Worshippers still believe that the River goddess still cures, provides and rescues anybody who desired salvation and deliverance through her waters.
Every year, tourists including believers across continents come together to pay homage and worship the River goddess at the sacred grove in Osogbo, the capital of Osun state.
A priestess of Osun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility told WITHIN NIGERIA that the annual festival is purposely done to renew the contract between humans and deities.
The festival which started as a local one has received global acceptance through efforts of local artists such as sculptors, wood carvers and huge contributions of Australian-born artist, Susan Wenger in making River Osun, a world heritage site can not be underestimated.
There are series of activities to be done within 29 days dedicated for the celebration of the River Goddess. These activities include the traditional cleansing of Osogbo, which is known as ‘Iwopopo’, on August 1, followed by the lighting of the 500-year-old six-point lamp called ‘Atupa oloju merindinlogun’ which comes up three days after the cleansing of the land.
‘Bibo Ade Oba Osogbo’ – worshipping the Ataoja’s crown which is meant to honour past kings of Osogbo is slated for August 8, 2022. On August 11 is the ‘Dida Ifa arugba’, where a young virgin woman (arugba) of a royal lineage, offers sacrifices to the deity. This will be followed by the ‘Dida Ifa Arugba’, while the festival will end with the ‘Osun Ajigun’ on August 29, 2022.
As thousands of tourists including Osun worshippers prepare to honor and worship the River goddess, there is a major challenge with no solution in sight.
Truly, River Osun is not strange to challenges. For years, it has continued to wrestle against land grabbers who want to make fortune out of intimidating acres of land that made up the ‘sacred grove’.
These land grabbers have tirelessly made moves to share the sacred grove with River goddess. They want to become neighbors with the River goddess and violate the contract between their forefathers and the goddess. The more they intend to grab these acres of land, the more the custodians secure them. This has continued for years and it is still not tiring.
As River goddess and its custodians continue its unending battle against land grabbers, another set of enemies have crawled into the sacred grove. These new enemies always launch their attacks kilometres away from the sacred grove. They do not need to enter to sacred grove before they attack the River goddess. They use excavators and other equipments to fight the River.
These new enemies have been attacking River Osun for years and they intend not to stop unless the goddess and its custodians rise up and fight very hard. They are the ‘gold miners‘.
The activities of gold miners especially the local ones in neighboring towns like Iregun-Ijesa, Itagunmodi, Ilesa among others have caused damaging effects on River Osun. These miners in their quest for money are destroying our cultural heritage.
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The activities of miners have not only polluted the River but have also made a ‘spiritual water body meant for healings’ to become a threat for those its meant to heal. A colorless water has now turned yellowish, containing heavy metals which are dangerous to health if consumed.
Despite several warnings from health workers and medical practitioners that the water is not safe for drinking, thousands of Osun worshippers do not care about the yellowish color nor heavy metals in the water body. Worshippers believe that the yellowish-color or heavy metals presence have no effect on the water. They can only affect the color but not the potency.
Unlike the worshippers, the custodians of River Osun are very worried about the safety of the sacred grove and the water pollution. As worried as they appear, they still believe in the potency of the water; its divine power of healing and deliverance. When asked If they have communicated with the River Goddess about the strange development, they said it is their prayer that she does not fight back.
The government made several vows too. They vowed to arrest and prosecute local miners who are allegedly responsible for the water pollution. They also vowed to direct miners to embark on ‘water treatment’ process that would not allow the wastes of their process to join tributaries connecting to River Osun.
Despite the promises of the state government through its deputy chief of staff, the River goddess and its custodians including Osun worshippers are still at the mercy of these miners. A visit to neighboring towns in Ijesaland exposed the rate at which miners are crudely exploiting the lands in search for golds.
When Osun festival kicked off yesterday, the thought of this reporter was with River Goddess, its custodians and thousands of Osun worshippers who will be left with no choice than to consume already polluted water for healings and deliverance. And he quietly asked, Who will rescue the River Goddess, its custodians and worshippers from their common enemy?