is an Orisha
An Orisha is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system....
in Yoruba religion, associated with the sea. Olokun is therefore considered the patron Orisa of the descendants of Africans that were carried away during the Transatlantic Slave Trade
The Atlantic slave trade, also known as the trans-atlantic slave trade, refers to the trade in slaves that took place across the Atlantic ocean from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries...
or Middle Passage
The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were shipped to the New World, as part of the Atlantic slave trade...
, sometimes referred to in the United States by African-Americans as the Maafa
The Maafa refers to the 500 years of suffering of Africans and the African diaspora, through slavery, imperialism, colonialism, invasion, oppression, dehumanization and exploitation...
. It works closely with Oya
In Yoruba mythology, Oya , is the Undergoddess of the Niger River. Oya has been syncretized in Santería with the Catholic images of the Virgin of Candelaria.-Aspects:...
(Deity of the Winds) and Egungun
Egungun is a part of the Yoruba pantheon of divinities. In the indeginous religious system of the West African tribe of that name, the spirit is of central importance...
(Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Iku
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....
Life is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased , or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate...
and the transition of human beings and spirit
The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...
s between these two existences.
Olokun has male or female personifications, depending on what region of West Africa He/She is worshipped. It is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty
A royal family is the extended family of a king or queen regnant. The term imperial family appropriately describes the extended family of an emperor or empress, while the terms "ducal family", "grand ducal family" or "princely family" are more appropriate to describe the relatives of a reigning...
personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).
Olokun also signifies unfathomable wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...
. That is, the instinct that there is something worth knowing, perhaps more than can ever be learned, especially the spiritual sciences that most people spend a lifetime pondering. It also governs material wealth, psychic
A psychic is a person who professes an ability to perceive information hidden from the normal senses through extrasensory perception , or is said by others to have such abilities. It is also used to describe theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation, cold reading, and hot...
abilities, dreaming, meditation, mental health and water-based healing. Olokun is one of many Orisa known to help women that desire children. It is also worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneur
An entrepreneur is an owner or manager of a business enterprise who makes money through risk and initiative.The term was originally a loanword from French and was first defined by the Irish-French economist Richard Cantillon. Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to...
s and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.
Olokun is still revered in modern Lagos
Lagos is a port and the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. With a population of 7,937,932, it is currently the third most populous city in Africa after Cairo and Kinshasa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa...
, and Eyo Olokun masquerades are among the main attractions at the Eyo festival
The Eyo Festival or Adamu Orisha Play is a Yoruba festival unique to Lagos, Nigeria. In modern times, it is presented as a family outing and tourist event. is usually performed in Lagos Island. The word "Eyo" also refers to the masquerades that come out during the festival. The origins of this...
Yemoja-Olokun-Mami Wata connections
The term Afro-Cuban refers to Cubans of Sub Saharan African ancestry, and to historical or cultural elements in Cuba thought to emanate from this community...
lineages worship Olokun in tandem with Yemoja (Yemaya/Yemanja). In the past Lukumi and Santería
Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....
worshippers considered these two Orisha to be manifestations of one another, although Western devotees believe that they are distinct but kindred energies that were paired together during the Maafa as a way of preserving both Orisha traditions. In nature, the bottom of the ocean represents Olokun.
However in Africa, Yemoja is the divinity of the Ogun River
The Ogun River is a waterway in Nigeria that discharges into the Lagos Lagoon.-Course and usage:The river rises in Oyo State near Shaki at coordinates and flow through Ogun State into Lagos State....
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...
and Olokun is considered the mother of all bodies of water. As such, she is the principal vicereigne
A viceroy is a royal official who runs a country, colony, or province in the name of and as representative of the monarch. The term derives from the Latin prefix vice-, meaning "in the place of" and the French word roi, meaning king. A viceroy's province or larger territory is called a viceroyalty...
to Olodumare in matters that pertain to both oceans AND rivers. In Edo State (the former Bendel State), Olokun is the patron Spirit of the Ethiope River. In Benin, the deities are referred to as Ebo', not Orisa.
