AGANJU was the fourth Alaafin of Oyo. It was said that Alaafin Aganju Sola had spiritual powers and was the man of the people. He was greatly loved and adored by all. Alaafin Aganju Sola reigned after Sango, his brother. Some believe he might be his Father, not brother.
Oranmiyan founded Oyo-Ile around 892 AD, his son Alaafin Ajuan popularly known as Ajaka Ekun ascended the throne around 1042. Sango won the heart of everyone with his bravery and valour after freeing Alaafin Ajuan from the captivity of Olowu of Owu. He was made the Alaafin of Oyo and the incumbent Alaafin Ajuan was exiled.
After Sango was deified, the exiled Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) ruled Oyo as the Alaafin again before Alaafin Aganju Sola reigned as the fourth Alaafin of Oyo around 1177 AD. When Sango was Alaafin of Oyo, Aganju Sola, Sango’s brother settled comfortably in Shaki (present-day Oyo state) and was already known as a famed warrior. He was said to walk with a sword and was known to fight by shooting fire.
He was a lover of nature and animals. He was known to go into the wilderness for days. At a time, he came back with a Leopard which he domesticated and kept in his Palace. One of the things he hated most was oppression, he was known to free the oppressed and punish oppressors greatly. He also used to visit the wilderness and rivers. As a king, he used to walk anywhere with his double-edged sword. He was greatly loved and admired by all.
While living among men, Alaafin Aganju Sola was no ordinary man. He was able to invent unimaginable designs befitting an emperor even in that era. His birth, just like that of Sango his brother was beyond ordinary. He had supernatural powers as well. Asides from the fact that he could shoot fire while fighting, he also had a way of domesticating wild animals.
He fought wars and created an outstanding reputation for Oyo just like Sango did. Even while king, he was already eulogized and seen as a deity.
Alaafin Kori was crowned after Alaafin Aganju Sola as the fifth Alaafin of Oyo. After a very peaceful kingship, Aganju was deified, and temples and shrines were built starting from Oyo where he was king. Aganju Worshippers consult him, worship him and offer sacrifices to him even up till today.
How Aganju Sola Came To Being
Much like Christians have Jesus Christ as the son of God, in Yoruba traditional worship it is believed that Obatala is the son of Eledumare. Eledumare authorized Obatala to create land on the water beneath the sky and with his effort, Ile-Ife was founded.
Obatala is believed to be the father of all Orishas and humanity. Obatala is married to Yemoja and together, they “sired” Orisas (Deities) with enormous power and valour in different aspects of mankind’s needs. Just like most Yoruba patriarchs, Aganju left Ile-Ife to Saki (now a part of Oyo state) to dominate and make a name for himself.
Aganju, together with Sango and some other Orisas (Deities) were sired by Obatala. At the time Alaafin Ajuan popularly known as Ajaka Ekun (The second Alaafin of Oyo and Son of Oranmiyan) was ruling as Alaafin, the Oyo empire was besieged by war from Owu. The Olowu who was the cousin of Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) in his bid to conquer and claim Oyo sent warriors to capture Alaafin Ajuan.
Sango was already a famed powerful warlord by this time, so the Oyomesi sent for Sango to rescue Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun). Sango rescued Alaafin Ajuan and won the heart of everyone as a powerful and strong man. With this admiration and respect of the masses, Sango was crowned the third Alaafin of Oyo while Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) was exiled.
Sango had two powerful generals: Timi Agbale Olofa-ina (the founder of Ede, now in Osun state) who could shoot arrows of fire and Gbonka who was equally powerful.
Meanwhile, Aganju Sola, Sango’s brother settled comfortably in Shaki and was already known as a famed warrior. He was said to walk with a sword and is said to fight by shooting fire. Shaki is in the savannah area of northern Yorubaland that has monoliths and boulder outcroppings.
Variations In Aganju’s Identity
Aganju: Sango’s Father
There are some consulted sources that stated Aganju as Sango’s father. The story goes thus:
Obatala, the king of the white cloth was travelling and had to cross a river. Aganju, the ferryman and god of fire, refused him passage. Obatala retreated and turned himself into a beautiful woman. He returned to the river and traded his/her body for passage. Sango was the result of this uneasy union.
This tension between reason represented by Obatala and fire represented by Aganju would form the foundation of Sango’s particular character and nature. It was said that Sango went in search of Aganju, his father, and the two of them play out a drama of conflict and resolution that culminates with Sango throwing himself into the fire to prove his lineage.
