dropped the sword and it transformed into the Staff as we see it today. The marks you see on it are letters that some scholars said have close relationship with Greek letters.”
“There is a belief that the staff is a living soul and must be appeased. That is why members of the two families, Eredumi and Akogun, are involved in its worship up till today. In those days of inter-tribal wars, the staff was always consulted before wars and the powers from the Staff helped to secure victories over enemies.
“The attributes of Oranmiyan must be embraced by the Ooni. He needs these to effectively function. Some of these attributes are within the shrine and with the staff of Oranmiyan. So it is important for a person ascending the throne of Ooni to be familiar with the shrine and Staff.”
Apart from the shrine’s inner sanctum, said to be for only the initiates, other parts of the shrine are now open to tourists who visit the ancient town from the other countries to appreciate the wonders of deities in Yoruba kingdom. It is believed that before visitors could be allowed to move near to the shrine they would be spiritually purified and fortified by the Staff adherents who are always present at the shrine to serve as guides to strangers.
Infact, o entering the shrine, the staff could be seen about 40 feet away. Omidiora, a guide on the tour of the shrine stressed that: “Opa Oranmiyan symbolizes the essence of Ile Ife, first as the traditional source of the Yoruba people because Oranmiyan is a descendant of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race. He was the grandson of Oduduwa.” “As at the time the other Yoruba towns were being established, Oranmiyan played a prominent role in the establishment of traditional dynasties in these new locations in Yoruba land. It was Oranmiyan that established dynasties in Benin and Oyo. Benin was first before Oyo,” he added.
Speaking on Oranmiyan staff and how it has become a museum of sorts to all and sundry today, Mr. Owolabi Abiola, a worker at the National Museum, Ile-Ife, said the place is now “open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of man and its environment.”
“From the foregoing, it’s obvious that museum, especially in Africa is a cultural establishment, whose primary responsibility is concerned with the collection, preservation and exhibition of both natural and cultural objects for the purpose of knowledge and education.
The shrine of Sango according to one of his die-hard worshippers who identified himself simply as Sangotola in Ede, Osun State, is always being referred to as “Ojubo Sango” and that it is worshiped on the fifth day of the week in which is named Ojo Jakuta. According to him, ritual worship foods for Sango include guguru, bitter cola, àmàlà, and gbegiri soup while fresh water turtle, male goat, duck, sheep said to be the god’s sacrificial animals. He said: “He is worshiped with the Bata drum. One significant thing about this deity is that he is worshiped using red clothing, just as he is said to have admired red attire during his life time.” Worshippers of Sango, he stated, distanced themselves from eating cowpea because the wrath of the god of iron would descend on them if they dare eat it. The shrine has now become a tourist centre for people within and outside the country who pay homage to behold the past magical powers of the god. This is a way of generating revenue for the state government and that of the people of the town.
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