12 Amazing Things You Never Knew About The Worshippers and Devotees of Sango, The Yoruba Thunder God

A lot of people already know Sango, the Yoruba god with his bombastic temperaments. But what about those who worship this ancient deity also called Jakuta, Xango, Shango or Chango? What are the peculiar things about the worshippers and devotees of Sango? This is what I will be focusing on in this particular piece.

INTRODUCTION

Regarded as a royal ancestor of the Yorubas, Sango was the third Alaafin of Oyo and after his demise, he was deified as the god of thunder, lightning, dance, justice and virility. THE DEVOTEES OF THE THUNDER GOD

  1. COLOURS: Owing to the fact that the favourite or official colours of Sango are red and white, this is also the official uniform colour of the worshippers of this angry deity. Sango was particular fond of red and you will see this colour dominating the wears of his devotees as you can see in the photos provided in this article. 

    Alaafin of Oyo at the World Sango Festival in Oyo State.

  2. GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD: Worshippers of Sango are not limited to Yorubaland in southwestern Nigeria alone, they are actually in various parts of the globe especially in places like Benin Republic (where many of the Fon tribe are devotees) , Latin America (like Brazil) and the Caribbean especially in Cuba and Haiti. 

    She is carrying the thunder celt symbols of Sango on her head.

  3. FOOD SACRIFICE: When it is time to worship Sango (Ojo Jakuta in the Yoruba week is specially dedicated for his worship, you can see more on that HERE), the devotees worship Sango by offering different edible foods which are believed to have been the favourites of King Sango. These include guguru (pop corn), amala (made from yam flour), kolanuts, gbegiri (beans soup) and bitter cola. This sacrifice must be offered every week. 

    FOOD FOR THE GODS: Amala and gbegiri. Image credits: Mictos Catering.

  4. MUSIC: Worship of Sango is accompanied with fantastic beatings of the bata drum. 

    Bata drums.

  5. FOOD TO BE AVOIDED: In Yorubaland, the worshippers of Sango do not eat cowpeas and this is because that Ogun, the god of iron, will unleash his destructive terror on them if they consume it. 

    If you are a Sango worshipper, cowpea is banned for you.

  6. BEATINGS: Depending on the circumstances, the devotees, especially when they enter a ‘trance’can commence the beating of bystanders. Females are expected to take off their head clothes out of respect for Sango during the festivals and failure to do so may attract beating from the Sango worshippers. 
  7. ROLLING IN THE ASHES OF THUNDERBOLTS: One of the ways to worship Sango is that when a house or compounds are burnt down by lightning, the devotees are to roll in the ashes and kiss the burnt pieces of wood.
  8. APPEASEMENT: One of the ways by which Sango devotees can pray for forgiveness from Sango and avoid his terror is to wet their fingers with saliva, use it to rub dust and apply it to their heads and say: To to hun! To to hun! (meaning ‘May it never be! May it never be!’)
  9. GENDER SPREAD: Although many are used to seeing the bravado of the male Sango worshippers, the devotees of Sango are actually predominantly females.
  10. HAIRSTYLE AND DRESSING: The male Sango priests adorn distinctively female hairdos (shaved to the crown and then braided down the back) is descriptive of the possession trance they enter during their ecstatic dances of worship. The males also dress like women and even do facial makeup in some cases (cross dressing). 
  11. LIGHTNING STRIKES: When lightning strikes and destroys a house, a large group of Sango devotees surround the house and take over the place. They claim some rituals must always be done to appease the god of thunder and after spending sometime in the house, the Sango priest comes out with what is called the thunderbolt which is reportedly exhumed from the ground at the spot where the lightning struck. This practice has been described as a scam and the Sango priests have been accused of looting all the property of victims of lightning strikes all in the name of appeasing the deity.
  12. ROYAL WORSHIP AND HIERARCHIES: The King (specifically Alaafin of Oyo in this instance) usually has a private chapel in the palace for the worship of Sango and this chapel is located in the apartment of the Iyanaso who is responsible for everything that has to do with the worship of Sango. To act as a first lieutenant and assistant to the Iyanaso is the Iyamonari and it is the job of the Iyamonari to strangle to death any Sango worshipper condemned to capital punishment because they are not to be killed by the sword. Then inside the palace, there is the Iyafin-Iku. She is the second lieutenant and assistant to the Iyanaso. She is also the King’s Adosu Sango meaning ‘the King’s devotee to the Sango mysteries’. Because all Sango worshippers are to devote one of their children to the worship of Sango, Iyafin-Iku stands in that position for the king. 

    Sango worshippers during one of their celebrations.

THANKS FOR YOUR TIME

ABIYAMO

REFERENCES

  1. Sango 
  2. Hail Orisha! A Phenomenology of a West African Religion In The Mid-Nineteenth Century by Peter McKenzie
  3. The Cult of Sango: The Study of Fire: An Anthology by Ayobunmi Sosi Sangode, Athelia Henrietta Press, 1996.
  4. The Invention of Women: Making An African Sense of Western Gender Discourses by Oyeronke Oyewumi
  5. Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil by Paulina L. Alberto
  6. Women and Power: Education, Religion and Identity by Olutoyin Mejiuni
  7. Art and Religion in Africa by Rosalind Hackett
  8. The History of the Yorubas, From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate by The Reverend Samuel Johnson, Pastor of Oyo
  9. Africa’s Ogun: Old World and New by Sandra T Barnes
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