June 14, 2018 | Author: Wender Miranda Adúbiifá | Category: Oral Tradition, Folklore, Poetry, Magic (Paranormal), Genre
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CERTIFICATION This essay has been read and approved as meeting part of the requirements for the award of a Bachelor of Arts degree (HONS) in the department of English, faculty of Arts, university of Ilorin, Ilorin. Nigeria.







Head of Department




External Examiners Examine rs



CERTIFICATION This essay has been read and approved as meeting part of the requirements for the award of a Bachelor of Arts degree (HONS) in the department of English, faculty of Arts, university of Ilorin, Ilorin. Nigeria.







Head of Department




External Examiners Examine rs



DEDICATION This project is dedicated to the Almighty God, my protector who saw me through my programme. Also to my priceless parents, for all their indefatigable effort to see me successful in my line of course. And to my fiancé, who supported me morally, financially and spiritually through out the duration of this course.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My sincere appreciation goes to God almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. I acknowledge with reference, your mercy grace and favour towards the completion of this course. Thank you Lord, All that I am and hope to be, I owe to you. My gratitude also goes to my supervisor Mrs Aliu Abraham, silver or Gold, I have none, but I pray that your own children will meet favour in their various undertakings.Thank you ma for your positive attitude to the supervision of this project, your motherly advises, criticism and your words of encouragement that have in the end led to the successful completi co mpletion on of o f this project. I wholeheartedly express my thanks to my loving parents, for the great role you have played in my life, in making my dreams come to reality. I can never forget your impact in my life. May you live much longer to reap what you have sow. To my adorable love Adewoye Abimbola. Thanks so much for giving me moral and emotional support during the course of this research. I will always cherish you and I pray that God Almighty will bind us together in his love. Amen. My heart felt and utmost thanks, to my younger sister for their love in my life. Opeyemi and Temitayo Lawal, I say thank you. And remembering my colleagues and friends, Onibonoluta Temi, Ogunsanya Funmilayo, Fagbayi Grace, Yemi Alao, sukky Babalakin Abiola, Bello Wunmi, Oyeyipo Bukunmi I will live to t o remember you all.


ABSTRACT Oral literature is an unwritten relation that encapsulates African values and aspiration through which their philosophy, customs, beliefs, history etc. are preserved and transmitted from one generation to another by word of mouth. The critical examination of festivals in Nigeria presents highly Aesthetics perfor mances, mances, debunking the Euro Centric assertion that Africans have no literature. The focus of this research work is to attempt/investigate the aesthetic value of Osun festival celebrated by the osun people through the invocation rendered during the festival, which makes it magical in nature. This falls under t he category of Religious poetry.












Table of contents



1.1. Introduction


1.2. History of Osogbo


1.3. Osun Osogbo annual festival


1.4. Purpose of study


1.5. Justification


1.6. Scope and delimitation


1.7. Methodology





2.1. Introduction to Oral literature



2.2. Forms of oral poetry


2.2.1 Proverbs


2.2.2 Praise poetry


2.2.5 Funeral poetry


2.2.6 Religious poetry





3.1. Aesthetics of Osun Osogbo festival


3.2. Invocation poem in Osun Osogbo festival


3.3. Analysis of the magical poetry in Osun Osogbo festival





4.1. Findings


4.2. Recommendations


4.3. Summary and Conclusion








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 Osogbo festival.



Osogbo is situated about 96 kilometers by rail and 96 kilometers 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 osun state on 27th of August 1991. Her area o f 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 oba Larooye, who were Ijesa men. 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 droughts there, 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 oba Larooye. On hearing the news, oba Larooye gave 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



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 iya mi 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 river oba ) 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 Osogbo festival 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, iya osun, (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 Larooye and Timilehin found 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. Iya Osun 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 Osogbo king. 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. This serve 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 Osogbo where 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 Osogbo where, an image of Osun is created, surrounded by other antiquities t hat 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.


 ARUGBA 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’s family. She has been the Arugba of Osogbo for 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.

