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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
Offerings 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.
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 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.
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.