African Poems

Oral Poetry from Africa

Tag: Orisha (Page 2 of 2)

Oshun, the river goddess

Oshun is an Orisha goddess associated with rivers and the marketplace. Medicines for fertility, wealth, love and intimacy are often attributed to her. Whilst generally harmonious and peace-loving she can be fiercely destructive when angered, thus certain forms of witchcraft fall under her providence. She is the patron of the town of Oshogbo in Nigeria and the wife of Shango in Yoruba mythology.

Brass and parrot feathers
on a velvet skin.

Obatala, the Creator

In the pantheistic religion of the Yoruba people there exists a supreme God, Olodumare, who is considered almighty and eternal. However, no prayers or shrines are kept for Olodumare because the nature of such a being is regarded as beyond human comprehension. Olodumare creates various Orisha, who are manifestations of certain aspects of the supreme God and with whom humans can interact.

Obatala (King of White Cloth) is one of the eldest Orisha and held responsible for the creation of the earth and of human bodies. His devotees aim to reflect the purity of Obatala’s white clothing, striving for moral impeccability in their actions.

Within the Orisha mythology there are many cautionary tales illustrating the consequences of that follow when an Orisha acts in ways that they later regret. In the case of Obatala, a central myth describes how he becomes drunk on palm-wine resulting in the creation of humans with various disabilities and mutations. In his remorse he becomes the patron deity of albino’s, the disabled and people with genetic disorders or congenital defects; and his worshippers are forbidden to drink palm-wine.

He is patient.
He is silent.

The Importance of Ori

One of the most important poems of Ifa, the divination system of the Yorubas. In this long and fascinating poem we meet many of the principal Yoruba Orisa or gods, and each is characteristically described. But the central argument is that each man’s fate is ultimately decided by his own character.

Ogun, God of War

A Yoruba Praise-Poem from Nigeria. Ogun is the God of iron and metallurgy. He is pictured as a blacksmith, but presides over every activity in which iron is used – hoes for cultivating, cutlasses for reaping, guns for hunting, cars for travelling, and so on. He therefore becomes the God of creativity and of harvesting, of hunting and of warfare, of invention and exploration and destruction.

Eshu, God of Fate

A Yoruba Praise-Poem from Nigeria. As the God of Fate, the uncontrollable element in human life, Eshu is praised as a kind of trickster God, bringing about the unexpected, the contradictory and the downright impossible.

Eshu turns right into wrong, wrong into right.
When he is angry, he hits a stone until it bleeds.

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African Poems