History of Yoruba – Origin and Early History 3
…continued from the previous post.
According to another account, Oranyan had only a bit of rag left him, containing earth, 21 pieces of iron, and a cock. The whole surface of the earth was then covered with water. Oramiyan laid his portion on the water’s surface and placed the cock, which scattered the earth with his feet; the vast expanse of water became filled up, and the dry land appeared everywhere. His brothers preferred to live on dry land rather than on the water’s surface and were permitted to pay an annual tribute for sharing his portion with their younger brother.
It will be noticed that both traditions attribute the land to Oramiyan; hence the common saying “Alaafin I’oni Ile ” (the Alaafin is the lord of the land): the pieces of iron representing underground treasures, and the cock such as subsist on the ground.
The former account seems more probable, the latter being little else but a travesty of the creation or the flood story. But it is fair to mention that the more generally received opinion is, that Oranyan became more prosperous than his brothers owing to the fact of his living virtuously, they being given up to a life of unrestrained licentiousness; and being also by far the bravest of them all, he was preferred above them and was seated on the ancestral throne at Ile Ife which was then the capital of the Yoruba country.
The Alake and the Owa of Ilesa are said to be nearly related to the Alaafin; the former was said to be of the same mother as one of the earliest Alaafin’s. This woman was called Ejo, who afterwards took up her abode with her youngest son until her death: hence the common saying “Ejo ku l’Ake” Ejo died at Ake.
The Owa of the Ijesas claimed to be one of the younger brothers, but his pedigree cannot now be traced; the term “brother” is a very elastic one in Yoruba and may be applied to any relative far or near, and even to a trusty servant or one adopted into the family. In olden times when there was universal peace throughout the country, before the commencement of the destructive intertribal wars which broke up the unity of the kingdom and created the tribal independence, this relationship was acknowledged by the Owa paying a yearly tribute of a few heads of cowries, mats and some products of his forests to the Alaafin. At the same time, the latter sent him presents of tobes and vests and other superior articles well worthy of him as an elder brother.
That the Alaafin, the Alake, and the Owa were children or grandchildren of Oraiiyan seems probable from the fact that none of them is appropriately considered installed until the sword of state brought from He Ife where Oraiiyan was buried is placed in his hands.
Oramiyan was the nickname of the prince, his proper name being Odede. He was a man of great physical powers. He first obtained renown as a mighty hunter, and in the process of time, he also became, like Nimrod, a mighty conqueror.
The expedition against Mecca. When Oramiyan was sufficiently strong, he set off for a journey against “Mecca”, to which he summoned his brothers to avenge their great-grandfather’s death and the expulsion of his party from that city. He left Adimu, one of his father’s trusty servants, in charge of the royal treasures and the charms, with a strict injunction to observe the traditional worship of the national gods Idi and Orisa Osi.
This is an office of the greatest importance about the King himself but how slaves or high servants are often entrusted with the duties of the master himself is well-known in this country as we shall see in the course of this history.
It is said that the route by which they came from ” Mecca “and which occupied 90 days, was by this time rendered impassable owing to an army of black ants blocking up the path, and hence, Oramiyan was obliged to take another route which led through the Nupe or Tapa Country. All his brothers but the eldest joined him, but at Igangan, they quarrelled over a pot of beer and dispersed, refusing to follow his lead. Calculating the distance through the Tapa country, the eldest brother lost courage and went eastward, promising to make his attack from that quarter should Oramiyan succeed in the Wes. Orafiyan pushed on until he found himself on the banks of the River Niger.
The Tapas are said to have opposed his crossing the river, and as he could not force his way through, he was obliged to remain near the banks and afterwards resolved to retrace his steps. To return, however, to ile Ife was too humiliating to be thought of, and hence he consulted the King of Ibariba near whose territory he was then encamping as to where he should make his residence.