Oore yeye o Osun Osogbo gba mi o Olomo yoyo gba mi o Oore yeye o

This means Good mother Osun Osogbo save 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), iya Osun (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 pur ity 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 t he 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, so she enters into the palace first to cleanse it for the others. After the calabash has been taken off her she goes to sleep immediately.


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


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 makes it 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.


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.


This research is based on the study o f 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.












Femininity. Trenton: African world press, 1996. Print.

Harris, M. Culture, People Nature: An introduction to general Anthropology.  New York: Longman press, 1997. Print. Olajubu, O. Women in the Yoruba Religion sphere Albany: State university of New York press, 2003. Print. Taylor, E. Primitive culture London: Murray press, 1871. Print. th

Interview with the Arugba: Adebola Matanmi at her resident in Osogbo on 4  of September, 2010.




Interview with the Iya osun (Osun priestess) at her osogbo residence on 4  of September, 2010. Interview with the Araba of Osogbo : chief Yemi Elebuibon at his residence st

Ayetoro, Osogbo on 21 of August, 2010.




Oral literature is the embodiment of African values and aspiration which includes what we do, what we think, what we say, and what we are. This has to do with culture traditions, customs and way of life of the Africans, which could be expressed through traditional performance such as folklore and festivals. According to Ekpenyong (1981:31) Festivals are periodic recurring days or seasons of gaiety or merry-making set aside by a community tribe or clan for the observance of sacred celebrations religious solemnization or musical and traditional performance of social significance…. (Ekpenyong 31)

The African oral literature is a complex and controversial genre that has generated debates and arguments among African and European scholars. However, we shall attempts to examine the various definitions and assessment of both scholars and draw a reliable, unbiased and accurate definition of the subject. First, looking at the European perception of Africa oral literature in Dunde’s word (cited in Okpewho 1992:43) states that:-


Your pages have so often given evidence of the interest which you take in what we in England designated as popular antiquities or popular literature (through bye the bye ) it is more of lore than literature and would be most aptly described by a good Saxon compound, folklorethe lore of the people ….

(Cited by Okpewho 43)

The above statement reveals the European, misconception of African literature as well as reflecting their prejudiced mind as touching anything African, which they  believe to be cruel and uncivilized, and so not valuable. This is why Okpewho (1992:5)  boldly disapproves and to object to the Eurocentric assertion thus saying; “The word folklore implies much more than just literature and in some quarters underplays the literacy aspect of what folk do” (Okpewho 5)

A European scholar, who after a thorough research of this subject was convinced about what truly oral literature is all about According to Finnegan (1970:6) The concept of an oral literature is an unfamiliar one to most brought up in cultures which like those of contemporary Europe, long stress on the idea of literacy and written tradition. In the popular view it seems to convey on the other hand, the idea of mystery on the other crude and artistically


under developed formulations. In facts, neither of these assumptions is generally valid.

(Finnegan 6)

In festival, chants and invocation are based on the tradition of oral text.  Nmowa (1984:50) affirms that:  An oral text implies the unwritten move or less standard version of hereditary tale, praise song or chant which in general, members of the community can recite without much difficulty and reproduces in the same ways as literate people read and recite a novel, a poem or the text of a play. (Nmowa 50)

According to Anyidolho (1976:25)  A great deal of the vitality of oral literature in performance is due to its ability to update the past to make the past a life and relevant to the present and its ability to project the present into the future.

(Anyidolho 25)

From all the above definitions of both European and African scholars, it can be seen that African oral literature is a product of African community and it appeals to the generality of the people within a particular community due to the fact that it combines


aesthetics with functionality’s. It serves as an essential tool for cultural survival and continuity. Oral literature performs the same function as written literature. The functional aspect of oral literature in the literary form is communication, which reflects social and political values. In other words, since there are no written records of the past, oral literature is a useful device and means of preserving relevant information relating to the culture, religion, social customs and ethics of the people. It is a medium of instruction, communication pleasure, cultural presentation and springboard of written form. It is a versatile genre which can be categorized into forms and sub-genres. African oral literature can be classified into three forms namely, oral prose, oral drama and oral poetry. Each form is further divided into smaller genres and sub –  genres, oral poetry is the main study in this research work.


