The Culture That Attacks Women Who Looks Upon Their Deity | by Belinda Mallasasime | August, 2022

The culture that forbids women from seeing their deity

A photo of an Oro festival (photo source: Daily Trust)

TThe ancient Oro Festival is an annual gender-specific festival of the Yorubas in Nigeria, West Africa celebrated in worship of their god Orisha Oro their deity of bullroarers and justice. They practice this as a cleansing ritual after the death of a monarch or king, although other localities celebrate it for some other reasons because the celebration of the festival varies from locality to locality among the Yorubas.

Oro Festival is celebrated to mark several significant events in Yoruba culture apart from functioning as a form of worship for which it is reputed. The festival is celebrated during the induction of a child into a family’s principles, core values, and belief system where the child goes through some rites. Again, the Yorubas celebrate Oro in their naming culture; some families adopt or as the beginning of the names of their children. Anyone whose name begins with Oro, is an indication that such a person belongs to a family that serves Oro as their family god. Furthermore, Oro is consulted as an oracle to foretell the destiny of a child after birth.

Another major event the Oro festival is celebrated among the Yorubas is in the aspect of Kingship and chieftaincy; Oro rites are performed first before Kings or chiefs assume their thrones and stools respectively and the chiefs flank their king according to the order of their induction. The rite forms a bond between the monarch, his advisers, the chiefs, the gods, and the ancestors which obliges them to act in the community’s best interest — thus reducing tyranny to the barest minimum.

The Oro ritual is gender-specific and patriarchal in nature as it is a male-only celebration/rite performed by only the paternal descendants of natives. Oro is called different names by different localities within the Yoruba tribe like Ita, Alugbe, Ajala, and Ma among others. The duration of the festival also varies from 3 days to 3 lunar months and remains veiled only to be unveiled during the festival after which it is covered up until the next festival.

As a form of worship – which has to do with paying obeisance to a god orisha Oro to cleanse the land after the passage of a monarch, it is done by parading the god around the community by only those involved in the parade with everybody else indoors , especially women who are forbidden to see the face of the deity. Meanwhile, if a man who has not been inducted to see the deity is mistakenly seen outside during the parade, he is not made to face dire consequences (unlike when it involves a woman) but he would have to act like he’s invisible while they pass by but women would often get attacked by the Oro faithful if caught outside during the ritual.

However ample time is given to notify the natives of the upcoming event to enable them to plan their movement. Although speculations abound that the festival is anti-women because they are not allowed to see the god and they are forced to remain indoors for the duration of the festival yet some of them still get missing from their houses, leaving people in awe and with mixed feelings about the rite which was supposed to be for their common good.

The presence of Oro is heralded by a high-pitched swishing/whirring sound said to be made by the wife known as Majowu which according to their traditional beliefs brings blessings to everyone who hears the sound wherever they are located indoors. The question that comes to mind is will this practice which is preserved orally and by adoption erode with time given the recent turn of events in the area of ​​civilization and globalization? Time alone will tell and clear or confirm this doubt.

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