History Wednesday: The Oloolu Masquerade
OLOOLU is an exclusive masquerade to Ibadan, Oyo state and was listed as top most feared and respected masquerade in Africa. Ancestral spirits visiting the living to evoke blessings on them are a part of Yoruba. However, the spirits of the dead, as masquerades are called in Yoruba pantheon of divinities, engaged the living in a physical confrontation leading to loss of lives and property in Ibadan.
POPO-YEMOJA, a popular street in Ibadan, is highly regarded by culture experts and historians. The street, which derives its name from a Yoruba water goddess and patron deity of women, Yemoja, meaning the “the street of Yemoja”, has also added to its popularity as a battle field where the ancestral spirits engaged the living in a violent free-for-all.
In Yoruba mythology, an Egungun (masquerade) is the reincarnated ancestral spirit He is the masked ancestor who comes to visit his people to bless them and cleanse the society of spiritual impurities. One of such Egunguns is OLOOLU, the renowned Ibadan fiery masquerade noted for his abhorrence of women. Word of mouth passed down from generations suggests that OLOOLU used to wear a mask and that this mask possess mystical powers that helps Oloolu detect the presence of women nearby and will warn him accordingly. However It is said that his mask was sold long ago to European explorers and was never replaced.
Worshippers hold that any woman who sets her eyes on OLOOLU, will have her monthly menstrual period altered and stopped. As a result women are warned to stay indoors whenever OLOOLU is ready to come out into the streets.
The masquerade is also regarded as the spiritual force holding Ibadan city. If the masquerade does not celebrate its annual festival, the worshippers believe that the town would witness a lot of terrible happenings. To prevent this, it must come out every July to bless the town and its inhabitants and also perform spiritual cleansing of the city of Ibadan .