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How are crystals used in Vodun and diaspora systems?

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Crystals have been used in Vodun and the African diaspora for centuries, but few people alive today know exactly how they were used originally.  There has been a lot of mixture of belief from Hinduism, Kemetic, and other systems, trial and error over the aeons, and so crystal use and therapies have become a bit universalized over time.  The main difference though, is context.  Different cultures are going to have different needs, and use crystals in different ways even though their energies are standard.

In my article, Crystals in African and Diaspora Mysticism, I try to give a small sampling of the use of crystals in the African context.  One thing that needs to be mentioned is that many of the world’s minerals are mined in Africa, and not always under the best of circumstances.  The circumstances under which a mineral was taken from the Earth is very important to us.  We also believe that some minerals should be left in the ground unless they are needed for medicine.  So returning such things to the Earth or choosing to use their energy from the Earth rather than digging them up, is a good deed.

Crystals and minerals are used in many ways, from house blessing to mojo bags.  Archaeological digs have revealed various crystals that were purposefully buried in yards or with deceased African slaves in the Americas.

Oshun, Ochun, Oxum

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Oshun as Romantic Love

Oshun as Romantic Love

Some say that in Africa, before western influence, there was no such thing as romantic love.  The truth is much more complicated than this.  There was romantic love, and it was well recognized.  It was just referred to as intense lust, so in daily life, familial love and admiration was given a higher priority.

People did respect that intense lust so much though, that they named its Orisha: Oshun.


  • Sacred number: 5 and multiples of 5
  • Colors: yellow, yellow and green, yellow and amber/honey/champagne, yellow and blue, yellow and white, honey, champagne, amber, shades of yellow until standard orange
  • Domain: beauty, prosperity, feminine charisma, female sexuality, sweet things, oratory skills, pride, romantic love, sexual attraction, dance, feminine wiles.
  • Symbols: yellow hearts, peacock feathers, mirrors with yellow, bronze, or gold frames, yellow sashes, yellow headwraps, yellow belts, yellow skirts, yellow headbands, fans, fans made from peacock feathers

There are many apatakis about Oshun’s ways and antics.  Many of them were to teach people a lesson about the nature of beautiful women.  Some, like the story of Oshun and Iroko are cautionary both for people who take the promises of beautiful women too seriously and those beautiful women who procrastinate or forget promises they’ve made to get their way.  Some are epic like the ones about Oshun defending Shango in a way that people didn’t expect from such a beautiful woman.  Some are tragic like the story of Oshun’s fight with her mother Yemaya.

Oshun is regarded as vengeful if crossed, but otherwise extremely generous.  She can be impulsive and sometimes overly flippant about things others take more seriously, but she is not evil.  She just is the way she is because she can be.

Her domain is the pleasures of life, and often with great pleasures come great pain.  Life would however, be extremely boring and dull without her.

Oshun is very popular these days.  Though it is good to honor her, one should bear in mind that there are other female Orishas too, and other good and important things about being a woman than being pretty and lusted after.  Some people tend to forget others, and this is understandable, but I somehow don’t think Oshun appreciates the paradox and conflict that giving things to her that belong to her sisters Oba and Oya creates.  So be respectful of her and what she likes, and don’t appropriate things to her that she doesn’t like.

As an example, there’s the new feminist standard for “beauty” that people try to push on her.  It is a good thing to go to Oshun to make yourself more beautiful, but if you go to her to try to look like the skin stretched over bones and silicone ideal from Hollywood, it’s not going to work.  The more you go to her, the more you are asking her to make you look naturally beautiful, not synthetically beautiful.  You’ll end up looking aerobics instructor beautiful or dancer beautiful, not skeleton beautiful unless you’re Gothic and that’s the legitimate aesthetic goal.  If it’s the latter though, Maman Brigitte is going to do more for you in that since fat cell shrinkage rather than just distribution needs to happen.

