Sunday 28 April 2024


The Iya Abessan Temple in Okọ̀rọ̀ (Akron) quarters, Àjàṣẹ́ (Porto Novo), Benin Republic, stands as a testament to the rich historical and cultural tapestry woven by the Yoruba people. Okoro and Jassin (Ija osan) are revered as the oldest settled areas in the Southern region of Benin Republic, tracing their origins to Yoruba migrants from present-day Southwestern Nigeria. Originally distinct villages, Okoro and Jassin became focal points of cultural and religious significance, paving the way for the establishment of the iconic Iya Abi Mesan Temple.

The temple's location in Okọrọ (meaning a corner) holds profound symbolism, mirroring its role as a cornerstone of Yoruba architectural heritage in the region. As Porto Novo expanded outward, the temple retained its historical and spiritual prominence, embodying the enduring legacy of Yoruba traditions.

One of the temple's captivating aspects lies in its association with the formidable Yoruba deity, Oya. Revered as "Iya abi mesan" or 'Iyasan (Mother of Nine), Oya's mythology intertwines with the temple's narrative, weaving together myths and legends that continue to fascinate scholars and visitors alike. Exploring the temple grounds unveils layers of history, spirituality, and cultural significance, offering a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of Yoruba heritage preserved within its sacred walls.

History has it that the first king of Ikoyi, was compelled to depart his throne in Nigeria alongside his pregnant wife and devoted followers. Their odyssey led them to the shores of Porto Novo in Benin Republic, where fate intervened dramatically. As the queen, Olori, grappled with the pangs of childbirth, she miraculously gave birth to nine children, known as the Abesan, on the same auspicious day.

In the wake of this extraordinary event, Olori's status changed to that of a goddess because of the rarity of such birth. Renamed Olori Abesan, she became an emblem of divine grace and maternal potency. Such was her divine elevation that she was prohibited from kneeling before any earthly authority, including kings.

Confronted with the profound implications of their newfound blessings, the king and his retinue faced a pivotal decision. Recognizing the impracticality of further wanderings, particularly with nine offspring in tow, they resolved to settle in this new land. In homage to their cherished roots in Ikoyi, they christened their newfound domain Abesan Onikoyi, preserving the memory of their ancestral homeland.

The legacy of Olori Abesan and her nine illustrious children endures through symbolic representations deeply ingrained in the fabric of their heritage. Nine snakes, each embodying the essence of one of her miraculous offspring, serve as enduring emblems of their divine lineage. Likewise, a lioness, majestic and regal, stands as a steadfast symbol of the queen's indomitable spirit and maternal majesty. Together, these symbols weave a tapestry of myth and tradition, perpetuating the timeless legacy of the Abesan dynasty for generations to come.

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