The forms of African poetry are numerous and vary in form from one society to another. No definition has been given to oral poetry as such, but knowledge of it is well known by people and highly recognized. It has the sub –parts which are: 2.1.1



Praise poetry




Occupational poetry



Funeral poetry


Religious poetry These oral poetries are differentiated by the tone used by the oral poets

or performer. In the words of Beier in Olajubu (1975:65) Yoruba poetry is classified not so much by the contents or the structure but by the group of people to which the reciter belongs and the techniques of recitation he employs.

(Olajubu 65)

When these poems are chanted openly for audience to appreciate, they are to enjoy it with their eyes and ears, which means that the real nature of oral poetry can be realized through performance in whatever nature, either festival, Christmas, ceremonies etc.



Proverbs are relevant short saying used in easing up speech and elaborate linguistics content. Proverbs occur informally in day to-day verbal communication. Their reference being a person or a situation known to both the audience and the user  before they are uttered According to Abraham (2008:30) “Proverbs are poetic lines that make use of contracted language that are pregnant with meanings” (Ibraham 30)


Olatunji (1984:170) states that: Yoruba value proverbs are very highly, for they are considered to be the wisdom lore of the race. And because proverbs are considered to be traditional, and originate from the observation of natural phenomena and human relations, old people are regarded as a repository of proverbs.

(Olatunji 170)

Proverbs do not only reveal thoughts of the pasts but also predict the future. This type of poetry is mostly used by the elders of the society, either in family matters, society or drive home in a nutshell loaded of messages that would other wise needed wordy explanations. It is a short popular saying of expressing some general truth or superstition. They are used to settle conflicts and also serve as speech embellishment for winning audience admiration and appreciation.



Ibrahim (2008, p32) says “Praise poetry involves giving pet names and appellations to person based on their genealogical trees and praising  people” (Ibrahim 32). Akporobaro (2005:50) he says “Praise poetry is a form of poetry that


is specifically designed for the eulogistic portrayal of the virtues of a given subject” (Akporobaro 50).

This type of poetry is usually full of images and parallelism with other poetry features. According to Babalola (1966:24)  It is traditionally believed that the correct  performance of praise poetry in honour of a progenitor gladdens the progenitor in the worlds of the spirits and induces him to shower blessings on his offspring on earth the reciting or chanting of the appropriate  praise poetry in honour of the ancestors of a  particular family causes members of that family who hear the performance to feel very proud of their pedigree, and if they are then away from home, they also feel exceedingly homesick.

(Babalola 24)


According to Akporobaro (2005, p52) “…  Is the lament in poetic form of a mourner for a departed loved one”(Akporobaro 52). Ibrahim (2008, p35) in her words

define funeral poetry as“Is a means of defining the philosophical existence of man in


this world”(Ibrahim 35). The main purpose is to prepare the deceased for the journey

to the other world and a communion with the ancestor. Akporobaro (2005:52) further explains that  It is a highly stylistic form of expression that is governed by specific Poetic recitative conventions used to express the feelings of the mourners in a determinate form and  performance procedure. (Akporobaro 52)



Religious poetry has sub- parts that include invocation, devotional divination, chants and incantatory poetry. The main study of this research work is in the aspect of invocation. According to Ibrahim (2005:33) “Invocation is as a level that is beyond  the ordinary comprehension of the common man” (Ibrahim 33). The invocation is always

at the level of spirituality either by invoking the spirit of objects spirited man, gods & goddess or God, for the actual point of either offering prayers or making evil request. These forms of poetry are chanted towards the purpose of bringing about a desired state of affairs. The words being chanted are always believed to have magical power either  by the chanter or listener. The words may also be recited along with the performance of a ritual or festival that has some magical element existed in it. It is for the chanter to


invoke this spirit for the procurement of cure, for an illness, overcome an enemy, and achieve success in his\her endeavor or for evil purposes. According to Olatunji (1984:153)  Invocation is the first element in ofo, which consists of the summoning of the incantatory agents … the agent, personages or objects, may be invoked by special names to which they are expected to answer with out fail. (Olatunji 153)

