Ayaba Moremi Ajasoro of Ile-Ife

Ayaba Moremi Ajasoro of Ile-Ife

The Yorubas considered folklore (called ‘Aroba’ in the Yoruba language) the strongest medium for teaching and preserving history.... accounts of Moremi Ajasoro’s exploits are sparsely documented, 

Moremi was a legendary queen, wife of Oranyan (Oramiyan), the heir to the king of Ife and son of the founding father of the Yoruba people, Oduduwa. Around 1290, Oranyan founded Ile-Oyo, which his descendants then expanded into the Oyo Empire.

Her hometown of Offa, an old Yoruba town in Kwara state, west-central Nigeria is said to have been founded by Olalomi Olofa-gangan, a crown prince from Ile-Oyo from around 1395.

Ile-Ife was a kingdom to have been at war with an adjoining tribe referred to as the Forest people, Igbò in the Yoruba language. The word “ife” in Yoruba means “expansion.

Ife had been at war with the Igbò tribe for many years. During Moremi’s reign as queen, they faced the prolonged issue of Ìgbò raiders dressed completely in raffia leaves, disrupting and looting markets in Ife, and selling the people of the kingdom into slavery.

Tired of the regular raids that the Igbo were sending into Ile-Ife, Moremi ventures to a sacred stream to consult with the local river spirit, Esimirin.

Esimirin offered to help Moremi deliver her people from oppression but demanded that she sacrifice her only son, Ela (Oluorogbo) as an offering after her request was met. The river spirit suggests that Moremi allow herself to be captured by the Igbo so that she may infiltrate their society and discover their weaknesses. This she accomplished by posing as a trader in the market.

She remained there for an extended period of time, spying on her adversaries and learning their ways of life. Earnings the King's trust and affection, she was able to coerce him into revealing to her that their raffia-dressed masquerades were not, in fact, spirits, but rather ordinary human beings disguised in that manner to instill fear in the people of Ile-Ife during their raids. Additionally, he revealed that the raffia leaves covering them were flammable and would not survive even the slightest contact with fire. With this information, she was able to safely plan her return to Ile-Ife.

When Moremi returned, she disclosed the secrets and tactics discovered to the Yoruba army. She told them that in order to defeat their enemy, they'd have to pass through them with a torch. The Yoruba people used the information given to them by Queen Moremi and victoriously subdued the Ìgbò people in battle. Moremi then returned to the Esimirin River to make her offering.


Like this post? Stop by and read Mary Todd Lincoln: Rarely a Kind Word.” Mary Todd Lincoln was wife of the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The two met in Springfield, Illinois in 1839... in his own words, he was “a poor nobody then.” She reportedly managed to save $70,000 of his $100,000 salary during his presidency. During the Civil War, Mary Lincoln became a regular at the newly-established hospitals around Washington, D.C. providing food and comfort to the wounded. Rarely was a kind word printed about her by the press. On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre. She uttered in disbelief, "Oh my God, have I given my husband to die?"

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