Ondo

Ondo

The Ondo people are ancient forest-hunters, artistic brass-makers and agriculturalist unique Yoruboid-speaking people that forms a sub-group of the larger Yoruba ethnic group of West Africa, particularly in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. Ondo who are one of the largest subgroups of the Yoruba people are found in the southwestern part of Nigerian State of Ondo.

 

Colonial period

The Ondo Kingdom retained independence from other regional powers until the 19th century when pressure from expanded European contact and crisis in Yorubaland caused political crisis. With the expansion of the Atlantic slave trade and large-scale population displacement in Yorubaland, the political life of the Ondo Kingdom changed. Prior to the 19th century, Ondo was unusual in the region for their council system and or the relatively open land tenure principles. The council system rotated leadership amongst houses and there was some significant political status given to women, who had their own council which consulted with the men's council (a role disputed by others). The Ondo land tenure principle was that all land was property of the king, but that any man could farm it as long as he obtained permission from the leader of the nearest community. However, with increasing pressure related to population movement in Yorubaland and increasing relevance of the slave trade, much of this changed. Political and economic power changed from hereditary lineage and access to land holdings to be focused primarily on slaveholdings. The result was large-scale conflict in the Ondo Kingdom from 1845 until 1872, a period with rapid regime change, wars with other regional powers, significant violence, and change of the capital city three times. During this period, worship of Orisha spread widely, leading to human sacrifice (often of slaves) in order to try to end the disorder.

When Christian missionaries started to enter Yorubaland in the latter half of the 19th century, Ondo was a large, forest-based kingdom. However, missionaries largely focused on the other areas in and around Yorubaland rather than Ondo. This may have been because some missionaries thought that the Ondo were socially lower than other Yoruba tribes, perhaps because their custom of concubinage was unacceptable in the Christian tradition. However, in 1870, John Hawley Glover, the administrator of the British Lagos Colony, began focusing efforts on the kingdom of Ondo, largely to create alternative trade routes to Lagos. In 1872, Glover helped negotiate a peace treaty between Ondo and Ife who had been hostile for a number of years, which allowed expanded trade between Lagos and Ondo. Missionary operations began in 1875 throughout the Ondo Kingdom.

The Osemawe of Ondo made an agreement on 20 February 1889 with the governor of the British Lagos Colony by which free trade was guaranteed between Ondo and the colony, and disputes would be referred to an arbitrator appointed by the governor for resolution. In 1899 an order in council was issued to extend the Lagos protectorate over Yoruba land, making Ondo formally subject to the British crown.

 

Ondo Kingdom in Nigeria

During the political turmoil of Nigeria in the early 1980s, Ondo was the site of large scale political violence and members of the royal lineage were killed.

The kingdom survived under colonial rule and subsequent independence, and the coronation of the 44th Osemawe, Oba Victor Adesimbo Ademefun Kiladejo, on 29 December 2008 was a major event, attended by many dignitaries.

 

Language

Ondo people speaks a unique South-East Yoruba (SEY) dialect of Yoruba language that belongs to the larger Niger Congo phylum. Apart from Ondo, SEY is spoken in Okitipupa, Ilaje, Ọwọ, Ikarẹ, Ṣagamu, and parts of Ijẹbu.

South-East Yoruba was probably associated with the expansion of the Benin Empire after c. 1450 AD. In contrast to NWY (North-West Yoruba dialect), lineage and descent are largely multilineal and cognatic, and the division of titles into war and civil is unknown. Linguistically, SEY has retained the /gh/ and /gw/ contrast, while it has lowered the nasal vowels /ịn/ and /ụn/ to /ẹn/ and /ọn/, respectively. SEY has collapsed the second and third person plural pronominal forms; thus, àn án wá can mean either 'you (pl.) came' or 'they came' in SEY dialects, whereas NWY for example has ẹ wá 'you (pl.) came' and wọ́n wá 'they came', respectively. The emergence of a plural of respect may have prevented coalescence of the two in NWY dialects.

 

Economic activities

Traditionally, Ondo people have always sustained their economy from two major occupations: farming and trading which incidentally correspond to the division of labour between male farmers and female traders. The mainstay of Ondo’s economy is agriculture. There are two seasons in the year, the dry season and rainy season. These seasons correspond with the planting and harvesting periods. The Ondo people have two types of farmland. They have small parcels of land, which is usually within a walking distance where yams, corn, cassava, beans and vegetables are planted. This parcel of land is called oko etili or igo. The other farmland is located far from the town where mainly cash crops are cultivated. As earlier pointed out, the major cash crops are cocoa, kolanut, palm oil and rubber. The people build hamlets in the farm where they can stay for a week or more depending on the quantity and pressure of work to be done.

