THE MYSTERIOUS AND MYTHICAL SOGIDI LAKE IN AWE, OYO STATE
WRITTEN BY JOHNSON ADE OKUNADE
Sogidi Lake is a mysterious, sacred and mythical Lake in Awe; a town very close to Oyo town in Oyo state, Nigeria. The lake is reputed to have healing powers and people are forbidden from killing the fish in the lake or serving them as delicacies.
When the natives of Awe migrated from Ile-Ife they stayed under a tree called Igi Aruwewe, which they later shortened to Igi Awe, the place is reserved today for the coming generation to see.
There is a tree which had been planted since 1750, and it is still surviving; it is called “Igi Ogogo”. It is old and has holes in it but it never gets dry.
The environment was dead quiet and cool with lush green leafed tall trees enveloping the surroundings. Asides from the ornamental and colourful walls, the trees stood tall and created a kind of fence demarcating the site as a kind of forbidden and sacred groove. Mere looking at the environment; it’s enough to be scared and if alone you will most likely turn back.
The loosely constructed picaresque fairy tales contain many folklore elements: spirits, monsters, gods, magic, and witchcraft as described in D.O Fagunwa’s book “Igbo Irunmole” (Translated to “The Forest of a Thousand Daemons” by Prof Wole Soyinka) was all I could think of.
As I stood afar staring at the scary and supposedly sacred site, feeling reluctant and on the verge of turning back with my tails between my legs out of reserved fear, my guide saw through my mind, smiled calmly and said: “E ma bo, ko si iyonu” (come and have a closer look, there is no cause for alarm).
My guide gave me some warnings which I listened to earnestly, determined to put on my best behaviour, I moved towards the famed Sogidi Lake with my early biblical lessons rushing back with gusto and reminding me that “to obey is better than sacrifice”.
The Origin Of Sogidi Lake And How The Name: Sogidi Was Formed
The lake, Sogidi is as old as Awe town. The lake was discovered in 1750 when the town was founded.
When the founding monarch, Ilemolu and his entourage first arrived to found Awe, the monarch sent some hunters under the leadership of one “Metio” to search for water to quench their thirst. Along the line, while in the bush, one of the hunters sighted some monkeys in trees and they pursued them. As one of them corked his local rifle, ready to shoot, another hunter discovered a pool of water under the tree where the monkey was.
The hunters stopped their partner from shooting, having found what they were looking for; water. They believed it was due to the assistance of the monkeys that they discovered the water.” The discovered water is a lake later named Sogidi.
As the hunters were celebrating the discovery of water, they also noticed some cherry fruits (agbalumo) by the lake, they tasted the cherry fruits and said it was a real fruit, and having found it tasty and delicious they cried out in their local dialect that it was a real fruit, “Eso gidi”, this was later shortened to Sogidi, which later became the name of the lake till date: “SOGIDI”.
According to history, the aborigines of Awe insist that the Sogidi lake has a mermaid. It was believed that the mermaid used to come out in the afternoon when everywhere is hot. Some claim the Sogidi mermaid comes out In the middle of the night up till now due to some signs discovered by the lake every morning.
The mermaid is believed to have a woman’s head down to her waist and the rest of her body is that of a fish with a big tail wagging. Local men insisted that the Sogidi Mermaid used to appear in November when celebrating Awe Day. It is believed that the mermaid does not come out again because of the dirtiness of human beings.
But it is believed that the Sogidi mermaid still shows herself that she is still around. Anytime a doubting Thomas wants to cause a stir at the lake or doubt her or mock her, the person would experience a lot of things such as he could have his head being too heavy and unable to move or one may hear strange things or objects being thrown into the lake producing strange sounds! Most times, the water on one’s head could be turning or foaming, all these show that the mermaid is still in the vicinity.
Another clear piece of evidence is that the mermaid requests for sacrifices which she takes in whole overnight up till date.
In the lake are fishes of all sizes and shapes swimming, splashing water and jumping. However, it is forbidden to kill the fish, many are believed to have lost their lives and their beloved ones for trying it.
The fishes are strange. Some are as big as a human lap, others are tiny, but it is forbidden for anyone to kill or eat it as a delicacy. Nobody must kill the fish no matter how spiritually strong the person is, the fishes may die on their own in the lake as a result of old age while some bigger ones always swallow the smaller ones but no one must kill and eat them, the Awe indigenes know this and would not even try it.
It is believed that whoever kills the fish he or his family members are bound to die mysteriously! Such had happened before; there are two popular accounts as accounted for below.
It is also said that an Igbo man killed some of the fish and took them home for cooking but they were not done, he reportedly returned them again into the lake. The Igbo man face lots of calamities till he died.
