Ogun To Ogou

Submitted By BMGT332
Words: 1752
Pages: 8

Ogun to Ogou, From Africa to Haiti
The Vodou religion revolves around its gods; in fact, the African meaning of the word “vodou” is “god” or “spirit.” The gods of Haitian Vodou are known as Lwa, and many of them are also worshiped in Africa by the same or similar names (Ferere 39). The Vodou Lwa, Ogou, possesses unique qualities and roles in Haitian society that have been significantly influenced both by the Yoruba religion from Africa and the Christian religion in the new world. Important aspects the make up Ogou for the followers of Vodou are his iconography, history, symbols, and relationships with the Christian saints that he is frequently associated with and depicted as. The ties between the Vodou gods and Christianity are often expressed in the art of the Haitian people, and much can be learned about these affiliations simply through observing artworks and one’s surroundings within a Haitian community. Although he is frequently referred to as Sen Jak, Ogou is not a saint to the people of the Vodou religion. He is a divinity; Ogou is the Haitian god of war and iron. Ogou is conceived of as a family of warrior spirits including Ogou Feray, Ogou Badagri, Ogou Shango, and others who are represented under the single name of Ogou. It is believed in Vodou that historical military leaders such as Toussaint Louverture are members of Ogou’s lineage (Cosentino 264). Sen Jak, which means “St. James,” is the Catholic saint that the people of Vodou most often depict Ogou as. Ceremonies and celebrations in honor of Ogou take place at the church of Saint James in Port-au-Prince. The largest and grandest of these ceremonies occurs on July 25th, which is the feast day of St. James (Cosentino 243-244). The calendar ties that these Vodou celebrations have with Christianity are just the beginnings of the relationship between the two religions. The most common visual image associated with Ogou is a picture of St. James riding a white horse with a sword in his hand (see Figure 1). Sen Jak is the most common saint that Ogou is connected to ; however, some of the Ogou family members are also depicted in battle scenes as St. Michael and St. George (Cosentino 256). The picture of St. Michael, that is used to represent Ogou, features him standing above a demon about to slay it with his sword. The image of St. George displays him on a white horse with a spear that he is killing some sort of dragon-like beast with (Cosentino 256). Christianity influences Ogou in ways other than simply the few saints that he is frequently depicted as. Similar to the biblical book of psalms, Ogou also has a collection of songs that the members of the Vodou religion sing to honor their god (Brown 76). The similarities between the two religions continue within the songs. “In Vodou songs, as in biblical psalms, the spirit is sometimes the speaker and sometimes the one spoken to” (Brown 76). The first verse of a Vodou song in which Ogou is being spoken to goes like this: Ki ki li ki o-ewa. Papa Ogou tou piti kon sa. Papa Ogou enraje! (Brown 76)
When translated, this means “Don’t be so angry with your followers; all ‘children’ are that way” (Brown 76). It is common in the Old Testament of the Bible for the followers of God to also be referred to as his ‘children.’ The meaning of this song to Ogou is similar to stories of the Christian God in the Old Testament because he frequently becomes infuriated by the lack of respect from some of his “children” or followers. An example of this from the Bible is the story of the Great Flood (Genesis 6:1-9:29). God tells Noah, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13). In this tale God destroys the entire Earth in his anger and spares only Noah and his family. Although Ogou is mainly known as the god of war, he is also the patron of the roadways. To honor Ogou and be blessed with safety while they