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Aringiya Festival In Ikare-Akoko

Published by Guardian on Sat, 25 Aug 2012

IKARE-AKOKO is located in the northern senatorial district of Ondo State and houses the headquarters of Akoko-North East LGA.For proper administration during the colonial era, Ikare was grouped into five major areas namely: Iyometa, Ikaado, Orun-un, Edo/Ekan and Ilepa/Oyinmo.Ikare 'Akoko people are mainly farmers, they are known for planting cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, kola-nut and cotton. Many traditional feasts including Aringiya, Egungun (Masquerade), and New Yam festivals take place in Ikare-Akoko every year.Aringiya festival is one of the most important traditional festivals in Ikare ' Akoko. Record has it that Aringiya is a water goddess brought into Ikare from Ile ' Ife. On arrival in Ikare, the goddess was placed beside a brook that emanated from the Owa Ale hill. The brook is located 500metres from Owa Ale's palace, hence it was named Aringiya Brook. The worship of Aringiya goddess brought about the Aringiya festival.Renowned as goddess of chastity, fruitfulness and harvest, Aringiya festival is celebrated during the early months of the planting season. The festival always precedes the Egungun festival.Traditionally, Aringiya is a festival celebrated by the whole of Ikare land but it is only young maidens (virgins) from the nucleus of the town that participate in the festival.The maidens qualified to participate in Aringiya festival are maidens from the Iyometa and Orun-un. These two areas merged together to form Iyomefa. Iyomefa is comprised of Okorun, Okegbe, Iku, Okoja, Okeruwa and Odoruwa Odeyare. It is a taboo for girls from the other three areas of the village to participate in the festival.Participation in the festival is voluntary and the girls are always very enthusiastic about it while non-participation means guilt on the parts of the girls who refuse to participate. It is believed that any girl between the age bracket of 14 and 18 years who refuse to participate in the festival is no more a virgin, and this is tantamount to shame for the girl and her family. It is indeed, a festival for the virgins.It is a one-day festival. On this day, it is expected that rain will not fall; if rain falls, it is believed that one or more of the girls participating in the festival has already lost their virginity or they are pregnant. And on such occasion, the Ifa Priest will be consulted with the aim of fishing out the offender.AT the side of the brook, all the girls will remove their clothes and be naked with only beads tied round their hips; no pants and nothing covering their breast region; tattoos are drawn on their faces and all over their body with native chalks/white lime. Drums, gong and other traditional musical instruments will be played for them and the maidens will sing and dance while the men do the clearing and cleaning of the brook. At the peak of the festival, when the men have finished the cleaning work, the water becomes still (stop flowing) all the maidens will go down on their knees and bow down their heads. At this point, it is believed that the Aringiya goddess has come out to received her children and this point, a masquerade known as Igede-oka whose cognomen is Apaje-buje (meaning the one who kills the witch and have a bite of her) will descend from the Owa Ale Hill with a long cutlass in his hand, he will jump across the brook and swiftly cut off the head of the maiden or maidens that are not virgins or are pregnant but stubbornly and deceitfully followed the other girls to the side of the brook. This was usually the penalty for offenders in the olden days. But the law doesn't permit such instant judgement anymore; nowadays, the masquerade will just fish out the girl/girls and she will be publicly disgraced; she and her family will be ridiculed everywhere in the village.But where all the girls are virgins, the masquerade will just come down, brandish his cutlass, dance round the girls and pray for them. After this, he'll ask that any married woman that came to ask Aringiya for the fruit of the womb that year should come forward, he'll pray for the women and also pray for bumper harvest for the season; he will then ascend back to the Owa Ale Hill.At this juncture, the virgin girls will dance out from the side of the brook and dance round the Iyomefa area of the village. They will proudly sing and dance round the village naked, showing the world that they have kept their pride (virginity) for the husbands that will marry them. Men and boys that are looking for wives will come out to watch them and make their choices of wives. No one is allowed to touch or snap their pictures.The climax of the festival is the assembly of the girls at the Owa Ale's palace with all the guests, friends and spectators, and women that came the previous year to ask the Aringiya goddess for fruit of the womb are called out to give testimonies of wonders that have occurred in their lives.At this juncture, the reigning Owa Ale will go inside to bring out all the ancient crowns one after the other; as he brings out the crowns one after the other, all the people in the palace will prostrate and shout Kabiyesi o... in reverence to the late king. The Owa will bring out all the aged crowns of the land except one; this crown is the one that was originally brought from Ile-Ife. This special crown is made of cowries. All the other crowns will be used to decorate the palace; the Owa will put on all the crowns one after the other praying for the community till he'll put on the last one which covers his face, he will then hold his staff of office and pray for all the girls that participated in the festival that year, pray for the women that testified of the fruit of the womb and also for the women that went to the Aringiya brook to ask the goddess for the fruit of the womb. He'll also pray for everybody in the village (both indigenes and visitors), and finally, he'll pray for peace, harmony and development of Ikare land.'Mofolusade discussed this topic with the National Museum Study Group, Port Harcourt recently
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