Oshun is the Yoruba orisha of fresh water, fertility and love.
She is young, petite, beautiful, and a little bit vain. She likes to see her beauty in her mirror. But don’t underestimate her. Oshun is one of the most powerful of all the orishas. When there is no other solution, she will find one. And she loves humanity.
Characteristics of Oshun
Oshun wears yellow and gold and usually carries her mirror. Those are her main signs. Dancers mimic her looking at herself in her hand mirror.
Her number is 5 and multiples of 5. Her day of the week is Saturday. She manifests in life as both peacocks and vultures.
She is the spirit of the Oshun River in Nigeria. The sacred stories say that we first met her in Osgbo, Nigeria at the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, a world heritage site. The Oshun Festival is held there in mid-August.
In New York City, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s Afribembé Festival in August mirrors her Nigerian festival. That’s unusual because in the Caribbean, we usually follow Cuban tradition. Though the traditions have the same root, they are different in the Americas.
In Cuba, Oshun’s day is September 8. She is syncretized with the Virgin Caridad del Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba. In Catholic tradition, it’s the day of the Nativity of Mary. They are very much loved. The meaning of the day is that we should respect women.
Bringing Sweetness and Love
When the One, Olodumare, created Earth and the orishas, the one thing missing was sweetness and love, so Olodumare created Oshun to make life worth living. That is her gift to humanity, and that is why she is the youngest orisha.
The Peacock and the Vulture
One of our favorite stories about Oshun comes from the beginning of time, when the orishas had become arrogant, and the One, Olodumare, punished them by stopping the rain. The orishas needed to apologize and ask for help, but Olodumare lives way out in the universe where none of the manly orishas could reach, no matter what they tried.
Oshun in her peacock form, offered to try. The male orishas laughed at her, but she flew up into the sky. As she passed Olofi, the Sun, its heat burned her skin and feathers until she looked like a vulture. But Oshun kept on going and going and going.
Finally she reached Olodumare, who wondered why she came to him. Seeing Oshun’s capacity to love in her explanation of how the drought was hurting the people, Olodumare healed her, made the rains come, and made her his special messenger.
So you see, Oshun may be young, petite and bit frivolous at times, but when necessary, she can be fierce, and should always be respected. Love conquers all. These are the lessons of Oshun.