The Origin of Iyawo

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By Anonymous

A long time ago, Wura, a beautiful damsel who was at the phase of choosing a spouse was faced with the task of selecting the most suitable one for herself, she was the first child and the daughter of the King of Iwo (a Yoruba town).

Yoruba deities like Sango, Ogun, and other known male deities went to Iwo to seek her hand in marriage. Wura mistreated them all. Wura was very rude and uncouth. She meted the worst behaviour one could think of to her suitors. Everyone of them failed to accomplish the prospect of marrying her because they could not withstand her behaviour and they all abandoned their mission on the very first day. That was how tough Wura was.

However, when it was the turn of Orunmila, before he set for Iwo, he sought wisdom from Olodumare through Ifa. He was duly informed that no matter the mistreatment Wura might subject him to, he must not react angrily. He should be patient, tolerant and long suffering. He was highly warned to expect humiliation from Wura and must resist the temptation to be provoked.

When Orunmila got to Iwo, Wura looked at him scornfully. She did not welcome him. She hissed at him, called Orunmila all sorts of deprecating names. She neither offered Orunmila any food nor entertained him. Orunmila kept an even face regardless.

The first day passed, second day, till about the seventh day. To cap it all, Wura took Orunmila’s Opon-Ifa [divination board] and used it as firewood. She took Orunmila’s Pouch [Apo Ominijekun] from him. This angered Orunmila greatly but he still conducted himself with silent restraint and dignity. He refused to react to her behaviour having being warned of the consequences of not heeding the advice.

Eventually, the King realized that Orunmila was humble, mild mannered and well behaved. He was amazed that Orunmila did not react or show any sign of anger towards his daughter despite the humiliation. Orunmila’s behaviour gave the Olu Iwo the assurance that he, Orunmila would take good care of Wura, his daughter if she became his wife.

All along, however, unbeknownst to Orunmila and other suitors, Wura’s behaviour had been a carefully planned and executed test for all the prospective suitors. The King finally summoned Orunmila and handed Wura over to him with his royal blessings to take unto himself as wife. The king went on to divide his property into two. He gave Orunmila half of it and Orunmila thus became rich and had Wura as his wife.

Upon Orunmila’s arrival back home, his people welcomed him enthusiastically as a hero  for his accomplished task of winning the hand of the beautiful daughter of Olu Iwo and bringing fame and fortune to his community. They asked for some details of his new wife, his answer was direct: Iya-ti-mo-je- ni-Iwo (the result of my humiliation at Iwo town). This eight syllable word, “Iya-ti-mo-je- ni-Iwo” later became known as Iya-Iwo, and now Iyawo.

P.S: The Original Yoruba word for wife is ‘Aya’, not ‘Iyawo’ but he latter is quite commonly used nowadays than the former. 

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