Historic Osun Oshogbo Grove is Terrific.
Location and Values: The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is located on the outskirts of Osogbo, a city of some 2 million people in south-western Nigeria. It is one of the last remaining remnants of tropical high forest in southern Nigeria, and perhaps the last example of the once widespread practice amongst the Yoruba people of maintaining an area of intact forest for ritual purposes close to every settlement. Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove covers an area of 75 hectares and is regarded as the abode of the Yoruba goddess of fertility, Osun. The natural forest is dissected by the Osun River and scattered with shrines and effigies, connected by ritual paths. It has five main divisions, devoted to different Yoruba deities, and nine specific worship points along the river.
Slideshow of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove: This short slideshow features a collection of photos provided by Jill Craig. They show the principal features of the sacred grove, especially some of the worship points at the river bank. Some of the modern sculptures of local artists are also shown.
Originally settled by the Ijesha (a subtribe of the Yoruba) from Ibokun, 12 miles (19 km) east, it remained a small town subservient to the Ijesha kingdom of Ilesa, to the southeast, until it was greatly enlarged in the early 19th century by an influx of Oyo-Yorubas fleeing from the Fulani conquerors. In 1840 Osogbo was the scene of a battle that proved the turning point in the Fulani-Yoruba wars. Armed with European rifles bought from coastal tribes, infantrymen from Ibadan decisively defeated the Fulani cavalrymen; this victory made Ibadan, 50 miles (80 km) southwest, the largest and most powerful city of the Yoruba people. Osogbo continued to pay tribute to Ibadan until 1951 when it became part of that province. It became part of Oyo State in 1976 and the capital of the newly created state of Osun in 1991.
The present Yoruba inhabitants of Osogbo have an oba (“king”) who functions in an advisory role and holds the traditional title of ataoja (“he who stretches out his hand and takes the fish”), first given to Laro, one of the town’s founders, who, according to Legend, fed the fish of the Osun River and in return received a liquid believed to be effective against sterility in women. The river and its personification and namesake, the goddess Osun (or Oshun; a Yoruba heroine deified for her role in saving Osogbo), are honoured at an annual festival in the town in August. Two chalk- and camwood-covered shrines are connected with this worship—the Ile Osun (at the oba’s market), in which are stored the idols of the cult, and the Ojubo Osun (on a bend of the river at Laro’s original settlement), which is the centre of the worship. The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, a forested area with shrines and sanctuaries honouring Osun and other deities, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005.
- September 17, 2020
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