Osun across the Waters
A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the Americas
Publication Year: 2001
Òsun is a brilliant deity whose imagery and worldwide devotion demand broad and deep scholarly reflection. Contributors to the ground-breaking Africa's Ogun, edited by Sandra Barnes (Indiana University Press, 1997), explored the complex nature of Ogun, the orisa who transforms life through iron and technology. Òsun across the Waters continues this exploration of Yoruba religion by documenting Òsun religion. Òsun presents a dynamic example of the resilience and renewed importance of traditional Yoruba images in negotiating spiritual experience, social identity, and political power in contemporary Africa and the African diaspora.
The 17 contributors to Òsun across the Waters delineate the special dimensions of Òsun religion as it appears through multiple disciplines in multiple cultural contexts. Tracing the extent of Òsun traditions takes us across the waters and back again. Òsun traditions continue to grow and change as they flow and return from their sources in Africa and the Americas.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Cover / Front Matter
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List of Illustrations
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The Yoruba language has developed conventions in spelling utilizing subscript marks such as ẹ,o., and ṣ, which are sounded “eh,” “aw,” and “sh,” respectively.Yoruba tones are rendered with arising mark for high (á) and with a falling one for low (à). In general we have followed the preferences of the contributors in using these marks, usually dropping them for proper names and places, with the...
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Ọ̀ṣun is a brilliant deity whose imagery and worldwide devotion demand broad and deep scholarly reflection. The purpose of collecting the essays for this volume is not only to document the historical and cultural significance of Yoruba traditions, but to emphasize their plural nature, their multivocality both in Africa and the Americas. We hope the effect will be prismatic, freeing the representation of Yoruba religion...
2. Hidden Power: Oṣun, the Seventeenth Odù
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From Òṣogbo in Òṣun State to Ikóro in Ekiti, from Ibadan in Ọ̀yó̭ to Ìjùmú in Kwara State of Nigeria, and throughout the Yorùbá diaspora in the Caribbean, Latin America, and North America, the Yorùbá continue to venerate their most powerful female òrìṣà (deity), Òṣun. The images alluding to her presence and power are as diverse as the people and the geographical locations...
3. A River of Many Turns: The Polysemy of Ochún in Afro-Cuban Tradition
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The Afro-Cuban orichas—and Ochún is not an exception—are far from being simple, monolithic entities. On the contrary, they are multi-vocal, polysemous categories that express a multiplicity of often contradictory meanings. I have used the word “category” advisedly, since orichas, for the most part, are not mere individuals, but sets of personalities or “paths” (caminos) that refer to particular...
4. Òrìṣà Ò̭ṣun: Yoruba Sacred Kingship and Civil Religion in Òṣogbo, Nigeria
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In every Yorùbá city, there is a major Òrìṣà whose mythistory, ritual, and symbols are intricately linked to both ancient and modern-day core values, as well as to the political and cultural lives of the Yorùbá people of that particular city. In the same vogue, the ideology and rituals of sacred kingship derive from this particular tradition honoring this same Òrìṣà. The Ọba (king), on his ascent to the...
5. Nesta Cidade Todo Mundo é d'Oxum: In This City Everyone Is Oxum’s
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This song, well-known all over Brazil, and the musical theme of a television series, brings to light a very true feeling of the people of Bahia, Brazil, especially when it says, “the power living in the waters does not distinguish between colors.”1 Indeed, the popularity of African deities in Brazil reaches persons from all ethnic roots and social levels. It may be an exaggeration to say that everybody in Bahia is Oxum’s because many are Ogum’s and Xango’s. All the Yoruba...
6. Mãe Menininha
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Maria Escolastica de Conceiçao Nazaré was born on February 10, 1894, in Brazil, a descendant of the royal family lineage Egba Alaké from Abeokuta, Nigeria. Her great-grandmother Maria Julia de Conceiçao was the founder of the ﬁrst Ketu candomblé temple in Brazil, the IléIya Nasso. In the same year that she was born, Maria Escolastica was initiated as a daughter of Òṣun in the temple Ilé Iya Omin Axé Iyamasse, the second Ketu temple...
7. Yéyé Cachita: Ochún in a Cuban Mirror
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Niní’s testimony to Lydia Cabrera about the Cuban name of Òṣun reveals an extraordinary cultural resourcefulness and spiritual creativity. In crossing the waters of the Atlantic, Òṣun’s devotees in Cuba encountered desperate challenges to their integrity and very survival. They responded by constructing a complex religious world in which Òṣun could continue to protect and inspire them through a variety of new symbolic media appropriate to the new world in which...
8. Osun and Brass: An Insight into Yoruba Religious Symbology
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The popular saying, Idẹ ni àpébo Òṣun, meaning, “brass is collectively worshiped as Osun” sums up the symbolism of brass objects in the Osun worship context. Most of her shrine objects and the jewelry of her votaries are made of brass and the variety of brass objects in her worship context depends on the means of the owners and whether the shrines belong to individuals or communities...
