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Ogun is one of the most popular and feared gods/saints part of the Yoruba religion: he is the god of metal, hunters, blacksmiths, technologists, transportation, farming and war, and is an important figure for the origins of the Yoruba traditions, embodying the internal conflict of human life.
He can be a severe figure but always with good reason and morals behind any decisions that he makes, this means being human that sometimes that we cannot understand these decisions.
In tradition Ogun is the first one that came down to the Earth to check this land to see if it was suitable for human life, as it is sung in the orishas chants and songs.
In some tellings of his story Ogun was actually the first king on Earth but he became angry with his subjects behaviour and unfortunately ending theirs and his own life – instead of dying, he disappeared from the surface of the Earth to live in the sky with the promise to help those loyal to him who asked his help in times of need. In modern times he is known to protect drivers and passengers.
The Warrior God has always has with him a metal axe that is the weapon he uses to free the path in front of him in the forests (the same axe that opened the access for the others orishas to arrive on Earth) and to defend himself. His followers always carry something metal with them, such as metal necklace or iron implements to feel his protection and call on him in appropriate situations.
Although Ogun is known for his connection with metal and war, he also has a deep connection and respect for nature, his colours are GREEN, RED and BLACK reflecting nature and war, he is the master of destruction and creativity.
The symbols of Ogun include – the palm frond, iron (the metal – usually depicted in the form of a broad blade) and a dog, his companion that helps him during hunting, there is even a praise dedicated to Ogun that commemorates his dog as well.
Ogun personality is also seen as “doglike” (the dog also representing hunting): he is straightforward, guarding, aggressive and always ready for danger.
Like the others Orishas, each saint has many praises and dances with traditional movements for each different saints personality and Ogun.
When you watch traditional performances you can hear cries of warriors, dog barks and the clash of metal on metal, accompanied by aggressive body movements and stabbing gestures, you can see the throwing of the axe and the palm frond.
The dance moves are actually little stories showing Ogun cutting through the branches and forest to create and open the path (from this example you can actually apply the destruction of the nature in front of him but in the same time the creation of new path) with his weapon.
You can still spot these moves in Cuba and surprisingly in the modern cuban salsa moves as in honour of Ogun.
In modern music, homage is paid to the orishas and saints by using their specific rhythms and melodies in their songs, calling to the dancer to interpret those movements, when the dancer can recognise the drums patterns and rhythms of a saint like Ogun, it is very impressive to watch on the dance floor, it is like a little game for the dancer and a chance to freestyle and show their knowledge and creativity, as well as their understanding of the culture behind the dance.
Learning the steps and moves of the orishas deepens the connection you have to Cuban Salsa and improves your musical knowledge, interpretation and over dance movement and skills.
Article written by Mariano De Simone (Havana People)