Aganju: Husband And Sibling To Yemoja
Some consulted sources also emphasized that Aganju (male) and Yemoja (female) were both children of Obatala and Oduduwa. They later got married and gave birth to Orungan. Orungan fell in love with his mother, Yemoja, and even went to the extent of trying to have sex with her.
After trying for the first time without any success, one day, while Aganju was away from home, Orungan tried having sex with his mother for the second time and Yemoja, being a powerful deity was very angry. While endeavouring to escape from further outrage, falls and bursts open, whereupon a number of gods emerge from her gaping body and 14 Deities (Orishas) came out.
The Deities whose origin is thus accounted for as the offspring of Yemoja, are of various types. The Sea-god (Olokun), the Thunder-god (Sango), the Sun, the Moon, the Lagoon (Olosa), the three river goddesses Oya, Oshun, and Oba, the god of Mountains (Oke), and Ogun, the god of iron and war and of the River Ogun, are all the product of Nature-worship, but are not of one type, for the Sun and Moon belong to the old order of things, to the same religious system as Olorun, and are personally divine, while the others belong to the new order, and are anthropomorphic.
Shankpanna, the god of small-pox, is personified pestilence, and belongs to another type; while Dada, Oshosi, Aje Shaluga, and Orisha Oko, as the respective patrons of vegetable productions, hunters, wealth, and agriculture, may be regarded as the tutelary deities of industries, and as belonging to the third class of religious conceptions. The myth thus assigns a common origin alike to the ancient gods and to those which are more modern.
Aganju And Sango As Brothers
Before the deification of both Sango Tella-Oko and Aganju, they both ruled Oyo as Alaafin of Oyo. Asides from the mythology and supernatural existence of the two Deities, the writer believes they could be brothers as both Sango and Aganju reigned as the third and fourth Alaafin of Oyo respectively. Although they didn’t succeed each other directly as the second Alaafin of Oyo, Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) who was exiled by Sango ruled Oyo again for the second time after the deification of Sango.
Both Sango and Aganju were very powerful. They remain an outstanding king even centuries after and they achieved feats thought by man to be impossible. They both lived as powerful men and brave Alaafin of Oyo before they were deified.
Alaafin Aganju Sola: The Fourth Alaafin Of Oyo
Sango reigned as Alaafin of Oyo for seven years. After this, the exiled Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) ruled Oyo as the Alaafin again. Alaafin Aganju Sola reigned as the fourth Alaafin of Oyo around 1177 AD. Alaafin Aganju Sola was a king that loved pleasure and having fun, his reign was very enjoyable for his subjects.
He was a lover of nature and animals. He was known to go into the wilderness for days. At a time, he came back with a Leopard which he domesticated and kept in his Palace. One of the things he hated most was oppression, he was known to free the oppressed and punish oppressors greatly. He also used to visit the wilderness and rivers. As a king, he used to walk anywhere with his double edge sword. He loved using beads majorly with colours red, yellow, light blue, dark blue, green, deep brown, and milky white. He was greatly loved and admired by all.
Under Alaafin Aganju, Oyo-Ile waged war on the West. In this battle, The Ogboro and their Igbonna Imeri and Tede allies were flawlessly defeated and claimed by the Oyo kingdom. A similar fate probably befell the town of Adikun.
Aganju greatly beautified the palace by adding piazzas in front and back of the palace. Samuel Johnson (1921) in his book; The History of Yorubas claimed that he was the first king (to the envy of other kings) to use such designs in beautifying a royal abode.
Centuries after, Shitta the then emir of Ilorin and a vicious foe of Oyo-Ile (Old Oyo empire) covet the designs and sent Jimba, one of his head slaves after one of the preceding Alaafins, Alaafin Olewu (1834-1837) to ransack the palace and bring those piazzas and anything else beautiful so that Oyo may not be said to have anything which Ilorin has not.
Jimba followed the order of the emir and also removed the 100 brass posts in the long corridor of the palace erected by Alaafin Aganju Sola while he was king.
Deification In Yoruba
There are many incarnations of the deities who had lived before and were posthumously deified. Sango Tella- Oko in Oyo, Ogiyan in Ejigbo, Ayelala in Ekiti, and Oluorogbo in the city of Ile-Ife. This is evident in the feeding preference and dressing of the devotees of these deities. These incarnations may have been Obatala’s children who migrated out of Ilé-Ifè, to resettle in these new locations. They were subsequently honoured and later deified probably because of their father’s magnanimity and prowess.