As the villages and hamlets developed, more people were accommodated and people were able to stay longer on their farms. Some rich farmers built houses with corrugated iron roofs. A chief was usually appointed by the Oba to supervise the farm areas. Such a chief would then become the “Oloja”, the head of the area. Here again, a micro-sociopolitical set up is established to govern the community. Such hamlets are usually named after the founder of the area. With this development of distant farmland, the inhabitants only return to Ode-Ondo during traditional festivals or Christian or Muslim festivals. The farmers depend on cooperative ventures during which an individual may engage the assistance of his close friends or age grades on the farm. He in turn will offer the same assistance to those who have assisted him. This cooperative effort expressed in the form of labour exchange is referred to as owe. A Yoruba proverb expresses this cooperative venture succinctly: Oni loni nje, eni a be l’owe, (Today is the day for the one who has accepted to help on farm work). Ondo farmers believe that they get a lot of work done through participating in this cooperative enterprise. After the cultivation of the farmland, a portion of it is usually divided among the farmer’s wives who are not engaged in trading activities on which they will cultivate less labour-intensive crops like pepper, cassava and vegetables. Each wife takes care of the planting and weeding. However, it is not unusual for Ondo women to cultivate cash crops especially on farmlands inherited from their parents. The crops are usually reserved for family consumption. Nevertheless, the wives are the sole marketers of the excess crops from their husbands’ farm while the head of the family sells the cash crops. As earlier mentioned, the second mainstay of Ondo economy is trade, which is carried out by women. Among the articles of trade are aso oke (woven material), iyon (coral beads) and mats. These articles are sold in the market, “Oja” or “Ugele”. The practice of women in trade has become religious, social functions and of economic significance.

Brass making: Another very important profession is brassmaking, (ude). This profession is peculiar to Ifore, one of the original groups of Ondo settlers. These people were specialists in brass production. It was acknowledged that they had the best guild system in Ondo. No wonder then one of the Ondo praise names (oriki) refers to their beginning: E kim’ogun, omo alade igbo, iye m’agogo ude m’omi. E kim’ogun, the son of the forest king, who drinks water with a brass cup. The Ifore people were very proud of their achievements in brass work. In fact archaeological excavations carried out supported this claim. Nevertheless, few references to this antique craft are still found in Ondo ritual context. For example, Ondo people regard it as a taboo for anyone to wear a brass necklace or bangle during the festival of Oramfe. However, modern professions such as carpentry, tailoring, driving and barbing have replaced these traditional guild groups. They all have similar modus of operandi, most especially in their cultic devotion to Ogun, the most popular deity in Ondo kingdom.

 

Political system

The system of government in Ondo Kingdom is a rather an interesting one. The focus is centralized on the election of a divine kingship. The king’s status is a hereditary one and it rotates among five genealogies namely Arilekolasi, Jisomosun, Aroworayi, Jilo and Fidipote. The king’s authority is partly derived through the legendary fore-parent, that is, Oba Pupupu who was the daughter of Oduduwa, the founder of the Yoruba race. According to Olupona, the three indigenous ethnic groups, namely Ifore, Idoko and Oka people surrendered to the newcomers without any fight. It was also noted “all rights and privileges pertaining to the territory were readily ceded to the newcomers”. This surrender was re-enacted by the Oloja of Ifore to the Osemawe of Ondo during which the Oloja made a pledge. In return, the Osemawe conceded to the Oloja of Idoko the control of that portion of the land i.e. Idoko ward. The Osemawe as a king wears a beaded-crown, which to him, in common with some other Yoruba kings, is the most valued possession because it is a symbol of his link with Oduduwa. According to a Yoruba myth, Oduduwa gave beaded crowns to his children as they departed from Ile-Ife to their various kingdoms. Hence, the possession of these beaded crowns from Oduduwa signifies authority and seniority among the many Yoruba Obas who reign today. The sacred staff of office (opa oye) is an innovation put forward by the colonial government. A staff of office was presented to the Osemawe as a symbol of the government’s acknowledgement and sanction of his rule.