Gay and intersex persons who are outwardly male but inwardly female, as well as crossdressers who need to go there occasionally can benefit greatly from communing with Oshun.  It will help you to gain more of the essence of feminine grace and beauty.


Originally, Oshun was the Goddess of the Oshun river in Osogbo, Nigeria, but as her followers increased and spread, so did her duties.  She came to be recognized in just about all pleasant, drinkable and bathe-able freshwater springs, fountains, streams, creeks, and rivers around which grew palm and eucalyptus trees.  Almost everywhere there are adherents of Vodun and similar west African systems, there is at least a fountain dedicated to Oshun where offerings are brought.

To this day in Osogbo, there is an annual festival of Oshun where people from all over the world go to honor her.  Prospective priests of Oshun also go there to gain the blessing of the ancestral priests.

Offerings to Oshun

Wild LettuceOfferings to Oshun should be taken to fresh water streams, ponds, lakes, and especially rivers.  If you can’t get to one, a fountain or pool will do.  Oshun loves natural sweets.  She loves honey the most of all sweet things.  All food offerings to her should be coated with honey or have honey in the recipe.  Just remember to always taste a little of it first.

She likes pumpkins, butternut squash, and other yellow, golden, and orange fruits.  I’ve had very good results from giving her golden pears and apples.

She likes yellow flowers, and ambery, honey, sweet smells.

Of the more savory things Oshun likes very much, wild lettuce and eggs are the most popular.  I have also had good results from offering delicacies such as baby corn, hearts of palm (ethically cultivated), artichoke hearts, and white asparagus.  She likes the finer things.

Some offer her sea food.  I don’t particularly like this idea unless you know you got it from a traditional fisherman or diver.  Oshun and Yemaya wills can become conflicted within if someone contributes to the destruction of the oceans for the sake of looking more pious and extravagant.  So if you feel you must give sea food to Oshun, do so, but make sure you were actually led to do that.  Do some readings to confirm.

If you’re returning freshwater fish or plants back to the river or a lake, please check with local wildlife authorities beforehand.  Sometimes people have given catfish to a place and they have taken over, or this happened later when the area was closed off.  Only return animals or plants that may take root, to their native area.

Something new for the science savvy is the offering of Brassica Carinata, also called Ethiopian mustard or y’abesha gomen.  They have pretty little yellow flowers, and are very attractive to honey bees.  Their greens make excellent mustard greens dishes.  According to researchers in New Zealand, they also naturally filter nanoparticles of gold from the ground.

Love Spells

Since Oshun is the Orisha of romantic love, she is often called upon for love spells.  Although in Vodun proper, these wouldn’t really be called love spells but love petitions, workings, or offerings, they do basically the same thing: draw love from a specific person or help someone to attract a lover.

If you have a love working pending, there are things that you can do to help it along.  Read this article for things you can do to increase the success of your current love working.

Oshun Incense

Oshun enjoys sweet smelling, fine incense, but you must make sure it is of the highest quality that you can afford.  If you are handy with the spoon, you can also make your own.  This is the recipe for a basic devotional incense, adapted for the western kitchen.

  • a pinch of cinnamon or cloves for Eshu
  • 10 spoonfuls fenugreek
  • a handful of louisa
  • 5 eucalyptus leaves
  • 5 spoonfuls sandalwood powder (African camwood or Baphia nitida if you can find it)
  • a spoonful of yellow mustard seeds
  • a small handful of myrrh or copal
  • a small handful of dragon’s blood chunks
  • 5 gold leaves or a dash of gold dust

Crush and powder everything as well as possible, consecrate, and keep in a cool, dry place.

Oshun Oil

The basic recipe for Oshun’s devotional oil, again adapted for the western kitchen.  All of these ingredients should be dried

  • A 1 inch cinnamon stick, 3 guinea peppers, 3 English peppers (allspice), 3 coffee beans, a vanilla bean cut into 3 pieces, or 3 cloves for Eshu
  • 1 liter of sunflower oil
  • 1 ml vitamin E oil
  • 1/4 cup fenugreek
  • 1 handful of louisa or dried orange peels
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 freshwater pearls or cowrie shells
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon honey
  • (optional) 5 gold leaves

Put all of the other ingredients in a large jar or bottle.

