top of page

Gelede Masquerades of Yewa/Egbado people in Ilaro

Gelede is an Ancient society spreading from the Ogun state Egbado area of Nigeria to the Republic of Benin .Two origins about Gelede are often told. One says that Gelede masquerades were invented by Yemoja, the ancient deity of Ogun river in Yoruba land and that she was the first to dance it and she became the mother of Gelede and Efe, a mask of the Gelede society 


The second story says that Gelede originated through a fertility dance given to Odua, mother of the earth in Egbado. Another ancient female deity worshipped by the Egbados Odua was said to have sank into the ground in Igbo itolu village in Ilaro. 
Gelede is also danced when there is no rain and the rain will fall. Its also used to stop Abiku children from dying and to stop pestilence since it's connected to another Orisa called Omolu and Nana Bukuu known to the Egbados and to Fon and Ewe people of both Benin Republic and Togo. 

Note: there is a difference between Oduduwa ( Male king of Ife ) and Odua ( female deity of Egbados ) Baba Solomon is pictured below with Gelede in Egbado. 


Central Themes in Odu of Erindilogun

Fundamental teachings of the Olorisa is contained in the Erindinlogun. Erindilogun is comprised of  oriki (chants ), itan (stories ) ami ( signs), ori (songs) ebo/etutu/epese( sacrifice and rituals ) ogun ( medicine ) owe (short parables) and ewe ( herbs ) that are tied together under certain central themes .


Each odu can have a central theme or doctrine but certain themes are basic and fundamental to learning the system of Eerindinlogun .

Once one understands these themes ,then the study of Odu and entire system becomes easily understood 


I need to say this in the different places that Orisa is worshipped such as in Brazil ,Cuba ,Trinidad , Benin Republic and in Nigeria , the diviners and teachers of Eerindinlogun must have designed a basic theme .which might sometimes be similar and sometimes they are different depending on country, location and general experience.


To further my caveat, even here in Nigeria ,the different subgroups of the Yoruba have different approaches to reading and studying the Eerindinlogun .

1. In Okanran: we find the creation of the world Alagbawaye, including Egungun first came to the earth.


2. Ejioko: Birth of duality light and Darkness. Ibeji was born .


3. Ogunda : Orisa priests received Ase for Ebo for the first time. Ogun also creates civilization for the first time by being Oshin Imole, the path clearer.


4. In Irosun - observation was born (odi atejumo), profit making in business was born and Irosun gave birth to fire.


5. Ose: water first flowed out of a rock for the first time and Osun as an orisa was born there. This water connected families ,villages and nation's  and gave birth to jealousy 


6. Obara is birthplace of deception ,also birthplace of banks, where money is saved . Magic is born in this odu, the Oloogun are found here, where osanyin acquired magical powers from Olodumare )


7. Odi is where light was born in form of a fitila and Obatala first lit a lamp. In this odu egbe first touched their feet on the ground ,having descended to earth in Okanran as Alabawaye but they took abode on an iroko tree and thereby became Alaragbo (,those who reside in the forest ).


8. Ejiogbe/Ejionile is where Ori was made a king. This is also a place where one finds duality. 


9. Osa is where iyami descended for the first time using the vehicle of Osa to come to earth. When people saw the iyamis descending ,they ran away and so the name Osa came into being, to run away.


10. Ofun is the birth place of Ogboni soceity and other secret societies, one finds the birth of white cloth called Aso -Ala, its also the birth place of curses and anger .


11. Owonrin - Dead persons were first propitiated as Egungun and Sango gets his skirt Laba for the first time from Egungun.


12. EjilaAsebora - fear was born  Ebora (spirits) are born in Ejila.



Olokun amongst the Ika/Edo people 

Olokun is a male river and ocean deity and the primary deity sacred to the Edo/Ika and Delta people of Nigeria. Olokun iconography is done with native white chalk (nzun)


The circle is an important diagram ,it represents infinity .  The circle is used for protection and once drawn people can stand in it to propitiate or pray to Olokun, asking for divine protection. Objects of spirituality for rituals or sacrifices can be placed in the circle. Once the circle is drawn the protective powers of Olokun are invoked. Other icons include the fourt points or four lines crossed. This is the intersection of heavens and the earth and where all forces meet . It shows the Ebu -orimi - where different forces meet ,on Earth, also seen as the road junction .At the four points four white candles or two white and two red can be lighted to invoke Olokun and all the forces to attend to our prayers.

Four our straight lines represent the four market days of ika people and also represents the four quarters of the earth, the four cardinal directions. This invokes the market forces and four powers that guard the four quarters of the world. Due to the fact that Olokun grants great wealth, he supervises all the spirits that brings wealth to the market and as eldest son of Oselobue, he supervices the spirits that control the quarters of the Earth. Four candles candles or lamps are placed at the edges of the four lines.


Below is the Okenren Uku. She is chief priestess of Olokun amongst the Ika people of the Delta, serving the high Chiefs of the Delta/Edo people and Baba Solomon's direct elder, as he is next in line for this title. 



First lesson for an Aborisa

Moforibale means " I touch my head to the ground  or floor"
And idobale  means "stretching fully prostrated"

This two words are used at times interchangeably to mean the same thing but on a deeper look ,they are slightly different though the aims and objectives are the same. 
The teachings of Orisa seeks to break down the ego or the initiate or worshipper without making a fuss about it .
There are two basic standards of doing this within the Orisa community traditionally in Nigeria. 
First is based on physical age of initiation and it works like this:  Once you see any orisa priest made before you, you have to give him idobale or iforibale. Sometimes the person who initiates first might be far younger than the person who gives the iforibale, but because he was first initiated, she/he will receive iforibale. 

Second, idobale is done by chieftaincy title. There are certain titles which a person receives within the Orisa community that makes him or her receive an idobale or iforibale from those who initiated first before him/her

What is idobale?
It is the act of prostrating to a person /priest /or Orisa in the Yoruba culture. 
This simply means I have surrendered all my body and all I have to you. In some regions like Egbado men do idobale by putting legs slightly apart ,while women orisa priest place their left leg on their right leg, this also forms part of understanding orisa hand, leg and body postures.
Priests may also utter "miyika otun" while angling their body to right or "moyika osi "while angling body to the left. This is given to Obas at times. 


What is Moforibale? This is just kneeling and touching the head on the floor. Moforibale/ Iforibale just means using your head to touch the floor. It's a sign of respect and surrender. 

How does it break the ego down? These postures seek to break the ego and instill a sense of discipline in the Olorisa. When Olorisa due to constantly do foribale and idobale to different senior orisa priests and at times mean doing it to a far younger person. This helps break and reduce our false sense of pride either based in education or wealth and in turn brings the person to know the true meaning of respect.


Also note that both mentioned techniques are used for worship of Orisa, building devotion and surrender in us as devotees of Orisa .


Another important aspect of this practice is that when you constantly touch the earth with your head, our elders say that contact imparts wisdom and Ase to develop in the journey of learning to be an Orisa devotee.

When doing iforibale /Idobale for elders, you must utter the praise words of their orisa or call out in short their orisa. This is because we believe that an Orisa devotee who does Iforibale /Idobale is worshipping the orisa of the elders head via using his or her body. 

An example is, If the elder you are doing it for is Obatala - you say -Heeepa Oosa!
For Oya- Heepa Oya
For Osun - Ore yeye oo


bottom of page