Activities marking the 2014 Osun-Osogbo Festival came to an end, Friday 22nd August, 2014, with some devotees and participants at the sacred grove, mainly young girls between the ages of 15 and 25 years, believed to have been possessed by the Osun river goddess.
The Osun river goddess is believed to be a deity that aids fertility for couples, who drink the water from the river; and it was an astounding sight as worshipers, devotees and tourists, took out time to watch the dramatic display of body wriggling and state of trance.
The festival usually takes place in the Osun Osogbo grove, a sacred forest and a UNESCO approved World Heritage Site on the outskirts of Osogbo, and the grove is dotted with shrines, temples, palaces and sculptures in honour of Yoruba deities.
The grand finale, which was accompanied with spectacle, saw the votary maid, “Arugba,” leading the procession to the grove; thereafter, the King left the palace for the grove, accompanied by his traditional chiefs and associations, such as the Iyalodes and Iyalojas, in their colourful traditional attires.
The festival this year was low-keyed, following an earlier announcement by the Osun State Government that foreigners should be restricted from the festival; as such, the usual pomp and pageantry associated with the traditional festival were not seen; only the Osun devotees and traditionalists from within the state took part in all the programmes of the festival, and all the traditional rites associated with the festival were carried out under the supervision of the renowned Ifa priest, Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon.
Speaking through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Sunday Akere, the State Government had announced that foreigners should be restricted from attending this year’s Osun Osogbo Festival due to the outbreak of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease (EVD); but the Osun Osogbo 2014 Advisory Committee insisted that the festival would hold on the scheduled date in accordance with the culture and tradition of Osogbo land.
However, the Osun State Government, on Friday, deployed doctors and other health workers to the entrance of the Grove to check the temperature of everybody going into the grove, with non-contact thermometers and also to ensure that victims of the Ebola virus were not allowed to mix freely with devotees, who thronged the grove to celebrate the grand finale of the festival.
This resulted in a lower turnout than previous editions of the festival, which is usually celebrated by devotees from the South-West states and those from outside Nigeria, including Europe and the Americas; but despite the restriction, some foreigners from Brazil were in the state and participated fully in the festival.
In an address, the Osun State Governor, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, regretted the low-key celebration of this year’s Osun Osogbo Festival due to public health concern occasioned by the Ebola Virus Diseases, which had mitigated the attendance of the international community; however, he extended his warm felicitation to those who could not attend but had their hearts with the festivities.
He affirmed that there was need to uphold our intangible cultural heritage, such as values, morals and ethics to include religion and politics, saying, “Distance in space cannot separate us from the ideas and cultural affinity that we share in common, even though we reside in far-flung places on the globe;” and reiterated that, “the celebration is an integral part of our culture and our culture defines who we are.”
Part of the highlights of the event was paying of homage to His Royal Highness, Oba Jimoh Oyetunji, the Ataoja of Osogbo land and custodian of Osun Osogbo festival by different segments of the society, traditional chiefs, Iyalode, Iyalojas (market women), hunters, the Ogboni fraternity and others.
The National Institute for Cultural orientation (NICO) was not left out of the celebration as the Executive Secretary, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, was represented at the occasion by the South-West Zonal Coordinator, Mr. Ohi Ojo.