“Oro” is one of the most sacred and feared cults in the republic of Benin. The African traditional religion, Symbol of a rich, dense and super-eclectic cultural heritage, Voodoo is for Benin. However, not all the deities composing Voodoo are accessible in that country.
No one has access to “Oro” unless he or she has been initiated beforehand. This is normal because Oro is very sacred and belongs to the class of the greatest Voodoos. It is a kind of headliner that has no followers, only initiates. Exclusively reserved for men, he generally takes up residence in the forest, to which he confers the title of ‘sacred’ and where his initiates go to venerate him.
Originating from the “Yoruba/Nago” cultural area, Oro’s origins go back to Oyo in Nigeria, and he was introduced into Dahomey at almost the same time as the “Egun” cult, under the reign of King Ghezo (1818-1858).
The divinity of the ‘Air’ element, Oro, when he goes out, purifies the society to which he belongs and rids it of bad spells. Like the ‘Egun-gun’, he only goes out to bring his sacred touch to the clan’s important events (death, birth, etc.).
In the Plateau area in the south-west of the country towards Nigeria (Kétou, Sakété, Igoro, etc.), a region with a Yoruba majority, Oro is celebrated with great pomp and ceremony every year in August.
Seventeen days of rituals and sacrifices under the patronage of ‘Ifâ’ during which almost all the streets of these small towns are empty. Oro reigns supreme there, and it is “Don’t disturb!” for women and laymen. Only the initiated can leave their homes. And that’s how it’s been for ages.
Despite being feared, Oro remains a mythical Voodoo in the minds of southern Beninese, who almost all know the rallying cry of his troops.
Yes, in Benin, when you shout “Hey kpa Oro!”, Everyone answers, “Oro hey!”.