Wind in her hair.
Lightning in her eyes.
Storms in her voice,
And thunder in her thighs!
Sacred number: 9.
Sacred colors: Brown, orange, purple, arterial blood red, deep red, burgundy, maroon, rainbow plus black, brown, and white.
Symbols and Embodiments: Storms, wind, whirlwinds, hurricanes, storm and/or disease vector symbols, chaos symbol (cross of two or four arrows) with whirlwind (tapering zigzag), more symbols below.
Oya is the Orisha of wind, storms, thunder, and change. In some ways, she is very similar to the Hindu deity Kali except that she isn’t considered *the* goddess of death. That position belongs to Iku. She can however, be the “wind” that brings death.
Oya is the third wife or second concubine of Shango, the Orisha of fire, lightning, dance, and martial arts. It is said that after the big rivalry between Oba (Shango’s first wife) and Oshun (Shango’s second wife) blew up into an all out war, Shango banished them both, determined that his next companion, if at all, would be a balanced and supportive woman.
It is interesting to note that in most apatakis about Oya and Shango, they never actually lived together. Oya liked her peace in the forest, and Shango was a busy man, and already traumatized by rivalry between women. So for whatever reason, both liked their space, but loved each other. Despite their not living together, they stayed connected to each other and visited often until both of them died and ascended to the ancestors.
There are many lessons in this. One may well be that when people are young, there are two main things that are most important in their romantic lives: familial duty and sexual attraction. So Shango married a dutiful wife first, and a visually stunning wife second.
When we get older though, our priorities change. Once we’ve raised our kids and gotten ourselves established, we look to the next horizon, which is pleasure. Then once we’ve experienced that and realized that not all that glitters is gold, and settled that conflict in ourselves, what we need most is companionship and comradeship in a partner.
So a woman who wants to be her masculine partner’s all should figure out how to balance the Oba, Oshun, and Oya in herself. Very few of us can, so we may want to learn to be okay, if we marry or are dating a very powerful and intense person with a high Shango energy (or fire element) with “outsourcing” some aspect of these roles. We need to, like Oya, trust our partner’s tastes, and let them have their space. For the record, this applies to any person who has a very classically masculine personality, especially if they have relative physicality to back this as well. Some men need to give space to their women. How ever one arranges gender socially, we are talking in generalities when we use terms like “man” and “woman” here, especially when we’re discussing deities like Oya.
Back to aspects of Oya though, she is the epitome of female strength. Contrary to what many may say, she does not represent feminism as normally thought of in the English speaking world, which is usually “white” feminism or American capitalist ideology based feminism, but feminine power in the natural sense that is usually recognized at least a little outside of U.S. borders, and definitely where people have unpacked enough of American and European colonialism. She is an extremely powerful entity, but this is partly because she has had the support, love, and companionship of extremely powerful men or masculine energies. So she is in many ways both embodiment of the intersection of male and female physicality, and man and woman socially; and also their interdependence.
She guards the graveyard with Eshu, ensuring that graverobbers and disrespecters of the ancestors are punished. She hunts them down mercilessly. Not just the person who physically does the looting. She may even forgive them if they did it out of poverty and desperation. She will go for all of those who profited from the robbery. This applies to the way she operates for all crimes under her domain. Her sweeping punishment may seem chaotic and indiscriminate, but that is because one doesn’t always know the dirt some people are doing.
When humans get too arrogant and settled into their lives, she gets the nod from Eshu and/or Babalu Aye to sweep through with storms, earthquakes, and plagues. If you can imagine Babalu Aye surfing across the skies on the flowing, violet veil of Oya scary, but essential so that we don’t become overpopulated, overly selfish, or overly stupid.
There are seemingly conflicting views on the appearance of Oya. Some say she is incredibly beautiful, and wears a veil or mask so that men aren’t distracted by it. Some say she is so horribly scary and hideous that she wears a veil or mask because otherwise, people would die from seeing her. I personally think it may be a bit of both. Perhaps she wears a veil or mask because how she looks depends on who is looking, and she would rather be in control of what reaction she gets from whom.
Lately, there has been a lot of buzz around the sisters of Oya called Afefe and Ayayo. Afefe is the wind and also unconsciously projected will or magic, and Ayayo is direction or consciously directed sorcery.
In Santeria, and this may be something new by the way, some people are popping up with Ayayo elekes and other items specific to her. At best, this is ineffective, but at worst, this separation or distinction could lead to a lot of tragedy and hardship for those who take her out of context. Remember that sometimes Eshu will allow bad things to happen allow us to undo ourselves to cull the stupid or teach us valuable lessons.
Oya’s sisters are barely mentioned by Africans and those in other groups in the diaspora because even though we are taught they exist, we are also taught that they are inhumane and not to be approached directly. They are only approached through Oya.
Initiates to most cults of Oya, as well as those children of Oya under secretive, directly passed down knowledge are instructed to keep the sisters out of the eyes of others. It will bring them grave misfortune. If you were entrusted with any of their items or led to construct any, they are for your eyes or the eyes of the person you made them for only. They are not to be displayed to the world.
So hopefully any items you see representing or supposedly embodying the two sisters are just hype to look scary and Gothic but if Eshu has allowed one to actually activate then there is “hell” around it.
If something has changed, and we are now allowed to separate the inhumane sisters from the humane sister, and move them to the front, I haven’t gotten the memo. So please be careful out there, and don’t get caught in a “white people trap“.