Learning Center – Magickal Beings – Earth Spirits – Starting with the Letter “O” – Ogun

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Also known as: Ogou; Gu; Ogoun; Ogu; Ogum

Classification: Lwa, Orisha

Ogun is the West African spirit of iron. He is iron. Hold a knife or horseshoe in your hand and you hold Ogun. Ogun is the patron of metalworkers who traditionally also serve as shamans, sorcerers, healers, and ritual leaders. Ogun is also the patron of anyone who works with metal in any capacity, including jewelers, surgeons, law enforcement officers, chefs, cab and bus drivers, soldiers … the list is endless. Veneration of Ogun is at least as old as the Iron Age, which in Africa began approximately 500 BCE. According to Yoruba creation myth, Ogun led the orishas to Earth and helped them survive and adjust. He cuts paths through all thickets and obstacles with his machete.

Ogun is a culture hero: he taught people ironworking as well as magical and spiritual rituals, hunting and warfare. Although not a spirit of agriculture, Ogun is the one who first crafted the tools that make agriculture possible. Ogun is considered with ambivalence. He is a healer who also causes violent death: knives, guns, swords, guillotines, and tanks are but a few of his tools. He is also a patriarch who protects orphans and houses the homeless. Ogun is venerated throughout Western Africa and appears in virtually every African-Diaspora tradition.

Ogun hates liars. Thus there is a Nigerian tradition of swearing oaths on iron in the same manner that oaths are sworn on the Bible elsewhere. Should the oath be broken, Ogun will execute justice. He expresses anger through “accidents” involving metal, including car crashes, train wrecks, guns, knives…

Ogun is the spirit of technology: in recent years, he has become associated with computers and any type of technology, no matter how new and innovative, that utilizes metal. Simultaneously, Ogun epitomizes the solitary forest-dwelling witch-doctor. He knows the magical secrets of metalworking but, living in close proximity with hunters and herbalists, has access to other branches of occult wisdom. In modern Vodou, Ogou is among the spirits most closely identified with transformational magic and loups-garoux. In his guise as magician, he is often paired with Ezili Dantor. Ogun is an artist, a master craftsman, a healer, and a workaholic. He epitomizes creativity and terrible destruction. He causes disasters and protects against them. Ogun is the spirit of birth and death. He radiates fertility and creative energy. The knife that kills also cuts the umbilical cord. He is the hoe that opens Earth to bury a body.

• Place two pieces of metal together and anoint with red palm oil to summon Ogun.

• Offerings are traditionally left for him by railroad tracks.

• Tie a red ribbon around the base of a vehicle’s rearview mirror to invoke his aid.

Ironworking evolved from spiritual traditions centered on women’s menstrual mysteries. Ogun has a complex relationship with blood. Do not make offerings to him if you are bleeding, whether from menstruation, because you cut yourself shaving, or any other reason. Do not approach him. Ogun is invoked to heal diseases affecting blood, including AIDS, leukemia, and sickle-cell anemia. He is invoked for safety and success before surgery. He also heals infertility and erectile dysfunction. Request his protection from crime and criminals. He finds employment for devotees.

• Ogun is usually syncretized to Saint James the Greater but may also be associated with Michael Archangel and Saints Andrew, Martin Caballero, and George. Venezuelan Espiritismo identifies Ogun with Saint Peter and John the Baptist.

• He leads the Third Line of the Seven Lines of Umbanda spirits.

Ogun is a tireless worker at the forge, in the bedroom, and on behalf of his devotees. He never rests .

Favored people: Ogun is patron of all those who work with metal, including miners, tattoo artists, circumcisers, construction workers, jewelers, smiths, steelworkers, butchers, surgeons, drivers, pilots, and railroad workers.

Manifestations: A big, virile, powerful, handsome, charismatic man with fiery radiant eyes. Ogun is also present in metal. When you touch metal, you touch him. He may wear green or palm fronds or be accompanied by dogs.

Attributes: A machete, a three-legged iron cauldron, traditionally wrapped in chains and filled with iron implements, including tools, spikes, nails, and knives

Emblem: A sword driven into Earth

Spirit allies: Eshu Elegbara, Ochossi, Erinle, Osain. Ogun adores Oshun. Rela tion ships with Yemaya, Oya, and Ezili Dantor can be positive or tense. Some, although not all, traditions consider Ogun and Shango to be bitter rivals who should be kept far from each other.

Colors: Red, black, sometimes green, sometimes red and white (the colors of heated iron), or blue and red (the colors of the Haitian flag)

Numbers: 3, 7

Day: Wednesday (sometimes Tuesday)

Planets: Mars, Earth (because iron is mined from Earth)

Creatures: Dogs, snakes especially black mambas and black-necked cobras, snails (snails’ liquid is traditionally used to heal circumcision wounds), crocodiles, and red roosters.

Mount: He rides a spotted hyena (symbolically indicating his power over witchcraft, with which hyenas are closely associated in Africa) or a beautiful white stallion.

Trees: Akoko ( Newboldia laevis ), palm, calabash, camwood, eucalyptus

Plant: Cyperus esculentus called Espada de Ogum in Brazil and yellow nutsedge in English, among the earliest cultivated edible plants. Also garlic, rosemary, black pepper, chilé peppers, and many medicinal herbs.

Spice: Grains of Paradise ( Afromomum melegueta ) which has culinary and magical uses

Festival: 25 July in Plaine du Nord, near Cap Haitien, Haiti

Altars: Ogun’s altars are usually maintained with discretion in a cabinet or closet. An anvil or cauldron can serve as his altar or a repository for offerings. Make sure it’s a three-legged cauldron, not two. Think about it and you’ll know why.

Offerings: Red candles, cigars, rum, palm wine, whisky, aguardiente, or other alcoholic beverage—especially overproof rum—salt, dragon’s blood incense, metal, chains, metal tools, railroad spikes. Fill a cauldron with found pieces of metal, miniature ritual tools, full-size tools, toy cars, planes or other vehicles (make sure they’re metal, not plastic). If you cook for him, he likes his food spicy: add lots of hot peppers or hot sauce. Dress offerings with red palm oil. Offer roasted yams, red beans, red rice, mangos, and/or meat.