Located at the entry point of the path to the main Ọ̀ṣun shrine, Ojúbọ Òṣogbo, the Arugbá Gate represents Iyemòwó’s sacred womb and birth into another dimension of reality. Iyemòwó is the wife of Ọbàtálá – ‘the supreme òrìṣà’ and the deity of creation. ‘In the sense of Ọbàtálá’s transcendental fathership of all that is, Iyemòwó is the mother, the ethereal substance, the medium that transmutes (…) into its own ever new proto-image: all that is. She is the womb that bears Heaven.’ (A life with the Gods, Susanne Wenger/Gert Chesi, 1983, page 93)
On the day of the Ọ̀ṣun Festival, the Arugbá leaves the worshippers in the procession here and passes through this gate and down a narrow, hidden pathway to the river, supported by an entourage of priests and priestesses. The Arugbá, literally translated as “the carrier of the calabash”, is the central figure in the annual Ọ̀ṣun Festival. She carries ritual objects in a calabash on her head to the Ọ̀ṣun Shrine where the festival finds its climax and conclusion.
The Arugbá is selected by divination from amongst the Òṣogbo royal families. She must be a virgin and goes through extensive training conducted by traditional priests and priestesses in the Atáọ́ja’s Palace. In days gone by, her education was exclusively within the palace walls but in more recent times includes attending school. When the Arugbá chooses to marry, she must leave her position and a successor is chosen - again through a process of divination.
The Arugbá Gate was restored in 2017-18 by the restoration team under the direction of Sangodare Ajala and Adebisi Nurudeen as the lead restoration artist.