A Ṣango impersonator at a cultural festival.
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.
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 for 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 lightening and thunder at will. This charm known as “Edun ara” is still being fabricated up till this day.
Eventually, Sango became completely possessed by the spirit of thunder and lightening (Arira)!
A fighter, head of the Sango cult, King, dancer, 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.
In time, his last wife, Oya, discovered his secret for conjuring lightening 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 new found powers to his own advantage. From then on she became his companion in battle. Oya in her own rights was a priestess of the rain spirit. But now, with her combination of powers, she could conjure terrible storms against their enemies during battles.
DOWNFALL OF SANGO
Later in the reign (7th year) of Sango, he had two generals: Timi Agbale Olofa-ina who could shoot arrows of fire, and Gbonka who was equally powerful. 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 treats. 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 re-appeared after three days, giving Sango an ultimatum to vacate the throne for his infidelity. Sango angrily requested for his Edun-Ara from Oya, He found it wet and stained with blood from her period.
He left the palace to a high rock facing the palace to re-affirm the potency of his thunderbolt. The thunder he created stroke the palace and burnt it down.
Oba and Osun; after losing everything to the inferno, left the palace angrily blaming one another for allowing Oya such access to Sango and fearing for their lives, returned to their homelands, Osun to Igede and Oba to Igbon, where they were immortalised into Rivers by their people. Oya on her part, after hearing of Sango’s death went back to the forest in Nupeland where she had been betrothed to him and possibly drowned herself, heartbroken, in the River Niger which was later named after her.
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 followed by chiefs and members of his royal cult known as Baba-Mogba who tried to persuade him not to leave. 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.
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 both Gbonka, and those peddling the rumors that he had hanged himself – Hence the popular saying OBAKOSO OR OLUKOSO meaning the king did not hang.
Ṣango, The God of Thunder (as depicted by Godfrey Akpan)
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!…
– Sango Obakoso (Olukoso) :
(edited from an online article of July 06, 2015)