In Yoruba traditions, the concept of ori is as important as Eledumare, the supreme being. Yorubas believe that “Ori Apere” is an Orisha in charge of everyone’s destiny, changing bad destiny to good one, and resisting bad to happen to someone. Every morning, most knowledgeable Yoruba men will use their hands to hold their head and after saying “Ori mi Apere”, they pray and tell the Ori deity to turn any evil lurking in the dark for the day to good, they’ll tell the Ori deity what they want and say prayers as they deem fit.
With this belief and mindset about Ori, some Ori are believed to be a repository for Orishas (Deities). Some people are born as human but with the ability to live on earth like deities with unimaginable power and valour. This leads to the Imori ceremony – which is the first rite that is performed after a Yoruba child is born. During Imori, a diviner determines whether the child comes from his/her mother’s or father’s lineages or from a particular Deity (Orisha). If the latter is the case, then the child will undergo Deity (Orisha) initiation during adulthood, during which the person’s head (Ori) becomes the spiritual vessel for that particular Deity (Orisha).
To prepare for these ceremonies, the person’s head is shaved, bathed and anointed.
Posthumous Deification Of Alaafin Aganju Sola
Sango reigned as Alaafin of Oyo for seven years. After this, the exiled Alaafin Ajuan (Ajaka Ekun) ruled Oyo as the Alaafin again. Alaafin Aganju Sola reigned as the fourth Alaafin of Oyo. Alaafin Aganju Sola was a king that loved pleasure and having fun, his reign was very enjoyable for his subjects.
From what we’ve been reading so far about Alaafin Aganju Sola, we could decipher that while living among men, he was no ordinary man. He was able to invent unimaginable designs befitting an emperor even in that era. His birth, just like that of Sango his brother was beyond ordinary. He had supernatural powers as well, asides from the fact that he could shoot fire while fighting, he also had a way of domesticating wild animals.
He fought wars and created an outstanding reputation for Oyo just like Sango did. Even while king, he was already eulogised and seen as a deity.
Around 1300, Alaafin Kori was crowned after Alaafin Aganju Sola as the fifth Alaafin of Oyo. After a very peaceful kingship, Aganju was deified, and temples and shrines were built starting from Oyo where he was king. Aganju Worshippers consult him, worship him and offer sacrifices to him even up till today.
Aganju: An Orisa (Deity) Of Volcanoes And Deserts
In the words of Chief Yagbe Onilu, Aganju is truly an Orisha (deity) of great antiquity.
Just like Obatala, he’s seen as a sage and a patron deity in the Orisha Pantheon. His patterns consist of nine beads: two brown, one red, one yellow, one blue, one yellow, one red, and two brown is one pattern. He likes offerings of alcoholic drinks and beef.
Aganju is noted for his legendary strength and his ability to bring about drastic change. He’s sometimes represented by the sun, which is essential for growth. It’s also believed that he plays a significant role in assisting men to overcome depression and barriers (both physical and psychological).
As Lord of Caves, he owns all the mineral wealth of the earth and can be appealed to part with some. He also acts as the god of untamed lands, from deserts to mountains, and is the navigator, knowing the safe passages and fords across rivers.
Aganjú’s role as a mediator is further developed in his capacity as the ferryman who takes souls from the material to the spiritual plane after they experience death. A ferryman has to know the river he travels very well; he must chart the safest course and keep his passengers out of harm’s way. In this fashion, Aganjú personifies the wise guide who takes people to new places, the teacher who tells his students that sometimes the greatest blessings come out of overcoming great obstacles.
Aganju has been associated with Oshun, with whom he had a relationship, as well as with Yemoja. He is associated with the shoulder and has a strong, powerful, and determined character. Being a recognized member of the deified royal family of old Oyo, he is considered “one heart” with Oya and is received by all of Obatala, Sango, Osun, and Oya’s followers.
- Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu (https://yagbeonilu.com/aganju-orisha-antiquity/)
- The History of Yoruba by Samuel Johnson
Many thanks to: Mr. Adeyemi Asaleye; the CEO of Ashdam Solar Co. Ltd
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Written by Johnson Okunade, an enthusiast of Yoruba culture
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