Yemoja festival: The celebration of the ‘Mother’ of mankind

Yemoja is the Orisa (deity) that brought water for Obatala-the creator, god, during the time man was moulded with clay by Obatala.

So, Yemoja is regarded as the mother of mankind and Orisa. During that process, Yemoja used the leg of a hippopotamus to navigate the rivers and she was called “Erinminlokun”.

The Chief Priest of Yemoja, Baale Olukunmi Egbelade (first right) and other priests of Yemoja during their visit to the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji (middle),to present the Ogunleki Statue of Yemoja as part of rites for the Yemoja festival before being taken to other key Orisa shrines within the Ibadan metropolis.
The Chief Priest of Yemoja, Baale Olukunmi Egbelade (first right) and other priests of Yemoja during their visit to the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji (middle),to present the Ogunleki Statue of Yemoja as part of rites for the Yemoja festival before being taken to other key Orisa shrines within the Ibadan metropolis.

Yemoja is also the Orisa that owns the Oogun river. She is the owner of the Sea cowrie divination system we refer to as “Erindinlogun” and also the mother of Sango, Obaluaiye and Dada.

Yemoja has many manifestations such as Mojelewi, Asaba, Asesu, Iyake, Opalalu etc. These are different aspects of Yemoja that has devotees all over the world and different classes of priests.

In Ibadan, the Chief Priest of Yemoja is Baale Olukunmi Egbelade, Are Isese of Oyo State, while the ‘Amoja Yemoja’ is Solomon Omojie and also the ‘Arugba Yemoja’, these are the major priests, while there are other titled chiefs too.

The Yemoja festival lasts for 17 days and it is a period of festivity, prayer and sacrifice where different Orisa groups and worshippers from various towns such as Iseyin, Oyo, Saki, Lagos and even from the diaspora participate.

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The Ogunleki Statue of Yemoja being carried by the “Arugba Yemoja” on the way to the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadanland and other key Orisa shrines within the Ibadan metropolis.

The first day’s event begins with a ‘Night Vigil’ and the consumption of the New Yam called “Ilasu”. This is followed by the worship of Yemoja with goats and ram on the third day and other subsequent events. The night before the conclusion of the festival is also for a vigil and a sacrifice is taken out in the night, while the following morning, there is Yemoja worship at Ogunpa River. Later in the day, the Ogunleki Statue of Yemoja’ which is regarded as the Essence of Yemoja is taken to the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadanland and then to other key Orisa shrines within the Ibadan metropolis accompanied by hundreds of worshippers singing and chanting in praise of Yemoja.

The Ogunleki Statue of Yemoja is carried by the “Arugba Yemoja”. After that, divine messages by the Orisa to individuals and communities are revealed by the Baale Yemoja who is, the mouthpiece of Yemoja.

The festival comes to an end the next day when “Olorisas” have performed “Erindinlogun” divination and carried out the prescribed sacrifice. This they do in order to know what the future of next year will reveal and the sacrifice is to enhance the positive things and to remove the negatives.

The Yemoja festival is a festival that attracts people from within and outside Nigeria such as the United States of America (USA), Japan, the United Kingdom (UK), Togo, Ghana etc.

It is therefore imperative for the Oyo State government to look into ways of promoting the Yemoja festival to meet an international standard in the near future.

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The “Arugba Yemoja” on the way to Ogunpa River during the just-concluded annual Yemoja festival.

This festival usually attract hundreds of people and it could attract thousands of people if government invests in it as it will promote the culture of Ibadan natives and improve tourism in Oyo State in general, thereby generating income for the government as well as investors via the use of hotel services for accommodation, buying of artifacts as well as sundry items apart from food and drinks while the annual festival lasted. This will no doubt improve local economy during the festival.

This year’s Yemoja festival was concluded on Sunday, November 6 amid usual pageantry.

According to the Chief Priest of Yemoja, Baale Olukunmi Egbelade, during the visit to the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadanland with the Ogunleki Statue, the Orisa warned public office holders to guard against any argument or thorny issue as it can lead to tragedy, just as it warned that measures be put in place to forestall the outbreak of measles in the state.

Prayers were offered for Oyo State and Nigeria in general during the festival as Yemoja was asked to usher in a new era of peace and stability in the country.

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