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 is 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.
The Peacock and the Vulture
One of our favorite stories about her comes from a time long ago when the orishas were trying to solve a problem on Earth. The manly orishas tried many things with their strength, but nobody could solve the problem.
They needed the help of Olofi, the sun who is the conduit between heaven and Earth. The male orishas were afraid to make the journey because they feared being burned.
So they turned to Oshun. In her peacock form, she flew into the sky. As she approached the Sun, it burned her beauty and she came to resemble a vulture. But she kept on going and going and going. The sun, who sees everything, understood her bravery and self-sacrifice. He solved the problem and she became one of his favorites.
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. That’s the lesson of Oshun.