Akporobaro (2005:52) States that For some communities and individuals the offering of libations to a God often involves a highly literary use of language that has supernatural tone in them. (Akporobaro 52)

The relevance of this study is the magical power in the spoken word. This is why is so important when calling out the objects, spirit or personages with words that make them feel important for this spirit to answer without fail. Not all incantations are an accompaniment to herbal preparations, there are many which operate by the sheer  power of being spoken. This means the spoken names, origins, the symbolic


correspondence between the names of an agent are believed to work the desired effect once the wishes of the enchanter are spoken. The themes in invocation are dictated by the multifarious desires and Varity of human wishes. The theme can either be the wish for good or evil contained in the request after the invoking of the spirits. The features of invocation is the personal nature of the words being rendered as a poem, the act of word play, even unknown to the reciter, calling the spirit to be invoked special names, things that he/she can do for him /her to answer the calling and make all man ever wishes for, to physical reality. In all that has been said, invocation means the various magical expression that is filled with mystical power of emotions and loaded with word images, that has content of highly mytho-poetic and when these incantation or invoking words are rendered or sung, the purpose is to achieve certain magical effect in the invitation of either good or evil force, becomes poetry. In what is worth noting, the form of recitation possesses intrinsic literary qualities of either form structure or imagery. Finnegan (1970:167 -168) State that; Firstly, the content may be religious as in verse about mythical actions of gods or direct religious instruction or invocation. Secondly, the poetry may be recited by those who are regarded as religious specialists. Thirdly, it may be performed on occasion which are generally agreed to be religious one. (Finnegan 167 -168)


The underlying features of any religious poetry in Africa are the philosophical cosmology belief system it operates in. The belief of Africans towards the supernatural forces that gives birth to religion, which embraces the rituals, sacrifices and other activities that sustain the existence of the people.


Akporobaro, F.  Introduction to Oral Literature. Lagos: Princeton publishing company, 2005. Print. Anyidolho, K. Mythmaker and Mythbreaker: The oral poet as an ear witness. Austin: University of Texas, 1976. Print.

Babalola A. The Content and Form of Yoruba Ijala. Clarendon: press oxford, 1966.Print. Ekpenyong, G. Festival in Nigeria.  A bibliography Nigeria Magazine. Lagos: Emaconprint limited, 1981. Print. Finnegan , R. Oral Literature in African. Nairobi: Oxford University press, 1970. Print. Ibrahim, B. Theme, Patterns and Oral Aesthetics Forms in Nigeria Literature. Ilorin: Haytee press and publishing company, 2008. Print.  Nmoira , N. A Dramatic Tradition of the Igbo. Lagos: University press, 1984. Print. Okpewho, I. African Oral literature : Background character and continuity. Bloomington: Indiana university press, 1992. Print.


Olajubu, O. Composition and Performance of Iwi Egungun in wande A (ed.) Yoruba: oral tradition poetry in music, Dance and Drama. Ife:

Department of African languages and literature series, 1975. Print. Olatunji, O. Features of Yoruba oral poetry. Ibadan: university press Limited, 1984. Print.




