Trinidad Express, August 27, 2002
HUNDREDS of Olorisa (followers of Orisa) [RR Note: OlOrisa is a Priestly title, it does not mean devotee or follower] from different communities around the country journeyed to Salybia last Sunday to celebrate the seventh Oshun Festival.
The Olorisa covered the beach in a dazzling array of colours. Pink which is the goddess Oshun’s colour and white were the most predominant among the riot of colours at the festive occasion.
They arrived in cars and maxis beating drums, shaking maracs and chanting songs in praise of the goddess.
From ten in the morning vehicles started to line up on along the 100-metre roadway from Toco Main Road to the Salybia beach.
Paying obeisance to the river as a deity, that’s the purpose the Oshun Festival, said well-known singer and Olorisa Ella Andall, who attended the celebrations. The Hindus pay a similar homage to the Ganga Mai in their annual festival of Ganga Dhaaraa, she pointed out.
Oshun is the mother (deity) of fertility in the Orisa faith. She is the mirror that assists people reflecting on life itself. She also assists in affairs of the heart and prosperity. In Haiti she is known as Mistress Erzulie.
The Oshun Festival originated in Oshogobro near the Oshun River in Nigeria many centuries ago. It was celebrated at this time of the year in accordance with the Orisa calendar and continues to be celebrated at this time.
At noon the large gathering, many of whom who were relaxing under tall shady trees, walked back to the main road and then returned in procession once again to the beach to perform rituals.
“Ye ye O, Oshun Oshun O,
Aare me Oshun waa se kumare’’. This chant, Ella Andall explained, was an invitation to Oshun to come.
The Olorisa chanted as they walked slowly along the roadway on the Salybia River banks to the beach. One elder at the helm swung a coal pot emitting smoke from incense while another poured olive oil on the coals. Drummers and marac men were plentiful. They kept up a lively tempo throughout the evening. A conch shell-blower was among the musicians and he blew until he felt tired and took a rest.
In one instance an Orisa elder made a percussion instrument out of a garden hoe. He played it like the iron man in a steelband.
On the beachfront they gathered in a circle and chanted in unison.
The sun was hot but the cool sea breeze blowing constantly across the landscape made the celebrants a bit comfortable.
The ceremony was conducted by Babalorisa Clarence Forde, who attended the Oshun Festival in Nigeria last year and knows alot about the rituals of the festival.
Offerings of fruits, flowers and honey were placed at the confluence of the Salybia river and the sea.
The morning tide was high but by noon it subsided and seas bathers were having a great time. Five youths brought their surfboards down and surfed all evening, sometimes falling off the boards and climbing back to face the waves. Curious spectators came and looked at the proceedings, then turned away and headed back to the sea or river.
At a nearby fishing facility on Salybia beach, fishermen relaxed in hammocks. In fact, their building served as a welcome shade for Olorisa who were looking for cool spot.
Ella Andall, recently returned from a cultural tour of England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Ghana stood out among the celebrants with her beautiful traditional garb. She played marac and chanted along with the singers and drummers. In a quiet moment she offered honey to the waters and whispered a silent prayer, she said. Other faithful were offering prayers quietly and washing away the negative thoughts from their minds, she pointed out.
Before the start of the festival, however, there was a clean-up campaign of the beachfront. A party had taken place there on Saturday and the beach was littered with bottles and cups.
Even before the Olorisa arrived, a group of Baptists brought two young boys and a girl and baptised them in the sea waters.
By evening, the Olorisa having completed their ritual of the Seventh Oshun Festival, gathered in groups for their return trip home.
Copyright Trinidad Express