Tradition of Orò ritual and the needless secrecy in Yorubaland

Orò is one of the important traditional religions in Yorubaland, though dying out like many other traditional cults but quite a few local towns and villages still keep the religion intact. I have watched with interest why we have troubles resuscitating traditional religions in Yorubaland, apart from christianity and islamic influence, one of the reasons why many people deviate from the indigenous religions is because of the needless secrecy attached to them and in most cases the secrets are not recorded so elders die with key messages that should have been passed on.

Early July this year, there was a big commotion in Ikeja, Lagos after the death of Oba Rauf Adeniyi Aremu Matemi. The commotion was that they had to perform Oro rituals for seven days and that restricted movement from 7pm to 7am was placed on a number of streets near to the palace, this included the Lagos popular Computer Village –  This is 2014, people.

Another rumour that sent panic to the local residents was that the during the Oro rituals, seven people will be captured to be buried with the king.

These were distressing news for everyone in the area and the rest of Lagos.

If Yorubaland is to restore the glory of worshiping our traditional religions, we have to do things differently than in the past. Traditional leaders must find ways of disseminating information to people in a way that provide comfort and made the rituals appealing.

In my village, alongside the foreign religions – most people still worship the traditional religion,  so Oro is still being worshiped just before and after hunting period – September and November, this is done for very good reasons. The ceremony though not elaborate but taken seriously.

The secrecy of Oro rituals  and *Obinrin kii r’oro – Among all of the Yoruba traditional cults, Oro is a bit different in the sense that it prohibits women from being a member, also women were not supposed to be in the vicinity during the rituals. I have been locked up many times than I cared to recall during Oro rituals in my village, during this time all I heard was the distinctive screeching sound peculiar to Oro. The sound is from a piece of bamboo and strong piece of thread, it is meant to deter women from coming to the area where the rituals was taken place.

If you fail to tell simple truth, you risked speculations of all kinds – When I was little I thought men were naked during the rituals but my father said that was not true but yet refused to disclose what the rituals was about. His explanation was that women, apparently could not keep secrets hence they were not allowed in. Really?

In my village, Oro rituals is performed late in the evening after dinner around 8pm when most people are back to their houses, most of the time it is only for an hour and even if it goes beyond, nobody really cared as it is bedtime. If a village with less than 500 people could come up with this, why was it difficult for Lagos City people to adopt this very considerable habits? Do the rituals when it is mutually acceptable time frame?

On the rumour of human heads for Oro rituals – This is an area that still very cloudy in Yoruba culture. Human beings are not used for Oro rituals, if the rumours of a person being buried with the king were to be true, this has nothing to do with Oro rituals and it is shameful that Oro rituals is being dragged into it. The barbaric act of human sacrifice during notable king burials has a long history in Yorubaland, things are changing today, while I can’t say for sure that this barbaric practice no longer exists, it should not be used to distort all the names of the traditional cults.

Part of what Oro rituals were for in my village was to appease the gods during hunting seasons and to educate all hunters on signs to look for especially when group-hunting to prevent accidents – Worthwhile rituals I think.

* Women must not see Oro – *Obinrin kii r’oro.