Festivals are the means through which man expresses his awareness of a transcendental being outside himself. Man has always believed that there are certain cosmic forces that manifest themselves in deities, gods, goddess, etc. These deities or supernatural beings are believed to control the world through certain indictable laws, in which Osun as a deity is one of them. Festival may accompany birth initiations, funerals etc. They have spiritual importance and values for people who have belief in them. They are largely appreciated for their past blessings and protection. The festival also serves as an avenue for asking for blessings of the divinities through incantatory or invocative words. Osun festival, as the cultural institution of Osogbo fulfills its role in educating, sustaining and passing of value attitude, beliefs and skills to the coming generation. It serves as the means of handling down information and opinion. Culture manifests itself in many dimensions. It shows itself in art architecture, modes of dressing and political system, customs and institution of the people. All the cultural expressions mentioned earlier make positive contribution to this community. This accounts for the fact that everyone in the community participate in Osun festival whole heartedly.


According to stein (1978:22)  A culture, then which makes for the institution of literature is richer or better than one which does not, because it offers a source of enjoyment. which the other culture does not.

(Stein 22)

Therefore through Osun festival, the most cherished culture of Osogbo people is thus critically emphasized, because during the festival, the community has the opportunity of exhibiting its local art, historical sculpture and metaphysical attributes. These constitute aesthetic pleasure as well as serving, as a means of cultural revival through which the people can expose their most cultural heritage to the world at large. The festival also affords the people of Osogbo a golden opportunity to interact with their metaphysical goddess through the words used in moving her spirit, for her to hear and answer their request. This gives the community satisfaction with reinforcement, of social identity. Also, in each year’s performance, reference in made to the history of the community rites to Osun and their success in the smooth running of the community as kings. This narration ensures the passing of information from the elder to the younger generation. In the same stories, hints of past events and problems with reference of Osun as a deity are narrated, with her as a significant person, who contributed as a unique mythical figure. The festival ensure a unique experience in socio cultural solidarity, thereby enhancing and proclaiming the communal laws, forms through its uniquesress and


wholeness. Both the performers and audience are united into an inseparable hole through their co-expectation and participation. Psychology satisfaction is thus achieved as the performance links with authentic aesthetic experience of the community. 3.2. INVOCATION POEM IN OSUN OSOGBO FESTIVAL

During the festival, in the groove, some poetic lines are rendered by the Aworo of Osun (Osun priest). These lines are rendered in order to call upon Osun, invoke her  presence during the festival for her to accept their sacrifice and answer their prayer or request. Invocation is identified by its magical and mystical intention to subject the entire universe to man’s wishes. In it therefore, the powers in objects, plants, animals or even the supernatural beings are summoned, urged or pleaded to carry out these wishes through the poetic form of rendering the lines. The performance of invocatory  poetry is for a specific individual with its audience, who has a practical knowledge of the various metaphysical grant in the power and magic that exits in the words. The invocation rendered to invoke the spirit of Osun during the festival goes thus: Osun oni ji Oye gun le Ola de koju Oira yarim wa yarin kowosi Eleti ti eko


Abijamo tin reti Igbin Eleyele Aro Olode Ega Ega sunsun ni yen ra Awede wemo Osun onile iki Olode de iyun Osun to fi gborogidi ide se opo Ogun ogbodo ja mi mo, mo gbekele osun Oroki ti ba eja nla soro, ti ran iki mii Osun Osogbo rere ni so fun mi Ire owo, ire omo, ire aiku bale oro Ore yeye ooo It is translated thus:Osun, creator of shelter The anvil of chieftaincy A person of everlasting wealth A person who keeps her money in the gravel Owner of bundle of parrot feathers Mother of all Owner of pots of dye


A weaver bird with plenty children One who cares for children greatly Owner of palm tree house A person, who has beautiful beads Osun that uses a big bronze to make her pillar  No war can be initiated against me again, I rely on Osun Oroki which conversed with big fish and sends the biggest fish on an errand Osun Osogbo please get me favourable water Lucky money, Lucky Children and Everlasting life Good mother ooo After these lines have been rendered, the devotees pray immediately. It is  believed that since her spirit has been invoked, anything asked of her at that particular  point in time will be granted.


