The Rivers of Change the first part of a three part series on three beautiful African Queens who have left an imprint on my life as a student of spirituality. I wanted to challenge myself to write a miniseries and this is the perfect moment to showcase my appreciation for these deities and interweave the lessons learned into the tapestry of my being. The Goddesses Oshun, Yemeya and Oya, while being Sisters, are as divergent from each other as one could imagine. First appearing to me as three fates in a dream, I had the opportunity to take some time, do my research and connect with the Orishas of African Yoruba tradition. Traveling inward and making discoveries about myself is something that helps me overcome whatever challenges present themselves in my life. I want to share my experiences with you the reader as I journey through the spiral and discover the lessons and gifts that these provocative ladies bring to the existential table of self-realization.
Amber, gold, and honey. The way the light from the sun sparkles through the dense overgrowth and reveals bright copper speckles on chunks of soaking wet mica near a river’s edge. A woman swathed in yellow silk skillfully twirls and writhes with the craving of life’s untamed passion undulating through fertile hips. She is the obvious and unexpected beauty of the world that can travels through a warm hug from a friend and the smile of a child. Oshun’s This is the brightly burning vision that is expressed through the vision of my mind’s eye when I think about this lively Orisha. Patron of the river Osun in Nigeria and once the mortal consort of Lord Shango, Oshun is a sharp-witted character who has so much to teach Pagans who are trying to find their way through the Chaos that happens in ordinary life.
Understanding Oshun is like understanding the nature of a powerful river. The river brings with it a breath of life to the land by feeding the soil with moisture and mineral nutrients from the dense silt deposits along the twisting shores. Without the river, there would be a desert, barren and unforgiving. The river has another side that can be quite terrifying. If you factor in the rainy season, that same fertile river turns into a angry lion with a hunger to devour the same land it once sustained. Oshun is a formidable primordial deity who once protested the cruel treatment of women so devotedly that the supreme God of Yoruba tradition, Olodumare, gave Oshun and Her followers special powers so that nothing could be done without women. In my studies of Oshun and my observations of other chaotic natural forces, I can see why Oshun can turn on a dime and go from the personification to love to a terrifying visage of female rage.
You see, Oshun and I have something in common. The Goddess of Rivers, Fertility, Pregnancy, and Love can sometimes be the source of Her own undoing. It is said that Oshun loves so passionately that there is a great sadness about Her. It is explained in various circles that Oshun loves quite intensely and emotionally, and as a personification of such forces, it’s easy to understand how that kind of sole devotion can take some one apart from the inside out. I went to Goddess Oshun with my past in an effort to better understand my circumstances and actions in previous relationships. There’s a variety of rituals that can be found online to honor and worship this vivacious force, however, I find none work better than my own spontaneous rituals to deities. I have a habit of lighting some candles, perhaps burning some incense and playing some music related to the deity that I want to connect with in that present moment. For Oshun, I am listening to African tribal drumming and a few modern African love songs to help me envision where I make contact with this Goddess.
After the visualization is complete, I can see Oshun in my mind’s eye. Knowing what I know from my research, my mind begins to form questions relating to my current predicaments regarding my romantic and personal relationships. I have to be honest with myself here and really get to the core of what’s bothering me. This means asking myself a certain set of questions to discover what I’m experiencing and how I got to this place. Was it a physical interaction with a friend that went poorly? Did I feel that I was not attentive enough to my partner? Am I struggling with some memories of the past about an ex-lover and I need to make peace with that experience? The list can go on and on and after a while, I begin to notice a pattern to my thoughts and the answers begin to flow as freely as that powerful river I mentioned above. For me, this is contact with a deity. I know that I can be wrong and so I don’t just take these answers at face value. I do more research, ask the opinion’s of peers, and also observe what happens when I do change certain behaviors. If life is going really well, and it usually does in these instances, I’m on the right path and can learn to trust my own judgement.
Oshun will provide insight to me on why I become so wrapped up in the affairs of those I consider family and also why I experience insecurity and begin to socially isolate from friends. I will also see that because of my preoccupation with others that I tend to ignore my own needs until I am overwhelmed. For a long time, like Oshun, I put every fiber of my being into the love of another person. This sounds like a romantic notion, yet Oshun guided me to look at my past in a different way I had not yet considered. I tended to envision that person a certain way and unknowingly manipulated them towards the path that I wanted for myself. Since breaking off those relations, the need remained and I did not have an outlet to pour this focus into so I became quite depressed. It took more work with this love Goddess to see the worth that I saw in others is actually the worth I wanted to see in myself. It had to go beyond the spirit world and the platform of my mind to evolve which meant I had to actually start doing things that gave me self-worth. This meant getting out of the house, interacting with others in a different way, working the land at Deeply Rooted, and also learning to translate my observations into a written format.
No longer was I plagued by the pain of those who I had initially felt betrayed me. I had a new focus and it wasn’t hanging on the whim of another person. I found that by learning to control myself I could relinquish a lot of fear and anxiety that had built up over the years. Oshun pointed out to me that the trust I had built myself was self love and I was finally on the path to healing myself. Working with any Orisha requires a huge level of self-honesty. You’ll find that throughout lore, UPG, and every available text we have on Gods and Goddesses that most of them require a huge level of devotion that originates from devotion of the self. It’s cliched to say that you can only love another person by loving yourself first, yet I don’t believe that statement at face value. Sure, you can love other people with all of your being yet if you lack the ability to take care of yourself, people will suck you dry and you’ll find yourself spent. People may not realize that they are sucking each other dry consciously although the outcome is always the same. We all get caught in viscous cycles because we aren’t conscious of what we’re doing and so listening to each other is the first step of understanding more about yourself.
Oshun set me on a path to find my boundaries, confront my emotions head on instead of masking them, and assisted me in discovering the love of the self that had merely been wrongly directed. I refocused my efforts on myself and where I could take that next step towards something different. Immersing myself in my training for Clergy was a huge part of the process and also assisted in building more self confidence. I am grateful to Oshun for helping me to understand my self better and look forward to more lessons from this enigmatic figure. My thoughts are no longer like a stagnant creek, they rush like the river. Thank you, Oshun. This is only a method of doing things and can be replicated different ways with different deities. What matters most is that whatever method is used, that it works and is rooted in action. Next in my journey, I’ll be diving to the depths of my emotions by swimming through the sea with Queen Yemeya. I’ll be working on acknowledging my feelings in a healthy manner and also learning how to express those emotions at the proper time instead of drowning in them. Stay tuned and thank you for reading! – Shining Quill the Unicorn