According to Olupona, the Osemawe governs through the institution of chieftaincy that is organized hierarchically. The first hierarchy is the council of five senior chiefs who are referred to as Eghae (the Oba’s council). These high chiefs are in order of seniority Lisa, Jomu, Odunwo, Sasere and Adaja and of course, the Osemawe as the overall head. They are usually referred to as Eghaafa mefa, because they are six in number; the Osemawe inclusive.
Each of these chiefs has both ritual and social functions to perform on behalf of the Oba. They are paired up for these purposes. The first pair is Lisa and Jomu and Sasere and Adaja is another group. The big umbrella (abuada oba) is the most visible indicator of the Oba’s presence. These high chiefs wear coral beads on their wrists and ankles. The most important symbol of authority of an Eghae is the sacred drum called Ugbaji. This drum is symbolic in the sense that during any ritual performed in the house of the chief, the drum will be marked with white and red chalk, after which a prayer is offered, the Oba’s as well as the particular chief. The Eghae dances to the tune of ugbaji during any celebration that signifies the authority and power he possesses.

Eghae is the highest chieftaincy title any Ondo citizen can possibly attain and can only be attained if he has previously taken a less dignifying chieftaincy title. Lisa is the second in command to the Osemawe out of the five Eghae chiefs. The position of Jomu is a hereditary one and it is the third in rank to the Oba. The Eghae are responsible to the Oba and they, (including the Oba himself) constitute the legislative council, which has the power to either enact or repeal laws. They can be likened to the “Judicial Committee of the House of Lords”

The Ekule, who number seven, are the next grade of chiefs, lower in rank than the Eghae. They are grouped in the following order: Odofin, Arogbo, Logbosere, Odofindi, Sagwe, Sara and Olotu-Omoba. The first four are deputies to the Eghae chiefs. They are responsible to Eghae and also perform other functions for the kingdom. These include serving as treasurer and recorder, heading the lower court that takes care of smaller judicial cases and taking charge of palace stewards. Each of these lesser chiefs is assigned specific duties to perform. The details of these duties will not be discussed in this study. It suffices to note however that the activities of the chiefs are well coordinated for effective governance.

The last group of secular chief is Elegbe. These are the lowest chieftaincy titled citizens. They are fifteen in number; they are responsible for the security of the town, and for maintaining law and order.

The “Alaworo” priest chiefs are the next group of leaders in Ondo. These are largely heads of local, pre-Oduduwa groups who are now in a position of “ritual superiority” over the newcomers. The members in this group are Oloja Oke-Idoko; Ekiri of Ifore, Sora and Akunnara. Sora and Akunnara are 0ramfe priests. All these titles are hereditary and candidates are elected from the family concerned. It is noteworthy that women feature prominently in the social and economic development of Ondo kingdom. There are for example, female chiefs referred to as “Opoji”. They are hierarchical too like their male counterparts. The highest female chief is Lobun. It is the most esteemed title in Ondo. This office is surrounded with mysteries and taboos. As earlier mentioned in this chapter, the first Oba in Ondo was a female (Oba Pupupu). Although a decision had been made never to have a female ruler again, women nevertheless are entitled to have a female leader, Lobun, who is also referred as “Oba Obirin” (woman king). Lobun means the owner of the market.

This title shows the important place of the market and of trade among Ondo women toward economic development.

The Lobun’s major responsibility is the installation of a new king. She is also in charge of Ondo markets as well as the priestess Aje (god of wealth and prosperity). It is the responsibility of Lobun to open new markets and perform necessary ceremonial rites that pertain to this. As earlier noted, many mysteries and taboos surround the title and this makes it extremely difficult to get a replacement when the seat is vacant. A very significant norm regarding the position is that whenever a Lobun dies, a replacement cannot be made until the reigning Oba dies. The new Lobun is elected for the main purpose of installing the Oba. This development must have accounted for the difficulty encountered in finding a replacement for the position after the demise of the Lobun.

 

Ondo Social structure (Social life)

It is important to discuss aspects of the social life of the Ondo people in order to provide a comprehensive background and relevant context for a meaningful investigation into the words of wisdom in Ondo culture.

The clannish spirit permeates the heart and core of the social life among the Ondo. Thus the interdependence of relatives, brothers and sisters, members of the nuclear and the extended family is the rule rather than the exception. At the micro level, the people are organized into compound consisting of nuclear and extended families. Each compound has a head that, in most cases, is the oldest man in the compound. Each married woman in the compound prepares food for her husband and children while the unmarried adult males in the compound choose one of the wives of the head to act as his mother.

