March 19, 2013

Oshun: The Yoruban Goddess of Love

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , at 6:13 am by Babs

Oshun delights in the creation of beauty and art, sensual delights and self-adornment.  Her symbols are mirrors, jewelry, honey, golden silks and feather fans.  Creativity in decorating home and temple is a way of honoring Oshun, who will bless any beautiful space created in Her honor.  There is no object so common that Oshun will not appreciate more if it is made artistic and pleasing to the eye.  Creativity in dress and self-adornment please her as well, and when Oshun is pleased, her blessings know no limits.

Originally named after a river, Oshun’s emblem is the brass bracelet worn by her worshipers, and a pottery dish filled with white stones from a ricer’s bed.  In her african homeland, Oshun mated with the God Change, with whom she had human children.  Their descendents, who still live along her waters, are forbidden to eat snails or beans, or to drink beer made from sorghum.

Oshun is still honored in Nigeria with an annual ceremony called Ibo-Osun.  A feast of yams begins the evening, then women dance for the goddess, hoping to be chosen as one of her favorites.  Those who are selected are granted new names which include that of the goddess: Osun Leye, “gift of Oshun”, or Osun Tola, “treasure of Oshun.”  Once selected in this way, the woman serves her community as advisor, particularly assisting with family problems and illnesses.  Oshun is especially consulted by those who wish to have children, for she encourages this womanly activity.

Oshun is the primary divinity of Oshogbo, an African orisha religion, where she is honored with brass objects, as well as jewel and yellow copper.  Her chief festival there celebrates the arrival of the ancestral family on the banks of Oshun’s river.  While bathing, one of the princesses apparently drowned, but reappeared soon after attired in gorgeous garments which, she said, Oshun had given her.  The alliance with the river goddess has continued to this day.

In the African diaspora, Oshun gained new names and titles: Oxum in Brazil; Ochun in Cuba; Erzulie-Freda-Dahomey in Haiti.  When she possesses dancers, their movements are those of a woman who loves to swim, who makes her arm bracelets jangle, and who admires herself in a mirror.  Her appearance is greeted with welcoming shouts of “Ore Yeye o!”  In Brazilian Macumba, Oshun is goddess of waters; she is depicted wearing jewels, holding a mirror, and wafting a fan.  Altars to her hold copper bracelets and fans, as well as dishes of Omuluku (onions, beans and salt).  She rules love, beauty and flirtation.  In Santeria, Oshun is revered as “Our Lady of La Caridad,” patron of the island of Cuba.

Oshun is the patroness of rivers and the bloodstream, the Nigerian goddess (also brought to Brazil and Cuba) was honored as the goddess of love and sensuality.  She wears seven bracelets, a mirror at her belt, river water in her pot, and is accompanied by her peacock and cricket.  She is depicted as an old wise woman sad at the loss of her beauty, or, alternatively is shown as a tall, coffee-skinned woman absolutely comfortable with her sexuality.

Oshun and the White Cloth

In the Yoruba religion of West Africa, one of the greatest of the Orishas is Obatala, father of wisdom, who was also called “King of the White Cloth”, because of the magnificent white cloth he wore.  Many times Oshun had asked him to teach her the power of divining.  And Obatala always said, “No, No, Oshun, you’re too young.  No, Oshun, you’re too pretty.  Oshun you can’t possibly learn the art of divining.”

It was the habit of Obatala to bathe in a certain pool.  And one day, as he was bathing, mischievous Eleggua, Orisha of the Crossroads, came by.  There was Obatala in his pool, with his beautiful white cloth folded nearby on a rock.  Eleggua saw his chance and made off with the cloth, so that when Obatala finished bathing, it was nowhere to be seen.  Ante there he had to remain, naked in the water, until Oshun happened by.  “What’s wrong, Father?”  she said.  “Well, Oshun,” said Obatala, “someone took my white cloth, and now, ah, I can’t leave the pool.  I’m sure you see my problem.”

Oshun looked around.  She noticed footprints going off into the forest, and she had a pretty good idea about who those footprints belonged to.  Oshun said, “Father, I’ll go and find your white cloth, but if I do, will you teach me the power of divining?”  And Obatala, who was becoming very tired of bathing, said, “Yes, yes, anything, just get me my cloth!”  So Oshun first went home to make a few preparations.  She took the rhythm and the flow of the river, and put them on her hips and in her walk.  And she took the sweet honey, and put it on her lips, on her breasts, on her voice.  And then she went to Eleggua’s house.  Eleggua was just putting that white cloth away, when he saw Oshun standing in his doorway, all golden in the sunlight.  And suddenly, Eleggua got a powerful, powerful urge for honey.

“Oshun, Oshun,” he said, “Give me some honey!”

Oshun said, “Give me the cloth.”

Eleggua said, “Honey!” Oshun said, “Cloth!”

Eleggua said, “Honey…”

Oshun said, “Cloth…”

Well, let us say they negotiated.  And at last, Oshun returned to Obatala in his pool, and gave him back his cloth.  And that was how Oshun came to learn the art of divining.  And when Oshun had learned all she could learn, she taught everyone in the village the art of divining, and she taught them all absolutely for free.  Which is why the Orisha Oshun, whose name also means sweet water, is also sometimes called the sacred whore.

Oshun is youngest of the Orisha, who represents female sexuality and is asociated with love, wealth, children and all the good things in life.  Among the Yoruba she is associated with the Osun River, but in the Americas she is the patron of all the sweet, that is not salty, waters.  Her color is yellow reminiscent of her trademark honey as well as the gold and champagne she loves.

As the goddess of the flowing river, Oshun exhibits its qualities.  She is vivacious, fresh, quick, lively, the most beautiful of the Orisha.  Her lush figure and sensuous hips embody the divine spark of erotic life.  Her name is related to the word for “source” and she is associated with basic concerns and the sources of life itself.  As the beautiful woman who reveals the wisdom of pleasure, she is graced by her priests with rich gifts: silks and perfumes, sweet foods flavored with her own honey (and in the New World, sugar), jewelry, coral, amber and all the red metals (copper, brass and gold, although in the New World copper is usually associated with Oya).  She is especially partial to champagne, the pale yellow drink that represents fine, even extravagant, living.  She is the lithe young woman in the full bloom of her womanhood.  Thus we find that in the New World, Oshun is often considered to be the young, sexual woman juxtaposed to Yemaya’s more maternal form.

Oh let me delight you with beauty

so the eye may dance with joy

let me seduce  you with scents

so that your nose inhales pleasure

let me tantalize your taste

till your tongue quivers

let me caress you with sound

that makes your ears sing and sing

let me touch your body

with waterfall music

and adorn your beauty with

golden bracelets and honey and perfume

and when all is experienced

when all your senses have been given play

when your spirit from the stars connects in a blissful way

with your body from the earth

then you will know sensuality.

The Mythology:

Oshun (pronounced oh-shun’), the Brazilian Macumba Goddess of the waters, rivers, streams, and brooks, is known for her love of beautiful things.  She loves to adorn herself, especially in yellows and golds.  Her rites at watery places include honoring her with honey and pennies (copper).  Her necklace of cowrie shells symbolizes her knowledge and power in divination.  It is said that the women dedicated to Oshun carry the special gift of their Goddess.  They walk and dance in the most tantalizing and provocative ways.  In their walk is the flow of the river.  None can escape their charms.

The Lessons of this Goddess

Oshun appears deductively in your life and cajoles you into remembering and honoring your sensuality.  Wholeness is nourished by focusing your attention and time on our body, respecting and giving play to your senses and your sensuality.  The Goddess is here to tell you that it is time for sensuality.  She invites you to follow her lead.  Oshun teaches us to “go with the flow” of our instincts in order to find inner tranquility.  Just as water ebbs and flows, allow yourself to live, being generous with your time for yourself during an “ebb”, and for others during a “flow”.

Suggested Mantra: Serenity

Suggested Affirmations:

  • Joy! Oh joy!
  • I allow myself to “be”
  • My creativity is energized
  • I enjoy being in the “moment”
  • I do what is easy, loving, fun and true
  • I surrender to the ebbs and flows of life


  • Carnelian
  • Coral
  • Agate
  • Brown Jasper
  • Orange stones
  • Blue Calcite
  • Aquamarine
  • Copper

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