Sunday 12 March 2023

The Supernatural Characters & Powers of Sacred Trees (Osa Odi)

During the lifetime of Orunmila (Ancient prophet) Orunmila wanted to test all the Trees, to know which of them he would use as a symbol of worship.  As a resort he transforms himself into a newborn baby with umbilical cord wrapped around his body and dripping blood. And place himself by the roadside. Ope Agunka (Palm Ikin) Ope Agbon (Coconut Tree) Ope Iko (Palm Wine) were also in human form. All members of the Palm Tree family were travelling along the path. They saw the baby crying with a very shrill voice. The first thing they do is to look for the surroundings to search if his mother is around. They shouted at the top of their voices to ascertain if the owner of the baby is nearby, so that he can come and take it. Nobody responded to them. The baby begins to talk, he said. ’carry me to a nearby city’’ Immediately they hear the new baby talking. They all took to their heels. They say they have never seen where the baby is talking before.

But Ope Agunka (Palm Ikin) reminds them that they should not forget that they have been previously worn via Ifa divination, that they should help whosoever they meet on their way that needs their help. They went back to the baby and carried him. They decided to carry him to a nearby city which is Ile Ife. Iko (Palm Wine) is the youngest among the three of them present. He was the first person to carry the baby. He carries him on his head. When he walked about a few kilometers. the baby urinates on his head, he complains, he said he can no longer carry the baby. He dropped it down. The Agbon (Coconut Palm) was the second to carry the baby, the baby urinates on him and defecates on him as well. When Agbon walked a few kilometers, he dropped the baby and he said he can no longer cope with the stench and feces of the baby. Ope (Palm Ikin) who is the oldest among them did not have any option than to carry the baby. The baby urinates on him, and he also defecates on him and stains all his body with feces. But Ope (Palm Ikin) did not throw him down. He carried the baby to the palace of Olofin, where they were directed to carry the baby to the house of Orunmila.

After this Orunmila blesses Ope Agunka (Palm Ikin) to become the most useful plant among all the family of Palms. That is how Ikin was chosen as the sacred object of worship. There are Ifa scripture that institute Ikin as the most valid Element that no deity can cross his part.

Sacred Trees: It is their belief that when a family member dies, their spirit resides in the natural environment to watch over their kin, relay messages to and from God, and grant blessings, wishes, and requests.” In Africa the practice of Tree worship is based on the belief that Ancestor spirits live in the Trees and forests as well as any other natural formations that are considered peaceful. Sacred Trees are highly manicured and sculpted so that they can provide a sheltered place for gatherings. In many villages they were the center of social activity from community dances to court sessions, as well as metaphors for the strength of community bonds. And as the mythology goes, Sacred Trees represent a cosmic connection between Earth and the Heavens. The Trees helped people measure the passing of time through seasonal changes and became the center piece of local folklore. In many religions, sacred places as well as Orishas were thought to possess supernatural characters and the power to carryout miracles or as having magical powers. The same attitude is found throughout history as an outcome of Tree Worship-Adoration-Veneration.

Sacred Trees were sometimes described as possessing huge or unusual dimensions or miraculous physical characters.  Frequently, sacred Trees were regarded as having omnipotent magic powers to punish, cure, or to carry out miracles and to confer unusual abilities. In many cultures around the globe sacred Trees are strictly protected and injuring the Tree in any way is regarded as sacrilege. This deep faith has been established in the course of generations by tradition and stories of actual punishment meted out by the Gods-Souls-Orishas to which the Trees are dedicated. Injuring the Tree, especially cutting it down may leave the resident spirit homeless and it would soon take its revenge. In some communities’ fear of revenge by the spirits in response to any harm to the sacred Tree is so great that special ceremonies, which may include sacrifices, prayers, ceremonies, are held to pacify the angry spirit before a Tree is cut. Throughout history, and in many cultures, sacred Trees were regarded as omens and oracles, as well as soothsayers that may speak in human voices. 

Punishment of whoever violates the Tree all over the world sacred Trees are protected by a system of taboos and ceremonies which were developed to prevent any damage. These Trees are regarded as the abode of supernatural beings, gods, souls, and any harm to such abodes are to be heavily punished. Cutting down sacred Trees is regarded as a particularly serious offence against the supernatural element because such an act leaves the spirit homeless. There is thus a need to repatriate these supernatural beings by means of special ceremonies.!!Sacred Trees are believed to have magic curative powers in Africa, even species of some plants or parts of it that are not known as having medicinal properties, such as the leaves of a Sacred Oak (Iroko) are regarded as omnipotent forms of medication when administered externally as a decoction. Clearly, the leaves acquire the healing powers when granted by Orishas; just as actual medicinal plants gathered in the vicinity of the sacred Tree are more potent. Most of the uses of sacred Trees for divine blessings or cure seem based on magical contact.

Iroko is a large hardwood Tree from the west coast of tropical Africa the Tree is known to the Yoruba as Iroko or Loko and is believed to have supernatural properties.  It is one of the woods sometimes referred to as African teak, although it is unrelated to the teak family. The Tree is feared in some cultures where it originates and hence is shunned or revered with offerings. Africans believe that the Tree is inhabited by a spirit, and anybody who sees the Iroko-man face to face becomes insane and speedily dies. The spirit of the Iroko can be heard in houses which use Iroko wood, as the spirit of the Iroko is trapped in the wood. It is often protected when the surrounding bush is cleared, ritual sacrifices take place underneath it and gifts are given to it. Fertility and birth are associated with it and its timber is used to make ceremonial drums and coffins.::The Tree features in many myths and tales: The Tree stands between Heaven and Earth and is associated with creation as well as the underworld. The Tree is a Maternal symbol: a protector and provider who gives fruit, other foods, and medicines, provides a reservoir for water, protects against the elements and evil spirits. The Tree often symbolizes human fecundity. It may also be a phallic and paternal symbol, symbolically linking people with their Ancestors while being a symbol of political unity. Finally, the deciduous characteristic of the Tree gives it an ambiguous image which reflects the Tree’s power to give life and rebirth as well as to bring about death. In many African myths and stories, the tree is portrayed as an Ancestral symbol of wisdom, authority and custom, providing a bond between the dead and the living.  

Eeepa Omo Ope!!!  Photo: Igi-Ope Ekiti  (Ogunlola Ifaniyi)

1 comment:

  1. Great Post! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and keep up the good work.


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