At the macro level, the compounds are organized into wards or quarters headed by any one among the following political, traditional and administrative groups; the Eghaafa (the five most powerful high chiefs/king-makers and the king); the Ekunle (the eight chiefs next in seniority to the Eghaafa) or a member of the Elegbe (Ayadi Company) who make up the traditional police force and charged with the responsibility of maintaining the peace and security of Ondo town.

The other towns and villages outside Ondo kingdom but within the jurisdiction of the Osemawe, are also organized under the supervision of less senior chiefs called Baale who pay regular homage to the Oba of Ondoland.

 

The Marriage Practices/Ceremonies

Marriage is a very important turning point in the life of a young man or woman. At marriage, the bride and the groom take independence from their parents to establish a home of their own. It is an opportunity for the bride and the groom to show their neighbours how good ambassadors they are of their respective homes. Though marriage confers independence on the newly married, the cultural norms require that the man and the woman consider themselves as members of their respective families.

Marriage is seen as an important bond of friendship and cooperation between the family of the bride and that of the groom. Ondo people practice an exogamous pattern of marriage. A man or a woman cannot marry within his/her lineage. Inbreeding is frowned at. To avoid this and other
problems, the parents of the two parties usually carry out intensive investigations to determine:

Consent to proceed with the marriage may not be given by either of the two parents unless they are sufficiently satisfied with the outcome of their investigations.

The preparation of the maid for marriage starts wit h the “Obitun” festival. Obitun is an initiation ceremony for girls who had attained the age of puberty. The purposes are to purge the maid of any evil influences or curse with which she might have been afflicted and to announce to the community that she is now ready for marriage.

The Obitun festival lasts for nine days and it is usually scheduled to coincide with the installation of a chief. During the first day, the maid is confined to the house. But in the evening of each subsequent day, she dances and s ings at her home in the company of her friends and co-obituns. But on the ninth day, the Obitun dresses in a three-piece aso oke and beads worn round her neck and waist, dances round the town in the company of her friends. At puberty, the boys perform the less elaborate Aapon rites. The Aapon wears beads and cowry around his neck for seven days.

In addition to the above standard type of marriage, the other type of marriage, which is common among the traditional Ondo people, is the levirate. Two kinds of levirate practices exist. These are the anticipatory levirate and the post humus levirate. The anticipatory levirate involves the act of secretly inheriting the wife of an old man when he is still alive by either one of his mature sons or his brother. Whenever the old man dies, the relationship is regularized.

In the post-humous levirate, the son or brother of a deceased man, based on agreement and choice pairs with the wife or one of the wives of the deceased to live a matrimonial life along with his own legitimate wife (wives). The primary purpose of the levirate institution is to provide support and fellowship for the family of the deceased.

 

Funeral ceremony

The demise of a family member, young or old, is usually greeted with sorrow. Even though Ondo people believe that death is a necessary end and that it will come when it will come, they do not like losing any member of their family. This goes a long way to show the kinship affinity. It is believed that no matter how old a relation is; he or she has an important role to play in one’s life. Hence death, though a natural phenomenon, Ondo people find it difficult to accept its reality.

The Funeral Service for the late mother of Ondo First Lady, Chief (Mrs) Modupe Adeniyi, at St Stephen's Cathedral, Ondo,

When a person dies in Ondo, particularly a young person, such death is received with suspicion. The first reaction would be a suspicious cry of A an ma po o o o! i.e. they have killed him or her. The relatives would like to find out if in fact, the deceased did indeed die a natural death. They would go to Ifa diviner to find out the cause of the death.

It is pertinent to note here that when a young person dies, he or she is buried without any delay. Moreover, when an elderly person dies, the death is announced to all and sundry by dancing round the town. This is called iyaghayogho in Ondo language. The eldest son of the deceased brings a goat, which is slaughtered at the place where the corpse is given the last bath. This is called ibugwe. The corpse is thereafter dressed and laid- in-state. Later the corpse is put in an expensive coffin and taken to the final resting-place, usually in a room in the house.

Burial ceremony is an expensive event in Ondo culture. The expenses become more outrageous particularly when the deceased is a Chief. The news will have to be broken to the Oba with some gifts after which there would be dancing round the town for nine days, performing rituals.

The maternal relations of the deceased are responsible for the provision of the coffin. The husbands of the daughters of the deceased take charge of the digging of the grave while the eldest daughter brings a goat and thirty wraps of pounded yam, N20.00 and a keg of palm wine usually undiluted with water. Each of the husbands of all the married daughters of the deceased bring twenty wraps of pounded yam and a keg of undiluted palm wine each. The male members of the deceased’s family group themselves and each group buys a goat and sanyan (a type of woven material) or about ten yards of cloth for dressing the deceased.

