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Gu (god)

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Subject: West African Vodun, Glele, Dahomey mythology, GU
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Gu (god)

For the Togolese prefecture, see Ogou, Togo.

In the Yoruba religion, Ogun (or Ogoun, Ogún, Ogou, Ogum, Oggun) is an orisha (deity) and loa (spirit) who presides over iron, hunting, politics and war. He is the patron of smiths, and is usually displayed with a number of attributes: a machete or sabre, rum and tobacco. He is one of the husbands of Erzulie, Oshun, and Oya and a friend to Eshu.


Ogun is the classical warrior and is seen as a powerful deity of metal work, similar to Ares and Hephaestus in Greek mythology and Visvakarma in classical Hinduism. He is also prominently represented as Saint George in the syncretic traditions of contemporary Brazil. As such, Ogun is mighty, powerful and triumphal, yet is also known to exhibit the rage and destructiveness of the warrior whose strength and violence must not turn against the community he serves. Perhaps linked to this theme is the new face he has taken on in Haiti which is not exactly related to his African roots, that of a powerful political leader.[1]

He gives strength through prophecy and magic. It is Ogun who is said to have planted the idea in the heads of, led and given power to the slaves for the Haitian Revolution of 1804. Therefore, he is often called in the contemporary period to help the people of Haiti to obtain a government that is more responsive to their needs.

Mythical Ogun

In Yoruba religion, Ogun is a primordial Orisha who first appeared as a hunter named Tobe Ode. He is said to be the first Orisha to descend to the realm of Ile Aiye, "Earth", to find suitable place for future human life. In commemoration of this, one of his praise names is Osin Imole or the "first of the primordial Orisha to come to Earth". He is celebrated in places like Ekiti, Oyo and Ondo States. He is believed by his followers to have wo ile sun, to have disappeared into the earth's surface instead of dying, in a place named Ire-Ekiti. Throughout his earthly life, he is thought to have fought for the people of Ire thus is known also as Onire.

In Dahomey mythology, Gu is the god of war and patron deity of smiths and craftsmen. He was sent to earth to make it a nice place for people to live, and he has not yet finished this task. In Voudou, he is syncretized with St. Jacques Majeur (St. James the Greater) in his incarnation as Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moorslayer).

In Santería and Palo Mayombe, he is syncretized with Saint Peter.

In the religious tradition of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé, the same deity is calledOgum and is often identified with Saint George, for example in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. Ogum may also be represented by Saint Sebastian, as it is often done in the northeastern Brazil, such as the state of Bahia. Officially, Saint Sebastian is the patron saint of the city of Rio de Janeiro in the state of the same name in Brazil. Matthias Röhrig Assunção also notes that St. Anthony is often identified with Ogun in Bahia.[2]

In all his incarnations, Ogoun is a fiery and martial entity. He can be aggressively masculine much like his brother Shango. He is also associated with blood, and so is often called on to heal diseases of the blood.


Ogun comes to mount people in various aspects of his character, and the people who venerate him are quite familiar with these aspects.

His possessions can sometimes be violent. Those mounted by him are known to wash their hands in flaming rum without suffering from it later. They dress up in green and black, wave a sabre or machete, chew a cigar and demand rum in an old phrase Gren mwe fret, "my testicles are cold". Often, this rum is first poured on the ground, then lit and, finally, the fumes generated by this are allowed to pervade the peristyle. The sword, or much more commonly called the machete, is Ogun's weapon and he often does strange feats of poking himself with it, or even sticking the handle in the ground, then mounting the blade without piercing his skin.

Ogun is the lascivious (unruly) Orisha; one that would take multiple enclosures to the battle-front; some filled to the brim with gunpowder; pockets full of miracles; allowances of wine and others sealed-tight in polished minerals.

King of Ire,
Orphan's shield,
Landlord of terraced hills.

Ogun appears in other forms, such as

  • Ogun Akirun,
  • Ogun Ajero,
  • Ogun Alagbede,
  • Ogun Alara,
  • Ogun Badagris. He may lift a person up and carry him or her around to indicate his special attention and patronage.
  • Ogun Elemona,
  • Ogun Ferraille. (Also Ogou Feray) He gives strength to the servitors by slapping them on the thighs or back;
  • Ogun Ikole,
  • Ogun Lakaye,
  • Ogun Meji,
  • Ogun Oloola,
  • Ogun Onigbajamo,
  • Ogun Onire,
  • Ogun Onile,[3]
  • Ogun the wounded warrior. He assumes a Christ-figure pose which the people know well from their Christian associations;

All the varied aspects of Ogoun have a dominant theme of power and militancy which exemplify his position as a spirit of war.


Further reading

  • Charles Spencer King, "Nature's Ancient Religion: Orisha Worship & IFA" ISBN 1-4404-1733-4
  • Charles Spencer King, "IFA Y Los Orishas: La Religion Antigua De LA Naturaleza" ISBN 1-4610-2898-1

External links

  • Ogun Explained
  • Baba'Awo Ifaloju, showcasing Ifa using web media 2.0 (blogs, podcasting, video & photocasting)
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