“Iya Oyo!” I hailed. “Baba Oyo told me this story about Orí, and it doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever.”
“What story?” she asked. “Is it from his Bible? There are lots of incredulous stories in that book of his.”
“No, it’s not from grandpa’s Bible,” I assured her. “He said it’s a story his mother told him.”
“Beautiful woman, his mother was,” Iya Oyo said. “Tall, slim and light like the milk-Fulani living on the other side of town. Between the two of us, she probably was one of them raised in an Oyo family. Such things were not uncommon when I was young. All the Alaafin (kings of Oyo), married from the milk Fulani, and gave them land to settle in Oyo. They have no land of their own. They are peace loving and humble people. How did Olodumare create a people and not provide them with land! Anyway, what fable has your grandpa been telling you about Orí?”
Baba Oyo entered, holding his Bible. He beamed with a smile. “I told him the story of Orí, the bodiless head. He was a forest dweller. Annually, he left the forest and visited the market to buy essential items.”
“This was where it no longer made sense to me,” I jumped in. “First, he was a bodiless head. I have never seen such a person. Second, Baba Oyo says when Ori visited the market, Ori would go from a forest gnome to another to borrow human parts. An arm from one fellow, a leg from another, and he would carefully find the best body parts to wear with his head. And by the time he was done, he could look absolutely flawless, and saunter through the market as the most handsome gentleman for miles around. All the woman admired him openly, but since he didn’t make any advances to women, he remained single. How is that possible!”
Iya Oyo smiled. “Everybody knows that story,” she said. “One day Ori went to the market looking handsome enough to eat raw. He went to the stall of a beautiful woman to get some vegetables. When she saw him, she was stunned. She had never seen any man so attractive. She told Ori, “I love you, gentleman, and wherever you are going, I’m following you. I will be your wife and there is nothing that can stop me.”
To cut a long story short, the market women told her that she was making a mistake.
This was a total stranger who spoke to nobody, they warned her.
Nobody knew where he was from. Her mother begged her to reconsider her decision.
But she refused. “I’m madly in love with him,” she told her parents. “Nobody can change my mind.”
She abandoned her vegetable stall and followed the man as he walked out of town.
After they had walked for a long time, they entered the forest, and to her astonishment, Ori went from one gnome to another, retuning the body parts that he borrowed from them.
The last things he returned were the legs. He became a bodiless head again.
The young woman was devastated. She wanted to return to the city, but Ori wouldn’t let her go because she knew his secret.
“All these things make no sense to me,” I concluded.
Baba Oyo explained that, “It’s a story meant to teach people a lesson. The lesson here is to listen to the wisdom of others, especially your parents’ counsels. Had she listened, she would not have followed him to the forest.”
Iya Oyo said, “There are other lessons. You may marry whomsoever you please, or do whatever you like, as long as you are prepared to pay the price.”
“That is really instructive,” I commented.
Iya Oyo continued: “Beyond all this is the most important lesson: that we are all Ori, the bodiless head. All our bodily parts are on loan to us. One day, when the time comes for us to return home, we must return these parts to the owner, Olodumare. We live on borrowed time, and it is not limitless.”
In a couple of hours, we will return the year 2022 to our maker, and borrow 2023 to begin another year.
May the coming year be fruitful.
At the end of 2023, when we return the spent year, we will rejoice and be counted among those privileged to receive the loan of 2024.
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