Osun State in South Western Nigeria is home to one of the most distinct, fascinating and exquisite traditional festivals, which is the Osun Osogbo Festival. This is one festival that has a strong cultural heritage coupled with a strong enchantment for traditions, history, customs and a special female deity. The origin of the Osun festival started over seven centuries ago when a group of settlers led by a hunter “Olutimehin”, settled at the bank of the Osun river to escape the famine in their former dwelling place. “Osun”, the water goddess was said to have appeared to Olutimehin and requested him and his group to move up to a higher ground (the present Osogbo town).
The Festival started as a result of the early settlers making a pledge to Osun; to offer sacrifices to her annually, due to her promise of protecting them, causing their land to be fertile and making their women fruitful. Today, this annual sacrifice has gone past only offering sacrifices to a river goddess, it has now become an international celebration of different cultural events attracting visitors and tourists from all over the world.
The Festival is a two week event that occurs in the month of August, annually. It comprises of colorful carnivals, cultural dance routines, musical concerts, ethnic chants, sacrifices and a whole lot of other exciting activities. It commences with a traditional cleansing of the land from evil known as “Iwopopo”, and three days after this the “Ina Olujumerindinlogun” (16-point lamp), is lighted. Afterwards, there is the “Iboriade”, an event where all the crowns of the past kings or “Ataojas” are brought together for blessings by the sitting Ataoja of Osogbo, the “Arugba” ( a virgin calabash carrier who is regarded as a goddess), the “Yeye Osun”, and a group of priestesses.
Other events are the Susanne Wenger’s colloquium, a cultural party for children and a native game contest known as “Ayo olopon”. The final moments of the two week event and the Grand finale takes place at the Osun Osogbo grove, one of the most revered cultural centers in South Western Nigeria.
The success story of the Osun Osogbo Festival cannot be completely told without mentioning Susanne Wenger, an Austrian tourist who camped at the Osun Osogbo grove and stopped some prohibited actions that used to be rampant. In 2005, the grove was made a UNESCO World heritage site.