Interesting Things You Never Knew About The Virgin Arugba Osun, Maiden Of The Yoruba Goddess

The annual Osun-Osogbo festival is one of the oldest in Africa. Conducted in Osogbo, Osun State in southwestern Nigeria, it is an event that attracts people from all over the world. In this 1984 photo (see below), the Osun maiden, called ARUGBA OSUN is seen dressed in a richly-embroidered aso oke, as she balanced the cowrie-adorned gourd on her head. The Arugba Osun has to be a virgin and the festival is carried out around August/September. This particular virgin maiden was 13 years old and she carries the sacred gourd of Osun which contains the effigy of the goddess. Rains are seen as signs of blessing or approval from Osun. The virgin has to be from the Osogbo royal family and is usually selected by the Ifa oracle. Before assuming the role, she has to undergo a series of spiritual cleansing exercises. The Arugba Osun is highly-revered and is chosen as the symbol of purity.

Contrary to most beliefs, the Arugba is free to get married and live a normal life after performing the rights when she chooses to do so.

This is how the history goes: Osun is one of the foremost goddesses in Yorubaland. Osogbo (now the capital city of Osun State) was founded by a great hunter named Rotimi and Oba Olarooye, both of whom signed a covenant with Osun the goddess of fertility to worship her annually. The covenant was reached when Osun, who was one of the many wives of Sango (a former Alaafin of Oyo later deified as the god of thunder) turned herself into the river that is now called Osun River, on her way home to her parents after Sango died. When Osun turned into the river, it formed the borders of the towns of Osogbo. This explanation was given in 1984 by Yemi Elebuibon during the annual worship of the Osun goddess in 1984.

Image credits: Howard T. Cash

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