A Yoruba festival called ‘Obaluwaye festival’ was held in some parts of Brazil earlier in the year and there were images of horsetail-fly-whisk, among other traditional accessories, used by the worshippers. Horsetail-fly-whisk is known as ‘Irukere’ by the Yoruba people. ‘Iru’ literally means tail in the Yoruba language. The Yoruba people are found in the Southwestern parts of Nigeria and they are known to have a rich cultural heritage with the irukere being a prominent feature.
Origin of irukere
One of the famous Yoruba deity known as Orunmila (deity of wisdom) is said to use the irukere. He uses the irukere when traveling to an occasion. It was a tool of power he used to save people. Irukere was also used in his shrine. It has since been used by Yoruba kings and chiefs as a traditional accessory.
Irukere fly whisk is made of animal hair skin, especially horsetail. The strands of hair, which may be white or black, has a stick within and are fastened by a leather handle or in some cases rubber. An irukere measures approximately 20 – 21’’ long to tip. It is decorated with beads of different colors (blue, red, green, burgundy, etc.)
Importance of Irukere
Irukere is common among Yoruba people such as their kings/chiefs, priests, and traditional dancers. Top on the list is the Yoruba monarchs who use it as a tool for blessing the people. When a prayer is being said by the king, the irukere is being whisked to say ‘it is done.’ It is also part of the clothing accessories of the Yoruba kings when they are out for occasions. The Yoruba people have a way of praising their king with the line ‘’k’ade o pe lori, ki bata pe l’ese, ki irukere pe lowo/di okin.’’ This is a way of saying the king should live long while giving his accessories some significances.
Yoruba priests, also known as ‘Ifa diviners,’ make use of the irukere just like Orunmila. Every initiate of ifa (oracle) is happy to have an irukere standing in their ifa shrine to honor Orunmila. It is used by the priests to say opening prayers, chant, and give blessings. It is used during a sacrifice or consultations. Irukere is a prominent feature of an ifa priest.
The Yoruba traditional dancers are not left out in the use of this horsetail whisk. It is used by the cultural dancers in rhythmic movement. Along with their beads and traditional attires, the traditional horsetail tool makes the dancers a joy to watch for their swagger.
According to the traditional belief of the Yoruba people, irukere is not just a traditional tool, but a tool of power. It is an accessory for the elders, kings, chiefs, priests or those of special importance. The Yoruba people have a rich culture and tradition. This is just one of the tools used by the people in their ceremonies.
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