9. Overflowing with Beauty: The Ochún Altar in Lucumí Aesthetic Tradition
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No Lucumí2 altar is as lavish as an altar for the goddess of love, sensuality, beauty, and many other things. In Ochún, Olodumare (God) created beauty in such excess that, like her element, the river, she overﬂows with power and magniﬁcence. Hers is the realm of absolutes. Her power is supreme because all creation in one way or another feels love and is driven to manifest it. With Ochún the...
10. Authority and Discourse in the Orin Ọdún Ọ̀ṣun
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This essay explores the cosmological and socio-cultural idiom of authority and its discourse in the orin ọdún Ọ̀ṣun, that is, the festival songs of the Yorùbá deity Ọ̀ṣun. It examines the historical and contemporary themes and inspirations located within the sacred and secular liturgy of Yorùbá orature (oral literature). It also illustrates how this culturally-bound cosmic premise authorizes the position...
11. The Bag of Wisdom: Ọ̀ṣun and the Origins of the Ifá Divination
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By “Ifá divination” we mean Ifá and related systems of divination based on the stories and symbols of the Odu such as dida ọwọ́ (divination with the sacred divining chain called ọ̀pḙ̀lḙ̀) and ètìtḙ̀-alḙ̀ (divination with the sacred palm nuts), ẹẹ́rìn-dínlógún (divination with the sixteen cowries), agbigba (divination with a divining chain slightly different from ọ̀pḙ̀lḙ̀), and obi (divination with kola nuts). The...
12. Ochun in the Bronx
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Legend has it that Ochun was once a native of Ekiti state in Nigeria and well admired there for her courage and clean habits (Epega n.d.: 25). Now her veneration extends to Cuba and Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, Argentina and Spain, and the United States from Miami, Florida, to the South Bronx in New York.2 In New York on September 8th, hundreds of santeros, santeras, and devotees show...
13. “What Part of the River You’re In”: African American Women in Devotion to Òsun
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This essay is a collective reflection on the presence of the deity Òsun and the meaning of Orisha religion in the lives of six African American women—four with parental roots in the southern United States, one Haitian-American, and one with combined Caribbean and southern U.S. ancestry. Two are simply allegiant devotees of Òsun, having been guided at certain pivotal points by Her energy, though not initiated as Her priestesses. Four others are consecrated...
14. Ẹḙ́rìndínlógún: The Seeing Eyes of Sacred Shells and Stones
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This essay focuses on Ẹḙ́rìndínlógún, Sixteen Cowrie Divination, the primordial divination system claimed to have been owned by Ọ̀ṣun, the powerful goddess, a powerful and indispensable link between the humans and spiritual beings, both malevolent and benevolent. It identifies the multi-dimensional attributes of Ọ̀ṣun and her centrality in the maintenance and sustenance of the Yorùbá...
15. Mama Oxum: Reflections of Gender and Sexuality in Brazilian Umbanda1
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The images and sentiments evoked in me by thoughts of Oxum are surely familiar to anyone who has known this Orixa´ from the temples and terreiros2 and spiritual centers of Rio de Janeiro. The Umbanda song quoted evokes waterfalls and flowers to convey the serenity of Oxum and her concern for things pretty. Another song places Oxum at the bottom of the sea, in a water palace of compassion where she lives with the mermaid and the sea...
16. An Oxum Shelters Children in São Paulo
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“Oxum is a goddess l inked to the mastery of fresh waters, in particular the rivers. crown, and a sword. Yellow is her favorite color, and she loves perfume and dolls. She is beauty, elegance, and affection. She is the symbol of womanhood, love, and procreation. Without her, men and women can neither mate nor enjoy one another.”1
17. Living Water: Ọ̀ṣun, Mami Wata, and Olòkún in the Lives of Four Contemporary Nigerian Christian Women
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This essay is concerned with the lives of four Nigerian Christian women for whom the water deities Ọ̀ṣun, Mami Wata, and Olòkún are part of religious experience at its deepest level: Yetunde, a Yoruba professor from Lagos; Iya Aladura, a Yoruba Independent Church elder; Chief Victoria Abebe, an Edo midwife; and Grace, a professor from the Niger Delta. These women claim a...
18. Orchestrating Water and the Wind: Oshun’s Art in Atlantic Context
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The river Oshun begins in the hills near Igede, northeast of Ilesha, capital of the Ijesha Yoruba, in southern Nigeria. She then ﬂows west, past the city of Oshogbo, famed for one of her major shrines, then south, to empty into the waters of the Lekki lagoon. There she mixes with the brine of the Atlantic. And then she falls off the map, spiritually to reappear in the Caribbean, on the islands of...
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Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 44 b&w photos, 3 maps, 18 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2001