Oshun

oshun1In the early days of the world, and of Ilé Ifé the Orishas became tired of serving Olodumare. They began to resist the Lord of Heaven’s edicts and to even plot the overthrow of Olodumare’s kingdom in heaven and earth.

They felt they didn’t need Olodumare and that as the Lord of Heaven was so distant anyway, they could merely divide the aché or powers among themselves and that things would go much better that way. When Olodumare caught wind of this attitude and their plots, the Lord of Heaven acted simply and decisively: Olodumare simply withheld the rain from the earth.

Soon the world was encompassed by a staggering drought, the ground became parched and cracked, the plants withered and died without water. And it wasn’t long before all on earth, Orishas and their children alike began to starve. After a short time, growling bellies and sallow faces began to speak louder than their pride and rebelliousness.

They unanimously decided to go to Olodumare and beg for forgiveness in hopes that this would bring rain back to the world. But they had a problem: none of them could reach the distant home of Olodumare. They sent all the birds one by one to attempt the journey but each and every one of them failed, tiring long before reaching the palace of the Lord of Heaven. It began to appear that all hope was lost.

Then one day, the peacock, who was in reality Oshun herself, came to offer her services to save the world from this drought. Once again there was general upheaval and laughter as the Orishas contemplated the idea of this vain and pampered bird undertaking such a journey. “You might break a nail”, said one. But the little peacock persisted and as they had nothing to lose, they agreed to let her try. So the little peacock flew off towards the sun and the palace of Olodumare.

She soon tired of the journey, but she kept flying ever higher, determined to reach the Lord of Heaven and to save the world. Going yet higher, her feathers began to become scraggly and black from the withering heat of the sun, and all the feathers were burned from her head, but she kept flying. Finally, through sheer will and determination she arrived at the gates of Olodumare’s palace.

When Olodumare came upon her she was a pathetic sight, she had lost much of her feathers and the ones that remained were black and scraggly. Her once beautiful form was hunchbacked and her head was bald and covered with burns from flying so close to the sun.

The Lord of Heaven took pity on her and brought her to the Palace where she was fed and given water, and her wounds were treated. He asked her why she had made such a perilous journey. She explained the state on earth and went on to tell Olodumare that she had come at risk of her own life so that her children (humanity) might live.

When Olodumare looked to the world and to Oshún’s plaintive look, it was obvious that everything she had said was true. The Lord of Heaven then turned to the peacock who was now what we call a vulture, saying that her children would be spared from this drought and ordered the rain to begin again. Then Olodumare looked deeply into Oshún’s eyes and into her heart, then announced that for all eternity she would be the Messenger of the House of Olodumare and that all would have to respect her as such.

From that day forward in this path she became known as Ikolé, the messenger of the House of Olodumare. Ikolé also is the name for the vulture in Lacumí. And from that day the path of Oshún known as Ibú Ikolé was revered and became associated with her bird, the vulture. The vulture then returned to earth, bringing with her the rain, where she met with great rejoicing.

As befits a queen or Iyalodde, she graciously refrained from reminding them of their jibes and abuses as she could see the shame on their faces. This is why, whenever a person is to become initiated as a priest in our religion, no matter which Orisha they are having seated in their heads, they must first go to the river and give an account of what they are to do as Oshún is the Messenger of Olodumare.

Maferefún Oshún


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