The Orisha Ogun appears in several traditional African belief systems throughout the diaspora. However, he is most notable as the elemental deity of iron in the Ifa tradition. Ogun was believed to be a warrior and a powerful spirit of metalwork (blacksmith) during his time on earth. Likewise, he is well known for rum-making in some traditions.
As a blacksmith, Ogun is an industrialist and innovator – a way maker. It’s believed that he entered the earth by clearing a path with a metal ax and the assistance of a dog. Ogun also loves hunting and foraging in the forestlands.
Ogun: the King of Ire
Due to his nature as a merciless warrior energy, Ogun lived in seclusion on a hill for many years. Later, he grew tired of being alone and decided to settle in Ire. He is recorded as the first king of this land.
True to his nature, he was a ruthless king. He fought for his kingdom with vengeance and vigor. But when some of his followers failed to show him respect, Ogun killed them and himself with his sword. He disappeared into the world at a location called Ire-Ekiti. At this point, he vowed to help those who called upon him for assistance.
As such, Ogun is highly regarded as a protective spirit. Travelers often carry an amulet dedicated to this Orisha to ward off accidents. In Yoruba society, it is common for Ifa believers to swear by Ogun’s name or kiss a piece of iron dedicated to this deity in a court of law. This process serves as an oath, much like swearing by other holy texts during legal proceedings.
Symbols and Sacrifice
Ogun is commonly represented by iron, metallic objects, dogs, and palm fronds. Festivals honoring this Orisha often feature knives, guns, blacksmith implements, scissors, wrenches, etc. These items symbolize Ogun’s presence in industrialization, technology, and innovation.
Meats are commonly sacrificed during rituals and ceremonies for Ogun. Dogs are the traditional friends or companions of hunters. Ogun’s personality is likewise “doglike” or fierce, bold, and straightforward in nature. Therefore, dogs are also sacrificed in honor of this spirit during major ceremonies and festivals.
Learn more about sacrifices and offerings in African spiritual practices in this episode of the African Spirit Reintegrated + Reimagined: