Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Osun grove: More than annual festival



By Jimoh babatunde with agency reports
The first thing that comes to the mind of anybody when Osun groove is mentioned is the annual Osun Osogbo festival. This festival, which has been on since 1370 AD when the people of Osogbo land began the celebration of the Osun goddess, tends to overshadow the beauty of the groove which is on the world heritage list.
On a visit to the groove recently, Jimoh Babatunde, discovers that the Osun groove is the only remaining sacred of its size and biodiversity in the South West of Nigeria and has lot to offer tourists and researchers.
From the entrance to the groove, one feels the tranquility that comes with a well preserved forest. One will not loose sight of the fact that all the objects and places in the grove as well as the original house of Osun and other deities correspond to their present locations with the Osun.
The grove covers 75 ha of ring-fenced forest alongside the Osun River on the outskirts of Osogbo town. The grove in Yoruba cosmology is the domicile of Osun, the goddess of fertility. Ritual paths lead devotees to 40 shrines, dedicated to Osun and other Yoruba deities, and to nine specific worship points beside the river.
Osun is the Yoruba personification of the ‘waters of life’ and the spiritual mother of the Osogbo township. It also symbolizes a pact between Larooye, the founder of Osogbo, and Osun: the goddess gave prosperity and protection to her people if they built a shrine to her and respected the spirit of the forest.
Unlike other Yoruba towns whose sacred groves have disappeared, the Osogbo Grove has, over the years been re-established as a central, living focus of the town.
The Osogbo Grove is now seen as a symbol of identity for all Yoruba people, including those of the African diaspora, many of whom make pilgrimages to the annual festival.
The grove has a mature, reasonably undisturbed, forest canopy, which supports a rich and diverse flora and fauna – including the endangered white-throated monkey.
Some parts were cleared in the colonial period, and teak plantations and agriculture introduced, but these are now being re-established.
The grove is a highly sacred sanctuary where shrines, sculptures and artworks honour Osun and other Yoruba deities. It has five main sacred divisions associated with different gods and cults, located either side of a path transecting the grove from north-west to south-east.
Inside the grove is the origin of the Osogbo kingship institution and the foundation of the Osogbo kingdom which started from the grove to where it is today. The grove and the town , according to my tour guide, are parallel to each other.

Pic by Dare Fasube

RIVER
The Osun River meanders through the whole grove and along its length are nine worship points. Throughout the grove the broad river is overhung with forest trees.
Its waters signify a relationship between nature, the spirits and human beings, reflecting the place given to water in the Yoruba cosmology as symbolizing life.
The river is believed to have healing, protective and fertility powers. The fish are said to have been used by the goddess Osun as messengers of peace, blessings and favour.
Traditionally, sacred trees and stones and metal objects, along with mud and wood sculptures, defined the deities in the grove.
Over the years, new sculptures have been erected in the place of old ones and giant, immovable ones created in threatened spaces in the grove by late Suzanne Wenger working with a group of local artists called New Sacred Art.
These sculptures are made from a variety of materials – stone, wood, iron and concrete. There are also wall paintings and decorative roofs made from palm fronds.
PALACES
There are two palaces. The first is part of the main Osun-Osogbo shrine. This is where the first Ataoja of Osogbo, Larooye and his people settled. This palace is located within the courtyard.
This first palace houses the Osun shrine and temple. The temple is said to contain the sacred stone stool, the rock of authority of the king used some 500 years ago.
The second palace is where Larooye moved to before the community established a new settlement outside the grove. It is about 600 meters from the first palace. It was said to have been built to avoid the effect of constant flooding experienced at the first palace.
Today, the Ogboni cult house stands within a symbolic reconstruction of the second palace.
Both buildings are constructed of mud walls with tin roofs supported variously by mud and carved wooden pillars. The three Ogboni buildings are constructed with sweeping roofs rising high over the entrances and supported on a cluster of slender carved wooden posts.
For historians and researchers, there are five main sacred divisions which are associated with different deities and cults. While three of these deities are primodial originated with the grove, the other two were later transferred into the grove in the 50s when their existence were said to be threatened in the main town of Osogbo as a result of religious fundamentalism.
- See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/08/osun-grove-more-than-annual-festival/#sthash.RsvSylkM.dpuf


Pic by Dare Fasube