Pour the sunflower oil over all.

Close the jar for 5 months in a cool, dark place.

Strain before use unless you like it “chunky” looking (which I do).

Click here for an article on some of the uses for Oshun oil.

Fashion for Oshun

One thing you should do for Oshun that carries some of the weight of an offering is wear yellow clothing, especially on Saturday, which traditionally starts at sundown Friday night and goes to sundown Saturday night.  The same day is an auspicious day for Yemaya as well, so it’s good to wear a combination of yellow and blue.

Oshun is famous for her beautiful head wraps.  So take the time to wrap up nicely on Saturdays as well.

Don’t skimp on the accessories.  Wear earrings (clip on or magnetic if you’re not pierced), necklaces, and five rings on your fingers, or five bracelets on your arms.

Attracting and Maintaining the Blessings of Oshun

Oshun is very generous to those who keep her ways, and do things to glorify her.    If you need more love and prosperity in your life, here are things you can do.

Be grateful for your beauty.

We are not all beauty queens or hotties or whatever, but we all have a little beauty in us.  We should never take it for granted.  So as much as you can, take care of your physical appearance.  Love your skin, your organs, your bones, and do what you can to keep them healthy.  You may not own the finest clothes, but what you have should be clean and in good repair.  Basically be well groomed, even if you think nobody is looking.  Oshun is looking.

Be grateful for your material possessions, and clean your home.

The price of having things is that you must take care of them.  As best as you can, keep a clean home.  Your bed should be a clean and comfortable place, since Oshun is the Orisha of romantic love.

Take care of those around you.

Help others to maintain their beauty and material possessions.  If your friend is ill or unmotivated, help them clean their home and keep themselves healthy.  Be positive about it, and not too preachy.  The idea is to spread joy, not judgement.  Feed people.  Host meetings to treat people when you can.  Be generous.


Oshun lives in dance.  So once a day, turn on some music, and move.

Basically, be the hands of Oshun in humanity.  Spread joy and love where you can, and try to make the world a more beautiful place.


What is Gris-gris?

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Keep Faithful and Attraction Gris-gris

Keep a Man Faithful and Attract True love Gris-gris Balls

A gris-gris (also spelled gri-gri) is an amulet or talisman made by placing particular objects or ingredients into a small package for a specific purpose.  They were originally called “ouanga” or “wanga”, and are sometimes called mojo bags or simply charm bags.  A special type of charm bag that is very popular among practitioners of Santeria is the macuto.

Gris-gris can be in the form of cloth, leather, membrane, or paper, clay, foil, wax, polymer, or paper mache bags or balls.  They can also be in small jars or glass vials.  Each sect has their preferred way of packaging, and very often individual practitioners with a talent for making them have their own style.

They can be used for many purposes.  Some are generalized, but some are custom made for specific people or purposes.  For custom made gris-gris, many things may be taken into consideration when constructing them.  So make sure to answer questions your gris-gris maker honestly, so that they can make something that truly suits you well.

Some information about the contents of various gris-gris are open to the public, but not all.  Very few people are willing to tell their secrets partly because what works for one may not work for another.  Also, it’s about more than the ingredients.  Much like a bocio, making gris-gris requires mindfulness and often incantations, chants, or prayers while assembling it.

What is a macuto?  Is there a difference between macuto and gris gris?

Eshu MacutoA macuto is what a charm bag or bundle is called in Afro-Hispanic communities.  There is not much difference technically between them and gris gris except that the traditions around them and decoration are closer to the original ouanga or nkisi from West and Central Africa.  There are a few distinct styles of macuto.  Among the most commonly known are the Santeria and Palo Mayombe styles.

