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Editorial

Ogboni Fraternity, All That Is In Secrecy

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For Art class students, do forget poppycock taught in secondary school about this ancient Brotherhood. Because we were taught what Ogboni Fraternity has never been about.

As it was all over the globe in the early times, creation of secret cult was a norm. These cults were created as deemed fit of society. Italian scientists, led by Galileo, created Illuminati. Americans till date has Masons. Yorùbá were not left out, they had Ogboni, the longest, most enduring and apex of ancient Brotherhood recognised all over Yorùbá lands. Time of creation remains unknown, due to its longetivity and the fact that Africans had no written documents.

Futhermore, no one can authoritatively beat chest and he knows all that’s happening there, without being a member. Yet, all that’s known of them is faithfully present thus:

In the olden days, Ogboni members were collections of elderly people in the Community. In fact, anyone less than 50 years old were not considered eligible members. And there seem to be little or no difference among the Cult chiefs and the chiefs in the Community.

These chiefs held jurisdictional powers over the king. They advised, mediated, sanctioned king. Not only these, they had the power to dethrone king. Or, at worst, tell him to go “open the calabash.”

The secret behind this “open of calabash” was: whenever the Community felt itself uder pressures and or duress due to the reign of a king, they simply put ‘oodẹ’ bird’s eggs inside calabash as aroko (symbological message) to the reigning king. Once the later saw this, he knew what it meant: death.

Second mode of was, they asked the king to go “open and look inside the ancestrial crown.”

Remember, the legendary tussle between Bashọrun Gaa and Àlàáfín Abiọdun Adegorolu? It’s Gaa who incited other Ọ̀yọ́mesi against Àlàáfín Labisi, Awonbioju, Agboluaje and Majeogbe. They all commited suicide.

Ogboni was so powerful that, the Yorùbá people turned it to an axiom: “ọ fẹ́ jẹ ọba, ọọ ṣe Ogboni, olúwa rẹ yí o se ẹ̀mí ara rẹ lofo (You simply want to waste your life if you want to be king and not initiated into Ogboni Fraternity).

Even till date, powerful chieftainship titles in Ọ̀yọ́ lands, Ẹgbà, Ìjẹ̀bú, etc (such as Olúwo, Asipa, Apena) had Ogboni background.

However, the Cult has been bowed to the revolution of time in recency. For instance:
1. It’s now open to both the young and old.
2. All forms of anarchism had been rectified in their laws.
3. It’s being populated by politicians, musicians, business mogul.
4. it’s now an inter-religious Cult.

The 3rd point above reminds one case of one famous, old-day Yorùbá on whose 8th day Prayer the Ogboni came to claim the corpse. They simply told the Alfas that the cadaver belonged to them. Same was the case of a popular young gospeler whose corpse was being fought over by his family on one part and secret society on the other.

The 4th point brings to mind inter alia words one Ogboni bigwig who said there are people of heirachy in the Fraternity, regardless of (facade) religions they represent to the outside world.

THE CULT MEETING
Ogboni meetings hold every 17 days (ọjọ́ mẹ́tadínlógún). Though days of meeting in every community (may) differ; it’s tradition meetings hold has 16 days interval. Except for emergencies.

On the morning of the meeting, Chief Asipa (someone already designated with the chieftainship) would go and beat the sacred drum (àgbá) in Ilédi (the initiated coven. the full appelation being, Ilédi [àwọn ọmọ] àwo). By thus doing, all the members will be notified that they have meeting on that day.

Responsibilities of the meeting session is rotational among members of the cult. Someone who paid all the expenses for today’s meeting may not be responsible for another for years; depending on numbers of the members.

Chief of these responsibilities being, organization of what the members will feast on (being financial implication). Such as ekuru (beans pudding), oolẹ/moin-moin and ẹ̀kọ (corn meal). Sometimes, they may pound yam, with lots of meat and fish. Kola and bitter nuts are inclusive. But, Palm wine is the only accepted drink.

MOTHER BATH’ – ANNUAL RITUALS
This takes place yearly. It starts with making spiritual enquiry from Ọrunmila about which date to choose on which ‘Mother’ would have her bath.

This is merely bathing of woodeen effigy of Ìyá Abẹni l’Óòtu Ìfẹ́. Aji má jẹ́ nkan tó leègun. Ìyá mi Abẹni tí jagun tí ẹ tíì m’òkè. Afinju Ìyá tíì so kujikuji mon ọwọ.

To bath ‘Mother’, they use leaves such as ọgbọ́, òtítọ́, ọdúndun, tẹ̀tẹ̀, ṣẹfunfun, shea butter and omi ìgbín. They sqeeze these leaves together, add shea butter and palm oil.

They now bring ‘Mother’ out and bath her with all these. Afterward, they ask ‘Her’ whatever they want for the coming year: health, wealth, children, etc.

When the Ritual bath is done, they start the Annual Celebration. They eat the food mentioned above. This celebration continue for 3 days after which they return ‘Mother’ to Òkè. Till next year. This, however, doesn’t stop the meetings.

I must admit I removed and obstruct
some details here, for secrecy and not very sure about them. Better remove than tell what’s not.

THE DRESS CODE
Whenever they are going to the Meeting or some important social meeting, Ogboni members’ dress code is always distinct.

While going to Meeting, they would wear white trousers, have another piece wrapped on their chest and wear one large hat. After this, they would have another piece put on shoulders. This last cloth is like the one priests put on shoulders. Then they would complement it with their staff. This staff is very noticeable and prominent. Reason being it has different statues engraved on its head.