Also In 1973 when soldiers had their Barracks in Awe and Oyo, one of them had the effrontery to challenge the taboo. He went ahead and killed some of the fishes, and when he cooked them they didn’t get cooked. Some even believed that the fishes were talking back to the soldier and out of fear, the soldier quickly returned the uncooked and speaking fishes back into the sogidi lake. Seven days later three of the soldier’s children died, they were then living in Asalu’s compound, in Awe.
Sacrifice At The Sogidi Lake
Up till now, when it is prayer time or when the town is facing a calamity, the traditional worshippers offer prayers by the lake. It’s a mysterious thing that the animals offered as sacrifices to the lake disappear overnight.
According to the words of my tour guide: “If it demands a goat or a cow, what it demanded is tethered on one of the trees at a spot there. And what surprise us is that before the next morning, the animal would have disappeared mysteriously.
Nobody would go there to take it, and nobody dare try it and that is Sogidi for you. And again if there is a need to offer a special sacrifice to the lake by the indigenes, each house will have to contribute money no matter how small and buy the cow or goat and when it is slaughtered no matter what, all the indigenes must partake in having their own share, no matter how small the size given out, every household must have their fair share.”
Spiritual Powers Of Sogidi Lake
From afar, the Sogidi water looks dirty and contaminated but when you move closer, and you take some to examine it, it is as clear as crystals. Sogidi water could appear rough but it is clean, healthy and good for drinking as well as being highly medicinal.
The water tastes like any of the well-treated and bottled water. The mystery is that as a lake which does not flow nor does any flow into it, it is good. However, during the rainy season, it overflows its banks. Since 1750, there has never been any record of cholera breakout in the town as a result of drinking the water.
As early as 7 a.m. women come out to sweep the surrounding and keep it clean. According to Ojedele, Nobody is allowed to go into the compound with shoes or sandals on, that is the rule. Asides that, nobody is allowed to scoop the water with a bowl, but buckets are dipped into it in order to fetch it (the water). In the olden days, gourds were the only acceptable thing used to fetch it, but nowadays bucket is allowed, and this is dipped in once.
Asides from the fact that Sogidi Lake is a good tourist attraction for all activities, it is a gift from the above for Awe indigenes and visitors. People visit the lake for spiritual reasons and in search of spiritual breakthroughs from life problems.
Testimonies From Beneficiaries Of The Spiritual Powers Of Sogidi Lake
My tour guide recounted how one of those whose prayers had been answered by the power of the lake have returned to thank Sogidi and assisted in painting the wall, as a sign of appreciation.
According to a woman who is in her 90s claimed that she used the Sogidi Lake water when she was looking for a child. “I know many would say because they are Christians or Muslims they would not believe, but it is what had happened and it is still happening today. While those who had benefitted from the mysterious water would be feeling shy to own up but in the wee hours of the day they would secretly come there to take the water. It is real. I have delivered seven children through the assistance of Sogidi Lake.”
Mrs. Maria Okediwura, an indigene of Awe also testified to the healing and medicinal powers of Sogidi water. She said, “Many come from Oyo town, Lagos and from overseas to take from the water for healing and lots of people used to come irrespective of their religious affiliations.
They will bring assorted cans, bottles and plastic bottles to take the water, in fact, some send for it from overseas. I can testify to it that many women who used the water while looking for the fruits of the womb got children, and some too got healings, yet we are happy that even the so-called pastors do come there to scoop from the water and pray on it for their followers or for those seeking for God’s favour. The Muslims, Christians and Aladura people come there too.”
Testifying further to the efficacy and spiritual healing of the water, 88 years old Chief Oguntobi Joseph; who is one of the high chiefs in Awe described the lake as a gift to the town. “I am old now. I cannot tell you all but go and ask the custodian of the place he would tell you all about the mystery of Sogidi. It is a good tourist attraction for all activities, it is a gift from the above,” the old man said with total conviction.
A Neglected Tourist Site
Though it was once in a thick forest, Sogidi Lake has become part of the town, as buildings have been erected in the area. It is now very accessible. Unlike in those days when nobody could near the vicinity around. Today, to an extent one is free to go there at any time of the day, with no more fear.
Gossip chairs were erected in front of the Sogidi Lake where indigenous youths and men sit in the evening to have casual chats, play games and drink concentrated palm wine (emu ogidi).
In spite of all the stories on Sogidi, the place has not been given proper care, according to the custodian, Pa Stephen Adebayo Ojedele, “The Oyo State government has not done enough to make the place be a tourist centre as it should be, though some years back they came to assist and they built these brick moulded benches and also provided the fence to make it secure but since then it had been abandoned and left alone. We as individuals are the ones taking care of the place, it is painful, that it is no longer appreciated by the government.”
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I’m Johnson Adé OKÙNADÉ, an enthusiast of Indigenous Culture
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