Sango is a highly respected god in Yoruba land, and as such, his festival plays a very important traditional and cultural role with the Yoruba people.
He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the present day Oyo state. It is a time when Yorubas reconnect with each other, and to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Yorubas such as drumming, dancing and singing. In 2013, the Oyo state government made the festival internationally recognized by renaming it to World Sango Festival. It has since been recognized by UNESCO.
Despite all these, many still think the story of Sango is a myth.
In this report, the Director of Media and Publicity to the Alaafin of Oyo, ‘BODE DUROJAIYE, writes on how Sango became a Divinity and why Koso community in Oyo town remains tourists’ attraction till today.
He succeeded Ajaka, son of Oranmiyan who appears to have been a weak ruler.
He is the owner of Bata ( double-headed drums), as well as the Arts of Music, Dance and Entertainment in the Yoruba Culture.
Sango had three wives; Oshun, (a river goddess) was his favorite because of her excellent cooking, Oba (another river goddess) offered Sango her ear to eat. He scorned her and she became
the Oba River, which merges with the Oshun River to form dangerous rapids.
Lastly, Oya (Sango’s third wife) was a crafty woman who stole the secret of Sango’s powerful magic.
Oba was Sango’s first and legitimate wife, Oshun; his second wife, and Oya; his third wife, whom he made his queen.
Oshun played a trick on Oba, out of jealousy. She deceived Oba that if she can cut a piece of her ear and offer it to Sango as part of his meal, he would love her the more.
Oba, excited by this information, ran home to prepare Shango’s “amala”, his favorite meal. She sliced off her ear and stirred it into Sango’s food.
While Sango was eating, he saw the ear in the food and was infuriated thinking that Oba was trying to poison him.
Sango drove her from his house and Oba ran out crying. She fell to the ground and turned into a river which is still being worshipped till date.
She became the patron of matrimony (as “Orisha”) and it is believed that she destroys marriages that abuse either partner.
Historically, Sango brought prosperity to the Oyo Empire during his reign. He is associated with the sacred animal, the ram, and the colours of red and white.
Sango displayed his magical powers by directing lightning unto his own household killing his wives and children.
He got angry and entered the ground in Ira by himself after the incidence; he was deified as the god of thunder and lightning.
Sango as purpoted did not hang himself. Sango’s followers went to another village to acquire magical powers and returned furiously to destroy the enemies of Sango in old Oyo.
However, the version which appears valid, adapted by historians, backed by Odu-Ifa and as told in folklores in the Yoruba religion sphere was that Oranmiyan was the father of Sango, Oranmiyan the founder of Oyo kingdom and the youngest grandson of Oduduwa, the progenitor that married a Nupe woman who bore him Sango.
Sango was a very influential king and was said to have established a new culture and tradition.
Historically, it is said that most of the cultural productions and traditions, especially spiritual crowns and emblems, were all products of Sango through his imperial influence.
His reign was, however, less than a decade – seven years – and the circumstances of his death, as controversial and mysterious as they seem, have remained a reference point across the world.
What is more, Sango’s symbol is a double-headed axe, which represents swift and balanced justice.
The ritual paraphernalia associated with worship of Sango divinity was originally developed at the court of the kings of Oyo during the eighteenth century.
The primary emblem of Sango’s followers is the ose Sango, a wooden shaft with a double ax-head motif.
On the occasion of annual festivals, ose Sango are removed from the altars of shrines dedicated to Sango and carried as dance wands by devotees who sing his praises.