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Oke Agidan festival in Oyo

walking to the Agidan Hill
walking to the Agidan Hill
Oke Agidan (Agidan hill) is located in Oyo town. It is a dome-shaped rock which dominates the flat land around it. The land belongs to the Alaafin of Oyo and for a while it was not permitted to cultivate it. Nowadays things are changing and the rock is surrounded with fields of cassava and yam. Fortunately, a few trees remain standing and give the landscape some allure. The rock itself has several shrines dedicated to different yoruba divinities.
Once a year, around April, a large pilgrimage takes place. The starting point of the pilgrimage is a grove where multiple tents have been erected to offer pilgrims food, drinks and ritual items such as kola nuts, bitter-kola nuts, some plastic beads bracelets (almond green and brown) or Ifa chains (mix of nuts and beads) for divination.
Oya, buy my nuts!
Oya, buy my nuts!
Pilgrims are coming all the way from Oyo town on motorbikes, mini-buses, cars, some possibly walk. Drums are providing rhythm to the place. An eclectic crowd of devotees were wearing their best attire on the occasion, all more colourful than the other. Style is de rigueur. The Youth is adopting less traditional outfits in a quest to look like successful Nigerian rappers living in Florida or worst case in Lagos: imported second-hand t-shirt with carefully chosen slogans (play-boy for the boys is a recurring choice) but also less obvious statements which I am keen to believe have something to do with the personality of the new owner, golden chains with trinkets, sunglasses, etc... The most amazing of the youth attires are padded trousers and top: 100% plastic and surely not the best compromise for hot weather but, we all know that, looking cool is well worth sweating in the heat!
The starting point of the pilgrimage is a small shrine (an enclosure of 10*10m approximately) in the middle of which grows a specific palm tree called ope. There is a long queue to enter the narrow space but everyone is generally in a good mood (there are always VIPs that need to be attended first and everyone knows that).
Ifa divination before getting started
Ifa divination before getting started
Inside the shrine, dedicated to Orunmila, about 10 or 15 Ifa priests, identifiable by the sign board hung around their neck, are helping with the blessing ceremony (kola nut offering together with money to get a good omen). The place is as lively as a bookmaker booth a few minutes before the Grand Prix d'Amerique (most famous horse race in France). Kola nuts are broken, thrown in the air and sprayed with water in order to see what Olodumare commands.
Then starts a walk towards the Agidan rock, about 500 meters away. At its foot, there are two shrines (one dedicated to Oke and to other orisas). To climb the bare rock, one has to part with shoes as it is quite steep in places. About 30 or 40 meters higher is another shrine (Egbe) which is nested along the rock at the entrance of a narrow cave. The legend says that a snake is coming out to the pots half buried in the ground and offerings are made to appease him. Then starts the real climb on searing hot stones, which many of us will not complete in full.
barefoot on the burning stone
barefoot on the burning stone
A pilgrimage is a journey, this one leads to the sky, where silence and peace invite prayer, a step closer to the divine. Devotees are sitting on the hot stone and pray in the wind. Some will carry kola nuts that they will open and through in the air, spray them with a bit of water from a sachet and ready the omens for the year to come. The ascent is challenging and gives a sense of fulfilment to those who make it all the way up. Coming down over an easier path is like an afterthought.
I met on the way some people from Cotonou and an Ijebu rasta-student who was taught at University about the Existentialist movement in France with authors like Jean Paul Sartre. It was a strange encounter half-way up the rock!
heavenly reward at the top of Oke Agidan
heavenly reward at the top of Oke Agidan


  1. Please appease the gods of power and potholes for those of us in lagos who can't travel

    1. Here is the secret recipe: Seaman gin and kola nuts, possibly a few nairas for credibility. Hope the gods will be appeased by your appeal


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