The Mystery Serpent of Olumo Rock [Photos]

If you’ve ever toured the ancient city of Abeokuta in Ogun State, Nigeria, and happened to visit the famous Olumo Rock which stands towering majestically over the town, it’s likely that you’ve met the Rock guides who would have told you the history and the Myths of Olumo Rock.

Olumo Rock

According to history, the massive edifice of nature which was named ‘Olumo’ – meaning ‘God molded this’, was a safe haven for Egba indigenes during war times in the 19th century.  The Rock perfectly hid the people such that the enemy - warriors from Dahomey (now present day Republic of Benin), could never get to locate them. For a long time, they lived within the confines of the rock, they were able to farm and feed and shelter themselves. There was even the discovery of water that dripped within the rock which was said to be highly medicinal. Some eventually saw the rock as a deity that protected the Egba people till this day. Somewhere on the mid-base of the rock is a shrine where priests came to honor the deity of the rock.

Hide-out of the indigenes situated under the rock

Rock guide in front of the entrance to the Olumo deity shrine under the rock

The part of the rock that drips medicinal water

Reference to the medicinal water
(Click to enlarge and read)

Holes in the rock where the indigenes ground or pounded their food

From the top of the rock, you can view almost the entirety of Ogun State; landmarks such as the Ogun river, the first TV mast and old secondary schools and family buildings where popular Nigerians grew up could be seen from the top. It is indeed an awesome sight and a wonderful work of nature’s art.

A view of the Abeokuta from the rock

But in all these the one aspect of Olumo Rock which till today still baffles me is the Myth behind the Serpent that turned into stone.

I had heard the story a number of times since my younger years but I wanted to validate it. According to what I heard, the snake had somehow crawled onto the rock which was somewhat a taboo or an offence for such an animal and so the deity of the rock in anger turned the snake into stone. Another version said it was some powerful enemy of the indigenes who turned into a snake and climbed the rock with the hope of discovering where the people were hiding. The Rock deity in defense of the people then struck the snake with lightening and the snake turned into stone.

Close up view of the Mystery Serpent

On visiting the Olumo Rock, I asked about the snake and was shown where it was. It laid stiff on top a round rock in an obvious attempt to slither its way across the rock surface.  From a distance it looked like some thick root of a tree sticking out but on closer view I noticed that it actually was a snake with its mouth partially opened. A part of the mouth seemed to have broken probably due to long time exposure. 

A view of the Serpent from afar. Far below are local art carvings

The guides didn’t seem to be able to tell a viable story about the snake. I was later to learn that the Rock used to have some elderly individuals who were guardians of the rock but had passed on with time. One of them still had her grave situated under the rock and her house still stood opposite the grave. The guardians were the ones who would know the true story behind the snake. But I fear the story may have been lost in time as this generation passed on and left nothing much for the younger generation to comprehend. 

The grave site of the last elderly guardian situated under the rock.

I questioned the believability of this phenomenon. If this was just a dead snake, it should have decomposed totally but that was not the case. It was also hard to just say it’s a carving because of its positioning; it would have been hard if not impossible to carve it the way it appeared on the rock. Yet it was stiff and carried the same grey color as the rock. Further down the rock formation was a carving done by local artistes, which was totally different from what the snake looked like. The area was out of bounds, otherwise I would have moved closer to investigate very well. I could only snap a picture with my phone.

The mystery intrigued me. I wondered wether there was any way in which nature could turn a living entity into stone. I’m still not sure there is. I searched through the internet, eager to find any stories behind this myth but found nothing.

And so the mystery of the stone snake remains hanging…a question I’m dead curious about finding its answer. Does anyone know anything about this stone serpent? 

Holla back let’s hear!

16 Screamer(s):

'Lara said...

I have been to olumo before, never heard the story of or seen the snake before. I love the view of the city from the top of the rock, it is beautiful.

aeedeeaee said...

I was at Olumo back in '92. Pretty sure I met one of the oldies. I really don't remember what they said about the snake though. I was too scared of the height...and maybe too young lol

I should probably visit again.

Toinlicious said...

I really really should visit Olumo o. I've never been there

P.S: could u please remove this captcha thing? thanks

A-9ja-Great said...

I have never been to Olumo Rock,but judging from this post,i'm missing out.It's very sad that there are some very interesting historical events that are now lost due to the fact that they weren't communicated to following generations.

I am Martha Omono Kingsmike and I av been to Olumorock twice... In 2007 and in 2011... I went in 2007 for an excursion cos I was in primary 6 and abt leaving primary scul. And in 2011, I was in S.S 1 in Ascension college, Imeke... My government teacher in person of Mr. Mautin Augustine Kiki took the S.S 1 & 2 students there. I avnt heard abt it at all or even seen it. Whn I went in 2007, I met 4 of those old women.... Whn I also went in 2011, I didnt see them bt I was told they r aving a festival of which they must not come out. And as for dat grave, it wasnt a she dat was buried. It was an he. I av 4gotten who he was bt I fink it was d founder of d rock...dat hunter who discovered it. He goes there to rest after hunting (av also 4gotten his name). Olumorock is a very interesting place to be... If u go, u wuldn't wanna leave.... Itz beauty is very captivating... Itz one of d reasons why m still proud of being a Nigerian.

Anonymous said...

Olumo is a nice place to b,dat is y am proud of ogun state.Omo ogun ise yaa.

Anonymous said...

I was @olumo rock yesterday wif my course mate on excursion, field trip in a particular cousre we offer....we were nt told anyfin abt d snake,,,bt 4rm wot martha said,d graveside was d grave of a man called sunny who died in 1956 ,.we were told@ d shrine d@t a festival @ d rock is always held 1st week in august n dat only 2 people enters d shrine(cheif priest n oba) n we told abt 3 women n never2 collect anyfin 4rm dem wen we climb up, bt lol we never saw dem.
D most captivatin fin i love abt d rock was it's HEIGHT even if i got fobia 4 dat. n a big tanks2 Gov Gbenga Daniel4 wot he did 2OO6,renovatin d rock n a kudos n respect 2 dos who were livin close 2 d rock,scarficing der shelter 4 d rock 2 b a tourist center 2day.
Olumo rock is a lovely place 2 b wif it cute n New LOOK!

Anonymous said...

wat a wnder nd exciting place is ogun state,is a place to be nd i am proud to be an indigene. Omo ogun ise ya!!!

AY said...

Never been there but cool lol

Today, I was at Olumo Rock, beholding its beauty. I love everything about this ancient rock.

Tobi Kelly said...

It was a beautiful encounter... Coincedentally i was there today.. And was shown marvellous things... From the gallery to climbing of steps.. Seeing and snapping elders who live there.. Going to the top of the rock... Sighting d ogun river... An iroko tree e.t.c... U shld visit it.. It so unique...

Anonymous said...

wow olumo rock......ive actually being there twice and i never got tired of the place and yes it was a man not a woman...........well also i never saw the snake but i heard about d festival and the old woman and not to take any thing from them and also the war stories. olumo rock is a place to be. Well the fact that really marvelled me was the fact that the top of the rock looks like a pregnant woman laying face up on the rock. you actually locate her head, her breast, her swollen belly. you guy have to see this in person

Thank you so much Matha. I'm inspired. Especially by your last declaration.

This myth of olumo rock look strange.I hope to visit and see this wonderful work of God.

Hmnn.........ibokwenu. Pregnant woman kor pregnant spirit ni

ZendBay said...

Wow Nigerian is awesome, i'm yet to visit many places like these... Do you have a blog post for Obudu cattle ranch i heard that the place is really good