Headed by the Oluwo (chief priest), the Yoruba Ogboni (meaning 'cult of old age') is a society of respected elderly men and women responsible for the management and wellbeing of their community through the maintenance of law and order - often with the power to sentence criminals to death. They are also responsible for the selection and eventual burial of the Oba ('king') of the town and even have the power to expel the king should the group deem him unfit to rule.
The edan ogboni (also called edan osugbo among the Ijebu and Egba of Yorubaland) is used by Ogboni cult members as a symbol of membership but it is also believed to be the god Edan in physical form. When a new member joins the cult, he or she is given an edan to represent the expectation of secrecy from all cult members; the staff remains in the member's possession till death. When not in use, the staff is stored in the inner corners of the member's home (away from public view) and is always kept highly polished.
NOTE: Smaller edan staffs (2-3 inches) are used as amulets and can also carried by Ogboni members as a sign of membership to the cult.
Styles vary between regions of Yorubaland but all edan ogboni staffs fall under 3 main forms:
Common features among all edan ogboni figures: