The word Oro means fierceness, tempest, or provocation, and Oro himself appears to be personified executive power. It is an event celebrated by towns and settlements of Yoruba Origin. It is an annual traditional festival that is of patriarchal nature, as it is only celebrated by male descendants who are paternal natives to the specific locations where the particular event is taking place.

 During the festival, females and non indigenes stay indoors as oral history has it that Oro must not be seen by women and non-participating people. The ceremonies surrounding the celebration of Oro differs from town to town, and one is often called after the death of a monarch.

When oro is out, there is curfew over the land. That is what tradition demands. Only grown up males can come out; children may not. Women must not. In fact, one of the main features of the cult is the exclusion of women from any knowledge of whatever oro is. Whenever the deity is out, it is said that oro se’de or oro gb’ode, literally meaning that oro has taken over the land or that it has imposed a curfew over the land.

However, the alleged death of non-members who see the fetish or are caught by its followers is where the cult comes under severe criticism.

Oro is supposed to haunt the forest in the neighbourhood of towns, and he makes his approach known by a strange, whirring, roaring noise. As soon as this is heard, all women must shut themselves up in their houses, and refrain from looking out on pain of death. The voice of Oro is produced by whirling round and round a thin strip of wood, some 21/2 inches broad, 12 inches long, and tapering at both ends, which is fastened to a stick by a long string. It is called a bullroarer in English. No woman may see the “bullroarer” and live, and all women are obliged, under pain of death, to say that they believe Oro to be a powerful Orisha, and to act up to that belief.

A Bullroarer

In Yoruba tradition, Oro is manipulated by the Ogboni Society. Criminals condemned to death are sometimes given to Oro, in which case they are ordinarily never seen again, but their clothes are shown entangled in the branches of a lofty tree, where Oro is said to have left them when flying through the air. In such a case Oro is said to have devoured the bodies. Sometimes, however, the headless corpse of the criminal is discovered in the forest on the outskirts of the town, but nobody is allowed to bury it. Oro only appears on his feast-days, or, to use the native expression, when a town has an Oro-day.

The voice of Oro  is usually heard from morning to night, -and all women are closely confined to their houses, while Oro himself, in a long robe hung with shells, and a wooden mask painted white, with the lips smeared with blood, parades the town with a numerous following.

In Ondo, a south western state in Nigeria, there is an annual festival to Oro, called Oro Doko. It lasts for three lunar months, and every ninth day women are obliged to remain within their houses from daybreak till noon, while the men parade the streets, whirling the bull-roarer, dancing, singing and beating drums and killing all stray dogs and fowls, on which they afterwards feast. A large boulder of granite, called Olumo, on the summit of a hill in Abeokuta; a city in south western Nigeria is sacred to Oro, and no one may ascend it.

In Egba and Egbadoland, it is always the case whenever the oro cult members are out to perform. A curfew is imposed all over the land. Women must stay indoor lie down and cover their heads and those of their children, especially the female ones. Oro curfew is, for the women folk, a sort of death sentence out of which the only reprieve is the innermost of their various bedrooms.

This having been achieved, the young oro cult members started chanting and dancing across the village. For the older ones, it was time to go out and discuss serious issues effecting both the individuals and the community at large, especially those issues they can’t or wouldn’t like to discuss in the presence of women and children. That might, the menfolk had a field day doing among themselves all such things. .

Oro, is also called “baba” (father) and “Oluwa” (lord). The Anango people of Ogun State and Benin call it by those three names but they have other names such as ita, ajala and alugbe, the latter meaning (a reliable lord).

Oro is also used for social purposes, and to preserve order in private life and  used for political purposes, to preserve order in the community at large; yet, from. the analogy of other peoples, and from the fact that it is death for a woman to see the instrument which produces the voice of Oro, there can be no doubt that originally Oro was the spirit that presided at the celebration of male mysteries, such as are found among the Kurnai of Australia, and he has perhaps been diverted from his proper purpose by the influence of the Ogboni.

 

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