Ogun: The Orisha of Iron

Ogun is known to be a very powerful warrior who has creativity and intelligence when it comes to making new tools. He protects his people from injustice. He is known as the father of civilization because if it were not for his creative tools, the earth would be full of the wilderness. If it were not for his strength, the path from heaven to earth would never have been cleared for the Orishas and humanity to thrive on earth. Ogun’s tools were the tools which helped create new buildings and cities.

His Two Sides

Ogun has a protective nature, like a loving and overprotective father. He can be the fiercest and angriest bloodthirsty warrior whose tools thirst for the blood of his enemies. However, he can also be the Orisha who helps removes cancers from humans and forges new innovative tools. Ogun is very loyal and is often found in densely forested areas where he likes to hunt with his best-hunting partners, Ellegua and Ochosi. These three signifies one of the Orishas to be received during the reception of the Warriors initiation. Ogun’s shrine is an iron cauldron which is filled with iron tools and supplements.

Ogun Makes the Sacrifice

Ogun is the one who invented the knife. However, he does not own it. It is Obatala who owns it. Ogun was just asked to make the knife for him. It is with Ogun’s strong and piercing energy that animals are sacrificed. This way, it is not the olorisha who takes the animal’s life, it is Ogun. This is often reflected in the phrase which people recite before sacrificing an animal: “Ogun shoro shoro, eyebale kuwo”.

Emerging as the Orisha of Iron

There is a Pataki related to Ogun which tells how he became the Orisha of iron. The Orishas and humans were once living on the land created by Obatala. Orishas and the humans alike leveled the land and cleared the trees from the land so that they could cultivate on it. However, the problem arose when, as the population began to increase, they needed more land for the people to live and build houses on. Their tools, however, were not enough. They were made of wood, stone or soft metal. So, all the Orishas met and decided to clear the land with their tools one by one. All except Olokun disagreed, saying that she had nothing to do with the land and that her domain was the oceans and seas. Osanyin, Orisha of medicine, decided to clear the field first. However, his bush knife was made of soft metal and it became bent. The same happened with Oko and Eshu. Seeing the Orishas fail, Ogun with his iron knife set out and cleared the land and fields. He came back showing his undamaged knife. He declined to give the secret of iron to the other Orishas. The Orishas offered to make him their ruler for which he agreed and gave them the knowledge of iron. However one day he was cast out because he looked messy, muddy and bloody. The Orishas rejected him but the people, to this day, still remember and worship him.

Learn more about Santeria and the Orishas with Lucumi: The Ways of Santeria


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