By: Claudia Rodríguez
Yoruba religion attaches great importance to water, as a divine and purifying element. For this reason, various deities of the Yoruba pantheon represent the forces of the world's waters.
Examples of this are:
- Yemayá, orisha queen of the seas
- Olokun, god of the ocean depths
- Oshún, representative of fresh waters and rivers
- Obba, owner of the lakes and lagoons
- Naná Burukú, deity of swamps and springs
Even the Yemayá-Oshún duality, two of the most important orishas of the Yoruba cult, are recognized as the Queens of the Two Waters, representing the union of the sacred liquid on the planet.
Patakí on water and the beginning of the world
A Yoruba patakí tells that at the beginning in the world there were only fire and burning rocks. Then Olofi, the Almighty, turned the vapor from the flames into clouds. The water came down from the clouds and put out the fire.
And in the huge gaps between the rocks Olokun was formed, the Ocean and the water made veins in the land for life to spread. That is Yemayá, the Mother of the Waters.
That is why it is also said that before anything else existed, Yemayá was lying down full length and suddenly she said: "Ibí bayán odu mi: My belly hurts", and from her came the rivers, the orishas and everything that lives on the land.
Water, as we see, is one of the most powerful and praised natural forces in the Yoruba religion, used in spells, purifying cleansings and in numerous ceremonies and considered as a source of life.
Let's learn about the relationship between water and some of the greatest deities of the Yoruba pantheon:
Yemayá, the Queen and Mother of the seas
Yemayá (Iya Moaye, Mother of the World) She is one of the greatest deities of the Yoruba pantheon, considered the Mother of the Gods, since all things on this Earth are born from her, as well as life from the seas.
She is the owner of the waters and represents the sea, the fundamental source of life on the planet. That is why it is said that «the saint was born from the sea» (the snail was the first to speak and told the creatures what to do).
The legend indicates that all humans are her children, since we swim nine months in the mother's placenta before going out into the world.
Her name means IYA MO ELLA, Mother of Fish, and it is said that he was born with the moon as Obatala was born with the sun. And it is that Yemayá is as old and powerful as the father of the world Obatalá and from her marriage the other Orishas are born.
Yemayá can influence parts of the human body such as the uterus, liver, chest and buttocks.
It is the Orisha that represents:
- the intelligentsia,
- creation and life,
- wisdom and
- the changing characters like the sea.
The legend indicates that due to his raptured character he lost the hegemony of the world and was given only control of the surface of the seas.
She is the patron saint of salty waters and their secrets, the one who can keep the sea calm, but also enrage him. For this reason, she is the protector of all sailors, who invoke her blessing to avoid shipwrecks.
Offerings and syncretism of the orisha Yemayá:
Your offerings They should always include tools related to marine elements, and objects made based on their colors, which are light blue and white. Also, their devotees have the custom of bringing them white roses and leaving them in the water, to decorate their temple.
Yemayá syncretizes in the Catholic religion with the Virgin of Regla, protector of the sailors and representative of the Bay of Havana. To her, those who must make a trip by sea pray to her to remove the dangers that the waters contain.
Olokun, the Masked God of the Ocean
Olokun is the owner of the depths of the sea and represents the deepest secrets of life and death.
Because of his power over the oceans and the hidden depths, he is one of the most dangerous deities of the Osha-Ifá religion, feared and respected by all. It is said that only he knows the true mysteries of the seabed and what is hidden in them.
Olokun is androgynous, and can be a very moody man or a beautiful maiden. He is also represented half man, half fish, and he always comes down masked.
He is a powerful, terrible and extremely mysterious deity who embodies the sea in its terrifying aspect, but also blesses his devotees with great health and prosperity.
A Pataki tells that, in the beginning of the world, there were only Olorun and Olokun, since Olokun was the origin of Yemayá.
For a long time Olorun and Olokun fought for dominion over Earth and every time Olorun sent something to Earth, Olokun appropriated it.
Olorun wanted to reign everywhere and Olokun, to demonstrate his power, provoked the sea level. So it was necessary to ask Olokun for the Earth to exist again. So terrible and powerful is the Orisha of the oceans that when Olorun separated from him and went to the top, Olokun stayed.
It was Olokun who wanted to drown all of humanity and all the animals and for this reason he lives tied in chains at the bottom of the ocean, next to a large sea serpent that rears its head when there is a new moon.
In Santeria it is believed that after Oddúa, Olokun is the highest representation of Ocha and is worshiped in different ways, depending on the branch in question.
Attributes and offerings to the deity Olokun:
His tools must always represent the water and the oceans and the food of this deity must often be delivered to him on the high seas.
In the Osha Olokun it should never be dry in the jar where it lives, because its immense powers come from the water as a natural force, there resides its Ashe.
In the traditional delivery of the Orisha Olokun, the ceremony begins at sea. They take to their natural temple, a jar, a small jar, animals and food as an offering.
This sacred ceremony delivers the secret of Olokun to the religious, who carries the Orisha's ashé to bring health, evolution and spiritual growth to the believer.
Ochún, the beautiful Queen of fresh waters
A pataki tells that Ochún the most beautiful among the beautiful, fled from the blacksmith Oggún and desperate, she jumped into the river.
Dragged by the whirlwind of the current, she reached the mouth where she ran into the powerful Yemayá, mother of all the orishas and lady of the Sea.
Sympathetic, Yemayá took her under his protection, and gave her the river and fresh waters so that she could live. To cheer her up, he covered her with jewels, corals and infinite riches.
That is why Ochún lives on the river and loves Yemayá so much. Both are the Queens of the Waters, protectors of the women and powerful deities of the Yoruba pantheon.
Ochún is an older Orisha, owner of love, femininity and the river. It is the symbol of grace and female sexuality. He always accompanies Yemayá, as the river flows into the sea.
From its sweet waters the goddess assists pregnant women and women in labor. But the saint also represents religious rigor and therefore likes the implacable punishment for falsehoods and crimes.
To pray to him and leave offerings to Oshún, it is advisable to go to the river, his natural temple and representative of his powers. She will always be listening from the waters.
Offerings made to the Goddess of love Oshún:
We can bring you Ochinchin, which is one of your favorite offerings that is prepared based on some special ingredients, in addition to:
- levers of gofio and honey,
- I smelled saffron
- sweets of all kinds,
- animals like pigeons,
- fruits like pumpkins and many others.
They are also a good gesture, the bouquets of sunflowers that we leave on the banks to decorate the house of the Yoruba Goddess of Love.
It is said that the children of Ochún and Yemayá are united by destiny, like the river and the sea. And so they must balance their lives, in the same way that rivers flow into seas and both communicate. They cannot stagnate, but must fight to overcome problems by going with the current.
Oshún syncretizes in the Catholic religion with the patron saint of Cuba, Caridad del Cobre, whose legend tells that she saved three sailors from drowning in a storm and whose image appeared floating off the Cuban coasts. She is also prayed as the patron saint of sailors.