The Oro Festival in Ketu (Yewa) Land

The Orò Festival is an important festival that is celebrated all over the South West of Nigeria. The celebration of this festival differs from town to town.

In Ketu land, cities/villages such as Ojà-Òdàn, Òhúnbé, Òbelè, Ìkòtún, Ológiri, Àgbon Òjòdú, Asá, Èbúté Igbóorò, Ìjòùn, Ìgùá, Ìmèko, among others do celebrate the festival annually on every first Sunday of August that clashes with Ojà-Òdàn market day.

Orò Festival is an event celebrated by male initiates who reside in towns and settlements of Yorùbá origin. It is a festival meant to worship the Yoruba deity of bullroarers. The myth holds that Orò is a god living in a very high place, unreachable by humans. It is celebrated for seventeen days. Between the first and seventeenth day, prominence is given to three days – ìkálẹ̀ (the first day), the third day (ẹ̀ta), and ẹ̀tàdógún (the seventeenth day).

In Ketu land, the first day of the festival starts with the clearing of bush in front of igbórò (the sacred forest). The igbórò is located along the road. While some of the igbórò are decorated with palm fronds, others are fenced with blocks and with different designs. The first day of the festival is called ìkálẹ̀ (the first day). Here, women followers of Orò and their leader, Ìyálóde, are allowed in front of igbórò.They are given the privilege to cook yams for their male counterparts but are not permitted to have access to the internal part of igbórò.

In some villages, the Orò Festival starts at 8 p.m and in the city at 10 p.m respectively. Òrò can come out any time of the day if there is a need for it and it must be announced by the town crier or through other means of communication. Once Orò is out with its fierce voice or roaring noise, no women or strangers (whether males or females) are allowed to be seen outside. It is a common saying in Yorùbá parlance that: “Obìnrin le ṣawo egúngún; wọ́n lè mọ  awo gẹ̀lẹ̀dẹ́. Sùgbọ́n tóbìnrin bá fojú korò, Orò á gbée (Meaning that the cults that tolerate women are those of masquerade and gẹ̀lẹ̀dẹ́ because if a female beholds Orò  by gate-crashing into its affairs, she will instantly be consumed). The ọ̀gbẹ̀rì (inferior men with the status of women) are also closely confined to their houses.

The third day (ẹ̀ta) of the festival used to be full of Orò fierceness. Movement is restricted and if any ọ̀gbẹ̀rì are captured, they will not be seen again, but their clothes are shown entangled in the branches of a lofty tree, where Orò is said to have left them flying through the air.

The seventh day (èje) is also interesting for Orò followers. The àjànà (leader of Orò), Májowú (wife to Orò), pákọ̀kọ̀ (Orò deity of pap), will convene at igbórò to perform some sacrifices. During the sacrifice, one of the assignments carried out by the Orò followers is igi pípa (the act of removing the branches of trees). After removing the tree branches, palm fronds will be tied on top of the tree. At times, the whole tree may be asked to disappear from its location. This act of making tree(s) disappear is called baba gbéemi (meaning Orò has swallowed the tree). Before the disappearance of the tree, certain songs may be sung to portray their operation. Notable among these songs in Ketu land is “egi yò ṣẹrò, egi yò ṣẹrò, Orò à gbe kílẹ̀ tómọ́ ò” (meaning that any tree that offended Orò would be captured by Orò before the daybreak). The song is accompanied with the beating of drums called àgbá and omele. The people that beat the drums are called adágbàá. A tree is swallowed by Orò if it is found to possess diabolical powers.

The last day of the festival is called ẹ̀tàdógún (the seventeenth day). The day is the most interesting among other days of the celebration. On this day, the Orò followers do not want the festival to end. Indeed, the last day is the beginning of the first day! The last day of the festival also clashes with Ojà-Òdàn market day. The female followers of Orò are allowed to be at strategic places with canes in their hands. They beat any male counterparts that come across them. To avoid being beaten by the female followers of Orò, a man needs to run away the moment he sees them.

The Orò Festival in Ketu land is a very important one that every male and female followers look forward to. It allows them to eat free of charge whenever ògbèrì is taken to Ojúbọ Orò (Orò sanctuary) for initiation or during their visit to members of their cult. Orò plays an important role in ensuring peace and harmony among Yorùbá people of the south-western part of Nigeria and Yorùbá in the diaspora. Whenever any mishap happens in the community,  it wards off evil and ensures peace whenever the Ifá suggests sacrifices to cleanse the community.

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