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Vodun Holidays and Orisha Birthdays

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This is a list of Vodun holidays.  It is by no means complete.  These are just the ones I know of and have gathered from a variety of people and sources.  Different cultures have different days.  Some synchronize them with Wiccan or Catholic holidays.  Follow your own soul on this.

January 10: “Voodoo Day”, or Traditions Day, which is celebrated in Benin and by some in the diaspora to give thanks for and remember our African heritage and spirituality.

January 17: Yoruba Feast of Ogun

February 2: Feast of Oya
Video

Sometime in February or March: The Festival of Obatala and Oshun

March 19: Feast of Osayin

March 25: Feast of Oshun

April 23: Santeria feast of Ogun

May 25: Feast of Ochossi (If hosting an event, you must have a dance on this day.)

June 16: Anniversary of the death of Marie Laveau, the most famous New Orleans Voudou priestess in U.S. history

June 21: Feast of Babalu Aye

June 29: Feast of Eleggua (This is an excellent day to do readings, so if you’re hosting, have an area just for this where people can have some privacy.)

Friday closest to August 15: Festa de Boa Morte (Festival of the Good Death) in Bahia Brazil.

Last Friday of August: Feast of Oshun in Oshogbo, the town in Nigeria whose official Orisha is Oshun.  Yes, you can get tickets.  Call your travel agent. Videos of the Festival of Oshun.

September 8: Feast of Oshun

September 10: Birthday of Marie Laveau

September 24: Feast of Obatala

September 29: Feast of Eleggua, also Initiation Day

September 30: Feast of Shango (Must serve some spicy foods on this day, and if you can drink but don’t get too drunk.  It’s also a good day for sparring, demos, and/or wrestling matches.)

October 4: Feast of Orunmila

October 24: Feast of Erinle

November 1-2: Day of the Dead – Synchronized with the Catholic All Saints’ Day, it’s a day when the ancestors are honored.  Different cultures have different ways of doing it, but generally, food offerings are given to the dead. 
Day of the Dead in Haiti

November 25: Feast of Oya

December 4: Feast of Shango

December 17: Feast of Babalu Aye

December 31: Feast of Yemaya

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.

Attributes

  • 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.

Origins

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.

Dance.

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.

 

Shango, Chango

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Shango

Shango, Chango

Hot blooded heat incarnate
He is fire and lightning.
If you’re good he is a light
But if you’re bad he’s frightning.

Shango (also spelled Chango or Xango)is the Orisha of fire, lightning, dance, and martial arts.

He had three wives: Oya, the Orisha of home, hearth, and marriage; Oshun, the Orisha of beauty, prosperity, and dance; and Oya, the Orisha of wind, storms, thunder, and change.

There are many apatakis about his firey temper.  During his mortal life, he was said to have been a powerful mage who could call lightning from the sky.  Some say that the prophet Elijah was given similar powers because, unlike the distracted idol worshipping Jezebel or his equally distracted fellow Hebrews, he brought himself above politics and nitpicking about interpretations of laws, and was given the powers of Shango (to call down fire and lightning) and of Oya (to raise the dead) by the Supreme God.  As a result, he did not die, and was carried personally to heaven by Shango and Oya in the form of a chariot made of fire, carried on a whirlwind.

This is why the prophet Elijah has been raised to the status of an Orisha in his own right, by some who combine Christian beliefs with Vodun.

Offerings to Shango

Shango likes hot peppers and spicy foods.  Just about anything with some heat, he enjoys.  He also likes red apples, bananas, pumpkins, pomegranates, kola, and okra.  One of his favorite foods is cornmeal grits (also called mamaliga or polenta).

He would be very pleased if you take the time to make him some tamales or stuffed corn dumplings pan fried a little in palm oil.  He really likes palm oil (which may be why he chose to love but not reside with Oya, who hates palm oil very much).

Immolations

I have always gotten the best results from Shango by burning Opium resin oil.  He likes spicy scents very much, and every time I have both burned Opium oil or incense, and worn some on my body, I have attracted a man who changed my life for the better.  Every.  Time.

To be specific, the scents that brought in the Shango energy were pepper and cinnamon.

