Throughout many ancient civilizations, love was considered to be the domain of an exclusive deity, usually a goddess, Sometimes we can say, love has been associated with many ancient civilizations throughout the world. For instance, in the classical world Venus and Aphrodite, goddesses of love in the Roman and Greek pantheons, were prominent.
In the ancient close East, goddesses like Ishtar and Astarte were regarded as personifications of love. The Yoruba people of West Africa revere the goddess Oshun as a love goddess or straightforwardly, the Yoruba people worship a goddess named Oshun who represents love.
1 The Orisha Oshun
The Yoruba people live in southern Benin and the south-western portion of present-day Nigeria. Traditional Yoruba religion adherents revere a pantheon of 401 gods (known as Orisha) who rule over various facets of the universe and human existence. Oshun (also spelled Osun) is an Orisha who is often associated as a goddess of love, but she also possess other characteristics.
Being the protector deity of the River Oshun in Nigeria and the goddess of the sweet waters is one of Oshun’s most significant roles. The last sacred grove dedicated to Oshun in Yoruba culture is located alongside this river or in the other words, there is a holy grove dedicated to Oshun by this river, which is likely the last of its kind in Yoruba culture.
2 Legend Of The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
On the outskirts of Osogbo town in western Nigeria, there is a large forest known as the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove. Every town would have had a sacred grove in the past because they were so prevalent in areas where the Yoruba lived. With the exception of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove, these sacred groves either disappeared altogether or diminished in size over time; it means as time passed.
The 40 shrines (places of worship), 2 palaces, and numerous sculptures and works of art that are found in this sacred grove are all there or in the other words 40 worship places, 2 palaces, a large number of sculptures, and other works of art can all be found in this sacred grove. The Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2005 because of its special status.
There are several intriguing legends associated with Oshun’s sacred grove. In one, villagers from a nearby region migrated in search of water and settled in along the river close to the modern town of Osogbo. The fact that Oshun owned this land was unknown to the newcomers (people who newly settled) or in the other words the new settlers were unaware that Oshun was the rightful owner of the land.
Once, in the olden days, when the villagers were preparing to plant their crops and start working on their farms, a tree fell into the river. It was noisy outside of the village’s entrance. There was a voice from the river that said “You have destroyed my dyeing pots.” This made all of the villagers take notice and become frightened. They wanted to appease the goddess Oshun. And, fortunately, they succeeded in their endeavor. After that, Oshun advised them to move away from the water’s edge (goddess advised them to move upstream) because humans and spirits would not be able to cooperate any longer. The villagers listened to Oshun’s command and left behind an old settlement now known as Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove.
3 Symbolism Of Goddess Oshun
Despite ruling love and the sweet waters, Oshun is also seen as one of the most benevolent deities. Oshun is regarded as a very charitable deity and is said to be the mother of all orphans and the goddess of love and sweet waters. Oshun also rules over love and the sweet waters. In this life, Oshun satisfies their needs.
Oshun is also revered as a bringer of song, music, and dance as well as fertility and affluence. He is also regarded as a healer of the ailing. It is also believed that the Yoruba people were taught mysticism, agriculture, and other subjects by Oshun, who is also portrayed as a teacher. Along with teaching them chants, songs, and meditations that her father, Obatala, the primary of the created Orishi, had taught her, she also demonstrated to them the art of conjecture using cowrie shells.
4 Oshun In Art & Culture
Oshun is portrayed in artwork alongside many of her counterparts from other cultures or in the other words we can say that Oshun is portrayed in art in a similar way to many of her contemporaries from other cultures. Oshun is frequently portrayed as a young woman who is lovely, endearing, sensual, and flirtatious. Oshun is adorned with ornaments such as gold jewelry, bronze bracelets, beads, mirrors, and elaborate fans additionally to her natural fineness.
The goddess of sweet waters is also said to be attracted to all shiny and glittering objects. In some stories, Oshun is depicted as a mermaid with a fish tail, perhaps symbolizing her status as a goddess of sweet water; it means as a reference to her role as the goddess of sweet waters, Oshun is sometimes portrayed as a mermaid with a fish tail in myths.
Oshun was introduced to the Americas during the African diaspora and later incorporated into the pantheons that split off from the traditional African religious structure. Oshun is still revered in Nigeria today during the 12-day Osun-Osogbo festival in August and the yearly Ibo-Osun ceremony.
The festival, which is thought to be at least 600 years old, draws tens of thousands of participants and spectators from all over Nigeria and the rest of the world.
5 She Was Involveed In World Creation & Will Also Participate In World’s Destruction
Oshun is the only Orisha not mentioned in any of these stories. According to various accounts of her life, she is either Yemaya’s younger sister or the youngest of the Orishas, and she is the daughter of Yemaya. At the beginning of creation, after Obatala had finished the preparatory work, Olodumare sent 17 Orishas to the earth to establish order and finish Obatala’s or Oduduwa’s work. The seventeenth was Oshun, and 16 of them were men.
