Culture, they say, is a symbol of identity. So is the significance of the Ore Otiti festival to the incredibly magnanimous people of Okaka, a remote community in the Oke-Ogun area of Oyo state.
Adorned by its broadest beauty of cultural history, Okaka, situated in the heart of Itesiwaju local government in Oyo state, symbolises the expansive dream of a typical African society where the celebration of ancestral heritage is paramount.
Every year, the community, known for investment in agriculture, celebrates Orere Otiti, a primordial personality believed to be the progenitor of the Okaka people in a widely organised festival cutting across religious borders, and aimed at uniting the sons and daughters of the Okaka both home and in the diaspora.
The festival is quintessential to the growth and development of the Okaka, and the day of its celebration is strategic. It is taken after some processes have been observed.
On the day of the festival, the people of Okaka, including the traditional worshippers, gather at the king’s palace. Then, in a special fanfare, the king leads people to the shrine of Ore Otiti where significant sacrifices and appeasements are made to the god.
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According to Oba Ayoola Azeez Olatunji Ogelende IV, the Olokaka of Okaka, Ore celebration, aside from its spiritual essence, closely presents ample opportunities to the “sons and daughter of the soil” to rub minds together and discuss the foresight of the community.
Sitting majestically on the throne of his forefathers, Olokaka elaborated further that Ore Otiti is a festival of the Yoruba race.
This, according to him, is clearly shown in a common saying that “a ki fi omo’re b’Ore” (literarily meaning that it is an abomination to use Ore’s son to appease him.)
The monarch, in a conversation with Legit.ng team, which celebrated the 2021 version of the festival held on Wednesday, October 19, explained that the festival takes the front aisle in the priority log of the Okaka community.
Tracing Ore Otiti to its origin
Ore Otiti festival did not start as an imagination of some people. According to historical records, it is as old as the history of the Okaka community itself.
According to the community chairman of Okaka, Rasheed Adelani Ogundele, the people of Okaka were not where they were today; they came from a place known as Oke Gbaagba (Gbaagba mountain).
Before a necessity shift to where Okaka is currently situated, people celebrated the Ore god, hence the reason Okaka is always linked with the deity.
Ogundele explained that no other god is as closely linked to Okaka as Ore Otiti as shown in the Oriki (praise poetry) of the community and its people.
The myth and mysteries
Originally, Ore Otiti is owned by a popular household in the community. There is no way Ore will be mentioned without the name of Booto, owner of the deity, and three families situated close to the Ore shrine.
Oba Olatunji Ogelende IV, who emphasised that Ore Otiti is his festival, hence his active involvement, stated that Ore is so important that there is no cultural activity including chieftaincy without a visit to its shrine.
In fact, as a sign of ancestral link and respect, there is no child of Okaka who will be begged with Ore deity without accepting irrespective of the degree of anger.
According to the monarch, the deity is being worshipped with animals like ram, land squirrel (ikun), snail, antelope (igala) and others. These animals have a long history with Ore deity.
One of the festival’s major highlights is that there must be a tour around the shrines of all the deities in the community, including Sango, Oya, and Eyinle.
“It fights with wind or air and gives children to barren women”
Ore is so generous that it grants the wishes of people who seek help from him. According to Oba Olokaka, this is the promise he made before ascending to heaven.
“Anybody who seeks his assistance will be helped irrespective of the creedal connection,” the king said.
The monarch related a story of a Fulani woman who came to the Ore shrine for a child. Her wish was granted, and she gave the child a Yoruba name. Interesting!
Another intrigue of the Ore Otiti deity is its ability to use wind or air to fights. Besides, Oba Olokaka said often, it visits the community, and there are signs of its presence.
“Ore came recently and was sighted by its people. It came in the form of white Igunnu, (a tall masquerade) and no one saw its end.
“When people were about to panic, he showed himself to them, told them he has fulfilled his promise of checking on them,” the king related.
“Wind will blow away their house if..”
A mystery about Ore is that it is an abomination to take the remnant (meat pieces or meal used to celebrate the festival) home. Participants must eat all meals on the spot.
According to Olokaka, if there is a violation, Ore will come to the house and blow it away with the wind, its mysterious power.
Odo Yemoja is one of the places visited during the celebration of the Ore festival.
The river, which spreads forward in its greenish calmness, has its shrine where appeasement is made during the Ore Otiti festival.
Olokaka told Legit.ng crew that the Yemoja (goddess of the river) is significant to the Yoruba race, so is it to the people of the Okaka community. People drink from it and make demands which, according to belief, are granted.
“We want it to be a cultural tourist attraction”
Relishing his foresight for the people of Okaka, Oba Ayoola Azeez Olatunji prayed for more progress and upliftment for sons and daughters of the Okaka kingdom wherever they are.
Kabiyesi also urged the government to invest resources in Ore Otiti festival like the Osun Osogbo, adding that benefits would come with that.