Yoruba God

Ogun

Blacksmith’s Staff (Opa Ogun) by Yoruba artist, (20th century).

A blacksmith's staff (opa ogun) use for ceremonies in honor of Ogun by Yoruba artist, (20th century).

High Museum of ArtCopyright

Overview

Ogun is best known as the Yoruba god of metalworking and artisans. He guards all those who work in the smithing trade, though he is also celebrated as the god of warfare, warriors, and truth. Ogun is revered for having given humans the gift of iron and the knowledge of forging and metalwork. In exchange for these gifts, he “demands justice, fair play, and integrity.”[1] 

Ogun is known for removing barriers when people encounter difficulties. Worshippers thus appeal to him in the face of obstacles.[2] He is also the patron of hunters; in fact, no hunter can begin their hunt without first appealing to Ogun for protection.[3] 

Ogun is above all the divinity in charge of ironwork, metalwork, blacksmithing, goldsmithing, artisans, and all who practice these skills or work with these materials.[4] As a result, he is also the god of civilization and technology. 

Ogun is described as having a fierce and protective nature. However, he also has a quick temper and can wreak havoc and devastation when angered.[5] The god is still worshipped in many parts of the world today.[6]

Pronunciation

  • English
    Yoruba
    OgunÒgún
  • Phonetic
    IPA
    oh-gooō.ɡũ̄

Ogun and Iron

Ogun Helmet Mask by James Ajala, (20th century).

This Ogun Helmet Mask is a representation of Ogun used in rituals by James Ajala, (20th century).

Yale University Art GalleryPublic Domain

According to a popular Yoruba myth, some of the oriṣas (gods) wanted to live on earth, but a dense forest blocked their way. Each deity tried to cut down the troublesome trees, but they only had weapons made of wood, stone, or soft metal. As a result, they could not forge a path through the thick forest.

Finally, Ogun stepped forward with an iron machete. With this weapon, he instantly cut down the trees that stood in their way. The other gods were amazed and asked him where he had gotten the metal. Ogun told them it was iron, and that he had learned the secrets of the metal from Orunmila, the god of divination.[7]

References

Notes

  1. Molefi Kete Asante and Ama Mazama, Encyclopedia of African Religion (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009), 211.

  2. J. Ọmọṣade Awolalu, Yorùbá Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites (London: Longman, 1996), 31.

  3. Jonathan Olumide Lucas, The Religion of the Yorubas: Being an Account of the Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Yoruba Peoples of Southern Nigeria, Especially in Relation to the Religion of Ancient Egypt (Lagos: C.M.S. Bookshop, 1948), 118.

  4. Patricia Ann Lynch and Jeremy Roberts, African Mythology, A to Z (New York: Infobase, 2010), 86.

  5. Asante and Mazama, Encyclopedia of African Religion, 482.

  6. Asante and Mazama, Encyclopedia of African Religion, 481.

  7. Lynch and Roberts, African Mythology, A to Z, 86.

Secondary Sources

  1. Asante, Molefi Kete, and Ama Mazama. Encyclopedia of African Religion. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2009.

  2. Awolalu, J. Ọmọṣade. Yorùbá Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. London: Longman, 1996.

  3. Knappert, Jan. African Mythology: An Encyclopedia of Myth and Legend. London: Diamond Books, 1995.

  4. Lucas, Jonathan Olumide. The Religion of the Yorubas: Being an Account of the Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Yoruba Peoples of Southern Nigeria, Especially in Relation to the Religion of Ancient Egypt. Lagos: C.M.S. Bookshop, 1948.

  5. Lynch, Patricia Ann, and Jeremy Roberts. African Mythology, A to Z. New York: Infobase, 2010.

Citation

Mackay, Danielle. “Ogun.” Mythopedia, April 26, 2023. https://mythopedia.com/topics/ogun.

Mackay, Danielle. “Ogun.” Mythopedia, 26 Apr. 2023. https://mythopedia.com/topics/ogun. Accessed on 17 Jul. 2024.

Mackay, D. (2023, April 26). Ogun. Mythopedia. https://mythopedia.com/topics/ogun

Authors

  • Danielle Mackay

    Danielle Mackay is a writer and scholar who received her MA in Classical Studies from Rhodes University in South Africa

    Danielle Mackay Profile Picture