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Who is the Orisa Called Olokun?

Thu, May 8, 2008

Research, Traditional Afrikan

Who is the Orisa Called Olokun?

Olokun is quite the Orisa. Known as both in male and female personifications, depending on what region of west Africa He/She is worshipped, Olokun is personified in patience, endurance, observation, wisdom, history of the past, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. It’s name means Owner of the Ocean.

Olokun is the patron saint of Africans that were carried away during the Maafa, or what is sometimes referred to as the Trans – Atlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage of Africans. Olokun works closely with Oya and Egungun to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship.

Olokun 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 explain birth, life, death and afterlife. Olokun 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. People that want to maintain power or desire political ascension also worship Olokun.

Yemoja-Olokun-Mami Wata Connections
Some Afro-Cuban lineages worship Olokun in tandem with Yemoja (Yemaya/Yemanja). In the past Lukumi and Santeria worshippers considered these two Orisa to be manifestations of one other, although we know now that they are distinct, but kindred energies that were paired together during the Maafa as a way of preserving both Orisa traditions. In nature, the bottom of the ocean represents Olokun. Yemoja is usually considered to the visible sections of the ocean in the West. However in Africa, Yemoja is the divinity of Ogun River in Nigeria and Olokun is considered the mother of all bodies of water and as such is considered owner chiefly of the ocean, but all rivers. In Bendel State Olokun is the patron Orisa of Ethiope River.

In Nigeria and Benin, Olokun is sometimes worshipped in tandem with Mami Wata. They have similar temperaments and personas. While some seem determined to figure out which precedes which, their origins and whether either is a recipient of European influence I would prefer to simply confirm that they are both genuine African divinities and that all else is anti-spiritual intellectual curiosity that does nothing to heighten ones spiritual practice or uplift African spiritual traditions.

With this knowledge I prefer to worship Yemoja, Olokun and Mami Wata as separate and equally important water divinities.

Olokun Priests / Priesthood?
Olokun has priesthood members in Africa and the United States. On June 12th, 2004 the webmaster of Roots and Rooted was initiated into the Olokun priesthood.
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 (children of Olokun) are typically initiated to Yemoja in Lukumi lineages. In other Orisa lineages and “sects” in the west, particularly Oyotunji, Anago and all indigene Orisa’Ifa you will see that initiations to Olokun do take place. Luckily for us, the peril of death and insanity that has been rumored to be the fate of Olokun initiates is nothing more than a reasonable warning; be sure that the initiating priests know what they are doing!

Two Origin Stories of Olokun Worship
While most Olokun initiates in Africa are female, the legends that mark the beginning of Olokun worship feature stories of men being their initial worshippers.
The Hunter
There was a hunter that resided in Urhoniigbe. One day he ventured off into the woods to find the source of distant singing and was met by a King and his court. He decided to stay awhile and at the invitation of the King participate in a spiritual ritual that was to take place. He ended up staying as the guest of the King (who is Olokun, if you haven’t guessed by now.) for the following three (3) years. During this time he learned the spiritual sciences and worship practices associated with Olokun. His family and neighbors assumed he was dead after being gone so long. They were surprised to say the least when he returned mute and dumbfounded (without the ability of speech or general sensibilities) carrying a water pot on his head. He only danced to the shock of 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 his 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-act this famous prodigal son’s life with the annual festival and Ekabo dance. Urhoniigbe’s Olokun temple sits on the spot where he rested his Olokun pot/shrine on the 14th day.

The Palm Tree

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, Gods 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 sacrifice. On the last day Omobe was initiated as the first Olokun priest. After this Olokun loosened his grip on Omobe’s life.

It is said that Omobe’s lack of respect for his parent’s, and spiritual elders and the divinities had landed his in such dire straits.

Edo State, Nigeria
In Edo State of Nigeria, the people called Bini (Benin City) regard Her as the mother of all creation, so they worship Olokun. Olokun governs fertility, social status and wealth and as such is very popular. Every year in Usonigbe a festival is held for Olokun. This is considered one of the first places that Olokun shrines were ever be constructed.

Communion with Olokun
Those with a connection with Olokun may experience Her messages and healing through dreams and when in contact with the ocean. Priests may use mirrors, cloud reading (sky-gazing) and more familiar divination systems like cowry reading to communicate with Olokun.

Conclusion
For some, Olokun is the stern mother who does not play games. Yet for some, She becomes a He that is the King. In any case He/She possesses an air of regalness, a sense of purpose and a power to make the impossible happen. Olokun is hard and soft like the ocean that can both caress you and drown you. Olokun is the epitome of history. ancient past, reputation and knowledge. Do you respect your elders?

Olokun is the tide that comes in and out His children find wealth
in due time. They find a remedy to their spiritual and material yearnings after a long Journey (external and internal) and applied patience. (Who can rush a King?)

A Prayer to Olokun
Iba Olokun fe mi lo’re. Iba Olokun omo re wa se fun oyi o.
I praise the Spirit of the vast Ocean. I praise the Spirit of the Ocean who is beyond understanding.