Osun oni ji Oye gun le Olade koju Osun, creator of shelter The arrival of chieftaincy A person of everlasting wealth 37

Here, the reciter tells of her importance, and what she can do or is capable of doing. In the first line, she is described as somebody who has the ability and power to create good shelter for people. This can be seen, when Larooye and Timehin were looking for where to stay and they approached her, she came to their rescue, by allowing them to settle in what is now called Osogbo. The reciter moves on praising her by acknowledging that she is a chief. This refers to the first time she arrive on earth not as an ordinary being, but one that the old and young revere. She is also described as someone of everlasting wealth. In these three lines, the reciter stresses on Osun’s importance and capability with the hope that this will make her heed his call. The next line that says: O wa yarin wa yarin ko wo si (A person who keeps her money in the gravels) This line, particularly recalls us how Osun keeps her money/wealth, such that she is not easily robbed of it. If anyone describes a part of her wealth, she must first be asked; it can not be taken from her force fully. This implies that no matter how good Osun is, how kindhearted, she can be to people, she is a well disciplined woman who will not condone indiscipline.

Eleti ti eko Abiyamo tin reti igbin Eleyele Aro


Owner of bundle of parrot feathers Mother of all Owner of pots of dye This line says Osun hears when people call her for help (eleti ti eko). She listens to people’s pleas and answers to their call as long as they believe in her abilities to help. The 6th line describes her as a mother of all; that is to say, it is believed that she is a great mother that cares for all mothers and children. Line 7 refers to the fact that Osun was a woman who made dye, used for clothes. This is why the reciter includes this to show Osun that the person calling or invoking her spirit for help knows her very well. From lines 8 to 10 of this poem, Osun is described as a great warrior, who has many children and cares for them all. This shows that she is a good mother as earlier said by the reciter. She is likened to a weaver bird, because a weaver bird is a kind of  bird that takes adequate care of its young. The chanter describes her as someone that is rich and sophisticated thus: Osun onile Iki Olode de Iyun Osun to fi gborogidi ide se o po Owner of palm tree house A person, who has beautiful beads Osun that uses a big bronze to make her pillars 39

All the items mentioned above are believed to be expensive things that people sought after when Osun was a human being. Instead of using mud to make her pillars, she used bronze. She is a woman who provides shelter with the use of palm tree. This refers to the groove that has palm trees growing every where, making it a shelter for  people who come to worship during the festival. This is meant to show Osun that the  person invoking her spirit is familiar with her shrine and is thus one of her worshippers. She is said to posses beautiful and expensive beads as a woman. In other words, she is rich and fashionable Osun is shown a lot of respect by the chanter from lines 1 to 13. These lines are to praise Osun so much, so that she answer the call of the chanter, who needs her help. In all the years that these lines have been rendered, it has always worked especially after all the necessary sacrifices have been made. Aworo Osun made this to be known. After all her contribution, successes and capabilities have been rendered the chanter gives the assertive statement:

Ogun gbodo ja mi, mo gbekele Osun Oroki ti ba eja nla. Soro, ti ran eko ni se

 No war can be initiated against me again, l rely on Osun Oroki which conversed with big fish and sends the biggest fish on errand


This shows not only the chanter‘s belief and assurance that Osun has answered him, but it also lets osun know this fact. In the last three lines of this poem, the chanter askers for money, blessed children and long life Osun Osogbo rere ni o sun fun mi Ire owo, ire omo, ire aiku bale oro Ore yeye ooo When the chanter finishes with all these lines, the audience believes that the spirit of Osun which has been called upon, has answered them and in fact is in their midst, then every on who is in need of one thing or the other starts praying, believing that whatsoever they ask for at that particular moment will be given to them by Osun. There are also some literary terms that can be found in this poem. The use of repetition is simply significant in the case of “Osun”. It has been used in this poem as significant figure that the whole poem is all about. The invocation is for the calling of her spirit presence for requests to be answered.

