Odun Aje in Ondo kingdom is literally referred to as a festival of the goddess of wealth and fertility. The festival is one of the over 44 traditional festivals annually celebrated with pomp and pageantry in Ondo.
The festival is dedicated to Aje, the Yoruba goddess of wealth and fertility, it is another very special and impressive female angle to the Ondo traditions.
Odun Aje festival in Ondo city is an annual festival usually performed by the Opojis, that is the female Chiefs, the festival is usually held on the eve of Odun Moko, a special festival usually performed around November by the Udoko community, where women are barred from public glare.
The festival in Ondo kingdom is usually referred to as the goddess that controls women's success in business, and extends their wealth, Aje, is normally regularly propitiated by Ondo women, especially the market Chiefs and the Opojis.
The special annual festival and the worship is however vested in the Opojis, who perform the rites on their own and on behalf of womanhood, and the entire people in the kingdom.
According to a former Commissioner for Education in Ondo State and the Mayegun of Ondo city, Chief Mrs. Olufunke Iluyemi, Aje is worshiped annually in the city, so that fortune will continue to smile on all women and the townsfolk in general.
She explained that each Opoji in the city is expected to have her own Aje, which is a kind of movable shrine, dedicated to the Yoruba goddess of affluence and fertility.
The shrine consists of the Aje itself which is placed in a big clean and white bowl, usually of brass and in the bowl are placed several items symbolic of wealth, enhanced social status and fertility.
The items include Aso-Oke, the Ondo traditional cloth, owo eyo, (cowrie money) Iyun (red beads) awo (China plates) irunkere, (horse tail) and decorative mirrors as well as gold ornaments to mention a few.
The items which are artistically and daintily arranged in the white bowl and topped with horse tail is a symbol of prestige, status, ease and affluence. It could also be topped with white doll, which also symbolises western civilisation in which Ondos are noted for.
The Aje in Ondo kingdom is the Opoji's symbol of position and elevation in the society, it reflects her position as a woman of substance and respectability without which attributes she could not have been made a chief.
Other women around her or her own relations may also have cause to propitiate the Aje on their own behalf for success in their individual business in life's endeavours.
For example, at the beginning of the Obitun ceremony celebrated for puberty initiation performed by the Ondos for girls prior to marriage, the girls involved will have the Aje near them or that of their relation who is an Opoji worshipped on their behalf.
The usual materials for the Aje rites are kolanut and cold water (Ugba Omi Titu) in local parlance, elo (marched yam without palm oil) among others.
Apart from this private worship of the Aje, which is usually around November, precisely on the eve of Odunmoko, a special outing for each Opoji with her Aje. This is called Odun Aje, a unique outing for the women Chiefs to perform publicly the worship of their Aje to seek fortune and favour, not only on themselves, but also on the entire kingdom, including the Oba, Chiefs and all his subjects.
The Aje ceremony in Ondo kingdom also involves the Udoko priest Chiefs whose duty it is to perform the rites on the Aje to seek for success and prosperity in the entire kingdom.
*Watch out for the concluding part!