Just on the outskirts of Osogbo town in Osun State, my friends and I went to see a sacred forest which is said to be home to the Osun goddess.
Unfortunately, due to time my friends and I couldn’t go round the 75 hectares, but it is one place that everyone must see. It is indeed one of the few remaining places that tell a story about how a town and its people are the way that they are or have their beliefs. It also ensures that our history and culture isn’t swept away in the name of being modern. If we lose places like this, what makes us different from other countries.
I highly recommend visiting the grove and taking a walk through history. Walking through it made us feel like we were walking through several years. It was just us, nature and whatever lurks around the grove that our eyes were not privy to.
When we got there, our guide proceeded to tell us the history behind the sacred grove which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (the inserted audio is in Yoruba but I have summarised its history below).
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There were two hunters (have you noticed most Yoruba legends start with hunters?), Larooye and Olatimehin who went in search of water and this led them to a place near the Osun river. Since Larooye’s town was suffering from a drought and famine, Olatimehin suggested that their people move there.
After settling down, they started preparing the grounds and clearing the bushes for the season of farming. Unfortunately a tree fell and broke the goddess of Osun’s dye pots. Suddenly a loud voice was heard saying ‘Larooye, Timehin, gbo gbo ikoko aro mi le ti fo tan’ (Larooye, Timehin, you have broken all my dye pots). The other spirits in the bush then started begging her. They called her oso-igbo (spirit of the bush) and this is where the town Osogbo got its name from.
To pacify her, Larooye struck a deal with her. If she solved their spiritual and physical problems, they would respect the deities homes. They also built a shrine for her and worshipped her in exchange for expanding their community. As the community grew, the grove was no longer big enough and so they moved to present day Osogbo.
Of course as with Nigeria being what it is sometimes, the grove was left unkempt and damaged till an Austrian lady by the name of Suzanne Wenger came. She was an artist and taught at the University of Ibadan. She took it upon herself to revive and maintain the Osun Grove. She and her artists made new sculptures from iron, cement and mud to replace the damaged ones and brought the world’s attention to the grove thereby showing off Yoruba Mythology. It is because of this that there is international recognition of the Osun Grove and why people come from all over the world to see it especially during the Osun-Osogbo festival. Till her death she was a priestess of Osun.
It is a shame that it was a foreigner who came and revived something of cultural value to our country. The govt needs to do more and preserve the cultural sites in Nigeria. (Since we have no ministry of tourism, I wonder what will happen). I would also suggest building a hotel nearby as this would create synergy between both places.
Things to note about the Grove:
- Entry is N100 and to take a camera in, you pay N1000 (camera includes taking pictures with your phone.)
- There are 40 shrines and several artworks in honour of the deities.
- The River Osun can be found in the Osun Grove.
- Some places in the grove can only be entered into if you’re a priest.
- There are two palaces in the grove.
- There are over 40o species of plants there.
- Every year over a 12 day period, the Osun festival takes places at the grove and people from all over the world come to take part in it.
- The goddess Osun is said to give children which is why alot of sculptures of her show her holding onto babies.
Take a walk through the Grove visually with the pictures below.