In Nigeria and Benin, Olokun is sometimes worshipped in tandem with Mami Wata
Mami Wata is venerated in West, Central, Southern Africa, and in the African diaspora in the Caribbean and parts of North and South America. Mami Wata spirits are usually female, but are sometimes male.-Appearance:...
. They do have similar temperaments and personas.
Lukumi Orisa worshippers in the United States and the Caribbean do not initiate Olokun priests. However, in their traditions, you can receive an Olokun shrine for personal prosperity. Omo Olokun or children of Olokun are typically initiated to Yemoja in Lukumi lineages. In other Orisa lineages and "sects" in the west, particularly Oyotunji, Anago and all indigene Orisa’Ifa, initiations to Olokun do take place. In addition, Olokun initiation can be undertaken by way of Benin spiritual lineages.
Two origin stories of Olokun worship
Benin is widely accepted as the home or origin of Olokun worsip. While most Olokun initiates in Africa are female, the legends that mark the beginning of Olokun worship feature stories of men being its initial worshipers.
There was a hunter that resided in Urhonigbe in the Edo kingdom of Benin. One day, he ventured off into the woods on a hunting expedition. While chasing a bush pig, he was attracted to the river Ethiope where he was captured and taken to the bottom of the river by a band of spirits. It was here that he was introduced to the deity Olokun. He stayed in this underwater abode for three years and, in the course of those three years, he was encouraged to participate in spiritual rituals that went on all the time. By so doing, he learned the spiritual sciences and worship practices associated with Olokun.
Back in his home town, his family and neighbors assumed he was dead after being gone for such a long time. They were surprised to say the least when he returned on the day his three year tour ended mute (without the ability of speech), carrying a water pot on his head. His only response to their queries was to dance hysterically, much to the shock of the townsfolk. Eventually the crowd that had gathered began to mock his dance and it started what was to become a 14-day tribute of ritual dancing to Olokun. At the end of this period, the hunter began to talk again and chose to share some of his experiences. All skepticism about his story were eased as he began to do spiritual work that created positive results for those around him. He was named chief priest of Olokun at this point. Even until today, hunters re-enact this famous tribesman's life with the annual festival and Ekaba dance. Urhoniigbe's Olokun temple sits on the spot where he is said to have rested his Olokun pot on the 14th day.
The palm tree
In Ebvoesi, there was a boy named Omobe (rascal, troublesome child) that had great physical ability and was trained to be a wrestler. As he grew older, his wrestling abilities grew stronger and before long he was considered the greatest wrestler in the world. At his birth, the local priest/diviner warned his parents to not allow Omobe to climb palm trees. But one day while his parents were away, he decided to climb a palm tree any way. From high up he could peer into the spirit world and he noticed that several divinities had gathered for a fantastic wrestling match! He immediately climbed down and made his way to the spirit world to test his own luck amongst a variety of spirits. He beat every opponent. Ancestors, Undergods and all others lost at his hands, even Ogun
Ogun can refer to:*Ogoun , a divinity in Yoruba and Haitian mythology*Ogun River, a river in southwestern Nigeria*Ogun State, a state in southwestern Nigeria*Ogun Records, a record label...
. Finally, he prepared to wrestle Olokun. While he summoned all of his physical strength, Olokun drew on his spiritual powers.
During the match, Omobe attempted to throw Olokun to the ground, but instead Olokun ended up firmly attached to his head. All attempts at removing Olokun from his head failed and Olokun declared it his permanent abode as a sign of Omobe's arrogance and disrespect towards the other spirits. When Omobe returned home, the local priest/diviner advised him to appease Olokun or die. So for seven days, Omobe made sacrifices. On the last day, Omobe was initiated as the first Olokun priest. After this, Olokun loosened his grip on Omobe's life and gave him peace.
Even so, it was subsequently said to all rascally children that Omobe's lack of respect for constituted authority had landed him in dire straits and that if they did not alter their ways they might share the same fate.
