The Oshun Grove is an amazing sacred site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Southwestern region of Nigeria. It has both spiritual and cultural significance for the Yoruba people as well as Ifa and Orisha devotees all over the world. As an orisha devotee and initiate myself, I've visited the grove many times since my first trip to Nigeria in 2003 and still have yet to tire of its beauty. If you've ever thought about traveling to Africa for an amazing cultural experience, here are five reasons why you should consider visiting the Sacred Oshun Grove.
1. A Cultural Mecca
Many are suprised to find that Yorubaland in which the Oshun Grove is found, is the birthplace for the largest indigenous African spiritual tradition in the world, the Orisha Ifa tradition. Due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade many Yoruba people were transported throughout the diaspora causing their African spiritual tradition to spread to the four corners of the globe. The Yoruba believe in God and a host of intermediary spirits whom are appeased for various purposes. Yoruba inspired orisha religion can now be found in Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and throughout the world including the United States. The Oshun Grove therefore represents a cultural mecca destination for a major African religion which hails out of the Southwestern region of Nigeria. The grove represents not just a sanctuary for the goddess Oshun, but also for many other orisha. Sacred ceremonies are still performed there. You can even have a traditional priest divine kola nut for you as an offering to the orisha.
2. UNESCO World Heritage Site
Because of it's spiritual and cultural significance, as well as its sheer beauty, the Oshun Grove was designated as a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2005. As a world heritage site, it is recognized as being of outstanding international importance and therefore as deserving special protection. This also means potential funding for conservation and preservation efforts. By being designed as a World Heritage Site, the Osun Grove joins the ranks of other important sites in the world such as the great pyramids of Egypt, temple ruins of Aghor Wat in Cambodia and the majestic Taj Mahal of India among other places. One of the great features of the Oshun Grove is the impressive sculptures and examples of artistic architecture which abound among the ancient trees.
3. Last of Sacred Forests in Nigeria.
One reason to visit the sacred Oshun Grove, is because its one of the last remaining sacred forests and examples of high growth forest in Nigeria left. Visiting here will give you a wonderful glimpse of the beauty which was found in abundance in ancient times. Thousand-year old trees, ancient structures, and earth soaked with the potency of thousands of years of spiritual practice. In earlier times there were many groves which were set aside and devoted to various spiritual societies but through modernization and urbanization as well as the spread of Christianity and Islam, many of the old groves were destroyed, enchroached upon or abandoned.
However, the presence and resilience of the Oshun grove represent a direct challenge to the notion of a dying traditional Yoruba spiritual culture. It's presence serves as a symbol of the resilience of the ancient Yoruba spiritual culture. The grove serves as a sanctuary for the indigenous Yoruba spiritual tradition and societies which flourish there. Although there are areas which are off limits to non-initiates, many areas are public and offer a beautiful snapshot of orisha and Ifa spiritual culture as it was one found in nature. It also serves as a conservatory of a diverse array of animals and fauna which thrive here.
4. Amazing African Art
The grove also host some great African artwork and sculture which is credited to the wonderful work of a group of local Yoruba artists such as Sangodare Ajala, Adebisi Akanji among others who collectively formed the Sacred New Art movement in collaboration with Austrian artist, the late Suzanne Wenger. The art work is composed of stone and wooden sculptures depicting various personalities and motifs from the Yoruba spiritual landscape and cosmology. The special thing about the art of the grove is that it is all sacred.
5. Site of the Annual Oshun Festival
Every year thousands of devotees from Nigeria and around the world converge upon the Oshun grove to celebrate the river goddess Oshun and her connection to the Yoruba people. Everyone from kings, chiefs, priests and common folk attend in celebration. Various aspects of Yoruba culture and pomp and circumstance is displayed during this time. One of the highlights of the festival is a procession of devotees lead by the sacred virgin calabash carrier called the arugba to the Oshun river. Devotees travel to the river to present offerings and prayers for the blessings from prior requests and to give thanks. Despite the spiritual and religious component, the festival is not just for devotees, people from all walks of life and religions attend the festival as it is also a celebration of founding of the town of Osogbo as well as a celebration of traditional Yoruba culture. Make sure you plan ahead if you want to attend. The festival usually occurs during the peak travel season in August. Check out this documentary film on the Oshun Festival.