very year in Osogbo, Nigeria, the Osun-Osgobo celebration honors Osun, the fertility goddess. The celebration renews the covenant between humanity and the divine: Osun bestows blessings on the community in exchange for the community’s promise to respect her Sacred Grove. This ceremony is part of a rich indigenous Yoruba religious tradition that dates back to West Africa and has grown to become one of the world’s ten greatest religions, with over 100 million adherents.
The Yoruba people’s yearly traditional religious celebration, the two-week festival, is regarded to be their largest annual traditional religious event. Thousands of worshippers and observers flock to it from all over the world, not only Nigeria.
In Nigeria, traditional ideas about animist spirits are still prevalent. The sacred Grove forest, located on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, is one of the last remaining areas where the spirits, or “Orishas,” present themselves to bless devotees at the Osun-Osogbo festival. Daily performances of people dancing, singing, playing the drums, and flaunting magnificent costumes are held at the festival to placate the goddess of fertility, Osun.
This year’s festival featured the well-known Eyo masquerade performers from Lagos state.
The Arugba, a virgin girl who is said to enable worshippers communicate with the deity and who leads a procession of believers to give sacrifices to the river, is the festival’s main attraction.
The “calabash bearer”, which is called Arugba, wears a colourful veil and wears a big calabash on her head. It encompasses the sacrifices made by the entire community as well as those made by those present. During her time as Arugba, every Arugba must stay a virgin.
Worshippers say prayers at the shrine of the priestess before the procession to the river. According to traditional religion experts in Nigeria, the celebration was founded roughly 600 years ago by the founders of the town of Osogbo.
They intended to build their homes along the river’s edge, but when they were chopping trees, the river god Osun’s ghost appeared and ordered them to leave. For the spirit’s worshippers, the grove has always been a hallowed place of worship.
UNESCO designated the area’s sole remaining virgin forest, 67 acres, as a World Heritage Site in 2003.
As the principal host of the festival, His Royal Majesty, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji (Olaonipekun Larooye II), whose title is the Ataoja of Osogbo, plays a significant role. He confirmed the dates for the Osun Osogbo Festival in 2021 in July, a 600-year-old international heritage cultural tourism event celebrated as the annual sacrifice to the Osun River Goddess.
The two-week-long event began on Monday, August 2, 2021, with the traditional cleansing of the town known as ‘Iwopopo,’ followed by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point lamp known as ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’ three days later.
The incumbent Ataoja of Osogbo, the Arugba, Yeye Osun, and a committee of priestesses led the ‘Iboriade,’ a unique collection and presentation of the crowns of the prior Ataojas of Osogbo, seeking blessings.
The sacrificial offering by “Arugba” at the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove, which was re-inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, was the grand climax on Friday, August 13, 2021
Foreigners attend the festival as well; some are tourists, while others are lured by the celebration’s religious and cultural significance.
Traders offer beads and religious items to the town’s tens of thousands of visitors.
While Nigeria was under British authority, Christian missionaries attempted to eradicate animist ideas. Human sacrifice was a part of Orisha worship during the time, but it was prohibited by the rulers.
However, the festival’s popularity has grown since the 1980s, thanks in part to the activity of Austrian-born artist Susanne Wenger, who reconstructed the shrines and sought to safeguard the grove.
In the 1950s, Ms. Wenger arrived in Nigeria, divorced, and resolved to spend the rest of her life in Osogbo. Adunni Olorisha was her other moniker. In 2009, at the age of 93, she passed away.
This traditional/cultural festivity is well celebrated annually and its popularity has spread throughout the world especially in Europe and South America.