||List of Orishas
Day of the week: Sunday or Friday
Colors: pink, pink and blue, pink belted or accented with red and white, and just white
Domain: marriage, loyalty, fidelity, female honor with regard to wife and motherhood, bonding
Herbs: various herbs and spices used in home cooking, canning, preserving, first aid, cleaning and beauty. Aside of cooking herbs, some astringents such as horse chestnut, mahogany, and others are associated with Oba.
Symbols: interlocking wedding rings or circles, head scarves in her colors that cover the ears and neck (khimar style), the double swords (two machetes or gubasas) with attached scarves, the hooded cape, the baby sling, red and white hearts, red and white roses or other flowers, pink flowers
Oba is the first wife of Shango. She epitomizes
loyalty and dutifulness as a wife and as a mother. She is the
Orisha of home and hearth, but at the same time, fierce support and
love of her husband even if it puts her life in danger, but not taking
abuse. She will, in fact, risk her relationship with him to insist upon
In this age of selfishness and overly individualistic "white"
feminism, Oba is one
of the least popular Orishas who is still remembered at all.
One of the reasons she is remembered at all is due to her rivalry with
Oshun. Now that most women are being pressured by the spread
of the wrong kind of western culture to get away from home and their
roles as wives and mothers, of course the Orisha of feminine duty would
lose followers. We are pretty well aware of our duties and the
catch 22 situation we're in as Black women, being penalized with a
demand of our subservience and acceptance of poverty if we do stay at
home, and being cast as neglectful and overly feminist if we do what
we've always had to do and go out and work. I personally believe that
it is time to bring
it back. Motherhood has to be taken out of the colonialist context that
casts women as the default slave class, and Black women in particular,
the slaves of the ethnic and gendered slave classes. We have to stop
being the scaffolding for both "white" women's liberation and everyone
else's at the expense of our own.
Little is known about Oba outside of the community near her river aside of the fact that she was not as pretty as Oshun, but then again, neither was Oya. What is known about Obba is that she was not the weak, submissive, passive type, just dutiful, and in her cautionary tales, overly dutiful and overly trusting. She is said to have been a well trained warrior by Ogun, and a good leader of her people. She was an active queen who held it down while Shango was off to war and doing his other things. She held it down and didn't do or accept anything she did not want to. Asa Alaafin is trying to help more people understand the legends of Obba. Read their newsletter from December 2017 featuring Orisa Oba. It is suspected that the reason Oba (originally named Asabo Eleeko Oba) was married to Shango is that she was a very good match for him, being fertile and extremely strong in mind and body. She studied martial arts and the use of the sword under Ogun. She was successful very likely because she was kind of a female counterpart of Ogun. She is the practical, dutiful woman archtype. She is straightforward, fiercely protective, and what today, we call a “ride or die” in the non toxic sense.
Today, if someone has an affinity for Oba, they are initiated through Oshun. I believe that this should change mainly because her egbe is likely to grow as more are educated about her, and the infrastructure deficiencies around the world require more resourcefulness. Oya and Oshun may rule the market and marketing, but Oba manages production. Those who are most connected to her should meditate on regaining the paths of Oba. If the old traditions are not revealed, new ones should be invented that give her the respect she deserves and therefore brings her back into the consciousness of womankind.
So I’m going to share what works for me. Try it, and if it works for you, or you have anything to add or adjust, feel free to comment.
In my experience, Oba likes wholesome, nutritious, natural food and incense made of everyday spice cabinet herbs and spices. She especially likes things that are economical and made to feed a large family. She absolutely hates waste and excess.
So, a food offering to Oba is a feast ebo, not a sacrifice. Make a big pot of stew from animals that have been humanely raised and killed (free range, killed by a priest of Ogun, or at least kosher or halal) and vegetables in season. She is not picky, and doesn’t have patience for picky children, although she is quite indulgent. So the meals should be well balanced and end with a nice dessert made with the more economical palm syrup or sugar, rather than honey. A little honey is fine, but don’t slather it on as you would for an offering to Oshun. Do not use any fake foods like corn oil or canola oil in food for Oba ebos. Also don't use palm oil or anything with alcohol. If you are observant, do not drink alcohol during her festival, which usually lands in February.
Oba does not like her food too spicy. Baked yams, sweet potatoes, or a nice medley of root vegetables, and roasted corn are her favorites. It should be flavorful but not too hot. Peppers should however, be served on the side when you serve men.
Like her husband, Oba also likes corn grits (also known as semolina or mamaliga). When you make a meal for Oba, you serve your husband (or boyfriend), father, or a male elder or good friend first. Then serve the children. Only after that, you can eat. Do this even if you are male. When the husband or respected man is finished and full, you start by eating what is left on his plate that is edible.
Leftovers are fair game, but make sure to store them as soon as they’ve cooled off, and eat them all before they expire. Try not to leave anything in the pots or pans. Use a rubber spatula if you have to. Try not to waste a drop.
When you come into Oba awareness, your kitchen becomes a sacred space. Keep it clean and organized.
Oba can be infused into a sopera (covered soup bowl or pot). You can buy an official Lukumi sopera, or consecrate another one that looks right to you and that you receive approval for. Any statues or the face of any sopera you have for her should be oriented towards your Shango items.
It may not be African, but a great presence of Oba on your home altar would be Russian Matryoshka dolls. Try to get pink ones. If you are Christian, the ones with paintings of churches on them are good partly because one of the duties of a good wife and mother is to teach the children good values and service to their community. Being Vodun, Gnostic, or Pagan in addition means that you have a kind of double duty of teaching them the truth that Jesus was a Jew but never attempted to recruit anyone to Judaism or alter their faith in any way but remind them of the power of the Supreme God, and the good that people who remember can do.
Oba is a river goddess, so her outdoor places are with moving water. If you don’t have a river nearby, a fountain will do, similar to Oshun. Look for a place that people go to for practical reasons, like to get water for their home or to bathe for healing purposes.
Very little is known or remembered about Oba, so in and outside of Africa, we are doing our best with what we have. This recipe has been acceptable in my family’s practice, so I am sharing it. As with everything else, feel free to share your experiences with what works for you in the comments.
Crush these in a mortar and pestle or hand crank food processor. Keep them in a pretty covered bowl or jar. It should look crafty and cute, and have pink and blue.
Put all the dry ingredients in a jar or bottle, and pour over the olive oil. Give it a good shake with happy energy. Consecrate, and then keep in a cool, dry, and dark place for at least 3 months, but preferably 8.
© 2023 K.Sis. Nicole Lasher and respective guest authors.