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 centred 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.
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.
Also known as:
Ogou; Gu; Ogoun; Ogu; Ogum
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.
A machete, a three-legged iron cauldron, traditionally wrapped in chains and filled with iron implements, including tools, spikes, nails, and knives
A sword driven into Earth
Eshu Elegbara, Ochossi, Erinle, Osain. Ogun adores Oshun. Relationships 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.
Red, black, sometimes green, sometimes red and white (the colors of heated iron), or blue and red (the colors of the Haitian flag)
Wednesday (sometimes Tuesday)
Mars, Earth (because iron is mined from Earth)
Dogs, snakes especially black mambas and black-necked cobras, snails (snails’ liquid is traditionally used to heal circumcision wounds), crocodiles, and red roosters
He rides a spotted hyena (symbolically indicating his power over witchcraft, with which hyenas are closely associated in Africa) or a beautiful white stallion.
Akoko (Newboldia laevis), palm, calabash, camwood, eucalyptus
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.
Grains of Paradise (Afromomum melegueta) which has culinary and magical uses
25 July in Plaine du Nord, near Cap Haitien, Haiti
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.
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.
The various paths of Ogun may be understood as different aspects of one Ogun or as several closely related spirits. In Haitian Vodou, the Ogou family of spirits is known as the Nago nation and mediates between Rada and Petro.
The following are but a few of his many paths:
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ogun Balendjo, sacred physician, epitomizes the healing powers of iron, both in terms of tools but also in terms of the body’s iron content. Ogun Balendjo is patron of physicians as warriors against disease. He may also be invoked when battling against the medical industry. Invoke his aid if you are anemic.
Ogun Balendjo is the watery aspect of Ogun, spirit of the Ogun River. Forge steam and water are traditionally used to heal illness and impotence. Ogun Balendjo presides over water heated for healing purposes, like steam baths, especially if intensely heated because he is a very macho spirit even when kind and gentle. (See Also: Bahlindjo.)
Ogun Balendjo is syncretized to Saint Anthony or Saint George.
Surgeons, acupuncturists, military physicians, nurses, medics, those who treat veterans
Iron tablets, surgical tools, acupuncture needles, hypodermic needles, War Water (a magical formula made by soaking iron nails in water)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ogoun Fer; Ogou Feray
Ogoun Ferraille, warrior lwa, is understood as the primary figure in the traditional chromolithograph of Saint James the Greater—the saint himself riding to battle on a white horse. He is the chief of all the warrior paths of Ogun.
Ogou Ferraille is the spirit who was invoked on 14 August 1791 at Bois Caiman initiating the Haitian Revolution. It is rumored that when Jean-Jacques Dessalines (circa 1758–1806) ripped the white fabric from the French tricolor flag, creating the blue and red Haitian flag, he was channeling Ogou Ferraille. (After he died, Dessalines joined the Ogou family becoming Ogou Dessalines.)
Ogun Ferraille is associated with the magical and healing power of magnets. Request that he gird your loins before entering battle, literally or metaphorically.
Soldiers, warriors in tanks or armored fighting vehicles (AFVs), armourers
Ogoun Ferraille is a knight in shining armor, but he is also envisioned as a metal man or cyber man. Ferraille refers to scrap metal.
Overproof rum, toy soldiers—especially old-fashioned metal ones—military medals, and regalia
Ogoun Ferraille is the name of a cocktail, a flaming rum punch:
1. Stir honey to taste into one part passion fruit juice; warm very gently on the stove.
2. Add to three parts dark rum and flambé.
3. Sprinkle with spices like ground cardamom, cinnamon, and coriander.
4. Serve a glass to Ogoun.
OGUN Gé ROUGE
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ogou Jé Rouge
Ogou Gé Rouge is red-eyed Ogun, a fierce, wrathful lwa filled with rage, classified as a Petro or Bizango lwa. He is the patron of loupsgaroux. Shaman Ogou bestows the point of power enabling the soul to leave the body in the form of a flying werewolf and journey across the sky leaving a phosphorescent trail.
OGUN LA FLAMBO
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ogou La Flambeau
Ogou la Flambo is an ecstatic warrior who exults in battle and bloodshed. He dances and whirls on the battlefield, killing to his left, and slaughtering to his right. He is aflame with passion, bloodlust, and the heat of battle. He is akin to rampaging Anat, Kali or Sekhmet or Odin’s shamanic berserk warriors.
Ogou la Flambo is scary Ogun—unless he is fighting for you! (He’s scary then too: stay out of his way until he’s done.) Nothing can stop him. He is the blind, inexorable force of destruction.
• At his best, Ogou la Flambo destroys injustice, oppression, and tyranny.
• At his worst, Ogou la Flambo is a bloodthirsty, violent force that must exhaust itself, as once activated, it cannot be stopped.
Flambéed overproof rum, trail of gunpowder set ablaze (be careful!), bullets, weapons, iron
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Ogou Kriminel, Ogoun Kriminel
What’s that old joke about there being a very thin line between police and thieves? Ogou Kriminel crosses that line. Ogou Kriminel is thug or gangster Ogun invoked by criminals for protection, especially from law enforcement and incarceration. On the other hand, as the biggest, baddest criminal, Ogou Kriminel may be invoked to destroy or remove other criminals when other methods have failed. (Be careful: he’s dangerous.) He is identified with Saint Elias.
- List of Lwa
- Baron Kriminel Bahlindjo
- Bizango Spirits
- Ezili Dantor
- Ezili Freda Dahomey
- Orisha Oko
- Padilha, Maria
- Seven African Powers
- Ezili Gé Rouge
- Ezili La Flambeau
- Bizango Spirits
- Ezili Gé Rouge
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.