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Olokun

OLOKUN (oni-okun, he who owns the sea), “Lord of the Sea,” is the sea-god of the Yorubas. He is one of those who came from the body of yemaya.

As man worships that from which he has most to fear, or from which he hopes to receive the greatest benefits, the inland tribes pay little or no attention to Olokun, who is, however, the chief god of fishermen and of all others whose avocations take them upon the sea. When Olokun is angry he causes the sea to be rough and stirs up a raging surf upon the shore; and it is he who drowns men, upsets boats or canoes, and causes shipwrecks.

Olokun is not the personally divine sea but an anthropomorphic conception. He is of human shape and black in colour, but with long flowing hair, and resides in a vast palace under the sea, where he is served by a number of sea-spirits, some of whom are human in shape, while others partake more or less of the nature of fish. On ordinary occasions animals are sacrificed to Olokun, but when the condition of the surf prevents canoes from putting to sea for many days at a time, In ancient times a human victim was offered to appease him. It is said that such sacrifices have been made in recent times, even at Lagos, by the people of the Isaleko quarter, who are chiefly worshippers of Olokun. The sacrifice was of course secret, and according to native report the canoemen used to watch by night till they caught some solitary wayfarer, whom they gagged and conveyed across the lagoon to the sea-shore, where they struck off his head and threw the body into the surf.

A myth says that Olokun, becoming enraged with mankind on account of their neglect of him, endeavoured to destroy them by overflowing the land; and had drowned large numbers when Obatala interfered to save the remainder, and forced Olokun back to his palace, where he bound him with seven iron chains till he promised to abandon his design. This, perhaps, has reference to some former encroachment of the sea upon the low-lying sandy shores, which are even now liable to be submerged at spring-tides.[1]

Olokun has a wife named Olokun-su, or Elusu, who lives in the harbour bar at Lagos. She is white in colour and human in shape, but is covered with fish-scales from below the breasts to the hips. The fish in the waters of the bar are sacred to her, and should anyone catch them, she takes vengeance by upsetting canoes and drowning the occupants. A man who should be so ill-advised as to attempt to fish on the bar would run a great risk of being thrown overboard by the other canoemen. Olokunsu is an example of a local sea-goddess, originally, as on the Gold Coast at the present day, considered quite independent, being attached to the general god of the sea, and accounted for as belonging to him.

Yoruba Fokelore

The Ant and the Treasure

There once was a poor man who was very kind to animals and birds. However little he had, he always spared a few grains of corn, or a few beans, for his parrot, and he was in the habit of spreading on the ground every morning some titbits for the industrious ants, hoping that they would be satisfied with the corn and leave his few possessions untouched.

And for this the ants were grateful.

In the same village there lived a miser who had by crafty and dishonest means collected a large store of gold, which he kept securely tied up in the corner of a small hut. He sat outside this hut all day and all night, so that nobody could steal his treasure.

When he saw any bird, he threw a stone at it, and he crushed any ant which he found walking on the ground, for he detested every living creature and loved nothing but his gold.

As might be expected, the ants had no love for this miser, and when he had killed a great many of their number, they began to think how they might punish him for his cruelty.

What a pity it is, said the King of the ants, that our friend is a poor man, while our enemy is so rich!

This gave the ants an idea. They decided to transfer the misers treasure to the poor manâs house. To do this they dug a great tunnel under the ground. One end of the tunnel was in the poor manâs house, and the other end was in the hut of the miser.

On the night that the tunnel was completed, a great swarm of ants began carrying the misers treasure into the poor mans house, and when morning came and the poor man saw the gold lying in heaps on the floor, he was overjoyed, thinking that the gods had sent him a reward for his years of humble toil.

He put all the gold in a corner of his hut and covered it up with native cloths.

Meanwhile the miser had discovered that his treasure was greatly decreased. He was alarmed and could not think how the gold could have disappeared, for he had kept watch all the time outside the hut.

The next night the ants again carried a great portion of the misers gold down the tunnel, and again the poor man rejoiced and the miser was furious to discover his loss.

On the third night the ants laboured long and succeeded in removing all the rest of the treasure.

The gods have indeed sent me much gold! cried the poor man, as he put away his treasure.

But the miser called together his neighbours and related that in three consecutive nights his hard-won treasure had vanished away. He declared that nobody had entered the hut but himself, and therefore the gold must have been removed by witchcraft.

However, when the hut was searched, a hole was found in the ground, and they saw that this hole was the opening of a tunnel. It seemed clear that the treasure had been carried down the tunnel, and everyone began hunting for the other end of the tunnel. At last it was discovered in the poor manâs hut! Under the native cloths in the corner they found the missing treasure.

The poor man protested in vain that he could not possibly have crept down such a small tunnel, and he declared that he had no notion how the gold had got into his but. But the rest said that be must have some charm by which he made himself very small and crept down the tunnel at night into the misers hut.

For this offence they shut him up in a hut and tightly closed the entrance. On the next day he was to be burnt alive.

When the ants saw what had come of their plan to help him, they were sorely perplexed and wondered how they could save their poor friend from such a painful death

There seemed nothing for them to do but to eat up the whole of the hut where the prisoner was confined. This they accomplished after some hours, and the poor man was astonished to find himself standing in an open space. He ran away into the forest and never came back.

In the morning the people saw that the ants had been at work, for a few stumps of the hut remained. They said: The gods have taken the punishment out of our hands! The ants have devoured both the hut and the prisoner!

And only the ants knew that this was not true.

Ifa Related

The Story of the Irde

Death (Iku) was gathering humans before there full time on earth had passed.
The Orishas worried about this, until Orumila said he would resolve this matter.

One day when Iku was busy, Orumila went and took his hammer
Iku became furious when he discovered the Hammer missing.
He rushed back to Orumila’s house, and demanded the hammers return.

Orumila said, Oludumare had assigned you the task of gathering humans when thier time had come,
but you are gathering them when you want, prior to thier predetermined death.
Iku answered, if humans do not die, the earth will die.

Orumila answered “you are not right to take humans before their time.
After a long discussion, Orumila began to see the logic of Iku’s task
Orumila aggred to return the Hammer, But Iku must swear not to take any of Orumila’s
children before there full time has passed.

Iku answred, When I see the Irde Ifa on a persons left wrist, I will pass over them, unless it is there predetermined time to die. Orumila and Iku aggreed, and from this day, Ifa devotees wear the Irde on the left wrist, as a sign of the pact between Iku and Orumila.

 
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