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Africa's Ogun, Second, Expanded Edition

Old World and New

Edited by Sandra T. Barnes

Publication Year: 1997

The second edition of this landmark work is enhanced by new chapters on Ogun worship in the New World. From reviews of the first edition:

"... an ethnographically rich contribution to the historical understanding of West African culture, as well as an exploration of the continued vitality of that culture in the changing environments of the Americas." -- African Studies Review

"... leav[es] the reader with a sense of the vitality, dynamism, and complexity of Ogun and the cultural contexts in which he thrives.... magnificent contribution to the literature on Ogun, Yoruba culture, African religions, and the African diaspora." -- International Journal of Historical Studies

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: African Systems of Thought


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This enlarged version of Africa's Ogun comes at a special moment -a time when the flow of ideas and peoples from one continent to another is producing a crescendo of reinvented traditions, novel representations, and fresh ideas about how the world has been and, perhaps more important, should be making itself. The second edition captures the spirit of these accelerated processes with five...

A Note on Orthography

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pp. xi

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Africa's Ogun Transformed: Introduction to the Second Edition

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pp. xiii-xxiv

In recent decades there has been a virtual explosion on the world's religio-cultural landscape. New ideas, new practices, and new symbolic objects are traveling from place to place with relative ease and rapidity. They are borne by people whose movements are increasingly frequent and far-reaching, and by the media and communications networks that envelop the globe irrespective of people's physical comings and goings....

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1. The Many Faces of Ogun: Introduction to the First Edition

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pp. 1-26

There is a privileged class of supernatural and mythic figures who consistently grow in their renown and complexity. One thinks of such figures as Oedipus or Siva, each of whom plays a significant role in the traditions of many groups of people, to the extent that they have become metacultural, or international in scope. The contributors to this volume focus their attention on another such figure: Ogun,1 an African deity who thrives...

PART ONE: The History and Spread of Ogun in Old and New Worlds

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pp. 27-102

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2. The Etymology of the Word "Ògún"

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pp. 29-38

The cult of Ògún is highly elaborated in Yoruba country and shows amazing vitality among people directly concerned with modern technology. In 1974, for example, the drivers of the Ibadan University Motor Transport system performed a sacrifice to Ògún in the presence of the Vice-Chancellor and a dozen or so of the other high officials of the university. One of the drivers, who came from Igara, an Igbira...

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3. Ogun, the Empire Builder

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pp. 39-64

During the years between 1400 and 1700 a cluster of conquest states rose to power along the Guinea Coast of West Africa and dominated large areas of this forest-belt region for several centuries. The expansion of these states was based on their many advantages, the most obvious of which was that each had a well organized and heavily equipped army, using a highly developed iron technology and, in a...

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4. Systematic Remembering, Systematic Forgetting: Ogou in Haiti

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pp. 65-89

Ogou is a central figure in Haitian religion. While little known in some areas of rural Haiti, in others he is one of the most important spirits' of African origin who are venerated in the Vodou religious system. In cities he has a more prominent role, so that in Port-au-Prince, where no temple neglects him entirely, Ogou frequently is the major spirit of priests and priestesses. Among Haitians who migrate...

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5. Ogum and the Umbandista Religion

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pp. 90-102

To understand the role of Ogum in the Umbanda religion it is necessary to be familiar with the structure of the Umbandista universe as a whole and, above all, its meaning within Brazil ian society. Umbanda is not an Afro-Brazilian religion; unlike Candomblé, the religion with which it will be compared here, Umbanda roots are neither black nor African. This does not mean that the African contribution has been ...

PART TWO: The Meaning of Ogun in Ritual, Myth, and Art

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pp. 103-260

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6. The Dreadful God and the Divine King

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pp. 105-146

Among the 20 million Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria, Ogun is one of the principal deities in the pantheon of òrişà (gods). The regional variation in the person and number of the gods is so great that the Yoruba say that there are 401 òrişà....

