The Osun Sacred Grove, on the outskirts of the city of Osogbo, is one of the last remnants of primary rain forest in southern Nigeria. It is regarded as the abode of the goddess of fertility Osun, one of the pantheon of Yoruba gods.
The landscape of the grove and its meandering river is dotted with sanctuaries and shrines, sculptures and pieces of art in honour of Osun and other deities. The sacred grove, which is now seen as a symbol of identity for all Yoruba people testifies to the once widespread practice of establishing sacred groves outside all settlements.
Oral history stipulates that people first moved to the grove about 400 years ago and settled at a site near the river. Unknown to them, they were treading on sacred ground, the story goes that one of the early settlers was cutting down a tree when a voice came from the river, instructing him to move away. That was how the settlers left the site for higher ground, establishing what would become the city of Osogbo, and dedicated the forest to the goddess.
Through the dense forest meanders the river Osun, set within the forest sanctuary are forty shrines, sculptures and art works erected in honour of Osun and other Yoruba deities. Two palaces, five sacred places and nine worship points strung along the river banks with designated priests and priestesses.
At the Grove devotees troop in daily, weekly and monthly to worship. In addition, an annual processional festival to re-establish the mystic bonds between the goddess and the people of the town occurs every year over twelve days between July and August.
The Grove is also claimed to be a natural herbal pharmacy containing over 400 species of plants.
There are traditional activities that have been and are still used to protect the site from any form of threats such as traditional laws, myths, taboos and customs that forbid people from fishing, hunting, poaching, felling of trees and farming.
Protection and Management:
The Grove was first declared a National Monument in 1965 and was amended and expanded in 1992 to protect the entire 75 hectares. Under the Land Use Act of 1990 the Federal Government of Nigeria conferred trusteeship of the Grove to the Government of Osun State.
Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is also part of National Tourism Development Master Plan that was established with World Tourism Organization (WTO) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The Grove also serves as a model of African heritage that preserves the tangible and intangible values of especially the Osogbo people, and the entire Yoruba tribe. The Grove remains a living and thriving heritage that has traditional landmarks and a veritable means of transfer of traditional religion, and indigenous knowledge systems, to African people in the Diaspora.
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