Oranmiyan founded Oyo-Ile around 892 AD, and his son Alaafin Ajuan popularly known as Ajaka Ekun ascended the throne around 1042. Sango, a great leader 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.
Asides from the fact that he was posthumously deified, Sango was also a famed and fierce king who was said to be bestowed with spiritual power by his Mother’s people in Nupe. His grandfather gifted him thunderbolt stones which he used in summoning thunder from the sky when needed. The power he had was so intense that to the extent that whenever he got angry, fire came out of his mouth. After reigning Oyo for 7 years, he was deified as the God of fire and thunder.
Ṣango (known as Changó or Xangô in Latin America; and also known as Jakuta) is an Orisha. He is syncretized with Saint Barbara in Santeria of South America.
Ṣango is historically a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third Alafin (king: owner of the palace) of the Oyo Kingdom, born Arabambi (and according to some sources he was also known as “Olufiran”) to Oranmiyan, founder of Oyo, and the Tapa (Nupe) Princess Torosi.
Some regarded him as the second Alaafin after his elder brother Ajaka was dethroned, arguing that Oranmiyan never officially assumed the title of “Alaafin” before going back to Ile – Ife.
Ṣango married at least three wives known as Ọbà, Ọ́sun and Ọ́yá. Ọbà was his first wife who controlled his household as the Iyale. Ọ́sun his second, a woman of immense beauty who Ṣango had used his dancing talents to attract, and Ọ́yá, his last, who was his companion at battle. Although he didn’t pay her bride price… she had just run away from her cruel husband to Sango’s arms. While this act might run contrary to tradition, it is believed that both Ṣango and Ọ́yá were destined to be together, as Ifa had revealed through Orere, the greatest Babalawo of that time.
Conception And Early Life Of Sango
Torosi, his mother was given by her father known as Elempe to Oranmiyan as a result of the treaty between them. At this time, Oyo-ile was at war with the Bariba of Borgu who wanted to subjugate the new city which was still under construction. Orangun Ajagunla of Ila, Oranmiyan’s elder brother had stormed in with his men to assist.
Not long after the war was won, Oranmiyan, his first son, Ajuwon Ajaka, was born. Much later Arabambi was born by the woman he received from the Elempe Tapa. It is believed that the name “Sango” was either given by his maternal grandfather or was adopted from the local name for the God of Thunder. Either way, the royal family was devoted to the worship of the Spirit of Thunder.
At a young age, Arabambi played with Leopard cubs and developed a wooden axe that he carried around with him everywhere.
Later in time, he left the palace with his mother and stayed in a place later known as Koso. There, he became an entertainer, dancing with Masquerades. He even had his own personal drum (Bata) and drummer. He wouldn’t dance to the beat of other drummers, but his own. Everywhere Sango went his drummer followed him, even to fighting contests.
One day after Arabambi was teased by the spectators for giving his usual tricks and having nothing new to offer, he decided to go to his mother’s Tapa people, where they gave him the ingredients to emit fire out of his mouth and breath.
Sango’s Ascension To The Throne As Alaafin Of Oyo
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.
After Oranmiyan left Oyo in the care of his son Ajaka and the Oyomesi, conditions became worse for the people as Owu had developed into a fine kingdom with the best military in the area, with which they subjugated Oyo.
Then, Ajaka was captured by Owu soldiers, the Oyo generals were confused, leading to heated disagreements between them on how to address the situation. To prevent a total state of anarchy, the Oyomesi invited Arabambi from the Tapa lands to take command as Regent. Immediately after taking charge, he restructured the Oyo army, leading the rescue mission to Owu, where he succeeded in bringing Ajaka back to Oyo. But the Oyomesi dethroned him (Ajaka) as being too weak to lead, and made Sango the new Alaafin.
As Alafin he was unlike his brother who was a weak Commander-in-chief. Sango placed each of his generals in strategic locations to keep the mighty Owu in check. He also undertook successful campaigns to liberate some villages from Owu.
Everybody in Ọ̀yọ́ feared the overbearing Sango. Even his wives and the Oyomesi also feared him.
Seeking greater powers, he approached the Babalawos for ways to make his enemies perish instantly. A charm was prepared for him with a fine stone that enabled Sango to conjure lightning and thunder at will. This charm known as “Edun ara” is still being fabricated up to this day.
Eventually, Sango became completely possessed by the spirit of thunder and lightning!
A fighter, head of the Sango cult, King, dancer, and military strategist, he was a Legend who was at his best in everything he embarked upon. He made everything he laid his hands on to prosper.
As a king warrior, 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.
Sango And His First Wife; Oba
When it was time for Sango to get his wife, his mother advised him to pay attention to every beautiful and virtuous lady that comes his way.
As his hobby, Sango loved dancing and could dance very well. One day, a young, and beautiful lady won his heart while dancing during a cultural event.
Without a second thought, Sango fell in love instantly with the excellent dancer, named Oba. With his mother’s advice in his mind, Sango was convinced that Oba would make a suitable wife, so they got married.
