From the 16th through the 19th centuries, European ships carried African slaves to the Americas as cargo which was traded for products such as sugar, rum, and cotton. As a result of this massive slave diaspora, more than 70 million people in Africa and the Americas participate in, or are closely familiar with, religions that include Ogun, one of many African deities which were carried to the Americas by African slaves.
Traditionally, Ogun was viewed as the god of hunting, iron, and warfare. When ironworking first began to emerge in Africa, iron was seen as having mystical properties and the people who made iron and those who used it were seen as having access to these mystical properties. Sacred rituals were performed in the iron-making process and these rituals served as a formulaic way of remembering the steps and ingredients’ involved in the process.
Ogun was traditionally the god of the blacksmith who made the tools, such as plows and hoes, which fed the people; the blacksmith also made the weapons of war, which killed people. Ogun is, therefore, seen as both creator and destroyer.
Ogun was originally one god in a polytheistic pantheon in oral religious traditions, and these traditions have not had organized institutional bodies to standardize, perpetuate, or promulgate any specific ideology of Ogun.
In today’s world, hunting, iron, and warfare have less importance to the daily lives of the people, and Ogun, whose popularity has been increasing, is now seen to have a realm which includes many new elements ranging from highway safety to modern technology. In other words, Ogun is the god of anything involving metal, danger, or transportation.
In the Americas today, it is common for those who participate in the various Ogun religions to also participate in a number of different religious traditions. While monotheists, such as Christians and Muslims, may have difficulty with the idea of being able to participate in multiple religions, for polytheistic people this does present any dilemmas. For polytheists, people should be able to pick and choose the rituals and practices in which they participate based on their personal needs and motivations rather than on some abstract belief of exclusivity.
Welcome to Street Prophets Saturday, an open thread. Feel free to talk about Ogun, or to change the topic to some other god, or no god, or, perhaps, talk about what’s for dinner.