A to Z: Ogun

Published April 17, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

Right before I came in here to write this post, I was reading the book I’m currently in the middle of, and I came across a passage about Ogoun (as the author spells his name) and the serendipity was too great to ignore.  So, here’s a post about Ogun!

Image copyright Atlus, but provided by the MegaTen Wiki. Click for link.

I’ve got the text of two compendium entries for Ogun.  First, from the two Devil Survivor games:

A heroic warrior god of Voodoo.  Worship of him involves the use of rum, which he enjoys.

He has many aspects such as warrior, guardian, and victim, as well as governor of fire, politics, and of course, war.  His name comes from the Nigerian god of ironsmithing.

And, although it’s not very different, here’s his entry from Shin Megami Tensei IV/IV Apocalypse:

A heroic warrior god of Voodoo.  Worship of him involves the use of rum, which he enjoys.

He has many aspects, such as governing fire, politics, and of course, war.  His name comes from the Nigerian god of ironsmithing.

Before I say anything else, I have to make the stylistic comment that “such as” in those two sentences feels really, really amateurish.  (I realize I’m no one to talk on that subject, but I’m not a paid professional (outside of very specific circumstances), so it’s a bit different.)

Ogun will always have a special place in my heart (and probably the hearts of many others among the older MegaTen players), because he’s the first Persona acquired by fan-favorite character Mark.*  (Though in the crappy original translation (which I spent a while talking about yesterday) they changed Ogun’s name to Shaman.)   It was probably coincidental that it was Mark who was chosen to be changed into an African-American for that original PS1 translation.  (Actually, it almost certainly was due to the fact that he was the only one wearing a hat to hide his hair.)  The MegaTen Wiki provided a cool image from the manga adaptation of the original Persona, showing Mark summoning Ogun:

Image copyright whoever wrote the manga. And Atlus. And whoever published the manga.

In that manga panel — much more so than in any of the official game art — it’s easy to see similarities between Ogun’s face and some traditional African masks.  (No idea, off-hand, if any of those masks are from the right cultures, but…I’ll give them credit for effort, either way.)  Doesn’t look anything like the Nigerian statue of him pictured on the Wikipedia page, though.

And that seems a good place to switch to talking about the real Ogun, continuing with that passage I just read.  It’s from the book I’m reading for the social science challenge for Read Harder 2018, and since I plan on giving it a very long review when I finish it (EDIT:  should be this Sunday, as I just finished it the day before this post is scheduled to go up), I don’t want to go into too much detail about the book, or even what it’s called.  (I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t at least give credit here to the author, Wade Davis, but I won’t be specifying anything else until the review goes up.)  Anyway, here’s the passage, from a sequence discussing spirit possession:

Ogoun has the warrior’s passion for fire and steel, usually brandishes a machete, and often handles glowing embers.  And why is it that when Ogoun does pass the flames, the one possessed is not harmed?  It was upon these unanswered questions that my logic wavered.  There may, in fact, be a natural explanation for these extraordinary abilities, but if so it lies in regions of consciousness and mind/body interactions that Western psychiatry and medicine have scarcely begun to fathom.  In the absence of a scientific explanation, and in the face of our own certain ignorance, it seems foolish to disregard the opinions of those who know possession best.

In the glossary at the back of the book, Davis has this to say about who Ogoun is:

A vodoun loa, the spirit of fire, war, and the metallurgical elements; the blacksmith god.

In a later passage, discussing the history of the revolutions that turned the French colony of Saint Domingue into Haiti, he talks about a meeting of about 200 slaves representing the thousands across a large section of the colony.  The meeting was the launching of the revolution, and the decisive moment came when one of the women was possessed by Ogoun, who made it clear that it was time to fight.

In one of the earlier passages, he mentions that Ogoun’s colors are blue and red.  There’s no mention of rum in connection with Ogoun, though there’s been a fair chunk of rum elsewhere in the book.  The Wikipedia entry on him does confirm the rum thing, though.  (It isn’t entirely surprising that various details might have been omitted, as Davis’s book is not about loa or the specific beliefs about them, but about vodoun itself, in a very particular Haitian context.)

Regarding the pre-Vodoun Ogun, according to Wikipedia, he’s a Yoruban god who started out as an early mortal king.  (It’s more complicated than that, of course, but since the game’s only talking about the New World version, I figure that’s about all the detail we really need in this context.)  However, he’s not exclusively a god of metal-working, as the game suggests, but rather already represents all the same things he does in Vodoun.

There’s probably more I could/should say, but I think I’ll leave it here, to make up for yesterday’s stupidly long post.

*Always remember:  Mark danced crazy!

3 comments on “A to Z: Ogun

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