In the heart of Yorubaland lies Ago Iwoye, a town with a rich tapestry of history, culture, and spirituality. Nestled between tradition and progress, the people of Ago-Iwoye embarked on a remarkable journey through time, holding steadfast to their ancient beliefs while embracing the winds of change. In this post, we delve into the captivating tale of Ago-Iwoye’s religious evolution from 1890 to 1990.
The Divine Exodus of Ago Iwoye people
Like their counterparts across Yorubaland, the people of Ago Iwoye embarked on a migration, carrying their small gods and goddesses with them. They believed that Eledumare, the Almighty God, was so exalted that humanity could only reach Him through intermediaries – these small divinities acting as divine agents.
A Pantheon of Worship
Throughout the 19th century, Ago Iwoye thrived as a hub of traditionalist beliefs. The town resounded with the veneration of deities such as Orunmila, Sango, and Ogun, along with goddesses like Oya, Oruken, and Ekine. These divine beings were celebrated openly and with immense pride, their festivals such as Egungun, Agemo, and Or marked by vibrant community participation.
The Power of Appeal and Sacrifice
The people of Ago Iwoye firmly believed that by invoking and appeasing these divine agents through sacrifices, their requests to Eledumare would be answered. Orunmila, the chief priest of the gods and goddesses, often consulted the Ifa oracle to discern which deity required appeasement.
Sango was honored to bring rain during droughts, while Ogun received devotion from those working with iron. Hunters prayed to Ogun for safety during expeditions, and drivers sought his blessings for accident-free journeys. Blacksmiths revered Ogun for prosperity in their craft.
Confronting Pestilence and Chaos
In times of epidemics like smallpox or cholera, sacrifices to Esu, known as The Devil, were seen as a way to control the pestilence. Esu was also entreated to restore peace during riots or public disturbances. The Oro Festival aimed to drive plagues away from the town, while the Agemo outing entertained the people, albeit with young individuals wielding whips.
Divine Motherhood and Royal Blessings
Goddesses like Oya, Osun, Ekine, and Erena were petitioned by barren women seeking the gift of children. These goddesses did not have annual festivals but were worshipped whenever their devotees made offerings.
However, one goddess, Oruken, revered as the mother of the Ebumawe of Ago-Iwoye, enjoyed an annual tribute that continues to this day. This ritual seeks to ensure a peaceful reign for the Ebumawe. Women from the royal family collect water from the goddess grove at Orile, believing that it will ooze from the floor after days of worship, signifying the goddess’s blessings. The Ebumawe dons the original royal robe and dances before the shrine, while the lead worshipper, draped in white loincloth, prays for peace in the town.
Ago Iwoye’s spiritual journey from the late 19th century to the 20th century is a testament to the enduring connection between tradition and progress. As the town evolved, it retained its deep reverence for its ancient deities while embracing the changing tides of time. The legacy of faith and harmony endures, making Ago-Iwoye a place where history, spirituality, and modernity converge in captivating ways.