The 'Adunni Olorisa' has passed! The white priestess of Osun River Grove deity in Nigeria, is dead. Susan Wenger was 94 years old!
Born during the First World War in 1915 in Graz, Austria, Susan studied art in Graz and Vienna where she was a member of the Vienna Art-Club. After the Second World War, she travelled to Italy and also spent some time in Switzerland where she had some exhibitions at the Des Eaux Vives in Zurich. In 1949, Susanne went to Paris, where she met and married Ulli Beier, a German linguist who subsequently accepted a posting to West Africa. The couple arrived in Ibadan, Nigeria in 1959 and later moved to a small town of Ede near Oshogo, where Susan quickly assimilated the local culture. She later divorced Ulli Beire and married Chief Alarape aka Ayansola Oniru.
It was here at Ede that Susanne met Ajagemo, a powerful Obatala (native) priest and her guru, who initiated her into the world of the Orisha - the traditional Yoruba religion. She got very much involved in Osun River Grove; her passion and devotion saw her grow through the ranks to become the chief custodian and priestess of the shrine. Susan remained in this position till her death; although rigours of old age removed her from active involvement and participation during the last years of her life.
Susan was a great cultural devotee of the sacred deity, which she single-handedly gave a new lease of life and through her best effort, was enlisted into UNESCO as a World Heritage Center in 2005. It was to her credit that the Osun River Grove has been preserved for posterity and has also become world renown. Susan was a strong influence on the cultural rebirth that transformed the Osun River Grove into a forest of exciting artistic enclave. She personified “the spirit of the sacred grove", the river goddess to which she dedicated nearly her entire adult life, worshipping and adoring.
In accordance with her instruction, Susan Wenger was buried immediately following her death, at a private burial in a discreet, unmarked grave inside the Osun River grove; without any fanfare or ceremony.
Icheoku says, this informal internment completes Susan Wenger's transformation into a spirit as devotees will henceforth make supplications to her, too. Susan Wenger by the life she lived and the realms transcended coupled to her discreet burial has become a full legend. Historians will discuss this very unique human being, who was born in Austria to a christian family, lived in Nigeria as a traditional goddess priestess, where she died and was buried in an unmarked grave. What a circle of very meaningful life, Susan Wenger had! Icheoku says, sleep on Susan Wenger as you now join the spirits of the Osun River Grove! ADIEU, Adunni Olorisa!
January 13, 2009.
Originally appeared on Icheoku.
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