Unfortunately for Oba and Sango, Oba couldn’t get pregnant and Sango desperately wanted an heir. With Oba’s permission, Sango decided to get another wife.
Sango And His Second Wife; Osun
It was said that Sango loved and recognized a well-prepared meal. One afternoon, he was coming from his friend’s house when he passed a hut. Osun, an expert in preparing sumptuous local delicacies was cooking inside the hut.
On perceiving the irresistible aroma from the hut, Sango wasted no time in knocking on the door of Osun’s house. Osun, a friendly and beautiful lady opened the door and that was the beginning of a relationship between him and Osun.
He took his new wife, Osun home. She was well received by her “Iyale” (senior wife). Oba and Osun got along and they didn’t have issues until Sango declared that Osun would be the only one cooking his meal.
Oba felt jealous and insecure. After Sango married Osun, Oba was able to conceive. Both of them gave birth to children for Sango but Oba started seeing Osun as a threat to her children and herself. She concluded that since Osun was Sango’s favourite, her children might not be the heir.
Sango And His Third Wife; Oya
One day, Sango went to buy yam on a market day and there, he saw the most beautiful lady he had ever seen in his life. He was fascinated by Oya’s beauty and he couldn’t resist silently following and tracing Oya despite the congestion in the market. He was awed and totally captivated by her beauty.
Silently, Sango followed Oya to the entrance of Ira town and to his surprise, he watched in rapt astonishment as Oya put on her fur and transformed into an Antelope (Agbonrin) after which she ran off. This made Sango visit Orunmila to make divinations about the beautiful and mysterious lady.
After narrating what he saw to Orunmila, the Ifa Oracle was consulted. The Ifa Oracle made it known to Sango that Oya, the Antelope-Lady is very powerful and blessed with great aura; “She has the power to control the wind and earth”, Orunmila said. Sango was stunned at the same time fascinated with the thought of having a wife that is as powerful as he was.
“I want her as a wife. How can I get her?” Sango asked
Orunmila sighed and responded, “Get her fur that she used in transforming and she’ll be yours. But please, make sure she never gets angry. Her rage is terrible.”
On the next market day, Sango hid behind a big rock, waiting for Oya. An Antelope approached sooner and looked around before turning to a woman. She hid her fur inside the bush before entering the market.
Sango came out of his hiding and grabbed the fur. He ran home with the fur to hide it in his sacred room. When Oya back to the bush, she couldn’t find her fur. She knew it was impossible for her to enter without her fur. She began to cry. Sango came at the right time and consoled her. Eventually, he took her home and married her.
In time, his last wife, Oya, discovered his secret for conjuring lightning when she found his hidden Edun Ara stones. She stole some of them for her own use. From then on, Ọ́yá stood up obstinately to Sango without fear.
His Babalawos then advised him against any confrontation, but to harness her newfound powers to his own advantage. From then on she became his companion in battle. Oya in her own right was a priestess of the rain spirit. But now, with her combination of powers, she could conjure terrible storms against their enemies during battles.
Sango was so happy, he felt Oya was his good luck charm. He slept more in her room to the dismay of the other wives.
Yoruba people believe Oya was Sango’s third wife although the other wives hated her deeply.
Oba And Osun Against Oya
Out of jealousy, Oba and Osun pestered Sango about Oya. They wanted to know about her. After a while, he was convinced to tell them the full details. After Oba and Osun got the secret about Oya’s supernatural identity, they started taunting her and singing every time to mock her:
She eats and drinks like human
but she is an animal
and her fur
is in the sacred room
She didn’t understand the meaning of the song at first until One quiet morning, she was lazy on the bed when the music played in her head. She sneaked to the sacred room and found her fur. On discovering that her fur had been in the house with Sango all along, She became so angry.
Oya Felt Betrayed
Sango was coming back when an Antelope ran very fast passed him. He suspected it was Oya so he ran inside to check the fur and found out it was missing. He ran to Orunmila’s house and explained what happened.
Oya ran to the Ira kingdom to meet her parents. They were pleased to see her again. After eating, she told them all that happened and her new husband. They got angry because Sango didn’t pay her dowry or marry her properly. It led to a heated argument and the matter was taken to the king. The king told her it was an abomination in the land to marry without a dowry. Oya insisted the deed was already done which infuriated him. The king banned her from the kingdom. She looked at her parents’ faces and the tears got her angry. She stormed out and became a tornado headed towards Sango’s house seeking revenge.
Fortunately, Sango met Orunmila in his shrine, he narrated what happened to him. He implored him to go home immediately to make beans cake which he would use to appease her. He then warned him to be careful of the other wives. He quickly rushed home to make the food. His other wives watched in fear as he did. Immediately after he finished, he went outside and saw the tornado coming towards his house. The roofs of the houses she passed got blown, and trees got uprooted from their root.
That was the first time Sango got very scared.
As soon as she saw him, she turned to a Buffalo and charged towards him. He quickly offered her the bean cake. The aroma softened her heart and she broke her horns and gave to him.
Then she ate the bean cake. They both apologized to each other and went inside. She instructed him to hit the horns together whenever he needed her help.
