A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Osun-Osogbo Grove located in Osun’s capital city is a popular tourist destination. Its rich cultural background fascinates art enthusiasts, travellers and yoruba religion devotees from all over the world.
Fun Fact: Osun-Osogbo Grove is an open-air museum that includes statues, memorials, historic buildings, archaeological sites and cultural assets.
I first went to see a friend perform at Osogbo City Stadium before heading to Osun-Osogbo Grove. It’s the largest (75 ha) and last of sacred places that once characterised yoruba settlements.
The trip from the Stadium was barely 30 minutes. By then, the morning sun was completely out and the forest breeze was clean. It was truly a perfect day to visit the hotbed of yoruba culture.
#TIP 1: Go Early.
The Osun-Osogbo Information Centre was only a few steps ahead. I inquired from the personnel how much a tour would cost and she gave the breakdown.
- 200 Naira for a ticket.
- 1,000 Naira for phones.
- 3,000 Naira for professional cameras.
I actually paid a discounted fee because of my “Osun Kofa” status at the time. She asked if I wanted a Tour Guide and I insisted on having one.
#TIP 2: Hire a Tour Guide.
While waiting, I recalled two misconceptions I read online about the Grove.
- Myth 1: There’s a virgin restricted territory in Osun-Osogbo Grove.
- Myth 2: The bridge in Osun-Osogbo Grove is suspended by spiritual forces.
My Tour Guide – a middle aged man was a graduate of archeology and he was so knowledgeable. We exchanged pleasantries and he started with the Grove’s origins.
Osun-Osogbo Grove dates back to 1670 AD. A hunter named Olutimilehin discovered Osun River while in search of water, he informed his King, Oba Larooye Gbadewolu and subsequently, the entire community settled near its banks.
Fun Fact: According to local mythology, Osun River is one of the Orishas who turned into flowing waters.
In the course of farming, a tree fell and this angered Osun, “Laro! Timehin!! You have broken my dyeing pots.” She said. To appease the goddess, the villagers built shrines and offered sacrifices. In return, she gave them prosperity and protection.
A different version is she appeared to Olutimilehin and requested that Osogbo be made the capital city. I was particularly interested in the sculptures so I asked the tour guide for info.
#TIP 3: Ask Questions.
Most of the clay sculptures were dedicated to deities in yoruba cosmology. It’s fascinating that they all had names like Iya Mapo, Obatanla, Aje, Yemoga and Oya.
We followed a path to the “spiritual” bridge where some mosquitoes bit me. It wasn’t a good choice that I wore T-Shirt and Shorts.
#TIP 4: Wear Protective Clothing or Bring Mosquito Repellents.
All through the tour, I took photos with my phone and even though photographs were restricted to certain areas, I had shots of flora and fauna, public paths, sculptures, Osun river etc.
#TIP 5: Take Photographs.
I couldn’t help but notice white-throated monkeys because they were jumping all over the place. It seemed like the endangered species were very familiar with human presence.
#TIP 6: Animals in the forest are a physical manifestation of Osun River Goddess. Do not Feed or Hurt them.
The suspension bridge tho a little rusty was fully operational. Constructed by European colonial masters in 1935, it aided transportation of farm produce for so many years.
I was halfway through the bridge when the Tour Guide jumped! He really got me because I gasped for breath plus it vibrated a lot before becoming stable. Get prepared for such tricks if you’re visiting Osun-Osogbo Grove.
I anticipated seeing the other side of the bridge but he discouraged me saying there was nothing beyond apart from arid farmlands. Until today, I doubt that information. I didn’t want to break any laws so I yielded.
#TIP 7: Obey all Laws.
The Temple was our next stop. Getting there, the Chief Priest hit a pan twice before instructing me to be quiet. I was confused until the Tour Guide whispered, “He’s going to give the goddess breakfast.”
Fun Fact: The Chief Priest must not speak to anyone while going to feed the goddess.
Before preparing a meal for Osun, the Chief Priest offers prayers to discover what she’d like, the requested victuals are then thrown into the river. Most times she eats pap and eko.
#TIP 8: Respect Traditional Norms, Cultural Rules and Regulations of Osun-Osogbo Grove.
At the river, it is forbidden to bath, swim or fish. It’s also popular belief that if the river goddess grants your requests, you must make pilgrimage to the annual Festival. If not…
For two weeks every August, Osun worshippers converge to celebrate the river goddess. I would have loved to attend the last one but I was in Lagos for an event at Bics Garden and Boat Club.
Fun Fact: Osun-Osogbo Festival is Africa’s biggest and authentic traditional religious festival.
Here’s the Festival Procession.
1. IWOPO: traditional cleansing of Osogboland.
2. INA OLOJUMERINDILOGUN: lighting of 500 year old 16-point lamp.
3. IBORIADE: assemblage of crowns of past rulers, Ataojas of Osogbo for blessings.
4. ARUGBA: presentation of gifts, sacrifices and prayers to the River Goddess.
Osun-Osogbo Grove exists today because of Susanne Wenger and New Sacred Art Movement. They rebuilt and protected it from poachers, land speculators, art thieves and fishermen.
#TIP 9: Be Careful with your Cash and Valuables during the Osun-Osogbo Festival.
In the end, I wanted to buy some souvenirs for my trip but unfortunately, I didn’t bring enough cash and they were quite pricey.
#TIP 10: Get Souvenirs.
I concluded my tour by eating at a “Buka.” I had Fufu and Ewedu garnished with Goat Meat and a chilled bottle of Coca-Cola.
#EXTRA TIP: Eat Nigerian Swallow at least once.
YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT OSUN-OSOGBO GROVE
- Osun-Osogbo Festival: Celebration of Treaty Between Man and Goddess
- THE LAND OF VIRTUE – OSUN SACRED GROVE
- Legends of the South West – A trip to Osogbo & Ife
- A GUIDE TO VISITING OSOGBO, OSUN STATE || STAYCATION
- Osun Osogbo Grove: 10 things every Nigerian should know about the Sacred Forest
It was fun exploring Osun-Osogbo Grove. As a rainforest, it’s impressive it has remained independent, slipping the clutches of urbanization.