Friday 17 March 2023

Awon Agba = Mothers - Ancestors - Deities (Osa Meji)

Osa Meji re-creates the mythic origin of the Gelede Masquerade. Greetings were their secret among the Ijesa Ifa told Orunmila when he was going to the grove of the Eleiye (Witches), He must put on a Mask, a head-wrap and leg rattles. He obeyed, he put them on, he arrived at the grove of the Witches, and he was safe. He rejoiced in dancing and singing- "I have covenanted with Death; I will never die. Death, Death no more, I have covenanted with sickness, I will never die. Death, Death no more."

Orunmila, the Deity associated with Ifa, put on a Mask (Aworan), head-wrap (Oja), and leg rattles (Iku)- the three essential elements found in all Gelede costuming.

The regalia protect him from the negative propensities of the destructive Mothers, for as one elderly priestess reputed to be extremely knowledgeable about such matter’s states: ". . . these Masks are an Ancestral rite that the Ancients did in the past which they called Eso. They must not do it in an uncovered way. They must not dance nakedly to allow people to see their eyes". The regalia also provide pageantry which appeals to their positive dimension.

Masks and other visual forms associated with these cults contain imagery evocative of Male supremacy and vengeance. Gelede imagery, in contrast, exemplifies another approach to the Mothers.

Yewa Jobi - Yemoja could not have children and consulted an Ifa oracle, who advised her to offer sacrifices and to dance with wooden images on her head and metal anklets on her feet. After performing this ritual, she became pregnant. Her first child was a boy, nicknamed "Efe"- Humorist; the Efe Mask emphasizes song and jests because of the personality of its namesake. Yewa Jobi - Yemoja second child was a girl, nicknamed "Gelede" - Obese like her Mother Gelede loved dancing.

After getting married themselves, neither Gelede nor Efe's partner could have children. The Ifa oracle suggested they try the same ritual that had worked for their Mother. No sooner than Efe and Gelede performed these rituals- dancing with wooden images on their heads and metal anklets on their feet- they started having children. These rituals developed into the Gelede masked dance and was perpetuated by the descendants of Efe and Gelede.

Gelede pays homage to the Spiritual Powers of Women, especially Elderly Women known affectionately as "Our Mothers," Awon Iya Wa. The powers possessed by such Women, comparable to those of the Gods, Spirits, or Ancestors, may be used for the benefit or the destruction of society.  When manifesting their destructive dimension such Elderly Women are termed Aje - Witches.  If angered, they can bring down individuals and entire communities.

The Gelede’s costume includes big Breasts reflecting Motherhood. Interestingly, however, the wearers of the Gelede Masks with the big Breasts and big Buttocks are always Men. The explanation given for this was that since the performance is in honor of Women, it will be inappropriate for Women to wear the Masks as that may be interpreted to mean that the Women are the ones honoring themselves.

The pot-Breasted Mother with much hair on her private part the owner of a Vagina that suffocates like dry yam in the throat. The eulogy suggests the two most important parts in the process of becoming a Mother – the Breasts and the Vagina. The heavy Breast is assumed to contain an inexhaustible flow of milk for her children. Because Yemoja is also referred to as the generous and the dangerous Mother, the suffocating Vagina may be the source of the power of life and death.

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