Olokun nu ni o si o ki e lu re ye toray. B’omi ta’afi. B’emi ta’afi.
Spirit of the Ocean, I will worship you, as long as there is water in the Sea.
Let there be peace in the ocean. Let there be peace in my soul.

Olokun ni’ka le. Mo juba. Ase.
The Spirit of the Ocean, the ageless one, I give respect. May it be so.

Photos

Bibliography

Resources

We supply the world with insight into Olokun @ wikipedia which is a free-content encyclopedia, written collaboratively by people from around the world.

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20 Comments For This Post

  1. Ariel Adorno Says:

    ummmm in my house my head was going to be olokun but from what i was told since olokun kant be nobodys head Shango took me instead is this tru can this happen

  2. admin Says:

    Ariel, it’s true that Lucumi/Santeria worshippers do not and will not initiate individuals to Olokun. In systems that practice in an indigenous manner, that is by way of Africa and not Cuba, it is possible to be initiated to Olokun and it does happen. These initiations are still pretty rare in the U.S. but they happen without incident or problems.

    As the story goes, in Cuba some of the rituals and the rites to Olokun initiation were lost during the Maafa (Slave Trade) and continuing the initiations became particularly dangerous. It was decided at that time to discontinue Lucumi initiations to Olokun.

  3. Ariel Adorno Says:

    i have another question does it matter whos your head shango is my head but some people say a female is sapose to be your head like oya or ochun or yemaya can you help me with this kause people get me cofused does it really matter if its a male or female that is your head kause my aunt has a male head and she is in another house and my god father has male head…. thank you for your help

  4. katrina Says:

    maferefun olokun!

  5. Heather Says:

    I don’t think it matters what sex your head is. In my House (Sarava Umbanda!) our heads are just whichever orisha is *us*, and then we have our contrasexual parent. For example, I am currently trying to confirm, through meditation and other methods, Olokun as head and Oya as contrasexual parent. As a female, I would have a male head. (My particular variety of Olokun(s) tend to have both male and female attributes, however.)

    This is one person’s view, please don’t take it as any sort of gospel. It’s an anecdotal tale from my own House. But I hope it helps.

  6. admin Says:

    The process you describe for determining your Orisa is not within Orisa’Ifa tradition. You cannot use a process outside of Orisa to determine Orisa.

  7. Shakti Says:

    I have been a water goddess all of my life. I had a reading and it revealed Olucun as my orisha. Is there any information you could share about Olocun about rituals, ceremonies, expressing/manifesting attributes of olocun to enhance and bring prosperity and all blessings of Olocun?
    I am Thankful

  8. Admin Says:

    Your comment is unclear. “You” have been a water Goddess all your life? Olokun or Olookun, but never Olocun.

  9. Monica Silva Says:

    Good Morning,

    I believe my Orisha to be Olokun. I have not been initiated to Santeria.
    I am trying to educate myself before contemplating any move. I can say
    that I feel very frustrated in trying to seek information on this Orisha.Why is there not sufficient information? Why does there seem to
    be a missing link so to speak of concerning this?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Monica Silva

  10. Admin Says:

    Many people believe they know their Orisa. Most are usually wrong. Only through divination can your Orisa be determined. Only a priest may do this reading. That reading is usually considered binding only after an Ifa priest has confirmed it through divination as well.

    Santeria does not initiate to Olokun…and probably never will. You will need to see out an indigene lineage or go directly to Africa. I am a priest of Olokun and have written much of the wikipedia entry on the subject. I’ve also posted some things here on Roots and Rooted. If its not posted, its not for casual reading, its only for formal devotees. Its my hope that Olokun remains an enigma so to say, to prevent people from pretending to “know” things of which they have no knowledge. My suggestion is that you see a priest to determine your Orisa. If it is Olokun and you are determined to have that connection, you will need to seek out a tradition outside of Santeria or Lucumi. Otherwise you will asked to focus on Yemoja (Yemonja), which works okay for some.

  11. Biodun "Mr Bad Character" Says:

    My name is Biodun. I came to Roots and Rooted and wrote a threatening email declaring the supremacy of Jesus. But the webmaster took it down. Now I want you to write me and tell me that Jesus wouldn’t approve. Feel free to spam me at will. I deserve it. biodun1000@yahoo.com

  12. Odeku Says:

    A dupe pupo for your work. I, too, am an Olorisa of Olokun. I look forward to talking to you one day.

    Odabo

  13. Admin Says:

    I look forward to it.

  14. Pa Uhun-Amen Says:

    Woye o! Greetings to all of you who visit this interesting site, i am PA Uhun-Amen, an Ohen of Obanamen (Olokun)from Benin. We are currently in the United States, I work with the Priestess from Benin. Moter Evbu, OHEN of OBANAMEN aka OLOKUN and MamiWata respectively.
    http://www.obanamen.org is our site you are welcome to visit our site or call us for more info on Olokun, Mamiwata and the deities for authentic ceremony and initiations or questions. we are pleased to see this forum, and the info you said of our great Benin spirit that is the great heritage to many all over the world.