The Louisiana recipe of Isis oil or powder is also extremely Shango friendly for women.  Men should use the traditional Shango recipe.

Things Shango Does Not Like

Shango does not like women fighting each other.  If you are a female child of Shango or in Shango awareness because you want something from him or need to raise your fire element, you should make peace with the women around you.  This does not mean that you have to give in to their whims.  It just means you should avoid petty conflicts.

Shango also does not like women who don’t respect men or men who don’t respect women.  Respect isn’t the same thing as deference.  If you are a man, you should be behaving like a man, and lead the women in your life who 99% need to be lead.  Few women don’t need this, and if yours does, you need to do that and stop drinking the feminist koolade.

Shango does not like weakness in men.  You may not be a superathlete, but you should be taking care of yourself.  Your biology is connected to your psychology, so taking the time to work out makes you healthier mentally as well as physically.  If you’re disabled, you should be working on your emotional and intellectual dominance.

The Shango Altar

If you have a home altar for all Orishas, you should have at least one natural fire and/or lightning oriented item to be or contain your part of Shango.  It is difficult to explain in English.  One cannot actually contain an Orisha, but the idea is that the object will embody the Orisha in a way.

If you have boxes, bottles, containers, or soperas for all of the Orishas or all of the ones who are ascended ancestors, then you should have one for Shango as well.  If you do not usually use containers, then don’t start doing that with Shango, or for that matter any of the masculine or warrior type Orishas.

Your Shango items should be nearest to your Eshu items, and yet as far as is possible from the Ogun items.  If you’re limited in space, put the Shango things on the opposite side of Eshu to the Ogun things.  They are both part of the nature of balanced men, but they are also part of the conflict that men have between their brutal selves and their social selves.  So if your Eshu things are in the corner, your Shango things should be on the opposite wall or edge from your Ogun things.

If you have any Shango necklaces or jewelry, they should be stored in a red or red and white bowl or cloth in the Shango section whenever you are not wearing them.

Shango’s symbols are the double bladed axe, lightning bolts, fire balls, and related things.  There are figurines and somewhat officially designated Shango items, but one of the good things about Vodun is that we make use of what we have.

If you have the space and opportunity to make a specific Shango altar, he likes the fireplace or really anyplace where you would make a fire that is not made of iron.  Make fires for Shango on stones, clay, or any kind of earth, even Pyrex or heat save glass, but not in a metal container.  His weapons should be metal, but his fire should be in earth.

In my opinion, weapons placed on the altar for Shango should be real and be sharpened.  Some find it acceptable to use wooden or clay replicas for him, but I do not.  Perhaps this is because they just feel better to me and make me feel more connected to Shango.  Follow your own way, but if the wooden version isn’t doing it for you, try getting at least a real quality knife.

Shango Devotional Incense

This incense should be used outdoors.  Put it on the fire, and step back from the smoke or you will feel like you’ve been teargassed.

  • a spoonful of black pepper or coffee grounds for Eshu
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of red pepper
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls cinnamon
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of sandalwood powder
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of oudh/aloeswood powder
  • a spoonful of millet, yam, corn, or amaranth flour
  • a small handful of dragon’s blood resin chunks, powdered in a mortar and pestle
  • a small handful of myrrh or copal resin, powdered

Burn on charcoal or in a roll of paper in a stone, ceramic, or pyrex type vessel, and MOVE!

Shango Devotional Oil

If it needs to be said, do not wear this on your skin as it is.  You will need just a drop or two in a recipe for male attraction oil, but this is devotional oil for burning in an oil burner or consecrating or anointing Shango items.

  • 6 coffee beans or a vanilla bean cut into 3 parts, or 3 peppercorns for Eshu
  • 1 liter almond oil, or olive oil for lamps (the pure kind, not mixed with other oils)
  • 12 dried red hot peppers
  • 12 dried hot light or green peppers
  • two fingers grab of tobacco
  • the skin of a yam, sweet potato, or the hairs of an ear of corn
  • (optional) half a gram to a gram of deer musk or the oil and dried sweat from someone who has just participated in an extreme sport or combat  (it’s okay if there’s a bit of skin, hair, or blood in it)

Put the ingredients in a jar, and let stand in a cool, dry place for six months.