’’These people are greeting you, take a look at them. They say welcome to our midst and hope you came well’’, my tour guide said.
I was scared for a moment as I turned around to look for my mysterious hosts that were felicitating with me but alas I saw no one and interestingly I laughed it off. I told myself I did not come here to get scared of whatever antics this forest pulls, rather I came for research and research I will do. That was my bravest of heart talking there, even though I almost lost my balance while standing and staring.
To put this narrative into writing I had to go to this forest twice as the first time I visited we could not go far as I got there late. So I got the contact of the guide, Mr. Sunday and told him I would be back.
I had read Fagunwa’s book and though I believe mystical beings exist, I was fascinated to know the village and the forest itself actually still exist. That was for sure something I wanted to explore.
Who reads the great Yoruba novelist Pa Daniel Fagunwa’s book ’’ogboju ode ninu igbo orunmila’’ and not marvel at the power of his narratives of folklores that were familiar to people. He breathes life to his characters which gives one’s imaginations a treat to wonder and wander at how creative and enchanting his works were. His works centered mainly on descriptive narratives of demons, spirits, monsters, gods, magic, witchcrafts, and mysteries. Of interest, it is also worthy of note that his works largely teaches high moral levels and standard of living from the Yoruba perspective.
Oke Langbodo which is the actual point the mystical forest is located is believed to be a place where giant snails and crabs appear bigger than a tortoise. The forest is at the heart of the historical settlement of Igbo Olodumare which is about 20 kilometers from Oke Igbo township off Ife-Ondo road in Ondo state, Nigeria. No one is allowed into the forest without due permission and access, no felling of trees, no hunting and activities are highly restricted. Once in a year some certain group of people of the village go up the mountain to have a celebration as regards to Igbo Olodumare. They celebrate the mysteries and spirits that has protected them over the years.
The Igbo Olodumare settlement is characterised with farmlands of cocoa, palm fruits and oranges. The road to this place is in a terrible state, not motor-able and one is advised not to come during the rainy season as it is usually sloppy and has a very bad terrain. This usually make the commercial motorcycle operators charge exorbitant prices to get you there.
Our first stop was the ‘’omi egberi wese ‘’ a shallow stream that flows into a water logged area.
The stream is believed to hold mystical powers that protects the village.
Then the road to ‘’ Ona Isalu Orun’’ which literally means the road to heaven.
The path is believed to be the main dwelling of the spirits in the forest and certain sacrifices must be made before anyone takes the path.
After that we took the 73 steps leading into the heart of Oke Langbodo where the first point is the ‘’Apata Adimula’’ a small rock at the end of the giant rock where prayers are being offered.
According to the story it was also a point where the ‘’Akoni meje’’ (Akara Ogun, Efoye, Imodoye, Kako, Elegbde Ode, Olohun Iyo and Osofisan) that is the seven elders usually meet to say their prayers and settle their disputes.
Then we proceeded to the forest, and met Baba ‘’ Onirungbo Yeuke’’ the bearded man and his flute.
Which is the mystical character in Fagunwa’s book that was turned to a staute to guard the forest from evil ones.
Into the forest is the dwelling of the giant python ‘’Ile Ejola Ibinu’’ believed to have a human head and which comes out once in a year in August and usually give a rainbow sign to warn of it’s impending danger.
During this period no visitor is allowed access to the forest. Interestingly the guard added that if anyone come into the forest during those period and leaves even when the snake was not yet out the person would be mysteriously drawn back to the forest to be consumed by the python. That must be some epic mysterious move.
Then we moved to the point of ‘’Ibu Ijoko olowo aye’’
the seat of the mighty ruler of the earth where the spirits come together to meet and have their discussions.
Then the part of the forest that interest me most was the ‘’Aginju Idakeroro’’ the silent wilderness.
It was as described by Fagunwa, no echo, not even the bird chirping nor the forest usual sound. Before getting here the guide has asked if I really wanted to go down there , in my mind I was like that is why I am here sir. Lol. There was a part in the silent wilderness where verbal communication is not allowed so we made gestures to each other till we moved out. This part also interestingly looks more like it is rainy season down there whereas out on the mountain experienced was dry harmmattan and leaves.
The last point was the ‘’Ogbun Ainisale” that is the bottomless pit which is believed to contain all sorts of mystical beings and creatures described in Fagunwa’s book.
I didn’t see them though as I did not even go close to the point out of caution not fear, trust me. 😁
Journeying through the mystical forest of Igbo Olodumare was nothing short of fun to me. I was excited to see the characters in Fagunwa’s book in their real settings but unfortunately the place is not properly managed and just one of the characters was duly represented that is Baba Onirungbo, it would have been more fun seeing all but then I learnt a whole lot. I saw uncommon things like a weird bird that flew past me, I could not take a picture as it flew away in a flash.
I would advise Yoruba literary teachers to take their students to go see the myths and mysteries of this forest to help them relate better to Fagunwa’s work and learn more about the Yoruba history.
Also tourist that likes to explore, hike mountains and listen to interesting stories too should pay a visit to this place.
Go prepared with good hiking boots or foot-wares, long sleeves, face-caps, snack-bag and a water-botle.
More importantly I feel the Ondo state government need to pay more attention to this site, it is a place so rich with culture and history people can really relate to. The site should be duly recognised as a UNESCO tourist site. Adjustments and renovations need to be made to encourage more people to visit this place, like ensuring good and accessible roads, seat and reservations for tourist to relax and chill out.
Would you like to make an adventure to this place??? Let me know **cheers**