Her name Osun was used at the

 beginning of the poem and in other places. Other words were also repeated such as “A  person”, that can also be terms as referring to Osun. Olode Ega E ga sunsun in yen ra A great weaver bird A weaver bird with plenty children 41

Osun was human before she transformed to a supernatural being. She was never a bird. But a metaphor has been implored in this poem, to represent Osun as a strong woman, because a weaver bird is strong. And that she takes care of her children, no matter how many they are. Oroko ti ba eja nla, soro, ti ran iko nise

Oroko which conversed with big fish and sends the Biggest fish on an errand

The use of imagery is seen in this line of the poem. Where Osun is seen, talking to the big fish and sending the biggest fish on an errand which symbolism power of how Osun can do unimaginable things. Some elements of praise poetry can also be found in invocations. It is said that  praise poetry is designed for eulogistic portrayal of the virtues of a given subject. Also that when praise words are rendered in honour of a progenitor, it gladdens the world of such spirits. In these invocation rendered during the Osun festival, there are some aspects that praise Osun. Where the reciter tells us of how she is beautiful, rich caring etc. These can be seen from lines 1 to 13. These words would make a being, and indeed a deity answer to such calls. The difference is that for a deity such as Osun, sacrifice would have been done along with the recitation. The sacrifice carried by Arugba on the day of the festival and others already done before the festival.


The performance involves the participation of the king of Ataoja of osogbo, Arugba (votary mad) Aworo Osun , Iya Osun (chief priest and priestess), and the entire  people of osogbo, who are the audience and the special devotees The audience is the combination of the entire people of Osogbo, outside Osogbo even Nigeria. Journalist, tourist and everybody who witness the performance of the festival. Audience plays a significant role in the realization of the performance. The audience joins in the singing of Osun praise, dance to the songs and drumbeats,  beaten during the festival. Audiences are also permitted to bring sacrifice items with them, in the view of the alias they had with Osun, a year before. This level of gifts shows that, Osun herself kept her side of the bargain, by answering their requests. This means that, Osun festival is not a myth, neither is the magical effect on people during the festival can be under estimated. They participate in the drinking of the medicinal water and bathing themselves in it. They also pray to Osun, asking for protection, fertility, prosperity, and that is why osun still has devotees and worshippers Aworo Osun is the priest to Osun. He performs together with Iya Osun in the worship of Osun divinity everyday and during the annual festival. Aworo is the chanter that recites the invoking words, every year, and like Iya Osun, he too knows what is necessary to be done in pleasing Osun, both in times of peace and pestilence. He knows what sacrifice is to be offered, how it should be offered and whether or not what is offered is adequate and acceptable to Osun divinity. He helps the audience or devotee


who would want to bring sacrifice offering for Osun during the festival, before the final day for offering like orange, bean cake, porridge etc. Hence, the essence of the symbolic and distinguish participation of the Ataoja, Iya Osun Aworo Osun and the importance of Arugba add to the overall aesthetic and completeness of the festival whereby, they know the words to use in invoking very well and is been rendered accurately every year, and obeying the rules of Arugba remaining a virgin. All been said, the main point is that, we can see that there are invoking words, rendered during the festival and with the believe of devotees, it makes it a religious  poetry, which is to be placed under oral poetry. Oral poetry is not lore but the  beginning of literature in Africa, not only in Africa but anywhere in the world. People have history and nobody jumps up in a day to start writing history of ceremonies, festival Christmas. It all started with the act of passing the information through mouth from one generation to another. END NOTES

Stein, O. The structure of literary understanding Cambridge: Cambridge university press, 1978. Print. Interview with the Araba of osogbo, chief Yemi Elebuibon at his residence Ayetoro, in osogbo on 2ist of August, 2010. Interview with the Aworo Osun : Baba Ibeji at his residence in osogbo o n 4th of September, 2010.




