Recalling the history and importance of one of the greatest masquerades in Ibadan and Yorubaland as a whole, the head of Aje family where the Oloolu masquerade originated, Chief Raheem Oyerinde, disclosed that their great fore father, Ayorinde Aje, who was a warrior along with Ogunmola, Ogbori-efon, Ibikunle, Oderinde, Oderinlo went to fight in Ogbagi in Akoko, Ondo State and Oloolu was a great war masquerade in that town and was so powerful such that no one could confront him during the war.
”Nobody could defeat Oloolu during that war but it was our father, Ayorinde Aje that fought him and removed his regalia and costumes, before he was brought to Ibadan as a slave.
His eyes caught the Egungun’s outfit and were attracted towards it. But as he moved towards the shrine where the outfit was kept, the war captive warned Aje Ayorinde not to go near it because it could put his life in jeopardy.
Hence the name Oloolu, that is, O-LU-NKAN, meaning ‘you will put your life in peril. Ayorinde took the advice but ordered his captive to take the outfit along with him back to Ibadan. He also ordered the wife of the captive to accompany her husband to Ibadan. The woman refused. In his annoyance, Ayorinde beheaded her and ordered the captured husband to carry the woman’s head along to Ibadan in addition to the Oloolu outfit.
That woman’s head is what is permanently placed on the masquerade. It is the original one. It is because of the head that every woman is barred from setting eyes on the Oloolu. Any woman who sees the real Oloolu – not his pictures – will surely die. It is also true that the first person the Ololu sees on his first day will die. The Olubadan usually warns the populace to take precautions.
During his stay in Ibadan, there was famine, ill-health and crisis in the land and all the elders and chiefs were looking for a way out, that was how Ayorinde Aje suggested that Oloolu should be used to carry the ritual to appease the gods, so immediately he carried the ritual, there was rain and everything got back to normal in Ibadan.
Oloolu helped Ibadan to be what it is today. Since then anybody that is the head of the Aje family becomes the custodian of Oloolu masquerade.
No other Egungun must be seen on the streets whenever the Oloolu is out. That Egungun will certainly perish. During the reign of Olubadan Dada, and Egungun called Iponri-Iku tried it. I was then a small boy. Iponri-Iku came out on the same day the Oloolu was out. He challenged the Oloolu to do his worst. Oloolu then dropped a special cowry on the ground and challenged Iponri-Iku to pick it up. Iponri-Iku bent down to pick the cowry. He could not. His backbone was broken instantly. Iponri-Iku could no longer stand up. His followers had to carry him home. Iponri-Iku died on the same day. Since that day, no other Egungun has dared to challenge the Oloolu.
According to Chief Oyerinde, ”any area in Ibadan where the people try to fight the Oloolu anytime he is out, such areas will continue to experience bloodshed, and that is what is happening in Opopo Yeosa area till date, because they tried to beat Oloolu there sometimes ago. Oloolu is so great that he gives the barren children, he provides for the needy, he prospers business among other good things he can give to an individual who is ready to serve him”.
The Oloolu masquerade is an individual masquerade. It has its unique attire which looks like an elongated pyramid made from different pieces of clothes and a net. The most bizarre piece of the Oloolu masquerade is that it has the skull of a woman as its crown. As the Oloolu dances round the city in its strange rhythm with a female skull dangling on its head, the bearer proudly displays the human bone while accompanying the dreaded cult figure.
The bearer of Oloolu must not wear shoes nor carry any kind of load on his head. Also, he must not go to bed with any of his wives 30 days before coming out. In fact, a few days before the festival opens, all females must vacate his compound and return after the Oloolu festival is over. Besides, he must not carry a child on his shoulders with his feet slung round his neck.
Of all the egunguns worshipped in Ibadan and probably in all of Yorubaland, none is as dreaded as the Egungun Oloolu (Oloolu Masquerade).
This cult figure is believed to have immense supernatural powers and one of these is the ability to mysteriously kill the first person man or woman who sets his or her eyes on the Oloolu (in his weird costume which is usually kept inside its own special shrine.
SOURCE: Yoruba Cultural Heritage Centre