  15. Kat Says:

    I was told (by a babalawo) that my father is Olokun and my mother is Oshun! Any info? Where can i go on internet and what books can i read?

  16. Admin Says:

    This page lists books at the bottom. Look for these titles. There are others, but this is an excellent start.

  17. Afefe Ire - Hija de Oya y Agayu Says:

    I am a santera (priestess or what ever term you prefer) – I have received Oya and the orishas who come standard with this initiation. I practice a form of this “religion” that follows some aspects of Santeria, but mostly try to follow the tradition of Yoruba and Ifa. (And discard the many man-made rules and complications of Santeria.) My padrino is a Cuban Babalawo so, as I said, there are some influences of Santeria. It is true that with the slave trade, so many of the traditions of this “religion” were lost or altered (some necessarily so, in order to hide the “pagan” aspects from the Christian slave masters the orishas or gods were synchronized with saints in the catholic religion, etc.) Anyway, each has their own right to religion and their own way of practcing, but I find that there is alot of misinformation out there regarding this “religion.” I have found this to be a well-rounded “religion” that enables one to enlighten theirself spiritually, mentally, and physically. However, I do not condone people to “dabble” in this “religion” without knowing the extent of what they are doing. In regards to some of the comments, the only way to know the orishas who accompany you and specifically the one who “holds your head” or your “mother and father” (there are many different terms used to describe the two main orishas who have chosen to accompany you) is through divination with Orula through Babalawos. (The Babalawos will consult directly with Orula to find out which Orisha holds your head.) Additionaly, you will usually only find out which other Orisha accompanies you when you make Osha. Don’t get me wrong, in reality, ALL of the Orishas accompany us, in all aspects of our life they are watching over us; however there are certain Orishas who choose us before we are born and make a comitment to specifically take care of us like a parent would a child, they will never leave you and you should receive those Orishas, in order to pay respect to them and in order to practice and dedicate yourself fully to this “religion.” Also, an Orisha of ANY gender may hold the head of a person of ANY gender. In other words, it is possible (an often occurs) that a man can have a female Orisha who holds their head (and in this case, it means that their “mother” holds their head but they would still have a “father” who accompanies them as well.) Furthermore, one should NEVER receive an Orisha on their head who is not the one that holds their head (a response to the comment left by Ariel Adorno). If you have Olokun as your head then you may receive other Orishas but may not receive any other Orisha on your head. Think about it, that Orisha chose to accompany you and to be with you your whole life, it seems actually disrespectful to place another Orisha on your head (i.e. Shango) and in some sense “replacing” Olokun with Shango. Doing so can actually have negative effects and can cause this person problems for the rest of their life. For this reason, and many others, is why I say not to practice this “religion” unless you are sure of what you are doing and you believe in it. The most you can do in the situation where you have a “minor” Orisha that Santeros do not initiate in the U.S., Cuba, and other places, is to receive the Orisha who holds your head or if you are a male, receive Ifa (Orula). I actually was brought to this page as I was searching for a tinaja/vessel for Olokun because I will be receiving this Orisha soon (as it specifically came out in my Ita that I needed to do so.) I am not saying that “my way” of the things that I mentioned are “law” or the only way to go about practicing this religion. The reality is I don’t know many things and have also been fooled by certain readings and material about this “religion” written by people who don’t know what they are talking about. So do not believe everything you read. The goal for practicinig religions is (usually) for enlightenment, so practice for your own spiritual well-being and enlightenment. Attend to your spirits and the Orishas and they will attend to you. I could go on and on about this subject but I will stop here. Maferefun todo los Orishas!

  18. Diamond Says:

    Hello, I am the child of olokun and my question to anyone who can answer is this…. as the child of olokun do i make santo and crown yemeya? or do i just receive the male olokun that is received from the Babalawos and if i chose to after 3 years crown yemeya? I’m really confuse on what is the right way on receiving olokun and i want to do what is the right way on receiving my guardian..Not do right by someone pocket…

  19. omisade Says:

    alfiani, when i did my hand of ifa my odu , irosutakeleku, irosun/oyeku olokun is who ifa told me to worship and give service, focus on olokun’s house… when i speak of this to lucumi , they say oh you must be made yemoja,, i say NO thats not what IFA SAID, .. my lineage is from ode remo ile ife,,olokun is more powerful than you can imagine,,, moferefun moforibale OLOKUN!!!!.

  20. omisade Says:

    i also dream a lot recently of YEMOJA,, the one that uses iron pieces on her thrown,,,,, ifa says that i will recieve monies from olokun ! some will get jouleus i will make ebo, then as it is writen will come to pass .. the jouleous ones will not be able to stop my great works with this very powerful orisa,,,,,,,,,, . my advise to any one is to seek the roots …

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