On the third and seventh day after burial, the family members make supplications for the deceased. There is usually eating and merry making. Traditionally, bean cakes (akara) are served around the neighbourhood. On the last day of celebration, that is the eighth day, the family members dance round the town and subsequently converge at home to continue with the feasting. On the morning of the ninth day, there is a family meeting during which the inventory of all the deceased’s property is taken. This is shared at a convenient date among all members of the family.

The widow(s) of the deceased usually keep vigil throughout the night of the seventh day amidst singing and drumming. In the middle of the night, the widows go through a series of rituals, an important one of which includes bathing. It is believed that these rituals will protect them from the spirit of their husband who hovers around them. The widows dress in white and will remain indoors for three months or nine months in the case of high Chief.

 

RELIGION

Traditional Religion
The Ondo people, like other Yoruba ethnic groups, believe in the Supreme Being from whom all creation originates. He is recognized as “Olorun”. He is seen as the Lord of the heavens and as the presiding deity of the Ondo people. He is the author of heaven and earth, the source of all lives and the fountain from which men receive their spirit. But this Supreme Being is a distant deity of vague personality in one sense. But in another sense, he is omnipresent. Sacrifices are seldom offered to him directly. Yet, he is the receiver of all sacrifices.

Ondo people emphasized the unique status of “Olorun”. He is recognized as the head to whom all power and authority belong and all honour is due to him. Olorun or Olodunmare is unique. He is not one among many but His supremacy is total. His ultimate pre-eminence is confirmed because things happen only when he approves and if he does not approve, nothing comes to pass. Hence the Ondo/Yoruba saying: A dun un se bi ohun t’ Olorun fe, a so ro o se bi ohun ti Olorun o fe – As easy to carry out as what God desires, and as difficult to carry out as what God does not approve of. Ondo people, like other Yoruba ethnic groups, have many deities that they regard as messengers of “Olorun”. They believe that since it is not possible to see God owing to the distance between Him and humans, sacrifices could be made through the smaller deities to Him. Among the deities worshipped in Ondo are Ifa, Sango and Ogun, to mention just a few. But the most popular is Ogun. We shall focus attention on Ogun worship as a popular religion in Yorubaland in general and in Ondo, in particular. Nevertheless, it will be necessary to highlight the origin of Ogun in order to enrich our knowledge of this deity.

Origin of Ogun
Many myths and legends exist as to the origin of Ogun. Much of the knowledge of the deity is based on the fact that he was one of the earliest divinities. He loved hunting and was referred to as “Osin-Imole”, that is, the Chief among the divinities. He cleared the thick impenetrable way with his iron implements for other the divinities when he was coming from heaven to possess the earth. Being a ruthless deity, he lived in seclusion at the top of the hill where he went about hunting. Tired of secluded life, he decided to go for a settled life, which he had rejected earlier on. He came down from the hilltop in a garment of fire and blood but could not find an abode in any community. So he borrowed fronds from the palm-tree and headed for Ire where he was made king. Hence, the name Ogun Onire (Ogun, the Lord of Ire) was given to him.

The Christian Religion
The history of Ondo witnessed a significant turn during the second half of the 19th century because the events that took place had a far- fetching effect on the conversion process. The prolonged Yoruba civil war of the 19th century had serious impact on Ondo and her people. There was an internal crisis in Ondo, which led to a total breakdown of law and order. This crisis gave Ile-Ife warlords the opportunity to join hands with the town’s dissenting forces to bring an end to O ndo’s autonomy. The people fled to different places until 1872 when the British government sent captain Goldsworth to put an end to the civil strife, restored peace and also restored Oba Jimekun to the throne and encouraged the people to return home.

The British did all these with the intent of creating trade route by sea and by land through Ondo to the other Yoruba hinterlands, thereby avoiding the danger precipitated by the escalating Yoruba civil war. Ondo was, as far as the Christian religion was concerned, a terra incognita and hence Goldsworth conceived the idea of having a Christian mission in Ondo. So, on March 29, 1875, David Hinderer, Hunsi Wright and William Dada opened a Christian mission post. Rev. Phillip was the missionary in charge of Ondo, preaching in any available open space including the Oba’s palace and C hief’s compounds.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that conversion was sailing smoothly in Ondo. No, it did meet some resistance especially after the people realized that the Church was having a negative impact on their traditional beliefs and practices. They refused to give land for Church buildings. However, owing to Philip’s display of diplomacy, he was able to overcome the obstacle. The first Church was dedicated on 3rd May 1881. Thus Ondo became a relatively strong mission center with schools built to educate the children and converts. No wonder then, Ondo people are highly educated. Today, there is hardly any street in Ondo where one will not find a professor. Ondo people viewed the coming of Christianity as an important turning point in their lives. The forced exile for 30 years had a devastating effect on their morale. With the advent of Christianity, there was social restoration and lasting peace.

