Most Specifically, I want to tell my audience about the Osun Oshogbo grove in South Western Nigeria.
One of the two listed World Heritage Sites in Nigeria, inscribed in 2005 after Sukur Cultural Landscape in Adamawa State’s inscription as UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.
The Osun Oshogbo Grove is located in Osun state, South West Nigeria. It is notably one of the last standing forest groves. Asides its therapeutic trees, greenery and tranquility, this grove holds the history and mythology of the Oshogbo people, particularly the Yoruba tribe.
The People of Ataoja
A long time ago, the people of Ataoja migrated to find a place they can call home. After several attempts and attacks, they came across a river. Alas, we found water to drink and for other use, let’s call this place home!Consequently, they decided to settle here.
People of Ataoja: What do we name this place?
King Larooye: Well, we can’t say for now. It’s night time, let’s settle and in the morning we will decide the best name.
Meanwhile, unknown to them, the goddess Osun lives here. According to myth, Osun, one of Sango’s (the god of thunder) wives who parted ways viciously with her rival wives (Oba and Oya), became this river tragedically.
Potent, medicinal, magical and therapeutic claims River Osun. Similarly, anyone who wants anything from her would simply ask, make a pledge and that it would be done.
River Osun was angry with her new co-habitants who have decided to take up her territory without her permission. They will wash, bath, cook and do all sorts to the river and she became incredibly irritated. She conjured her magical powers, called upon the deities of the land to threaten these people to leave her space.
The Wizard of the Forest (Osho igbo)
Subsequently, the deities tried but the humans already found their abode and were certainly not ready to leave. Hence there was a face-off between them, more of spiritual warfare. The deities appeared again.
Deities: You people of “osho igbo” (wizard of the forest), leave this place this very minute or else we will continue to torment your lives and make this place unbearable for you.
Warlord Olatimeyin: Why do you call us that name? We have come to settle here. We come in peace, stop tormenting our lives. we will retaliate and kill all your people too. shoots at the deities but they disappeared again.
Warlord Olatimeyin and his team went to King Larooye to give him feedback.
King Larooye: My people, how did it go, were you successful in killing them?
Warlord Olatimeyin: No, my lord the deities even had the guts to call us a funny name. “Osho Igbo” (wizard of the forest).
King Larooye: Aha! I see light here. Before now, we had been puzzled over a name, see the deities has given us a name. Henceforth, this settlement shall be called “Osho-Igbo”. Let’s make peace with them and find out exactly what they want from us.
Another scene with the warlord and the deities
Warlord Olatimeyin: Give me your gourd, I will be your master from today and I promise to do you good.
Deity: Humans! with their sweet mouths, no I won’t, you will turn it around and hurt me, I won’t.
Warlord Olatimeyin: Trust me, drops all weapons, I mean no harm.
Deity: gives in Ok I give up. Just leave this space for good, the Osun goddess isn’t happy about your presence here. She wants her space. Leave!.
Warlord Olatimeyin: Oh I see, where can I see her? I need to appeal to her. we have found a home here and we want to stay.
Deity: She lives under the river. Also, take this, hands him some sort of powder, you should use it when you want to go see her. I have to leave now.
Another scene with the warlord and the river goddess, Osun.
Osun: angry Who are you? how dare you have the audacity to come here?
Warlord Olatimeyin: My lady, I’ve come to appease you, I am here with good intentions, we need to make peace.
Osun: softening You and your people have made a mess of my space. You have contaminated my water with all sorts of dirt and have encroached my space. I do not like it. Please leave.
Warlord Olatimeyin: Where do we go? We have found solace here. You have given us portable water to drink, food to eat and a place to call home. Where else do we go?
Osun: she muttered, “oh my tender heart”, Okay! you people can move some kilometers away from the river. I promise to watch over you and provide all these you have mentioned. I don’t want anyone to litter my space. As long as your people serve me and my water is kept clean, I would be with you. Go now and inform your people that I am with you.
Warlord Olatimeyin: Thank you, my lady.
The Intertribal Wars
During this period, intertribal wars were fought between the Fulanis’ and the Yoruba tribe. Approaching Oshogbo, the people had no option but to appeal to the Osun goddess to protect them as they fight their battles.
Osun was said to have come out in a human form, a beautiful lady to deceive the other warring party. The beautiful lady joined and served them a portion as a juice which they all drank and died. By the time the warriors of Ataoja got to the border, all their opponents were dead. This ended the inter-tribal war just at the boundary of Osun state.
The aftermath had the people of Oshogbo grateful to the goddess for forstalling peace and providing their needs especially providing children for the barren and healing the sick. Hence the Osun Oshogbo festival, where a virgin (Arugba) would be selected to carry out the traditional rites to appease the goddess and cleanse the land yearly.
Now that you are here in Oshogbo, can’t you feel this tranquility?
Do you now understand why the grove is left unbothered?…
After reading this piece, I want my audience to see beyond nature, I want my audience to feel a sense of welcome, love and leaving with the thought of how our cultural environment shapes our lives.