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The Goddess Notes IV: Oya, Orisha of Wind and Storm, Queen of the Dead, Goddess of the Marketplace

Oya of Nupe

Nupe way station

To the nether world


Linking us with ancestors


Preserver of links

Yet as wind

    As hurricane

As tornado

As lightning
A destroyer

A woman to her core




In Africa


Goddess Oya

Weather goddess

Oya of the wind


Driving tornadoes

Oya of shifting shapes and forms

Goddess Oya
Orisha Oya
Goddess of winds

Oya of Nupe

Feminine to the core

Oya of Nupe

Oya patron of feminine leadership

Protector of women


Protector in negotiations


Venerated by Yoruba followers
In the new worlds of

The Caribbean

In Cuba and Brazil

Oya mother of nine

Of Enugu

Egungun of masquerades

Oya of Nupe

Of Jebba

Jebba where dead souls

Return to pour

Blessings on the living.

~Cicely Rodway

Several weeks ago I experienced a mysterious shift in reality precipitated by wind and lightening. The day turned to sheets of rain; wind, thunder and electricity covered the hills. Storming Earth elements brewed the evening into a further series of unexpected events. A brand new relationship to summer hatched open and life now contains a different style of movement; one of spontaneous partnerships, redefined participation in work, and transformation in the presence of death. Then, as I came to study the Nigerian Goddess Oya, I discovered I was entirely in the presence of Her features. How synchronistic, to have been entrained with the rising Orisha whose presence appeared to be guiding my season. Every time I sat down to make notes about her, I was visited by one of her storms.

Orisha, meaning both head and spirit in Yoruba, is the name given to the Yoruban pantheon of Spirits, several of whom also hold significance in the Latin American Roman Catholic ceremonies of Santeria. In her essay Oya in the Company of Saints, Judith Gleason offers a rich account of the syncretism in this Goddess’ ceremonies as her invocations travel the diaspora to Brazil, the Caribbean, and Cuba. Gleason’s work conveys the differing approaches to Oya’s worship, depending on which form she inhabits, and in which geography. In her African expression as Goddess of Storms, she always accompanies her consort Shongo, God of Thunder. If she is being invoked as Goddess of the Dead, she is celebrated with masks and marigolds as Queen of the Transition from life to the afterworld, harbinger of ancestral wisdom. In Cuban invocation she is sensual, fiery, and determined, invoked by raunchy jokes and palm fronds. She often carries bolts of lightening, swords, and sports a skirt of rainbow shaded scarves. In Latin American worship she melds with the spirit of Santa Teresa, creating dominion over la perdurar, informing a stalwart endurance.

“If you’re going to the forest to bring home leadership, says the Yoruba oracle, you rub buffalo horns with red camwood and present them to Oya. Oya has the honor of being the only Orísá to arise out of the animal and return to it at will. Her buffalo avatar belongs to a species that accepts leadership from a seasoned female…Buffalo Oya is consonant with  Egungun Oya. Animal wisdom and ancestral representation coalesce where patterns of survival and acculturation originate. For it is the species that survives the individual animal, ancestral characteristics come alive again in the individual person.” (2000, Gleason)

Drawing wisdom from heritage in the powerful form of buffalo, suggesting that authority flows forward in a way that honors the importance of feminine leadership brings to mind the ageless continuity of black women’s eros and righteous will. It brings to mind cultural icons who are an embodiment of sustaining volition, women such as Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou, and Angela Davis; or recently, the women who seeded the Black Lives Matter movement Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi. These Goddesses on Earth are shaping a strength aimed at stabilizing the profound knowledge of bloodlines while it forces the evolution of outmoded patriarchal, bigoted structures.

And yet the songs that call the Goddess in her various incarnations emanate from a collective experience, whether summoned by Shaman, Brujas, Santeria, or activists. This is evident by the mode in which Orisha Oya manifests from stillness or the unseen, not unlike the personal experience that moved me that evening in early summer on a weather beaten mountain side; she ushered in love, change, death, and a new model for work. It strikes me that this motion from invisible containment to a storming of the threshold in potently embodied gestures is similar to the style of continuous, awakening attention utilized in active imagination as Carl Jung practiced it in his analytical work with his patients and himself. In her book Boundaries of the Soul, June Singer describes the process of active imagination as Jung was understood to use it:

“Of utmost importance is that the unconscious material flow into consciousness and furthermore, that the material from consciousness flow into the unconscious, adding new elements that dissolve, transform and renew what has been present all along. But the most important thing, from the Jungian point of view, is that the ego may not fall into the unconscious and become completely submerged, overwhelmed. There must always be an I to observe that is occurring in the encounter with the not I. Confronting the unconscious …is serious business, it is play; it is art and it is science. We confront the unknown at every turn, except when we lose the sense of ourselves (ego) or the sense of the other (the unconscious).” (1994, Singer)

Could one add that confronting the unconscious is also the business of worship, perhaps concentrated in syncretic practice? We might pause to consider the function of active imagination as we work with archetypal projections such as Goddesses, aiming to channel the attributes they escort from the silent world of unconscious connection into the chiaroscuro of sacred activity. “Oya is the surface tension of life,” a Santeria states to Gleason. She is another of the wild feminine expressions of the psychopomp with whom we are now becoming quite familiar in the Goddess Notes. Relating the use of active imagination to the invocation of holy beings centers their presence in our humanity, as souls embodied, as carriers of rich common mysteries whose valence we might attend to both within and around us. As a force I awakened and attuned to, Oya affected every area of my life with her governance, from the wild ancestral sensual attunement, to the marketplace, to transition into death.

What could working with Oya mean for you?

Here are some links to explore further.

“Oya: In Praise Of An African Goddess,” Judith Gleason

Oya in the Company of Saints, Judith Gleason
Journal of the American Academy of Religion June 2000 Vol. 68 No. 2 pp. 265-292

Poems by Dr. Cicely Rodway:

A Poem by Kimberly Moore:


Andrea Jivan, LMT, MA
Depth Psychotherapist Intern
Blog Team Member
Jung Society of Utah

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