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9 Ancient wonders and myths of Idanre Hills

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By Abraham Adekunle

The hilly peaks are said to be inhabited by a warring god, Agboogun.

The ancient Idanre town in Ondo State is popularly known for its hills. Originally known as Òkè Ìdànrè. Idanre Hill has been in existence for millions of years and established as a settlement centuries ago. The story of the town is popular in the Yoruba mythology. The community was established when one of the descendants of Oduduwa (the ancestor of the Yoruba people) stole the Adé-Idẹ (the crown of bronze which has unquantifiable value and also known as “Adé ọmọ Odùduwà” meaning “the crown of the son of Oduduwa”) and fled from Ilé-Ifẹ̀ with his followers into the jungle. They were pursued for years until they came across a strategic haven that is Idanre Hill today. It was said that the magnificent range of hills provoked an exclamation, “Idán rèé!” which means “this is magical!” This is where the name of the town originated.

Every year, the traditional king of the town, the Ọwá of Idanre, celebrates the Adé-Idẹ festival where he wears the iconic crown of Oduduwa. The bronze crown is kept at the Ije shrine. The Idanre Hill is popular for its landscape and variety of cultural sites. Locations such as Ọwá’s palace, shrines, the Old Court, Agboogun’s footprint, thunder water (Omi Apàrá) and burial grounds have made the town famous. On October 8, 2007, the National Commission for Museums and Monuments submitted a nomination for Idanre Hill to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Currently, it is on UNESCO’s Tentative List for heritage sites. According to Wikipedia, Idanre Hill resides 3000 ft (914.4m) above sea level and houses a unique ecosystem upon which the cultural landscape has integrated. It is said to have various and many-coloured ecosystems of “flora and fauna.”

Footprint is said to account for at least three of the wonders on the hill.

Agboogun was one of the most excellent hunters to have ever emerged from Idanre town. He left his signs in the sands of time. The legends of the hills are woven around him. In those days, because of the controversy surrounding the crown of bronze, Ilé-Ifẹ̀ sent a mercenary to retrieve the crown clandestinely. The bandit had succeeded in stealing the crown but had Agboogun on his tail. Unluckily for the interloper, the hunter had struck the ground with a magic wand to keep him transfixed. Agboogun caught up with him, beheaded him and retrieved the crown. This is known as Agboogun’s Legacy. As a memorial, the Ọwá of Ìdànrè wears the magical crown every year on that same spot where the mercenary was killed.

One cannot tour the Idanre Hill without getting acquainted with the legends of the “Unreadable Signs,” mysterious and cryptic handwriting on the rock. According to Idanre folklore, the story behind the legend is that Agboogun, a hunter with supernatural abilities, had mobilized his proteges on a hunting expedition and, on their way, stopped to inscribe some hieroglyphs on a hillside. A hieroglyph is a character used in a system of pictorial writing, particularly that form is used on ancient Egyptian monuments. The mysterious inscription is yet to be deciphered and is known as the “unreadable signs.”

Agboogun left a mysterious footprint and a wonderful mat.

At the base of the Aghagha Hill, the hunter struck his foot on the rock and left an imprint on its surface. This became “Ẹsẹ̀ Agboogun” which means Agboogun’s Footprint. It is a spiritual footprint and one of the mysteries of those hills. The footprint enlarges or contracts by itself – it automatically fits anyone who puts a foot on it no matter the size of that foot. It is popular as a famous tool for identifying witches. According to legends, he had left a specific instruction that people accused of witchcraft should be made to try their foot on the footprint to confirm whether they are guilty or innocent. It is believed that only the guilty foot will not fit the print. Agboogun also carved broad crisscrossed strokes on another hill just a stone’s throw from his footprint. This has referred to as the “Wonderful Mat.”

The wonders of Idanre Hill also includes “Ibi Àkàsọ̀” known as the Great Steps, with 682 steps which leads up into the hills. The steps have five resting points which are set at least 100m apart uphill. The resting points are set up obviously because of the energy that is exerted while climbing the steps. The 3000-foot-tall step is not for the faint-hearted. Ascending those hills requires strong-headedness and a campaign against fatigue. Additionally, the king’s palace is another wonder of the hills. The ancient palace has three entrances, catering to three different categories of people: the first for the king, the second in the middle for the queen, and the third for others. The castle is enclosed within the mountain via the chief’s quarters, strategically for defense and Security reasons.

Other wonders of the hill include the smoking hill and thunder water.

In the distance, the smoking Orosun hill is known to be covered in a cloudy haze 24 hours a day and as a symbol of the presence of Orosun, a significant fertility deity in Idanre, whose festival is celebrated annually. It is from this smoky hill that the spiritual Arun river flows. The Arun river is a spiritual river with crystal-clear water believed to have healing powers. Of course, Omi Apàrá (known as Thunder Water) is another spectacle with symbolic significance in Idanre. Warriors meet at the stream before going to war in those days. Warriors are made to drink from the river and if the thunder rumbles during anyone’s turn, such individual is left out of the war because he is bound to die at the battlefield.


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