These statues, however, make people have misconception that Ogboni members worship these statues. What difference it make to outsiders, who know them as idolaters; i.e worship of Abẹni statue?

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If it’s some important social gathering, they would neither wear the white trousers, wrap the cloth piece on chest nor wear the large hat, but after they have dressed up they mustn’t forget the ‘topper’ cloth mentioned earlier, like the priests. This topper piece is the symbol of identity.

Also, it is a must that Ogboni members put red bead on the left hand. This is very, very essential. I repeat, very essential.

HOW THEY GREET ONE ANOTHER
By greeting they are known. If Mr. A sees Mr. B but Mr. B doesn’t see him, Mr. A would shout “ọmọ ìyá (my sibling)”. Once Mr. B hears that he would naturally look Mr. A’s direction and shout same greeting. And when they meet, they shake the left hands. There are some other words of greeting in this ancient brotherhood.

“What is known about Ogboni hands is their famous handshake. When they handshake, they use their left hand to do this. You should also say the following words: Ta ba fẹ bá ọwọ Ogboni, ọwọ osi la na, a na kan siwaju, a na kan saarin. Why do they use left hand? It’s simple! According to their belief – the left hand is for gods, and the right hand is for humans.”

“Ọmọ Ìyá”, bastardized “child of (same) mother (as me)” obviously refers to goddess Abẹni whose wodden effigy they worship.

AT MEETING
When a newcomer wants to come into the Iledi Awo before or during meeting he would knock the door thrice. Those inside would answer:

Question: Taní nkan’lẹ̀kùn (who is knocking?)
Answer: Emi olùkan ni (it is I the knocker)
Question: Kíni o fi ń kan (with what are you knocking)?
Answer: Eku méjì oluwere (two rats of swift rapidity)
Question: Kíni ó tun fi ń kan (what else)?
Answer: Ẹja méjì olùgbàda (two sacredized fish)
Question: Kíni ó tun fi ń kan (what else)?
Answer: Ògbùúrú aṣọ funfun (large piece of white cloth/garment)
Question: Kíni ó tun fi ń kan (what else)?
Answer: Ogbó ni mo fi kan (Ogbo=Orogbo: bitter nut)
Question: Kíni ó tun fi ń kan (what else)?
Answer: Ọbẹ̀ ni mo fi kan (Ọbẹ̀= ataare:alligator pepper)
Question: Kíni ó tun fi ń kan (what else)?
Answer: Àkòpa ni mo fi kan (Akopa=Obi: Kola nut)

After all these Sacred Seven Questions are answered, they would know he is a member and would open the door for him. And once the door is opened he just don’t dashed inside, one enters with all humility and solemnity sidewards. He would knee and go down on right side till right hand touch the ground and do down on left side till left hand touch the ground. Sometimes, he would roll judiciously on the ground or prostrate. All these are to greet those who have arrived earlier.

After all these, he would greet them:

Greeting: Ẹ kú ìba ooo (salutations to you)
Answer: Ìba okun, ìba ìdẹ (salutations to the sea and gold)
Greeting: ọmu ìyá dùn (Mother’s Milk is sweet)
Answer: Gbogbo wa là jọ n mú (we all are drinking therefrom)

During discussions, whenever someone wants to contribute he wouldn’t just stand up and be talking, he must first observe that none of his heirachy is among those who seem to have contributions. After this observation, he would stand and hail thus:

Greeting: Ògbóni (thrice)
Answer: Ògbóràn (thrice)
Greeting: Erelú (thrice)
Answer: Abiye (thrice)
Greeting: Eriwo yà (thrice)
Answer: Ẹ̀yà gbó; ẹ̀yà tọ (thrice)

Having said and gotten replies thus members will be taciturn, awaiting that contributor’s contribution.

MODE OF SYMBOL MESSAGES (AROKÒ)
Among the artifacts that make Mother Abẹni up are called Ẹ̀dan méjì (two dummies), the two are masculine and feminine characters. Whenever they want to send negative message to someone, either being summon for punishment or to answer query, the Ẹ̀dan that has masculine character on it is sent. Upon receiption, the receiver would be in jeopardy as he may or may not know for which he is summoned.

On the other hand, when the message is on posive side, the Ẹ̀dan that has feminine character on it is sent.

On another development on messaging, as mean of Communication, if one of Ogboni members of Community A’s wife runs away to Community B, the former will send Asipa to the latter Community to ask that the members should send back wife of their “ọmọ ìyà”. And if the wife refuses, the Community B will simply tell her to leave the Community.

BENEFITS OF BEING A MEMBER
They all regard themselves as siblings. They take oath they know mustn’t be betrayed.

Secondly, their Initiation into the ancient Brotherhood is called “àgìdïmàlàjà àwo ilé Ìfẹ́” that is, “àwo ni gbé àwo ni gbọnwọ, tí àwo kò bá gbé àwo gbọnwọ, àwo a tẹ àwo a yà” – initiates are always there for co-initiates. No member would let any form of maltreatment come to co-member.

One thing about this Brotherhood is that, it seldom talks about itself. And since so less is known, benefits and disadvantages of being members can’t be ascertained.

Edited by: Jimoh Taofik Adekunle
(Jimson Jaat Taofik)
The MAD Writer: Pen Priest
Facebook: Jimoh Taofik Adekunle
Twitter: @jimsonjaat01
Gmail: deskofinsanity96@gmail.com
Phone: 08144510532

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