Olokun

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Eyo Olokun masquerades at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos.

Olokun is an Orisha in Yoruba religion, associated with the sea.[1] It works closely with Oya (Deity of the Winds) and Egungun (Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Iku, Aye and the transition of human beings and spirits between these two existences.

Olokun has male or female personifications, depending on what region of West Africa He/She is worshipped.[1] It is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty 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. 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 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, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.

In female form among the Yoruba, Olokun is the wife of Olorun and, by him, the mother of Obatala 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they actually serve to tell occult members which Orisa work well together in healing situations, as well as to provide historical references to relationships between communities that serve as centers or hosts to main shrines for each of these Orisa.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, Togo and among the Edo and Yoruba in Nigeria. In African diasporic religions, Olokun is sometimes considered the patron Orisa of the African diaspora, the descendants of those who were carried away during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.[by whom?][citation needed] Olokun is still revered in modern Lagos, and Eyo Olokun masquerades are among the main attractions at the Eyo festival.

Mythology[edit]

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.

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. 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.

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.

Diasporic religions[edit]

Yemoja-Olokun-Mami Wata connections[edit]

Some Afro-Cuban lineages worship Olokun in tandem with Yemoja (Yemaya/Yemanja). In the past Lukumi and Santería 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 in Nigeria and Olokun is considered the mother of all bodies of water. As such, she is the principal vicereigne 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. They do have similar temperaments and personas.

Olokun priesthood[edit]

Lukumi Orisa worshippers in the U.S 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 "sectors" 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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Clark, Mary Ann (2007). Santería : correcting the myths and uncovering the realities of a growing religion. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-275-99079-4. 

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