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Osun-Osogbo Festival: In Nigeria, Thousands Celebrate Osun, Goddess of Fertility

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The Osun Osogbo festival, a traditional celebration that is thought to be 600 years old, is under way in Nigeria’s south-western Osun state.

The two-week festival is considered to be the biggest annual traditional religious event of the Yoruba people.

Every year, the festival attracts thousands of Yorubas, an ancient ethnic group in West Africa that numbers around 40 million, the vast majority living in Nigeria.

Osun-Osogbo Festival: In Nigeria, Thousands Celebrate Osun, Goddess of Fertility

According to UNESCO which named the area a World Heritage site in 2005, the dense forest of the grove and “its meandering river is dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and art works in honour of Osun and other deities”.

The two-week festival is considered to be the biggest annual traditional religious event of the Yoruba people.

Osun-Osogbo Festival: In Nigeria, Thousands Celebrate Osun, Goddess of Fertility

The Osun-Osogbo Festival starts with the traditional cleansing of the town called ‘Iwopopo’, which is followed in three days by the lighting of the 500-year-old sixteen-point sacred lamp called ‘Ina Olojumerindinlogun’.

Then comes the ‘Ibroriade’, an assemblage of the crowns of the past ruler, Ataojas of Osogbo, for blessings. This event is led by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo and the Arugba, Yeye Osun and a committee of priestesses.

The festival attracts thousands of worshippers and spectators not just from Nigeria but from all over the world.

Devotees at the Osun-Osogbo festival believe that the sacred grove forest, situated on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, is one of the last remaining places that the spirits, or “Orishas” reveal themselves to bless them.

The festival is marked with daily performances of people dancing, singing, playing the drums and showing off elaborate costumes to appease Osun, the goddess of fertility.

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The famous Eyo masquerade performers from Lagos state have taken part in this year’s festival.The main attraction of the festival is the Arugba, a virgin maiden who is supposed to help the people communicate with the deity, who leads a procession of devotees to offer sacrifices to the river.

In Nigeria, thousands celebrate Osun, goddess of fertility and water

The Arugba, also known as the ‘calabash carrier’, has a large calabash on her head underneath a colourful veil.

It contains the sacrifices of the entire community and those offered by the people in attendance.

Every Arugba has to remain a virgin during her time in the role.

The festival also attracts foreigners, some of them are tourists, others are drawn by what they see as a religious and cultural connection.

“We have a large group of Orisha devotees in Slovenia and in all parts of ex-Yugoslavia, so a lot of these people came here to celebrate with the Nigerian people because we share the same culture… we all worship the nature,” a worshipper from Slovenia told the BBC.

“We are thrilled about this festival and we are all getting the blessing of Osun here, from the very source of it, and we are grateful to all Nigerian people for making this place available for tourists and devotees.”

Experts on traditional religion in Nigeria say the festival was started by the founders of the town of Osogbo around 600 years ago.

They had planned to build their houses by the river bank, but as they began felling trees, it is said the spirit of the river-god Osun called out to them, ordering them away.

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The grove has been a sacred area of worship for the spirit’s devotees ever since.

In 2003, the last remaining 67 acres of virgin forest in the area, was recognised by Unesco as a World Heritage Site.

Pictures: Instagram

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