Many civilizations throughout the world, love was placed under a certain deity, usually a goddess. In the “classical world” there were Venus and Aphrodite, the love goddesses of roman and Greek pantheons. In the ancient near east there was Ishtar and Astarte who personified love. Further away in West Africa, the Yoruba people believe in the love goddess named Oshun. Oshun is the African goddess of beauty, love, prosperity, order and fertility. You can compare her to the European Greek goddess Aphrodite, which is also the goddess of love. Oshun is the mother of the African sweet or fresh waters. Like Egyptian Isis and also Greek Diana, Oshun is known for healing the sick, cheering up the sad, bringing music, song and dance, as well as bring fertility to women and also prosperity. Oshun is known as the Protector of the poor, she is the mother of all orphans; she brings them what they need in this life through periods of weakness and strength. Oshun is beneficent and generous, also very kind. It is said that she does have a tempestuous temper, even though is difficult to anger her. Like Queen Isis of Ancient Egyptian Kemetic Pantheon, Oshun was taught the art of divination with the cowrie shells, cards, tarots, visions, possessions, songs, chants, and meditations by her father Obatala, the first of the African created gods.
Although Oshun is regarded principally as the goddess of love, there are other aspects to this Orisha as well. One of the most important roles Oshun plays is that the goddess of the sweet waters and the protective deity of the river Oshun in Nigeria. Alongside this river is a sacred grove, probably the last in Yoruba culture dedicated to Oshun. The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a dense forest on the outskirts of Osogbo town, western Nigeria. In the past, sacred groves were commonly found in areas where the Yoruba lived, and also every town would have had one. Over time, these sacred groves were either abandoned or shrank in size, apart from the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove. Oshun is commonly shown as a beautiful, charming, sensual, and coquettish young woman. In addition to her natural beauty, oshun is also adorned with gold jewelry, brass and copper bracelets, beads, mirrors and elaborate fans. It is also said that she is attracted to all things that glitter and shine. Like Isis, she brought the teachings of divinations, Mysticism, agriculture, and culture to humans. She is known as the mother of the fishes and sea also the birds of the forest. Oshun represents the essence of love, sweetness and good cheer, beauty, and flowing joy. Ohsun is also known as Yaldoe- the moth of things outside the home or the mother of wealth, due to her business acumen. Possession of her devotees is one of her main principal manifestation and in such cases, devotees are filled with clarity, confidence, joy, love, bliss and laugher. Yet, they are filled at the same times with the terrible aspects of her power which activates to fight injustice against humanity and irreverence against the gods. Stories say that when she possesses her followers she dances, flirts, and then weeps because no one can lover her enough and the world is not as beautiful as she knows it could possibly be. Animals that are sacred to her would be the peacock and the vulture. She is considered to be one of the most powerful of all orishas, and like other gods she possesses human attributes such as vanity, jealousy, and spite.
Oshun is believed to be the central figure in the creation of humans. The Yoruba people believe that the orishas were sent by Olodumare, who is considered the Supreme God, to populate the Earth. Oshun, being one of the original 17 sent to Earth, was the only female deity. The other gods, all male, failed at their attempts to revive and populate the Earth. When they realized they were unable to complete the task given to them by Olodumare, they tried to persuade Oshun to help them. Oshun agreed and brought forth her sweet and powerful waters, bringing life back to Earth and humanity and other species into existence. As that Yoruba myth suggests, humanity would not exist if Oshun, the goddess of life and fertility, had not acted. As a Yoruba Orisha she dwells within the sweet or fresh waters (as opposed to the salt waters of her older sister Yemaya). Because of Her attributes in healing the sick, bringing fertility and prosperity, and Answering the cries of the needy -- Oshun is well loved by her devotees all over the world. During the African Diaspora, when millions of Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean Islands in the Atlantic slave trade, she went with her people. Like them, she acquired new names: Oxum in Brazil, Ochun in Cuba, and Erzulie-Freda-Dahomey in Haiti. In the Brazilian religion of Candomblé, which retains close ties with the Yoruba religion, as well as in Cuban Santeriá, She is called Oxum. But everywhere she went she inspired sensuality, sexual attraction, love, fertility, and healing in her devote.
Oshun is honored in Nigeria with an annual ceremony called Ibo-Osun. A feast of yams begins in 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. Oshun is especially consulted by those who wish to have children, for she encourages this womanly activity. When she rides or mounts upon her dancers (meaning possession by the lwa) they move with Oshun's swimming motions, and sway with the movement of the water. When she possesses her followers she dances, flirts and then weeps. These Women then take on new names in honor of Oshun and after becomes consult healers. Oshun’s unique combination of beauty, love and courage, has empowered millions. Her dancing spirit and bold selfless heart will energize and renew anyone arround. Oshun is the force of harmony. Harmony we see as beauty, feel as love, and experience as ecstasy. Oshun’s unique combination of beauty, love and courage has empowered millions. Like fresh water her dancing spirit and bold selfless heart energizes and renews. Like the other Orisha, Oshun has a number associated with her which is the number 5. Her favorite colors are gold, bass, yellow or amber. Offerings to Oshun include sweet things such as honey, mead, white wine, oranges, sweets or pumpkins. In Nigeria Osogbo is the venue of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival along the River Osun. The festival is centered on the sacred grove of the river goddess Ọshun. Osogbo was founded around early 18th century by hunters from a nearby village which was suffering from famine. The hunters decided to move a few of their family members to the lower terraces of a nearby river, the river Osun. One of the hunters, Larooye, became the first King of Osogbo, as one of the initial builders of the small settlement. Since then Osogbo has increased in population largely due migration from other Yoruba towns and the movement to the river of Osun.
To put everything in a nutshell, Oshun is a brilliant deity whose imagery and worldwide devotion demand broad and deep scholarly reflection. Oshun is the Orisha of love. She can be the sweetest, kindest, most generous person you will ever meet. She is beautiful, charismatic and has great taste in everything. Being able to tell her story; and captivate her energy making sure I paint the proper picture has been extraordinary. I learned that there are many different greek gods and goddesses depending on culture and whichever story line resonates with you. Finding one; and connecting to their story will be the journey.
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