Tradition has it that the King of Ibariba made a charm and fixed it on a boa constrictor and advised Orafiyan to follow the track of the boa and wherever it remained for 7 days and then disappeared, there he was to build a town. Oramiyan and his army followed his directions and went after the boa up to the foot of a hill called Ajaka, where the reptile remained for 7 days and then disappeared. According to instructions, Oranyan halted there and built a town called Oyo Ajaka. This was the ancient city of Oyo marked in ancient maps as Eyeo or Katunga (the latter being the Hausa term for Oyo) capital of Yarriba (see Webster’s pronouncing Gazetteer). This was the Eyeo visited by the English explorers Clapperton and the Landers.
Orafiyan remained and prospered in the new home. His descendants spread East, West, and South-west; they had accessible communication with Ile Ife, and the King often sent to Adimu for whatever was required by him out of the royal treasures for the new city.
In the process of time, Adimu made himself great because he was not only the worshipper of the national deities, but also the custodian and dispenser of the King’s treasures, and he was commonly designated “Adimu Ola”, i.e. Adimu of the treasures, or Adimu has become wealthy.
But this Adimu, who became of so much consequence from his performing royal functions, was initially the son of a woman condemned to death but is found at the time of execution to be in the way of becoming a mother she was temporarily reprieved until the child was born. This child at its birth was dedicated to the perpetual service of the gods, especially the god Obatala, to which his mother was to have been sacrificed. He was said to be honest, faithful, and devoted to the King and his own father, so he was loved and trusted.
When Adimu was announced to the Kings and Princes all around as the person appointed by the King to take charge of the treasures and to worship the national deities during his absence, it was generally asked, ” And who is this Adimu? The answer comes from “Omo Oluwo ni, ” the son of a sacrificial victim, contracted to Ow6ni (Oluwo being the term for a sacrificial victim). So in subsequent years, when the seat of government was removed permanently to Oyo but not the National Deities, Adimu became supreme at Ile Ife, and his successors to this day have been termed the Olorisas, i.e. high priests or fetish worshippers to the King, and people of the whole Yoruba nation. The name Adimu has since been adopted as the agnomen, and the term Owoni as the title of the “Kings ” or more properly the high priests of Ife to this day, the duties of the office being not local or tribal, but national.
According to another account, after the death of Okknbi, Oraiiyan having succeeded and assumed the command emigrated to Oko where he reigned and where he died, and the seat of government was removed thence in the reign of Sango to Oyokoro, i.e., the aforesaid ancient City of Oyo.
Oraiiyan may have actually died at Oko, but his grave with an obelisk over it is certainly shown at ile Ife to this day. It is a custom among the Yorubas—a custom observed to this day—to pare the nails and shave the head of anyone who dies at a considerable distance from the place where they would have him buried. These relics are taken to the place of interment and decently buried, the funeral obsequies being scrupulously observed as if the corpse itself were buried there. Hence although (as we have on probable grounds assumed) Oraiiyan may have died at Oko, and the art of embalming lost or unknown, his relics could thus have been taken to Ile Ife where to this day he is supposed to have been buried. However, a more romantic account of his death will be given in Part II of this history.
As the Yorubas worship the dead and have the belief that prayers offered at the grave of deceased ancestors are potent to procure temporal blessings, all succeeding Yoruba Kings on their accession and before coronation is expected to send to perform acts of worship at the grave of Oduduwa and to receive the benediction of the priest. The sword of justice known as Ida Oranyan (Oranyan’s sword) is to be brought from Ile Ife and ceremoniously placed in their hands; without this being done, the King has no authority whatever to order an execution. Oramiyan’s descendants, in the process of time, were divided into four distinct families, known by their distinctive dialects, and forming the four provinces of Yoruba proper viz. the Ekun Otun, Ekun Osi, Ibolo and Epo provinces. The Ekun Otun and Ekun Osi or right and left, i.e., Eastern and Western regions, are the towns lying to the East and West of the City of Oyo.