Contradictory stories in Orisa culture
In Orisa culture, it appears that some stories contradict or compete with other ones. The disparities or differences that exist are well understood by indigenous practitioners. They are seen as a way by which the spirits recommend that one researches various avenues of traditional religion, worship, practice and initiation within the Orisa system. Furthermore, while the stories are regarded as fact, they are also understood to be indicators of historical and social factors, which obviously differ from region to region.
Communion with Olokun
Those with a connection to Olokun may experience her/his messages and healing through dreams and when in contact with the ocean. Priests may use mirrors in a divination system known as scrying
Scrying is a magic practice that involves seeing things psychically in a medium, usually for purposes of obtaining spiritual visions and less often for purposes of divination or fortune-telling. The most common media used are reflective, translucent, or luminescent substances such as crystals,...
, clouds (sky-gazing) and more familiar oracles like Merindinlogun
Merindinlogun is a cowrie-shell divination method practiced in the Yoruba religion, and of several Afro-American religions derived from it, that uses sixteen cowrie shells....
(16-cowry divination) to communicate with Olokun on behalf of his or her self, client, community or nation.
A prayer to Olokun
Iba Olokun fe mi lo're. Iba Olokun omo re wa se fun oyi o.
I praise the Spirit of the vast Ocean. I praise the Spirit of the Ocean who is beyond understanding.
Olokun nu ni o si o ki e lu re ye toray. B'omi ta'afi. B'emi ta'afi.
Spirit of the Ocean, I will worship you, as long as there is water in the Sea.
Let there be peace in the ocean. Let there be peace in my soul.
Olokun ni'ka le. Mo juba. Ase.
The Spirit of the Ocean, the ageless one, I give respect. May it be so.
Relationships as allegories
In female form among the Yoruba, Olokun is the wife of Olorun
Olòrún is the Yorùbá name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions , Who is either the sole entity in monotheism, or a single entity in polytheism...
and, by him, the mother of Obatala
In the religion of the Yoruba people, Obàtálá is the creator of human bodies, which were supposedly brought to life by Olorun's breath.Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha,...
and Odudua. Other relationships are numerous, especially when the gender of Olokun changes. Again, while these relationships are taken quite literally, they actually serve to tell occult members which Orisa work well together in healing situations, as well as to provide historical references to relationships between communities that serve as centers or hosts to main shrines for each of these Orisa.
Olokun is worshipped in Benin
Benin , officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in West Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north. Its small southern coastline on the Bight of Benin is where a majority of the population is located...
Togo, officially the Togolese Republic , is a country in West Africa bordered by Ghana to the west, Benin to the east and Burkina Faso to the north. It extends south to the Gulf of Guinea, on which the capital Lomé is located. Togo covers an area of approximately with a population of approximately...
and among the Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...
The Yoruba people are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language...
- Olokun: Patron Deity of the African Race, Iya Afin Aybunmi Sangode
- Olookun Owner of Rivers and Seas, John Mason
- Charles Spencer King.,"Nature's Ancient Religion" ISBN 978-1440417337
- Yemoja / Olokun: Ifa and the Spirit of the Ocean, Awo Fa'Lokun Fatunmbi
- Oriki Orisa, Vol. 1, Awo Falokun Fatunmbi
- Olokun, the divinity of fortune, Osadolor Imasogie
- Olokun: a focal symbol of religion and art in Benin, Alfred Omokaro Izevbigie
- African Mid Sculpture, Ulli Beier
- The art of Benin, Paula Ben-Amo
- The musical instruments of the Ẹdo-speaking peoples of south-western Nigeria, Åke Norborg
- Symbolism in Olokun Mud Art, Paula Ben-Amos
- The Initiation of a Priestess: Performance and Imagery in Olokun Ritual, Joseph Nevadomsky and Norma Rosen
- Chalk Iconography in Olokun Worship, Norma Rosen
- Mbari and Olokun Compared, Nigeria Magazine
- The history of ancient Benin Kingdom and Empire, Daniel Nabuleleorogie Oronsaye
- Black Gods--Òrìṣà studies in the New World, Gary Edwards, John Mason