The Olojo Festival is a culture festival in the calendar of the Ile-Ife, Osun State which is located in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Olojo can also be literally translated as the “Owner for the day”.
It is the celebration of the remembrance of “Ogun”, god of Iron, who is believed to be the first son of Oduduwa, progenitor of the Yoruba people. The festival is held annually in October.
Events and activities during Olojo festival
The Olojo festival usually begin by Ikale, a week-long of non-drumming of any kind of traditional drums, because, Ooni, Arole Oduduwa, the progenitor of Yoruba race has gone incommunicado with the four hundred and one deities, who resided in the ancient city of Ile-Ife.
According to Ife myth, Olojo festival started with the third Ooni of Ife, Ogun and it is done in honouring Olodumare, the “owner of the day” it is to thank the’ supreme being’ for his abundance over the entire Yoruba nation and also seek his blessing ,peace, fruitfulness and longevity of the people.
No one determines the date when the festival should hold in the month of October, but Ooni himself will hear the sound of unseen drums wherever he may be and that it is time for him to enter into seclusion, so as to communicate with the deities in fasting and prayers without receiving any visitor or attending to the immediate family members as well.
During his seclusion as the representative of the living and link between the gods and the people, he supplicates, atones, and presents the needs of the people to the gods.
This act made him the priest to his people, as well as the mouthpiece of Olodumare to his people. Before the Ooni emerges, women from his maternal and paternal families sweep the Palace, symbolically ridding the Palace of evil.
The Thursday presiding the first Oke-Mogun, is Ilagun day and it is always a vigil affair with the chief host, Osogun, the priest in charge of Ogun, the god of Iron, whom other deities in Yoruba mythology believe paved way for other deities to have their ways to the earth, with other traditional chiefs offering sacrifices at Oke-Mogun shrine.
Friday, which is the first Oke-Mogun day, as early as morning, people throng into Ooni’s palace with Arole Oduduwa, sitting on the throne of his ancestors dishing out prayers to whosoever that visits the palace.
It is often time of merriment and celebration for the opportunity of being alive that the Supreme Being bestowed on individuals to be alive, and celebrate the commencement of another calendar year, especially for the people of the ancient city of Ile-Ife.
Before the advent of Christianity, even till early 70’s, no true son or daughter of Ile-Ife would not come home for the festival, because of the opportunity it avail individuals to re-unite with his kins in order to deliberate on the progress of individuals and the community at large.
It is time when young ladies were betrothed to their spouses, to many it is time to report the oppressor to the deities. It also serves as time to plead with gods in supplication for those that seek for the fruit of the womb, good jobs and fortunes, because most of the sacred grooves were opened for whoever that needs their intervention, as the priests of those deities were often at hand ready for the people.
In the afternoon,towards the going down of the sun, Ooni will enter into Ileegbo and come out with Ade Aare, the beaded crown believe to be won by Oduduwa, after which the princes from all the ruling houses known as Sooko will pay obeisance to Ooni. So, also the traditional chiefs in order of their seniority will as well pay obeisance to Ooni.
At Ilenla, the Lokoloko’s who are the palace aides, but cladded in half camwood and white –chalk with canes in their hands pave way for the movement of Ooni to Oke-Mogun, followed by gun shots.
Immediately, Aare crown is being sighted, prayers are often said by the people for whatever they desire, while Ooni would lead the procession of traditional chiefs and the people to Oke-Mogun, passing through specific routes.
At the shrine, the Ooni would perform a ritual dance with Osogun and at the end, they would both perform a ritual of sword-crossing, apparently an oath of comradeship. The style of grum and singing for each Chief is different. Only the Ooni can dance to the drum called Osirigi.
Thereafter, the Osogun performs with chalk and camwood the traditional marking of all chiefs present, as this would mark the renewal of the chiefs’ allegiance to constituted authority represented by Ooni himself.
Next, the Ooni and Osogun descended to another shrine called Ogun Ereja shrine for another round of rituals. From there, Ooni would lead the procession to Oja-Ife, where he would perform another ritual at Aje shrine and prayers are offerred for the economic and prosperity of the people, before returning to the palace.
On the second day of the festival, the Ooni is kept busy with various entertainments by the Emese, king courtiers in the minor courtyards located within the expansive palace.
The next day, which happens to be the third day of the celebration and the second Oke-Mogun day, the repetition of the event of the first day would hold but Ooni do not wear Aare crown, in addition Ooni visit Oke-Itase to pay homage to Orunmila and his family quarter which signify the end of the festival.
Significance of Olojo festival
The significance of Olojo festival cannot be over-emphasised, as it is the festival that unites the people together. It is also a celebration of the deities and celebration of the God of the Universe, the owner of the day, for preservation of the Yoruba race with abundance of blessing creator have bequeathed on them.