Olokun Festival

Olokun Festival

Date Observed: Last weekend in February
Location: Oyotunji African Village,
South Carolina

The Olokun Festival in the Oyotunji African Village near Sheldon, South Carolina, honors an orisha (spirit or deity) known as Olokun (or Olocun) on the last weekend in February. In the Yoruba religion that originated in west Africa, Olokun means "owner of the oceans." Honoring Olokun is just one of nine festivals for an orisha held each year in the Oyotunji African Village (see also Ifa Festival and Yoruba National Convention).

Historical Background

Orisha myths and rituals are basic to the Yoruba religion, which began in Nigeria centuries ago. The orishas represent the forces of nature, and serve as patrons or "guardian angels" for those who worship them. Their characteristics and patakis (stories) are similar to those of ancient Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. However, unlike the inaccessible Greek and Roman deities, the orishas live among their followers in all natural and manufactured objects. Specific colors, numbers, natural elements, icons, drum rhythms, and dance steps are associated with each orisha.

Olokun may be represented as a male or female, or both. Some icons picture this orisha as a mermaid; others as a deep sea king rather like the Greek god Neptune. There are two sides of Olokun: one characterizes the dangerous elements of the ocean that can capsize ships, flood land, and drown people. The other personifies the wealth and mysteries at the bottom of the sea.

For followers, Olokun signifies limitless wisdom - more than can ever be learned or understood. The orisha also has power over dreams, psychic abilities, meditation, mental health, and wealth.

Creation of the Festival

The Olokun Festival began in 1970 when the Oyotunji African Village was founded as a kingdom patterned after those in west Africa. The Olokun Festival was established to celebrate the Yoruba orisha of the deep sea and protector of the African soul.


During the festival, devotees visit a shrine that contains Olokun's colors of deep blue and white, and the orisha's number, 7. Batáa drummers perform special rhythms for Olokun, and dancers may offer prayers (see also Honoring Santería Orishas).

Contacts and Web Sites

Kingdom of Oyotunji African Village Highway 17, P.O. Box 51 Sheldon, SC 29941 843-846-8900

Lukumi Church of the Orishas 1756 E. 172nd St. Bronx, NY 10472 718-597-9600

Further Reading

Edward, Gary, and John Mason. Black Gods: Orisa Studies in the New World. Brooklyn, NY: Yoruba Theological Archministry, 1998. Ellis, A. B. Yoruba-Speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast of West Africa. 1894. Internet Sacred Text Archive, 1999. Mason, John. Olookun: Owner of Rivers and Seas. Brooklyn, NY: Yoruba Theological Archministry, 1996.