Economic importance of Ogun festival in Ondo land

Ogun, otherwise regarded as the god of iron, is said to be one of oldest deities that Olodumare sent to the earth for the creation of the universe.

However, there are other various myths surrounding its existence as regards its origin. History has it that Ogun was a professional hunter. His love for hunting was what made him to be regarded as ‘Osin-Imole’ that is, a chief among other deities. He was said to have been the one who, through his iron implement, paved the way for other deities who were coming from heaven to earth. Being a ruthless deity, he chose to live at the hilltop area whenever he went about hunting.

History also has it that he preferred to live in seclusion, rather than among the people. Whenever he wanted to relate with other deities, he usually wore a robe or garment of fire and blood. When not accepted by his people and tired of secularity life, he would borrow palm fronts from the palm tree and head to “Ire” where he was made a king; that is why he was also called “Ogun-Onire” meaning the ‘lord of Ire’ whenever he was eulogised.

Ogun festival, popularly known as Ekimogun is an annual festival observed by the Yoruba people of Ondo State, Nigeria, in honour of Ogun. According to an oral tradition in Ondo town,  Ogun was believed to be a hunter who migrated from Ile-Ife to Ire-Ekiti on game search, but he ended up living permanently at Ire-Ekiti and disappeared into the ground when the people of the town deceived him with an empty keg of palm wine. Another version of the story stated that he beheaded all the people who deceived him with his cutlass and disappeared to the hilltop, while some said he disappeared into the ground.

The festival, which is fast assuming the status of a key event of national interest, is celebrated in Ondo between the months of August and September. The celebration is usually accorded with masquerade of different designs.

According to Olupona, who is one of the heads of Ogun worshippers in the state, the preparation for Ekimogun festival is usually within 17 days while the final ritual is performed before the appearance of the new moon. On the day of the ceremony, a trumpet is blown early in the morning in the house of ‘Ayadi,’ the ritual specialist of Ogun (Ogun priest) in the state. The trumpet, made from a long gourd, is called “UPE”. This sound is what usually heralds the commencement of the Ogun festival in Ondo State. This “UPE” trumpet will be played for seven consecutive days. The sound of UPE usually performs a significant role and passes a message most people must be observed especially by the Ogun worshippers. During this period, various cultural dances are done to praise the deity and past heroes such as “Jamu-ila”.

Furthermore, with the 17 days marking the Ekimogun festival, various activities must be carried out before the market day which usually falls on the ninth day ahead of the D-day.  The king emissary is the one who makes the official pronouncement of the ceremony, which usually involves clearing of the paths and mending of bridges. On the fifth day to the real occasion, certain rituals must be performed in a ceremony called “Aleto.” The Aleto is divided into three parts Aisun Ogun (Ogun vigil), Ogun Owuro(Ogun morning) Ogun Ale (Ogun night).

Some of the people involved in the procession of Aleto, led by the traditionalists comprise artisans such as mechanic, blacksmiths, drivers, hunters, tailors and among others, with various ritual powders and charcoal being robbed on their faces to add glamour to the festival.

Some of the materials used by Ogun devotees during the ceremony are dogs, tortoise, palm oil, roasted yam, palm oil, cold water, kola-nuts and iron rod.

The Ogun worshippers also worship their ancestors, believing that the ancestors are present on earth at the time to greet, inspect and bless them.

  • Olanrewaju is of the Department of Education, National Museum, Ile-Ife.

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