Ax for Ogun

Accession Number

Ax for Ogun


Artist Nationality
Yoruba (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
wood and iron

20 7/8 x 2 3/8 x 10 11/16 in. (53 x 6 x 27 cm);20 7/8 x 2 3/8 x 10 11/16 in. (53 x 6 x 27 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Bert N. LaDu, Jr.

Label copy
March 28, 2009
This ceremonial ax may have been used in the performance of mock battles in ceremonial or ritual contexts or placed at an altar for Ogun, the Yoruba deity of iron. Ogun is the patron of sculptors, farmers, tailors, barbers, and truck drivers—all those whose livelihoods are connected in some way to iron. Ogun is known as an instigator of aggression, violence, and conflict, but the destruction he brings is often a precursor to creation: in Yoruba myth, Ogun cleared the primordial forest to create roads, culture, and farming.
The figure of the supplicant that is carved into the handle of this ax is depicted in an ideal pose of ritual offering—knees bent, eyes downcast, and body balanced.

Subject matter
Ogun, the Yoruba orisa (god) of iron and war, is dear to those whose livelihoods rely heavily on iron such as blacksmiths, sculptors, tailors, barbers, drivers as well as scarifiers and circumcision specialists. Because Ogun is embodied in the sharpened edge of iron blades, those who use it are obliged to keep him satisfied in order for their tools to operate efficaciously. To honor Ogun, people occasionally spill sacrificial dog blood, snail mucous, or other appeasing substances on their tools to satisfy the needy god’s thirst.

Physical Description
Carved ax handle is comprised of a kneeling male figure with rounded knob on top of his head, into which the narrow end of a triangular iron ax blade is embedded.

Primary Object Classification
Arms and Armor

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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ceremonial objects
ceremonial weapons
iron (metal)

& Author Notes

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