Sacred-Texts African Index Previous Next
ORISA OKO was a poor hunter, solitary save for his fife and his dog. If ever he lost his way out in the fields or the forest, he would begin to play some plaintive melody on his fife, and the sounds would lead the faithful dog to his side to guide him home.
He earned a meagre living by trapping in his nets guinea-fowls on the land of rich farmers, but because of his solitary life and his habit of silence, he was respected as a man possessed of secret knowledge which he did not care to divulge.
As years went by, he grew too old for hunting, and took up his residence in a cave. People now thought him more mysterious than ever, and came to him for advice about the future, so that in a short time he won great renown as a soothsayer. From far and near people came to consult him, and in this way he managed to live very comfortably.
In those days witchcraft was punished p. 13 by death, and it became the custom in the country that anyone suspected of the evil art should be dragged to Orisa Oko’s cave. If the soothsayer found him innocent, he led him forth by the hand, but if he were judged guilty, his head was cut off and thrown to the waiting crowd by the demon Polo, which Orisa Oko kept in the cave.
This went on until the old hunter’s death. His followers now wished to continue the practice, and so they hid in the cave a very strong man to act as the demon Polo. When anyone accused of witchcraft was brought to the cave, his head was usually cut off and thrown out as before.
However, it once happened that a very tall and muscular man was suspected of magic arts, and his accusers succeeded in dragging him to the cave. A large crowd waited with eagerness to learn the result. What was their dismay to see the head of the supposed “demon” come rolling out of the cave, for the strong man had proved too much for him, and soon reappeared unharmed and triumphant.
The people were indignant to learn how they had been deceived, and from that day the cave of Orisa Oko was deserted.