Iremoje are a Yoruba corpus of poetic chants sung at the funerals of dead hunters. The activities of hunting and warfare fall under the providence of the Yoruba god Ogun, and thus Iremoje also emphasise the virtues and talents associated with this Orisha. See also A Salute to my Ogun, Ogun, God of War i, and Ogun, God of War ii.

Ogun is said to have spent half his life in the forest and the other half in the townships bringing civilisation to mankind. This contrast between the wildness of the forest and the order of the townships is often referenced in Iremoje.

Ogun, Chief Lakaaye (1)
Chief Osin Mole. (2)
The deity who made the forest his home,
The deity who made the forest-heart into a township,
The deity who made a refuse pit into a market.

During times of conflict, hunters would take on the role of the warrrior, often acting as scouts. The Iremoje funeral ceremony is overseen by the president of the hunters guild, the Asipade, to which the deceased hunter belonged.

According to the mythology of the Asipade, their hunters guild was established by Ogun himself, to advise humans on hunting, warfare, farming and blacksmithing. The Asipade act as Ogun’s personal representatives on Earth. Members of the Asipade aim to invoke the personality of Ogun, with their fierce glare, harsh mannerisms, warriors stance and impeccable bravery in battle. The qualities of Ogun that the Asipade emulate are expressed in the following chant:

A person who is not ferocious
Cannot be installed Asipade.
A person who does not possess charms like aroni, (3)
Cannot be installed Asipade.
A person who cannot commit suicide by the gun,
I say cannot be installed Asipade.
I am brave to the point of committing suicide by the gun.
I can challenge an elephant.
I can challenge a bushcow.
I can be made Asipade.

Collected and translated by Professor Bade Ajuwon,
from his essay Ogun’s Iremoje: A Philosophy of Living and Dying
taken from Africa’s Ogun: Old World and New Edited by Sandra T. Barnes


Footnotes

  1. Lakaaye: Another praise name for Ogun, meaning “the god who influence spreads around the world.”
  2. Osin Mole: Ogun’s chieftaincy title.
  3. aroni: A mythical elf, possessing many powerful charms including invisibility.