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Oshun is the Yoruban Orisha of the sweet or fresh waters (as opposed to the salt waters of Yemaja). She is widely loved, as She is known for healing the sick and bringing fertility and prosperity, and She especially watches over the poor and brings them what they need. As Orisha of love, Oshun is represented as a beautiful, charming and coquettish young woman. In some tales She is said to be a mermaid, with a fish's tail.
The Yoruba clans inhabit parts of western central Africa, in present-day Nigeria. Oshun is the goddess of the river of the same name, and She is especially worshipped in river-towns. During Her yearly festival, She is said to choose one or more women dancers to descend into (much like participants in Vodou ceremonies may be "mounted" or "possessed" by a lwa). These women then take new names in honor of Oshun and are thereafter consulted as healers.
“I am the honey-sweet voice of the waters. I am the flowing of a woman's skirts as she dances her life.”
Oshun was taught divination with cowrie shells by Obatala, the first of the created gods, and then She brought the teaching to humans. She was at one time the wife of Shango, the storm god, as was Oya, the goddess of the winds and tempests. Oshun is also said to be the mother of the birds or fishes.
With the African diaspora, Oshun was brought to the Americas, and adopted into the pantheons that branched out of the African traditions. In the Brazilian religion of Candomblé, which retains close ties with the Yoruban religion, as well as in Cuban Santeriá, She is called Oxum. In Haitian Vodoun She is an inspiration for Erzulie or Ezili, also a goddess of water and love.
Oshun, like the other Orisha, has a number associated with Her--five; a color--yellow or amber; and a metal--gold or bronze. The peacock and the vulture are sacred to Her. Offerings to Oshun include sweet things such as honey, mead, white wine, oranges, sweets, or pumpkins, as well as perfume.
Oshun in a reading indicates sweetness and good cheer, beauty and flowing joy.
The Oshun-Osogbo Sacred Grove
The Oshun-Osogbo Sacred Grove is a sacred forest that is the cradle of Yoruba cultural traditions. It is the domicile of Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of fertility. The site consists of 40 shrines, 2 palaces, and many sculptures and other works of art.
Many centuries ago, hunters from a nearby village Ipole Omu, named Larooye, Olutimehinrs and their subjects migrated in search of water. They finally settled at a place very near the Osun River in present day Osogbo. Later, Larooye became the first Ataoja (King) of Osogbo, as one of the initial builders of the settlement. These men and their subjects knew nothing about the administration of the goddess of the Osun River.
As time passed by, members of the established community were engaged in preparation of grounds for a planting season when a tree fell into the river and a mysterious voice was heard from the Osun River saying: "Larooye, Olatimehin " (Gbogbo Ikoko Aro mi leti fo tan)-you have destroyed all my dyeing pots.
Having heard this mysterious voice, they were afraid for they never knew how the goddess of the river knew their names. When Oba Larooye and other lesser spirits within the community pacified the goddess of the river by saying Oso-Igbo pele o, Oso igbo rora, the ancient city was said to have derived her name from the mysterious voice from the lesser spirit made to pacify the goddess of Osun River, thus Oso-Igbo pele o; Oso-igbo rora, was abbreviated to Osogbo. Same goes for the royal title, Ataoja which was derived from the function which the goddess of Osun River advised the first Oba to perform during the last day of the then festival; Atewogbeja which is abbreviated to Ataoja.
She then advised Oba Larooye, Olutimehin and their subjects to move to the upper part of the river called Ohuntoto, for human beings could not live with the spirits. Immediately, Oba Larooye, Olutimehin and subjects obeyed the command of the goddess of Osun River and moved to Ohuntoto, leaving behind his first palace now called Osun Temple inside the sacred grove
As time went on, Olutimehin engaged in hunting expedition and saw some spirits within the Osun Grove dancing round a sixteen-point lamp. He seized the lamp through incantation. When Osun goddess heard about the seizure of lamp, she invited Larooye and Olutimehin and told them that the seizure of the lamp never worried her but advised that the lamp be celebrated alongside ode Osogbo.
A pact was sealed between the Osun goddess and Oba Larooye that Osogbo would always be protected and blessed if the people continue to worship her. She was applauded with many important achievements by the people, which helped to establish the State. She possessed magical powers, which motivated her people and frightened their enemies. Osogbo tradition acclaims her the goddess of fertility, protection and blessings. She also possessed the ability to give children (through birth) to barren women, healing of the sick and the afflicted by means of her medicinal water from the river.
While in transit, we moved slowly due to the massive crowd of people that danced and generally occupied themselves with merriment under colourful canopies. It was an opportunity for traders to make quick money as there was a high demand for goods and services such as the selling of 'Akara Elepo'- beans cake, 'Adire/ Kampala'-well designed local fabrics, souvenirs, farm produce, street games, Bata, Dundun, Aro, Sekere - drums and the white plastic containers which are sold in large quantities and used to collect water at the Osun river.
In recent time, the Osun Goddess is believed to have established her kingdom across the globe and this is why UNESCO has listed Osun Grove as a World Heritage Site.
Alternate spellings: Oxun, Osun, Oshoun, Oxum, Ochun.
Titles: Oshun Ana, "Goddess of Luxury and Love"; Oshun Telargo, as the modest one; Oshun Yeye Moro, as the coquette; Oshun Yeye Kari, "Mother of Sweetness".