Wind in her hair
Lightning in her eyes
Storms in her voice
And thunder in her thighs!
Oya is the Orisha of wind, storms, thunder, and change. In some ways, she is very similar to the Hindu deity Kali except that she isn’t considered the goddess of death. She can however, be the “wind” that brings death.
Because she works closely with the death aspect of Eshu/Elegua and the disease aspect of Babalu Aye, there are many apatakis that relate them.
Oya is the third wife or second concubine of Shango, the Orisha of fire, lightning, dance, and martial arts. It is said that after the big rivalry between Oba (Shango’s first wife) and Oshun (Shango’s second wife) blew up into an all out war, Shango banished them both, determined that his next companion, if at all, would be a balanced and supportive woman.
It is interesting to note that in most apatakis about Oya and Shango, they never actually lived together. Oya liked her peace in the forest, and Shango was a busy man, and already traumatized by rivalry between women. So for whatever reason, both liked their space, but loved each other. Despite their not living together, they stayed connected to each other and visited often until both of them died and ascended to the ancestors.
There are many lessons in this. One may well be that when people are young, there are two main things that are most important in their romantic lives: familial duty and sexual attraction. So Shango married a dutiful wife first, and a visually stunning wife second.
When we get older though, our priorities change. Once we’ve raised our kids and gotten ourselves established, we look to the next horizon, which is pleasure. Then once we’ve experienced that and realized that not all that glitters is gold, and settled that conflict in ourselves, what we need most is companionship and comradeship in a partner.
So a woman who wants to be her husband’s all should figure out how to balance the Oba, Oshun, and Oya in herself. Very few of us can, so we may want to learn to be okay, if we marry or are dating a very powerful and intense man with a high Shango energy (or fire element) with “outsourcing” some aspect of these roles. We need to, like Oya, trust our man’s tastes, and let him have his space.
Back to aspects of Oya though, she is the epitome of female strength. Contrary to what many may say, she does not represent feminism, but feminine power. She is an extremely powerful entity, but this is partly because she has had the support, love, and companionship of extremely powerful men or masculine energies.
She guards the graveyard with Eshu, ensuring that graverobbers and disrespecters of the ancestors are punished. She hunts them down mercilessly.
When humans get too arrogant and settled into their lives, she gets the nod from Eshu and/or Babalu Aye to sweep through with storms, earthquakes, and plagues. If you can imagine Babalu Aye surfing across the skies on the flowing, violet veil of Oya…scary, but essential so that we don’t become overpopulated or overly stupid.
There are seemingly conflicting views on the appearance of Oya. Some say she is incredibly beautiful, and wears a veil or mask so that men aren’t distracted by it. Some say she is so horribly scary and hideous that she wears a veil or mask because otherwise, people would die from seeing her. I personally think it may be a bit of both. Perhaps she wears a veil or mask because how she looks depends on who is looking, and she would rather be in control of what reaction she gets from whom.
Oya has a few symbols associated with her. Among them are the lightning bolt with crossed arrows, the vector or hurricane symbol, nine violet feathers carried by a spiralling wind, nine veils each of a different color, a necklace or skirt with nine colors, and a spiral wind chime made of nine ornamental spearheads.
Oya’s colors vary from place to place, but the main one is purple or dark burghundy or maroon. She is also symbolized by the nine colors, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, black, white, and brown. Depending on her function at a given time, she may wear purple and orange to work a storm, dark red to motivate a group of warriors or sportsmen to work as a team, all colors to make a tornado, etc.
Offerings to Oya
Oya loves eggplants and purple grapes. She also enjoys popcorn and sesame seeds, especially caramel corn or sesame candy. She likes black beans, rice, and chickpeas too. She loves chocolate.
She does not eat any four legged animals, but enjoys chicken, especially black feathered or black skinned silkies. She also doesn’t like palm kernel oil, so be careful with any ingredients you’re cooking with. Most margerine has it, so just use butter, pure cocoa butter, or chicken fat, but not beef, lard, or lamb fat. Check the ingredients of any chocolate you offer her as well. To be safe, I just use cocoa powder to make any chocolate candies I wish to offer her from scratch.
Oya’s offerings shouldn’t actually be burnt but steamed like potpourri. She doesn’t much like smoke. She likes grass clippings, green herbs, red and white flowers, and other nice smelling things. Pine needles are good for her too.
Make sure that any oils you’re using for her don’t contain any palm oil whatsoever. Also, don’t burn them straight. Use water, and if it runs low, add a little more water until the candle underneath burns out. If using essential oils, she likes scents that smell like rain, storms, or their aftermath. China Rain essential oil blend is a good choice, as is sweetgrass and cyprus.
Zubrowka, which is a special sort of vodka infused with a special kind of grass in the Ukraine. If you can’t find any, steep some sweet grass or green beans in some vodka for nine days in a dark place.
Smoke is taboo for some traditions of Oya, so for observances, her devotional oil should be diffused on water, not straight on the burner.
You will need:
- a stick of cinnamon for Eshu
- 1/2 liter of olive oil (for a war Goddess type energy) or sunflower oil if you want it with a gentler energy
- 9 raw chocolate beans, cracked or crushed, or 9 spoons cocoa powder or nibs
- 9 spoons sesame seeds
- a handful of dry corn for popcorn
- 9 blades of sweetgrass, bison grass or hay, or a heaping tablespoon of a couple of different “grassy” herbs such as lawn grass clippings, parsley
- a handful of litchen
- a handful of dried cyclamen flowers and leaves, whatever you can get hold of
- a handful of dried blue lotus flowers or stamens
Put the cinnamon stick, and then the other dry ingredients into a jar or bottle. Pour the oil over all. Take the open jar or bottle outside and let it get some wind. Then close it and put it in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months. Take it out and shake it every week on whichever day is sacred to Oya in your tradition (usually Friday in the diaspora), or every 9 days from the time you make it. Once a month or so, it should also get some air.
Bear in mind that Oya items tend to fly, so for the sake of your floors and other areas of your room that you may want to keep clean, store them above the ground, but in a low place because they can jump off of shelves.
You will need:
- a broken up stick of cinnamon or a vanilla bean cut into a multiple of 3 pieces for Eshu
- a handful of cut up sweetgrass, grass clippings, or bison grass
- a handful of dried cyclamen flowers and cut up leaves
- a good tablespoon dried blue lotus
- 9 cucaracha or purple heart plant flowers and/or leaves
- a handful of bits of litchen
You can go by the seasons, or add other seasonal grasses that smell nice and fresh. Just put these with some water in the pot of a potpourri burner or cauldron over a flame.
One of the food offerings we like to give Oya around here is eggplant shnitzel. You slice some eggplant, and leach the bitterness out of it by sprinkling some salt on it and leaving it to “bleed” for about half an hour. Then rinse it off, and pat it dry, and cook as you would any other type of schnitzel. Coat it in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, matzah meal, or cornmeal, and fry it in oil. Just make sure it’s not palm oil.