Ogun Festival

(redirected from Olojo Festival)

Ogun Festival (Olojo Festival)

Type of Holiday: Religious (Yoruba)
Date of Observation: July
Where Celebrated: Ife, Oyo State (Nigeria)
Symbols and Customs: Crown, Iron ORIGINS

The Ogun Festival is observed by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, whose religion is based on ancient oral traditions. Beliefs and practices are preserved by passing history, customs, and traditions from one generation to the next. Authority for interpreting events and establishing proper conduct of ethics and morals rests with a bureaucratic structure of rulers who function in both religious and political realms.

According to traditional Yoruba belief, all power in the universe emanates from a supreme being, Olodumare. Olodumare, known as the owner of everlasting abundance, among many other praise names, holds all power and is the giver of all life. Olodumare is the mystical remote source of all things and is not identified by gender. All that exists, including supernatural divine realities and natural earth realities, are part of Olodumare.

As the supreme almighty source, Olodumare is directly involved in the affairs of the earth through a complex core of sub-divinities called orisa. The orisa are authoritative divine emissaries and serve as intermediaries between the people of earth and Olodumare. They are the major objects of veneration and ritual obligation. The names and number of orisa vary according to national and local custom, but they number in the hundreds. Some are more nationally known while others may be only venerated according to localized custom.

The Ogun Festival commemorates the god Ogun, a mythical warrior, and the birth of his son, Oranmiyan, who later became king of Yorubaland. Ogun is the god of IRON and of war, as well as the patron of blacksmiths and hunters. He was the first god to descend to earth while it was still a marshy wasteland. Since he was the only one who possessed a tool-an iron cutlass-that could penetrate the dense vegetation, he cleared the way for the other deities to descend. When Obatala had finished molding the physical form of the first ancestors, it was Ogun who added the finishing touches-a role he played throughout all of creation. He continues to preside over the "finishing touches" of culture, such as circumcisions and the cutting of tribal marks.

The Ogun Festival lasts for three days. It begins with the vigil known as the Ilagun or Asoro, which takes place at midnight. On behalf of its blacksmiths, the city of Ife donates two new hoes and several iron bell-gongs needed for the ritual. The Ogun shrine in Ife is decorated with palm fronds, and two dogs are prepared for sacrifice. A libation is poured, prayers to the god are offered, and a ritual dance is held around the shrine.

The city is in a festive mood for the remainder of the festival, when the war chiefs in full regalia dance to the tune of the ibembe drums and bell-gongs made of iron while traditional Ogun songs are sung. The highlight is the procession from the Ogun Festival

palace to Oke Mogun, where Ogun finally settled after abdicating the throne. The chief, who wears the royal CROWN of Ife, is accompanied by priests and priestesses of the various other gods and goddesses worshipped by the Yoruba. Guns are fired when they arrive at the shrine. Special rituals are carried out there, and a ram is sacrificed to the dead ancestors or Oonis.

The dances performed at the Ogun Festival reenact mythical themes and are choreographed according to traditional models. Sometimes they consist of simple gestures-such as swinging a machete-that recall the god's powers. Although Ogun is traditionally regarded as the patron of blacksmiths, who unlock the secrets of the earth and forge them into tools, nowadays he is worshipped by drivers and surgeons as the god of automobiles, trucks, and the operating room. Since metal makes the creation and expansion of civilization possible, Ogun is seen as the god who "opens the way"; that is, he makes it possible for the powers of other gods to be effective.



In the procession that is the highlight of the Ogun Festival, the chief wears the beaded crown known as Are, which is supposed to be as heavy as the load that an average man can carry. The crown symbolizes a living deity and therefore attracts many invisible spirits when it is brought out for the annual event. The people of Ife believe that it is the power of the crown that usually causes rain to fall on this day.


Ogun is the god or orisha of iron, which can be transformed into the peaceful tools of agriculture as well as the terrible weapons of war. His iron cutlass stands as a symbol of his power, which can be channeled toward both creative and destructive ends. People who are asked to swear to tell the truth in a court of law and who will not swear on the Bible or the Qur'an are sometimes asked to put their tongue and lips on a cutlass made of iron. In one of the palaces of Ife, there is a large lump of iron that people touch to guarantee that they're telling the truth.

As the one who shapes iron, the blacksmith plays an important role in African mythology. The ability to turn fire and earthy substances into the products of civilization is seen as a parallel to the creation of the world. The smith is regarded as the chief agent of God on earth, the one who shapes the world.


Bellenir, Karen. Religious Holidays and Calendars. 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2004. Eliade, Mircea. The Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan, 1987. King, Noel Q. Religions of Africa: A Pilgrimage into Traditional Religions. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. MacDonald, Margaret R., ed. The Folklore of World Holidays. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. Murphy, Joseph M. Santería: African Spirits in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1988.
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009
References in periodicals archive ?
The Ifa oral tradition reveals that the Are crown is very heavy and it is believed that the Ooni is spiritually empowered to wear it during the Olojo festival; the crown is too heavy for him to bear on any other day.
We were invited to attend the Olojo Festival by His Imperial Majesty The Ooni of Ife, who is the global leader of Yoruba and King of the Osun State in Nigeria.
Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, King of Yorubas and Promoter of Olojo Festival
There are sacred enchantments and song that often prelude the commencement of Olojo festival as part of the ritual of the celebration, as women from Eredumi compound enter into Ile oduduwa to herald the arrival of Olojo festival, which is the pourri festival of all deities in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, such as "Gbajure!
Hajia Abdul disclosed 'Ooni Ojaja commenced peaceful acts by empowering several women in cleaning the ancient towns, empowering youth via planting of Cocoa plantation, planting of Ife Grand Resort, declaring ile - Ife a Tourism Zone, rebranding Olojo Festival and turning Ife into a tourism destination.
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, has commended leading telecommunications service provider, Airtel Nigeria, for its sponsorship of the Olojo Festival. Speaking when the Airtel team paid him a courtesy visit, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Ogunwusi expressed appreciation to Airtel for sponsoring the festival.
Though the annual Olojo Festival in the ancient city of Ile-Ife has remained a melting point for tribes, races and celebration of the rich Yoruba cultural heritage, this year's festivities held within the Oduduwa House, where the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi is located was unique with glamour and finesse which further added global appeal to the historical event.
Aregbesola made these disclosures at the grand finale of the annual Olojo festival held inside the Oduduwa House, in Ile-Ife, where the palace of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi is located.
The Arole Oodua and Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II on Sunday moved into Iledi house at Iremo quaters in Ile-Ife where he will remain incommunicado in an annual seven-day seclusion kick-starting the 2018 OLOJO FESTIVAL.
AS preparation for this year Olojo festival in the historical city of Ile-Ife gather momentum, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi has commenced 7-day seclusion inside Iledi House, located at Iremo quarters to perform traditional rites before the grand finale of the agelong festival
Oba Ogunwusi made the call in his palace in Ile-Ife while addressing newsmen as part of programmes to herald the annual Olojo festival.