Her advice on how to live a lovely, fulfilling, and sweet life was disregarded by the men, failing their mission. They were asked where the seventeenth Orisha was, and they were compelled to apologize and return to Olodumare with the bad news. They were told they couldn’t finish the job without her after they admitted to ignoring her, so they once more had to apologize and beg for her forgiveness. Creation was complete when Oshun bestowed love, fertility, and beauty on the world and made all people aware of their need for these things.
Although she didn’t have her own realm yet, she was still well-taken care of by the Orishas. Shango ruled over fire and lightning; Obatala ruled over the sky; Ogun ruled over metallurgy; and all of the other Orishas each had their own sphere of influence. Oshun was wandering the world one day when her beauty captured Ogun’s eye. In an attempt to evade him, she slipped into a river and was whirling away downstream when Yemaya rescued her and gave her freshwater as a realm in order to always have a home to call hers. From that point on, although Yemaya remained in charge of water, Oshun presided over freshwater specifically and, more specifically, the Osun River.
After this (or before, according to various accounts), the Orishas once more felt they could govern the world more effectively and were discontented with Olodumare’s position as the highest ranking being. Olodumare stopped the rain because Esu had informed the supreme being that the Orishas had ceased to follow orders. The earth started to die, rivers, lakes, and streams all dried up as a result of a severe drought that swept the country. The Orishas pleaded for forgiveness after realizing they had offended Olodumare, but Olodumare was either unable to hear them or refused to listen.
To deliver the good news of the Orishas’ repentance to Olodumare, Oshun transformed herself in the form of a peacock and flew to Orun, high in the heavens. To reach Orun, she had to travel a long distance and travel very close to the sun, which damaged her feathers and caused her to lose many of them. Even though she was exhausted, she persisted until she finally collapsed in the vulture form into Olodumare’s arms. She displayed courage, tenacity, and sacrifice, and Olodumare was moved by these qualities. As a result, he healed her, let the rains fall, and made Oshun the only Orisha who would ever be permitted to communicate with Orun moving forward. From this story, she came to be connected with the peacock and vulture.
She is portrayed as destroying life when humans offend her with their carelessness, cruelty, and disregard for the divine and the natural world, despite the fact that she had assisted in the creation of the world and had also prevented it from extinction. She can send an endless downpour to flood the land and drown anyone she displeases because she is the freshwater deity who has the power to withhold rain to cause drought. In the Yoruba version of the Great Flood story, the Orisha Olokun (who donnishness over the sea) floods the world with ocean water in wrath over Obatala taking too much land during the act of creation. Oshun’s movements are always in impedance to some misdeed of the humans, and she has no role in this story or in the other words, in contrast to other creative forces, there is no record of Oshun’s involvement in the Yoruba version and the Great Flood, which were triggered by Olokun’s anger over Obatala taking too much land.
6 Oshun In The Modern American Culture
Millions of enslaved Africans were transported to the Americas and the Caribbean during the Transatlantic Slave Trade in the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, with the largest populations being found in Brazil, Haiti, and Colonial America, which later became the United States. A large portion of the slaves herded aboard European ships were Yoruba by the 18th century, when African political powers like the Kingdom of Benin, the Kingdom of Dahomey, and the Oyo Empire were actively besmeared in the transport and sale of slaves in West Africa.
They brought Oshun with them to the New World, where she was treated with respect alongside the other Orishas. The Yoruba recognized their own paradigm in the structure of Catholicism in Catholic Brazil and Haiti where requests for personal needs were addressed to Christian saints who then forwarded them to God in the same way that Orishas served as a bridge between the people and Olodumare. She was combined with the Virgin Mary in Protestant American culture. The Yoruba were able to maintain their practice of Isese, the religion that served as the foundation for their culture despite being nominally Christian. Isese is a Yoruba word that means “origin of our traditions”.
Oshun was given the names Oxum and Ochun in the Caribbean religions of Santeria and Vodun, respectively. Oshun was given other names describing her traits in the Brazilian Candomblé religion. Though this claim is speculative, it is possible that in the United States, she was honored through the use of the Abebe, a circular fan connected to Oshun, and most likely through rituals performed in slave quarters. She maintained her traditional characteristics as a fertility goddess and protector of women in those areas where her worship is known to have persisted.
7 Wrapping Up
By illustrating how even the best can act badly and encouraging people to forgive themselves for failings, this story humanizes Oshun, who is typically associated with honorable deeds, light, brightness, goodness, and generosity. She is associated with the otters in playfulness and joy, the vulture in death, rebirth, intelligence, and determination, the peacock as a symbol of transformation, the vulture as a symbol of fertility, happiness, and change, the butterfly and the bee as symbols of fertility, happiness, and change. She is also associated with the skunk as a symbol of self-determinism and protection.
It is possible to identify Oshun as an entity that supports transformative states in a wide range of areas, including but not restricted to women’s reproductive health, digestive health, spiritual and mental health issues, as well as men’s struggles with the same. She was one of the most well-liked deities in West Africa due to her widespread appeal, and this popularity followed her when her people were forcibly transported to the so-called New World.