The Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Festival

The Annual Renewal and Celebration of the Town’s Pact with the Goddess Ọ̀ṣun

Ọ̀ṣun Festival: Arugbá carrying the Calabash (2022)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The Arugbá carries the calabash

Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo is a fourteen-day festival held in August of each year. It culminates in a massive procession from the Atáọ́ja’s (the town's King) palace to the main Ọ̀ṣun Shrine, where rituals with the sacred objects carried by the Arugbá (the votary maid) are conducted. 

Osun Festival: Praying to the Osun Goddess (2014/2014) by Akintunde AkinleyeOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Traditional colours and hairstyles

Priests and priestesses are wearing white robes in honour of Ọ̀ṣun, the òrìṣà (deity) of fertility. They plait their hair in the traditional way of olórìṣà (those who are initiated in a Yorùbá divinity).

Adedoyin Talabi Faniyi: With the Aja-Osun (2020) by Abiodun OmotosoAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Bells to draw the attention of the goddess

The brass or bronze bell they use when offering prayers to Ọ̀ṣun is called ààjà and the sound of it serves to draw the attention of the goddess. Many ritual items made of copper alloy symbolize the river deity.

Ọ̀ṣun Festival: The Sacred Waters of the Ọ̀ṣun River are taken home by DevoteesOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

The waters of life

Traditionalists believe that the Ọ̀ṣun river water is sacred and that the òrìṣà helps those who take her water, called agbò by devotees. People come with containers to carry home the water from the Ọ̀ṣun River which is said to have healing properties.

The Ọ̀ṣun Festival in the groves had dwindled in size to only a very small number of traditionalists prior to the arrival of Susanne Wenger in the late 1950s and the subsequent revitalisation of the shrines by the New Sacred Art Movement, which Wenger founded. In the decades since, the festival has grown to become the largest and most important traditional festival in Yorùbáland, if not in the whole of Nigeria.

Ọ̀ṣun FestivalAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Thousands of people attend each year

The numbers are not formally recorded but it is said that tens of thousands of people join in the annual procession each year.

Ọ̀ṣun Festival (2022)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ọ̀ṣun Festival 2022

Osun Festival MasqueradesAdunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Ẹ̀yọ̀ masquerades

Traditionalists from all over the country take part in the procession and subsequent rituals.
The white-clad  Ẹ̀yọ̀ masquerades represent the spirits of the dead, and are a delegation from Lagos.

The Atáọ́ja and Olorì Ọba, Nike Okundaye (2021)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

The Atáọ́ja – 'The One who Holds the Fish in his Hand'

The annual procession from the Atáọ́ja’s Palace to the main Ọ̀ṣun Shrine celebrates the renewal of the pact agreed between the goddess Ọ̀ṣun and the towns mythical founder. The Atáọ́ja is the traditional ruler of Òṣogbo and as such the host of the festival.

Ọ̀ṣun Festival: Teeming Festival Crowds (2014) by \Original Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

Òrìṣà – a World Religion

Many hundreds of devotees make the pilgrimage from foreign countries: mainly from South America and the Caribbean where Yorùbá religious traditions were passed down to the descendants of slaves, including Brazil, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago as well as many African Americans.

An Ọ̀ṣun Priestess in the Palace Shrine (1970s)Adunni Olorisha Trust / Adunni Osun Foundation

Rituals before and after the annual procession

Ceremonies in the days prior and following this procession include the ritual cleansing of the town, the lighting of the 16-flamed lamp of Ọ̀sanyìn; rituals to honour present and past kings as well as rituals at the river shrines Ojúbọ Òṣogbo, Ọ̀ṣun Búsanyìn and Ọ̀ṣun Lákọkan.

Osun Festival: A Hand in the Water (2014/2014) by Akintunde AkinleyeOriginal Source: Adunni Olorisha Trust/ Osun Foundation

A deep understanding of nature and spirituality

The traditional Yorùbá religion of òrìṣà is based on the deep understanding of the spirituality and sacredness inherent in all nature. 
May this message be heard by many! Àṣẹ!

Credits: Story

PHOTOGRAPHY
Abiodun Omotoso
Aldolphus Opara
Akintunde Akinleye
AOT/F Collection
Gert Chesi

Find out more about the AOT/F’s work by visiting our
website  www.aot-aof.org

Your donations will support our continuing efforts to maintain and restore the works of art in the Sacred  Ọ̀ṣun Òṣogbo Groves, thank you.

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