Olojo festival is one of the annual festivals celebrated in Ile-Ife. Olojo as a spectacle provides a good understanding of Yoruba myth, history, belief and the ceremonial significance of Ile-Ife. It is a ritual which captures the religious and socio-cultural core valve of the sacred city of Ile-Ife , and its annual celebration renews the people's belief and as well serves as the civil faith of Ife people rooted in belief in the sacredness of kingship institution. The festival is about the hero Ogun, a personality with enormous wealth and political powers.
The mythic narrative of Ile-Ife as center of Yoruba civilization and universe is considered in the context of a ritual practice of renewal of people's faith. Olojo festival's prime relevance lies in the full participation of the reigning king.
Myth of Olojo Festival
Olojo festival evokes the myth of the journey of deities into Yoruba land. Ogun led the deities and parted way for them to reach their destination. Ogun as a warrior fought for the people of Ile-Ife and created their cosmogony. Olojo's rituals are the link with ideology of Ife existence, and his cooperative effort with Oranmiyan, the cultural hero of Ife who is also a warrior and a king in a Yoruba community, Oyo.
The shrine of Ogun at Oke-Mogun, in the Centre of Ife, is the place where Ogun descended into the underworld, and this is where it is worshiped. A respondent claimed that Olojo may be synonymous to Oranmiyan, another warrior, and the Ooni because they are the direct son of Oduduwa . Although the connection between the three mythic figures (Ogun, Oranmiyan and Ooni) is not as straight forward as the respondent says, it provides a template for understanding the complex relations between the three figures firmly rooted in Ife cosmology.
Ogun is known for his competence in iron technology, which was to create tools for other deities to perform their roles on earth. In this wise, Ogun is often called 'Osin Imole' (leaders of deities). He creates in the belief of the people the cutlass for farming, the hunting weaponry and the war equipment for battle; his leadership and his warrior-like personality is to be associated with the monarchy and as the being regarded as one of the Ooni who reigned in Ile-Ife. Oranmiyan, though unlike Ogun in character, is the Yoruba deity who expanded the kingdom of Ife to the East and as far as Benin kingdom. Oranmiyan founded the ancient Oyo Empire, giving birth to the modern Yoruba civilization. Ogun, the focus of Olojo, is called Ogun Ereja,(Ogun of market) meaning through him the kingship is linked to market economy .
Olojo festival began with the third Ooni of Ife known as Ogun. The exert date of the origins of the festival is yet to be determined but could be dated back to the 11th through the 15th century. The celebration usually takes place in the mid October which means it is celebrated in the ninth or tenth month of the lunar calendar. The four days of Olojo festival start with Ilagun, the animal sacrifice to Ogun; Oke-Mogun proper, the king's first visit to Ogun shrine; and Oke-Mogun Keji, the king's second visit to Ogun shrine.
The Ooni (king of Ife) appears after several days of seclusion and denial, communing with the ancestors and praying for his people. This is to make him pure and ensure the efficacy for his prayers. The Ooni later appears in the public with Are crown (king's Crown), which is believed to be the original crown used by Oduduwa to lead a procession of traditional chiefs and priests to perform at the shrine. Olojo serves as the biggest festival on cultural calendar of the Ile-Ife people. All Ife indigenes at home and abroad always come together to worship Ogun, the progenitor of Ife 'Odaye' (Ife at the inception). Olojo festival has remained popular in Ile-Ife because of its myth and history. It connotes the year specially blessed by Olodumare. Olojo festival is done every year in Ile-Ife for the king to perform his duty and renewal of oath.
Olojo Ritual Performances
Olojo ritual starts with picking of date done by the calendar keeper, chief Eredumi the priest of Oranmlyan. The chief priest in charge of the festival ceremony determines the most favorable time for the festival in the month of October. A key informant said that, the exact data for Olojo, as opposed to the Ife festivals that are determined by the appearance of the new moon, is determined by the position of the sun, indicating that Olojo festival is a solar ceremony. Chief Eredumi, an Ogun priest, announces the actual data of the festival to the public . Olojo comes up every year during the month of October, after Luwo festival (a festival done in remembrance of the only female Ooni).
Oral tradition suggested that luwo's tenure was marked by monumental achievements, especially in the area of landscape and architecture designs, of Ife. Luwo made it clear that her foot paths and surrounding environment must be paved with pottery sherd. The priest of Ordnmlydn fixed the data for the festival through the divination of 'Obi dida' (throwing of kolanut). Once the date is fixed, there is no turning back. It is also confirmed that at the approach of the festival, the Ooni hear the voice of an invisible drum from the spirit and immediately come home from wherever he is at the time, so as to be in seclusion with the spirits for the seven days that precede the festival.
A week before the commencement of Olojo festival, the king begins his own ritual by going into seclusion and performing private prayer. Olojo festival starts with the daily sacred enchantments of Ogun and Oranmlyan called 'Gbgjure! Gbgjure! Gbajure!! ebo re a fin, etutu re da.....' (May your sacrifices be accepted). Various women from the household of Ogun, especially from Akogun compound, gather in the evening to sing the praises of two war deities Oranmlyan and Ogun, and remind the people that the festival is approaching. The shrine of Ogun is decorated with palm fronds (mariwo) to signify the commencement of the festival, while women from Eredumi compound would, three days to the commencement of the festival, do the spiritual cleansing of the palace .
Ritual Specialists and Ritual Process
Ooni of Ife taking the center stage mediate the relationship between the dead and the living. The Ooni of Ife, who appear in the public with Are, the special beaded crown and leads procession of tradition chiefs and priests to performs renewal of oath to Ogun and visits some places of historical significance like past Oonis' graves and compounds and Aje shrine. Osogun the chief priest of Olojo festival celebration and in this capacity provides the necessary materials need for the ritual performance. He leads the ritual process, with other performing chiefs following him. He dresses in red regalia, which symbolizes power, and appears in the shrine of Ogun with sword of authority. Notable chiefs directly associated with Olojo festival, include Akogun and Obawara. They each have specific roles to play during the festival. Chief Eredumi, a descendant of Ooni Oranmiyan is not just a great warrior but also the calendar keeper, in charge of data picking for Olojo festival. He is also the priest of oranmiyan. The Akogun of Ife is war-like in character. He is in charge by tradition to remind the king of the commencement of the festival, through an invisible drum known as Aluja . Obajio is in charge of the decoration of Oke-Mogun shrine during Olojo festival. He answers to the clarion call of Osogun during the festival and smashes the head of the dog used for sacrifice.
Olojo festival is a four-day event. The first day, which is normally a Friday is called Ilagun day. The second day, being Saturday is called the first visit to Oke-Mogun while the third day being Sunday, is the grand finale for merry-making. The last day is Monday which is the second Oke-Mogun. Early in the morning of Ilagun day, a search party from Oba's place goes out to hunt for two dogs that will be sacrificed. In the pre-colonial days, the search party will...