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devils own luck

Olokun

Olokun is considered the patron orisa of the descendants of Africans that were carried away during the Maafa, or what is sometimes referred to as the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage. Olokun works closely with Oya (Deity of Sudden Change) and Egungun (Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Death (Iku), Life and the transition of human beings and spirits between these two existences.

Olokun is experienced in male and female personifications, depending on what region and of West Africa He/She is worshipped. Olokun is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).

Olokun also 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 most people spend a lifetime pondering. 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. Olokun also is worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.

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 Orisha to be manifestations of one other, although westerner devotees know now that they are distinct, but kindred energies that were paired together during the Maafa as a way of preserving both Orisha 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 Edo State (former Bendel State) Olokun is the patron Orisha of Ethiope River.

In Nigeria and Benin, Olokun is sometimes worshipped in tandem with Mami Wata. They do have similar temperaments and personas.

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 initiations to Olokun do take place.

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 Urhonigbe Benin city. One day he ventured off into the woods on a hunting expedition, in the chase of a bush pig he was attracted to the river Ethiope where he was taken the bottom of the river. It was here that he was introduced to the deity Olokun. He stayed in this under water abode for another three years and in the course of that three years he was encouraged to participate in spiritual rituals that went on every time. Equally, during this three years he learned the spiritual sciences and worship practices associated with Olokun.

Back in his home town, 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-enact 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.

Contradictory stories in Orisa culture

In Orisa culture it appears that some stories contradict or compete with one another. The disparity or differences that exist are well understood by indigenous practitioners. While the stories are regarded as fact, they are also understood to be indicators of historical and social factors, which obviously differ from region to region.

Communion with Olokun

Those with a connection with Olokun may experience Her/His messages and healing through dreams and when in contact with the ocean. Priests may use mirrors (scrying), clouds (sky-gazing) and more familiar oracles like 16-cowry divination to communicate with Olokun on behalf of self, client, community and nations.

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.

Relationships as allegories

In female form among the Yoruba, Olokun is the wife of Olorun and, by him, the mother of Obatala and Odudua. Other relationships are numerous, especially when the gender of Olokun changes. Again, while these relationships are taken quite literally they actually serve to tell occult members which Orisa work well together in healing situations, as well to provide historical references to relationships between communities that serve as centers or hosts to main shrines for each of these Orisa.

Olokun is worshipped in Benin, Togo and among the Yoruba in Nigeria.

Recommended reading

  • Olokun: Patron Deity of the African Race, Iya Afin Aybunmi Sangode
  • Olookun Owner of Rivers and Seas, John Mason
  • Yemoja / Olokun: Ifa and the Spirit of the Ocean, Awo Fa'Lokun Fatunmbi
  • Oriki Orisa, Vol. 1, Awo Falokun Fatunmbi

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