Introducing Ògún The Yoruba Pantheon’s First Civil Engineer
Yorúbá mythology is one of the richest and most developed in the world. Many mythology enthusiasts argue that it is at par with Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies.
Unfortunately, Nollywood and proselytising on the part of the adherents of Abraham faiths have demonised the principal characters of our mythologies, and the misrepresentation of these characters (especially in Nigerian films) has led to national apathy towards them. Ògún, Sàngó, and Èshù stand shoulder to shoulder with their Norse counterparts, Heimdall, Thor, and Loki, in terms of cultural significance, their delineation and the diabolism associated with the worship of the Yorúbá gods have seen them have near-zero significance nor appreciation in popular culture. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has propelled the Norse into the consciousness of many people.
Now Sangobiyi in Iragbiji thinks Thor is the cute, “proper god” who wields the powerful hammer, Mjolnir,
if only he were exposed to Arabanbi’s exploits! But today, it is Ògún who has caught our attention. The Yorúbá god of war and iron is celebrated in many cultures around the world, from West Africa to the Caribbean.
So who is he?
Ògún is primordial and cosmic; he was present at the dawn of creation alongside an eclectic and exotic collection of other gods who were sent to earth by the supreme god,Olodumare. On their way to earth, the gods encountered primordial chaos that stopped them in their tracks. And as much as they tried, they couldn’t find a way through! But
cometh the hour cometh the man. Ògún has never been one to shy away from challenges; his Achilles heel is insistent on meeting challenges head-on. So, he deployed iron to fashion a path through primordia chaos creating a pathway for the other gods to access earth while also cementing his legacy as the first Civil Engineer…
Ògún is passionate, intense, authoritarian, cautious and impulsive. A pattern is beginning to emerge, right? That’s because Ògún is something of a paradox. Many myth heads have referred to him as a paradoxical god; he is the god of creativity and destruction. He is an embodiment of contradictions; Ògún kills indiscriminately yet he is equally capable of charitable deeds like giving his clothes away. Ògún bask in chaos Exploits?
Apart from his cosmic-level feats, Ògún is a seasoned warlord, with an At one point, Ògún was the King of the Ire people (in present-day Osun State). He is a general who lead from the front. He was a fierce warrior who decimated the enemies and, in an explicable frenzy, turned on his men and slaughtered them.
Why is He Revered?
From his origin story, Ògún has displayed a penchant for creativity and for embracing challenges. He is the patron god of hunters, creators, drivers, and blacksmiths. Despite the popularity of Christianity and Islam in Nigeria, many drivers and other road users still believe Ògún controls the highway, so it is not unusual to see them offer him libations before embarking on any journey.
Another important aspect of Ògún’s character is his association with war. He is often invoked by warriors before a battle and is believed to grant them strength and courage in combat. He is also seen as a protector of soldiers and is sometimes invoked to help wounded warriors recover from their injuries.
In addition to his warlike nature, Ògún is also associated with justice and fair play. He is seen as a defender of the oppressed and the weak. He is invoked to help those wronged to seek justice.
His Status in Pop Culture
Sadly, Ògún hasn’t enjoyed much popularity in popular culture. Narratives can shape perspectives, and the narratives around Ògún aren’t endearing. There is a need to start retelling Ògún’s story; he is a flawed character, but who isn’t? Zeus is a womaniser, and Odin has one or two pockets of genocide under his belt. This author desires that an entertainment giant like Netflix will commission a series that will revolve around Ògún. I am not holding my breath, though. Uli Beier’s poetry perfectly captures Ògún’s essence:
Ògún is the forest god.
He gives all his clothes to the beggars.
He gives one to the woodcock — who dyes it in indigo.
He gives one to the coucal — who dyes it in camwood.
He gives one to the cattle egret — who leaves it white.
Ògún’s laughter is no joke.
His enemies scatter in all directions.
The butterflies do not have to see the leopard –
As soon as they smell his shit
They scatter in all directions!
Master of iron, chief of robbers,
You have water, but you bathe in blood.
The light shining on your face
Is not easy to behold:
Ògún, with the bloody cap,
Let me see the red of your eye.
Ògún is not like pounded yam:
Do you think you can knead him in your hand
And eat of him until you are satisfied?
Do you think Ògún is something you can throw into your cap
And walk away with it?
Ògún is a mad god
Who will ask questions after seven hundred and eighty years?
Ògún have pity on me:
Whether I can reply or whether I cannot reply:
Ògún don’t ask me anything!
The lion never allows anybody to play with his cub.
Ògún will never allow his child to be punished.
Ògún, do not reject me!
Does the woman who spins ever reject a spindle?
Does the woman who dyes ever reject a cloth?
Does the eye that sees ever reject a sight?
Ògún, do not reject me.
Source: Yoruba Poetry (1970) by Uli Beier