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Premiered December 30 at 9/8C

Episode Osun Osogbo large
Full episode: Osun-Osogbo (54:21)

Osun-Osogbo: At A Glance

The festival of Osun-Osgobo, which takes place every year in Osogbo, Nigeria, celebrates the goddess of fertility, Osun. The festival renews the contract between humans and the divine: Osun offers grace to the community; in return, it vows to honor her Sacred Grove. This ceremony is part of a rich indigenous Yoruba religious tradition that began in West Africa and has become one of the ten largest religions in the world, with upwards of 100 million practitioners.

Religion: Yoruba
Frequency: Annually in August
Duration: 12 days
Annual participants: 100,000
Honoring: Goddess Osun
Support provided by: Learn more

Explore a Map of the Sacred Grove

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Use the Google maps controls to explore the Sacred Grove and the city of Osogbo, Nigeria from above.

Begin the Journey



Begin the festivities with a lamp-lighting ceremony in the streets of Osogbo.


The Arugba's Shrine

Meet the most important person of the festival, a 14-year-old girl.

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The festival begins with a lamp ceremony in the streets of Osogbo, Nigeria

Bruce Feiler's Notes from the Field

Osun NFTF Osogbo

Arriving in Osogbo

As a visitor, what can you do to find your way around without a GPS? The citizens of Osogbo have found a creative solution to this challenge.

"Although we left Africa, Africa never left us."

—Nathaniel Styles, pilgrim to Osun-Osogbo

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The Arugba's Shrine

The festival's most important person is an adolescent girl, known as the arugba. Chosen from the extended family of the king, she must be a virgin so as to symbolize her purity. For the month prior to the festivities, the arugba stays hidden from the public at her shrine, preparing for the role she will play in the procession to the Sacred Grove at the peak of the festival. Worshippers visit her at the shrine to receive blessings.

Bruce Feiler's Notes from the Field

Osun NFTF Arugba

Meet the Arugba

Meet the arugba, the fourteen-year-old member of the royalty selected to lead the procession to the Sacred Grove during the festival of Osun-Osogbo, and visit her at her sacred shrine the night before the procession.

"I felt like I need more clarity, I need to understand where I'm going and this is the ultimate opportunity to do that."

—Alafia Stewart, pilgrim to Osun-Osogbo


Procession to the Grove

Follow the arugba on the one-mile walk to the Sacred Grove.


The Sacred Grove

Celebrate with thousands at the river by cleansing with its waters.

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Procession to the Grove

The streets of Osogbo fill with drumming, dancing, and celebration as thousands begin the mile-long walk from the city center to the Sacred Grove. At mid-morning, with on-lookers hanging from every window and packed onto the streets, the arugba steps out from her shrine, hidden beneath a canopy and carrying the sacrificial offerings she'll take to the river. The procession can take more than two hours to reach the river.

Bruce Feiler's Notes from the Field

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My Divination

Tag along as Bruce meets with a priest to receive an important divination before the festival of Osun-Osogbo.

"I've never seen so many people, and the energy, and the music, and drumming. I'm just speechless."

—Gillian Johns, pilgrim to Osun-Osogbo

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The Sacred Grove

The procession ends at the Sacred Grove, the place where union between the people and Osun was first forged. This place is one of the most revered spots in all of Africa, so holy that bathing is not allowed. Instead, pilgrims cleanse themselves by dripping water over their heads. While this final ritual marks the culmination of the festival of Osun-Osogbo, dancing and celebration at the Sacred Grove continues on for hours.

Bruce Feiler's Notes from the Field

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Osun's Sacred Bells

Invoke the goddess Osun during the Osun-Osogbo festival using hand-made brass bells. Watch a craftsman mold these musical instruments.

"Walking into the grove is overwhelming; it's magical."

—Onifebife Entaminger-Hunter, pilgrim to Osun-Osogbo

"I think anybody who goes on a sacred journey, anyone who ventures into another tradition is a soul searcher. They are seeking to find something within themselves they're trying to connect to."

—Diedre Badejo, pilgrim to Osun-Osogbo

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