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.
African-American Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2007
References in periodicals archive ?
The 21- day annual event is organised by the Aare Gani Adams-led-members of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), through the Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF).
As great sons and daughters of the Yoruba race, we must not fail in our duty to project the cultural identity of the Yoruba race as it is being promoted by Aare Adams, through the Olokun Festival Foundation and the OPC.'
Adams continued, 'for a very long time now, Olokun Festival Foundation (OFF) has consistently promoted the true cultural heritage of our race.
HUNDREDS of tourists from different parts of the world will on the 24th of October 2019 converge on Badagry, Lagos State for this year's edition of the annual Olokun Festival.
HUNDREDS of tourists from different parts of the world will on the 24th of October 2019 converge in Badagry, Lagos State for this year's edition of the annual Olokun festival.
The chief promoter of Olokun Festival Foundation and National coordinator of Oodua Peoples' Congress, Aare Gani Adams, said the organisation had never been found wanting in the core value of the group.
Adams said the title of the Aare Onakakanfo is a prestigious title in Yoruba land, describing past holders of the title as eminent personalities, adding that the Olokun Festival Foundation is an available platform for him to promote the identity and tradition of the race.
Excitement over the Oba's visit was heightened because it coincided with the Olokun festival which had been on for a week.
Our organisation, the Oodua People's Congress (OPC), the Olokun Festival Foundation,( OFF), is the only group that celebrates Eledumare Festival and I am indeed, very grateful to God that we are all alive to witness this glorious day.
Inasmuch as the focus of my struggle has changed over the years from the heady days of the Oodua People's Congress (OPC) to the spread of our culture through the formation of the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU), which is now in 79 countries, the Olokun Festival Foundation, Gani Adams Foundation and many others, this new responsibility, despite my age, has unwittingly forced the stature of a statesman on me.
Speaking last Friday at the 2018 edition of the Olumo festival which was organised by the Olokun Festival Foundation in Ikija, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oba Gbadebo, said the promotion of the Language is vital to the development of the race.
Oodua Festival is an annual festival championed by Olokun Festival Foundation, to celebrate the progenitor of Yoruba race and pray for more blessings and unity in among the Yoruba, the annual event features traditional rites, beauty pageant lectures and entertainment and it is always celebrated in Ile-Ife.