Osun Tricked Oba
King Sango and his wives were feared all over the land. He built different houses for his wives in the palace and slept in their houses as he pleased.
Oba noticed that Sango still preferred Osun’s cooking and it was obvious she was her favorite so she approached her to tell her how to get the love of their husband. Osun tricked Oba, she told her she used to cook his favourite soup by cutting and adding pieces of her ear to the soup.
She fell for it and convinced Sango to allow her to cook for him. She thought if Sango could love Osun because she cooks with parts of her ear, he would love her more by preparing soup for him with her full ear. She chopped off her left ear and made soup with it.
On top of the soup, Sango saw the ear floating on the soup and thought she wanted to poison him. He chased her out of the palace. She ran off and rested on a tree stump. She cried till she became a river goddess (goddess of matrimony). She is presently known as River Oba in Osun State, Nigeria.
Eventually, Sango found out about Osun’s mischief and chased her too from the palace with so much rage. She ran till she fell and became a river goddess (goddess of fertility) in Osun State, Nigeria.
Sango Gbonka and Timi
Oya became the only wife of Sango and eventually gave birth to twins. The naming ceremony was the biggest ever in Yoruba land. Kings came from east, west, north and south to celebrate him. On the night of the naming, Oya pressed his husband to reveal his source of power to him. He was in a very good mood and he told her about the thunderbolt stones.
During his seventh year as the king, he appointed two generals. Timi Agbale Olofa-ina (a master in shooting arrows with fire) and Gbonka who was equally powerful. They were equally as powerful as Sango. Oya was scared and told Sango to get rid of them.
After they disobeyed his direct order not to match on Owu in battle, Sango followed Oya’s advice to get rid of the two generals and sent them to govern the border towns of his Empire. Timi obeyed and left for Ede, but Gbonka stayed back in Oyo to pose further threats. In a scheme to destroy them both, Sango sent Gbonka to Ede to capture Timi where he believed they would both destroy one another.
However, Gbonka succeeded in subduing Timi, and Sango believing that the match in Ede was stage-managed asked for a re-match in Oyo. Gbonka defeated Timi again, but despite this victory, Sango still ordered that he should be burnt to ashes. Mysteriously, however, Gbonka reappeared after three days, giving Sango an ultimatum to vacate the throne for his infidelity.
Alaafin Sango Oba Koso (King did not Hang) and Deification
To prepare. Sango called his wife to collect the thunderbolt stones. He found out they were moist with her period which is a taboo in Yoruba land. He climbed on a nearby rock to test the potency of the stones, thunderstruck and burnt down the palace killing his children and some of his guards.
He left the palace to a high rock facing the palace to reaffirm the potency of his thunderbolt. The thunder he created stroke the palace and burnt it down.
At the fire disaster caused by Sango, which extended to large parts of the city, groups started to riot, cursing Sango and demanding his removal from the throne.
Heartbroken, he left the City for Nupe followed by chiefs and members of his royal cult known as Baba-Mogba who tried to persuade him not to leave. They had to pass through Oya’s hometown, Ira so they could get to Nupe before dawn. When they got there, she felt reluctant to pass through and not see his parents so he took an excuse.
After Ira, they got to Koso land, Gbonka was already there to challenge Sango. The fight was so brutal, they both disappeared into thin air with Gbonka having the upper hand. Some of the chiefs ran back home to inform them about the demise of Sango. Meanwhile, Sango killed Gbonka with thunder and burnt him to ashes.
However, after journeying with him for some time, these chiefs deserted him as they approached an Ayan tree at Koso, returning to Oyo with the news that the king had hanged himself after being defeated by Gbonka.
But another story told by the few Chiefs of the Baba-Mogbas who did not abscond was that Sango was attacked by Gbonka. However, Sango unwilling to fight varnished into thin air, only to appear in the sky to destroy those peddling the rumours that he had hanged himself – Hence the popular saying OBAKOSO OR OLUKOSO meaning the king did not hang.
Oya heard rumours of the demise of his husband and committed suicide. As she fell to the ground, she became a river goddess called odo-oya (river Oya). Sango went back to find his wife and heard about her death.
He was so sad and angry. He wanted to burn down the whole Yoruba land with fire and thunder. The ancestors saw this and knew it would be the end of the race. The earth opened up and swallowed him. That was the end of Sango and his 3 wives.
Till today, they are deities and have worshippers around the world. River Oba, Osun and Oya still exist.
Akata yẹri yẹri
Àrábámbí Ọkọ Ọ́yá
Aláàfin, ẹkùn bu, a sa
Iná l’ójú, iná l’ẹ́nu
E ègún tin’yọ́ná lẹ́nu
Òrìṣà ti nbologbó lẹ́rù
Ola’giri kankan fígbá ẹ́dun bo
A ri igba ọ̀ta, ṣetẹ́
O fi alapa ṣẹ́gun ọ̀ta
Ajiṣaye gbege ọkọ́ Ọ́ya
Oloju Orogbo, Ṣango olukosooo!…
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