Moremi was a princess who hailed from Offa, but was married to the Ooni of Ile-Ife. She had only one child, a young boy barely in his teens, named Oluorogbo. Moremi was not only a very beautiful young woman, she was also very brave and a true patriot. She resolved that she would use all means in her power to help her country rid itself of the menace of the Igbos. She was ready to offer any sacrifice or give up her dearest possession to achieve her goal. She went to consult the oracle and was told to seek help from a river goddess who lived in the nearby river Esimirin. She entreated the goddess on her knees after making a ritual obeisance, to give her the means to save her people from their enemies, the fearsome Igbos. She promised the river goddess that she would give the deity anything she asked for as long as she could accomplish her aim, defeat the enemies of her people, and restore the honor and dignity of great Ife.
As part of her scheme, after leaving he river goddess, Moremi allowed herself to be taken captive by the Igbo marauders the next time they raided Ife. Due to her beau- ty, their ruler took her as his queen. After familiarizing herself with the secrets of her new husband’s army, she planned her escape back to Ile-Ife. She then revealed to the Yorubas a stratagem for defeating the Igbos in bat- tle. She had learnt that the Igbos were indeed human, not spirits of the underworld. Their fearsome appearance was due to their masks and skirts of raffia. Her stratagem was to have the Ife citizens, armed with lighted torches, set fire to the grass skirts of the Igbo marauders. Her plan worked. After the battle, during which the Igbo army was completely routed, she returned to the river Esimirin to give thanks and to offer a sacrifice to the goddess in honor of her promise.
An Unimaginable Sacrifice
Moremi was horrified when the river goddess insisted that the only thing she wanted was the life of Oluorogbo, her only son. The godless was relentless and unyielding to all pleas and reasoning. Sorrowing, Moremi was forced to consent, and sacrificed the handsome boy. By this time, the news of this turn of events had reached the city and the people of Ife came to the banks of the river to lament this new tragedy. Men and women, young and old wept on seeing this sad spectacle – Moremi, bent with grief over the dead body of her sacrificed son. Singing a song of lamentation, they promised to be her sons and daughters forever to make up for her loss. But according to anoth- er Ife tradition, Oluorogbo did not die, but was restored back to life by Olodumare who had seen the suffering and humility of Moremi. Thus, when the crowd of people had departed, Oluorogbo recovered consciousness. Making a rope of grass, he climbed up to heaven where he is said to have lived ever since with the gods and immortal heroes of Yorubaland. Thus immortalized, he became an eternal source of songs and legends commemorating his moth- er’s great sacrifice.
The Edi Festival in Ife was instituted in celebration of the sacrifice that this heroic princess made for the people of Yorubaland. In our own time, we can visit a number of public places named after Moremi in western Nigeria, in- cluding the female residence halls at the universities of Lagos and Ife. There is a bust of her in the center of Ile- Ife. In addition, she was immortalized in the Yoruba lan- guage opera ‘Moremi Ajasoro’ by Duro Ladipo. Moremi remains the greatest heroine not only of ancient Ile-Ife but of all Yorubaland. Every Yoruba is a son or daughter of Moremi.