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7. A Portrait of Ògún as Reflected in Ìjálá Chants

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pp. 147-172

Ìjálá are Yoruba poetic chants used in entertaining and saluting Ògún. As those who are familiar with the Ògún tradition very well know, the oríkì Ògún (verbal salutes to Ògún) within ìjálá reveal, little by little, the nature of the deity. One of the most striking revelations of the ìjálá is the contradictions found in them. This paper addresses these contradictions and argues that...

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8 Ògún's Ìrèmòjé: A Philosophy of Living and Dying

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pp. 173-198

Oral traditions maintain that the god Ogun led four hundred and one Yoruba divinities when they descended to earth at Ife-Oodaye, the exact location of which we are, today, not sure. These traditions also state that Ogun helped the divinities to survive in their initial settlement on earth and to effect harmony among themselves as they struggled with new and unforeseen

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9. Dancing for Ògún in Yorubaland and in Brazil

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pp. 199-234

Dance is an integral part of African ritual.1 Addressing metaphysical beings or powers, it is a poetic, nonverbal expression continually created and re-created by countless performer/ interpreters over generations. In its formulations of time, space, and dynamics, dance transmits a people's philosophy and values; it is thought embodied in human action. A primary vehicle for communicating...

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10. Art or Accident: Yorùbá Body Artists and Their Deity Ògún

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pp. 235-260

Yorùbá who live and work with iron (irin, ogun) are also worshippers of Ògún, the god of iron. Iron is Ògún. Ògún lives in his followers and they in him, a reciprocal relationship which can be documented in the lives of Ògún devotees. In considering the attributes of Ògún, iron users, and iron itself, and then...

PART THREE: Transformations of Ogun

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pp. 261-368

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11. A Comparative Analysis of Ogun in Precolonial Yorubaland1

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pp. 263-289

About Ogun, there seems to be a high degree of consensus on two general points: (I) that Ogun is a Pan-Yoruba deity of fairly uniform character and significance, and (2) that his cult has adapted remarkably to the conditions of the modern world and across the Atlantic. In this essay I wish, through a comparative examination of mostly contemporary evidence of the cult of Ogun as it was...

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12. Repossession: Ogun in Folklore and Literature

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pp. 290-314

The degree to which Ogun may be comprehended as a single deity with a common C.V., a particular iconography, a unique role in a complex cosmology has by no means been established by scholars of Yoruba religion(s). To be sure, the corpus of Ifa verse and other oral poetic texts, geographically rooted festivals, genealogical myths, and rituals largely controlled by initiated priesthoods have all...

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13. Unveiling the Orisha

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pp. 315-331

The legacy of African American anthropology in the United States until recently was marked in large part by a search for cultural survivals. From the scouring of the material and cultural worlds of African Americans for "Africanisms" (Holloway 1990), to the more abstract and perhaps more sensitive search for "grammars" of African origin still operating in African American patterns of behavior...

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14. Ogun and Body/Mind Potentiality: Yoruba Scarification and Painting Traditions in Africa and the Americas

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pp. 332-352

Throughout the lives of persons who live according to Yoruba ways, Ogun "opens the road," helping them to actualize their iwa, their character, personality, and destiny. As patron of all who use iron, Ogun guides those who incise bodies, either with tattoo scarifications (kolo) serving principally aesthetic purposes (Drewal 1988, 1989), or those...

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15 Ògún: Builder of the Lùkùmí's House

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pp. 353-368

The Lùkùmí love Ògún because he had the courage and ability to go out into the wilderness alone, armed only with his intelligence, strength, and a cutlass, and carve out a permanent and exalted place, for both himself and his followers, in the hearts and minds of men.


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pp. 369-372


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pp. 373-389

E-ISBN-13: 9780253113818
E-ISBN-10: 0253113814
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253332516

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 15 b&w photos, 3 color photos, 1 maps
Publication Year: 1997

Edition: Second, Expanded Edition
Series Title: African Systems of Thought