Islamic Religion
Muslims constitute about 13% of the total population of the Ondo people whereas Christians constitute 73% as revealed by the population census of 1952. Gbadamosi notes that the first record of the presence of Islam in Ondo is contained in Phillips’ diary of 26th Nov. 1880.
In comparison with the rise of Christianity in Ondo, the conversion to the Muslim religion was less successful. Muslim traders were probably the most significant contributors to the growth of Islam in Ondo. The Mus lims gained easy access through the eastern route to Ondo and they were able to disseminate Islamic ideas and doctrines to the people. It is worthy of note that the Muslim traders’ main purpose was business but some of the traders considered themselves as instruments of conversion and as Islamic missionaries in addition to their normal business vocation.

The Ondo high Chiefs played important roles in the spread of Islam. It is interesting to note that despite the small numerical strength of the Muslim community in Ondo, Christians and Muslims are equally represented in the Chieftain class because they embraced both religions.

According to Olupona, unlike the Christian religion, the Islamic religion did not clash with the already existing socio-cultural ethics and norms of the traditional religion in Ondo. They were allocated a piece of land where small pox victims were ritually buried. The place was however purified by Alfa Alimi. The year 1888 marked the official beginning of Islam in Ondo. Because this religion did not clash with the traditional religion, it enjoyed the support of the nobles and chiefs of Ondo. This gesture enhanced and encouraged the general tolerance of the people. Olupona pointed out that Chiefs Sasere Ayotilerewa Awosika and Lisa Anjanu Fawehinmi, though not Muslims directed the course of Islam right from its very beginning. These chiefs prepared the basis for the cordial relationship between Islam and the traditional structure in Ondo community.

 

The Ogun Festival in Ondo

The Ogun festival is celebrated in Ondo between the months of August and September every year. According to Olupona the preparation for the festival commences seventeen days before the actual Ogun day at the appearance of the new moon. At an early morning ceremony in the house of Ayadi, the ritual specialist of Ogun public worship, the upe (a traditional trumpet made from a long gourd) is sounded to notify the people of the on-coming festival. The sound of upe then becomes a common feature throughout the period of the festival, which lasts seven days. The sound of the upe is very significant because it carries messages which are sometimes complimentary and at other times abusive from one youth to the other.

During the seventeen-day interval, the worshippers of Ogun assemble in groups to praise the divinity and other past cultural heroes associated with him, such as Jomun Ila.

On a major market day, which is nine days before the festival, the king’s emissary makes the official announcement of the ceremony. Many activities are usually carried out in preparation for the festival, among which is the communal clearing of paths and the repairing of bridges and other footpaths. Five days to the festival, a few households perform a ceremony called aleho.

There are usually three parts to the ceremony – aisun ogun (night vigil), ogun ale (night ogun) and ogun owuo (morning ogun celebration). The procession involves all traditional and modern day professionals and guilds. Every possible professional group in Ondo – such as blacksmiths, medicine men and women, drivers, hunters, tailors, barbers, to mention just a few, participate in this celebration. The only exceptions are probably civil servants and white-collar workers. Most of them are usually dressed in rags, palm- fronds with their faces and bodies smeared with blue dye, white powder and or charcoal. Some, however, use that period to show affluence and nobility by wearing unusually beautiful multicoloured outfits.

The Osemawe is not left out of this festivity. He usually leads the early morning procession. He wears a beaded crown that covers his whole face with white sheet tied on his left shoulder over his agbada (flowing gown). Others such the high chiefs, medicine men and other trades men follow the king’s procession. Every professional demonstrates his trade. The most esteemed group is the traditional medicine men referred to as oloogun (medicine people). They are attired in medicine garments laced with all kinds of frightening herbal substances. This group usually engages young school children to write signposts, which display the name of their pedigree and praise names, some with warnings written in proverbs and the metaphorical magico-medical expertise of the oloogun. This serves as a warning to the general public. The following are examples of such signposts:


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