According to Bolaji Idowu “he believe religion has an organic life of its own, which results from driven activity and man’s positive response”  This means that the

aim of festivals can only be met when divine activity and man’s positive response are in equilibrium therefore any contradiction or loophole might result in havoc or confusion. There are some factors that are militating against the Osun festival. Urbanization, industrialization, improved medical facilities and the influence of the orthodox religions, Islam and Christianity. In the past, children had to inherit their  parent’s religion alongside their property. But now children are free to choose their religion. Some parents send their children to urban places including foreign lands, for  better education and jobs. Improvement in medical facilities have made people to  believe more in science for the ability to conceive and bear children than to worship and invoke deities like Osun for the cure to childlessness. The arrival of Islam and Christianity has also had strong negative effects on the festival and the African traditional religion generally. These two religions claim salvation and deliverance from such conditions like bareness that can be obtained through their own supreme deity However, one thing that cannot be left out is the cold attitude given by some of the people concerned with the festival. They make the extraction of information on the


festival difficult by demanding for money before they can give information. In every negative form, there is always the po sitive side. The aspect of the survival of Osun festival is the cultural activity. The music, dance and the beauty found in the rendition of the invoking lines. This facts is that  people who believe in Osun‘s power, testifies that, she hears and answer their prayers. This can be seen in the acts of people’s sacrifice during the festival. Pouring of food items, fruits inside the water, placing of money on the water and so many other things, which shows that for the past 500years of celebrating Osun, she indeed answers prayer when called upon. People from all over the world come to witness this festival. Some as tourist, some to testify, some to watch if the festival is actually real or is just a myth. Another factor in support of Osun festival is the unstable nature of the orthodox religious worshippers. These people are mostly seen during one problem or the other running to the tradititionalist for help in solving their problems. Most of these people are educated.


Much should be done to increase the documentation of our cultural festivals that is in line with art for future generation and upcoming youths. This documentation has a role in the proper propagation of cultural and intellectual products, in order to ensure the continuity of the refined and noble aspects of our tradition, as well as transmitting to the audience, to capture all aspect of the performance.


In the same vein, Africa culture and tradition should be included in the educational curriculum of the county’s education sector, at each level. It should also be made compulsory. So that the young generation would learn African ways of life, as they grow. The festival should be well improve, that will project and better country economically and socio – politically in a long way.



In spite of the negative attitude shown by some, it will be pertinent not to mention the positive efforts of some African scholars. These scholars include. Isidore Okpewho, Babalola S.A, Ibrahim Binta, Finnegan and others. These scholars have tried in no small way in making African oral literature thrive. Some universities and other institutions have recognized the importance of African oral literature by introducing it into their studies. Every human being prays, by either invoking spirits, gods, object, God for help with positive or negative intentions. The invocation in Osun festival is to ask the spirit for help in the land and among the worshippers. As a part of orature, therefore the aesthetics dimension of the festival will continue to intrigue literary scholars and the  particular Yoruba ethos will still be intact. Osun Osogbo festival is a sustainable cultural element that helps in sustaining our attitude, values and skills to the coming generation.



Bolaji, I. Olodumare: God in Yoruba belief  London : Longman, 1962. Print.



 Primary source Interview with the Araba of Osogbo : chief Yemi Elebuibon at his residence Ayetoro, osogbo, on 21st of August, 2010. Interview with the Aworo Osun: Baba Ibeji at his residence in Osogbo on 4th of Adebola Matainmi at her residence in Osogbo on 4th of


Interview with the Arugba : Adebola Matainmi at her residence in Osogbo on 4th of September, 2010. Interview with the Iya Osun (Osun priestess) at her Osogbo residence on 4th of September, 2010.

Secondary source Akporobaro, F. Introduction to Oral Literature. Lagos: Princeton publishing company, 2005. Print. Anyidolho, K, Mythmaker and Mythbreaker: The oral poet as an ear witness. Austin: university of Texas, 1976. Print. Babalola, A. The Content and Form of Yoruba Ijala Clavendon: press oxford, 1966. Print. Badejo, D. Osun Seegesi: The Elegant Deity of Wealth Power, and Feminity. Trenton: Africa world press, 1996. Print. Bolaji, 1. Olodumare: God in Yoruba belief. London: Longman, 1962. Print.


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