Among the lesser known are the southwestern Hoodoo style of beaded medicine bags made by people of mixed African, Native American, and Hispanic ancestry.

A typical macuto is used either a “container” or beacon for the spirit of a deity or ancestor, or for a specific purpose similar to a gris gris.  Where some Hoodoo or New World Voudou practitioners’ formulae for making gris gris is not so heavy on the specific spirituality, the macuto is pretty much all about the spirits.  It may happen that ingredients may coincide with physical medicinal aims, but the reasoning behind their being there is because of spiritual traditions or because the readings said they must be there.

Though a macuto, ouanga, mojo bag, and gri gri may be technically similar, the energy patterns and mind with which they are made do make a difference.  The outer trappings are more than ornamentation.  It can take years for someone to learn how to properly assemble, dress, and seal ouanga.

Due to some issues that have come up lately, and observations of various things around the internet, I feel that it is important to understand that the ouanga belongs to people who actually practice Vodun or a diaspora faith in the same way that the Native American medicine bag belongs to Native Americans.  The art belongs to the culture, and though others may do it, unless they are sufficiently trained in the style of mysticism from that culture, it is not going to be effective in the same way.

It is impossible to learn this from books.  You can read as much has been written about herbs, crystals, and known sacred objects, but without training from an actual person at the priestly level, that includes clocking considerable hours of trance work and learning the Spirits of the ingredients you’ll be using, you won’t really know what you are doing.

Someone at a level that they can make talismans in general, can make an eleke, but nkisi and the like are another thing.  Though I am not overly traditional, I do understand why some things must be as they are.  Some people will accumulate the right experiences in place of formal initiations with time, and those people will ask the Spirits and their peers and mentors the right questions and be answered.   Others simply do not have the right mind for the African way of doing these things and should, if they ever need a nkisi, outsource this to, or get a mindfully crafted kit from someone who does have the right mind for it.  Just to be clear, these people are not always of recently African ancestry.  They do however, “get it”.

Also, another important thing to understand is that other styles of charm bags are not less effective for getting a particular job done than nkisi.  A mindfully put together chakra stone bag will work just as well as an energy centers nkisi.  It may not look as cool, but it does essentially the same thing.  If you are trained in the making of nkisi, if (and only if) a Hindu asks you to, you would be able to properly seal the chakra stone bag in a way that respects the Hindu oriented Spirits, and it might look quite colorful and interesting.  When all is said and done though, the trained nkisi builder is very likely going to make that bag look like a lotus or be reminiscent of vertebrae or their impression of chakras.

As styles merge and overlap, there is no problem of mixing ethnic traditions, but one should avoid things that could be intepreted as cultural fraud.

What about the do it yourself mojo bag kits?

Attraction Mojo BagNow, for the sake of consumer information, I’m about to say some things that will make me very unpopular…or perhaps raise the standard for DIY mojo bag kits.

A proper kit should contain:

Instructions that begin with asking Eshu to open the gate.  If Eshu isn’t asked to open the gate, because it is from the North American Hoodoo tradition, there should at least be some sort of opening prayer or abbreviated “attention word”.

Incense for consecrating the supplies and then the finished bag.  So you should get two doses for burning on charcoal, two sticks or cones, or enough oil for two doses on an oil burner.

The ingredients, which may be chunky, powdered, or in the case of essential oils, a pad coated with liquids.  It may just be one amulet.  They vary.  In some cases, you may get a packet with ingredients because the priest/ess doesn’t want to take the chance of your losing or damaging anything.  Metal objects sent to women should be covered in a cloth packet.  In some traditions, any small representative drums sent to women should also be covered.

A bag made by hand or by mindful tailors.  The energy of a hand sewn bag is higher than a machine sewn bag, but if the maker was mindful that their work is for mystical purposes, this is a compensating factor.  What you don’t want is a bag that was mass produced in a factory.  The sewing of the bag is part of how the energy is focused and the purpose of the item confirmed.