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The Many Faces of the Yoruba Orishas and their Manifestations

This is a fascinating subject for me, mainly because this is who I am and also my family linage. When I first initiated Osun in Nigeria in a place called Ojo, during the initiation I was worried. I was worried, because prior to coming to Africa for the initiation, Lucumi people told me that I was a child of Yemoja. In my mind I had always thought Yemoja women had large breasts (don’t you dare laugh), and I thought that mine was not big, nice and fluffy yes, but big they were not. So how come? But I kept my thoughts to myself.

It was a Cuban Santero that told me this. My beautiful Padrino had gone to the world of Sprit to continue his work, so at this point when I was ready to initiate, I had no human guidance. However, I met this Santero. He was good and I liked him, but… Yemoja? I thought.

My memory began to flood back, when the magnificent Beings who I call Spirit was initiating me to consciousness. During those times, I got to a point when I could not speak English, all that came from my mouth was unknown languages — ancient words that I was being taught. If you had known me then, You would have wondered about me. Those days when the Spirit came upon me I would shout Ye! Ma Ye, Ma YE!!!

As language came, I spoke and shouted the above, not beholding it to any name or deity. It was while reminiscing on those awesome yet awful years (my initiation was very jarring), I remembered that those words sounded like Yemaya.

Now, let me explain something here. Yemoja is what the Lucumi practitioners call Yemaya, the river deity from the Yoruba Pantheon of deities. In the Western world, Yemoja (or Yemaya in the Western practice) is venerated at the ocean. However here in Nigeria, she is venerated at the river.

As oppose to Osun (pronounced Oshun) Yemoja is often described as unforgiving. Osun is described as forgiving and a happy Orisha. However, humans apply literal meanings to spiritual things and this is wrong.

In order to understand or have some semblance of understanding of Spirit beings and of spiritual things, humans have to remove themselves. What does this mean? Humans are emotional beings with limited minds (take no offense here as this means we are all ignorant of many things, especially of the invisible world). Most often meanings applied to something learned are literal. Spiritual language is metaphorical and are written as such. This is why even the dream world speaks the language of symbolism and of metaphors.

Symbolisms, Metaphors/Story telling are the vehicles in which wisdom travels. A person who cannot think beyond an Oxford dictionary meaning to a word, will have no comprehension of the spiritual world. Spirit Beings speak to humans through symbolism and through dreams and visions.

The understanding of a Deity through certain adjectives are for the profane. The understanding of Deities through symbolisms is for the initiate/knowledgeable elder.

One thing that few understand is that gods are split into uncountable expressions of themselves. They exist in every culture, under various names, titles, descriptions and even gender. It is indeed possible that a god who, in one culture, is described as a feminine energy, can, in another culture, be received as its masculine counterpart. Everything is both male and female, but each aspect of itself is revered according to its expression. Male and female is not “man” and “woman”, they are energies; “man” and “woman” are themselves expressions of these energies. The division of these energies from its singular existence was one of the greatest catastrophes of man.

Now, the more the deity “descends” to Earth in human understanding, that deity is reborn as a completely new and “descended” form of the purer form that it once was. For example, the more a deity is imagined similar to human concepts, and treated according to that limited understanding, the more the deity’s purity has been muddled and the more “spirit” or “ancestral” it become. If a deity is to be venerated, and it is venerated by a symbol rather than image, the purity of that Deity in our world is more than the one that is made into an image or carved figure.

But all of these deities are the same in origin, but made “individual” and corrupted the more it begins to descend. What was once a pure All-encompassing force, whom only virgins or the purified can attend to, now becomes closer to man and takes on human-like traits. These are but degrees of One Force, like octaves of a scale.

The Deity itself never changes, but the human connection to the Deity can become muddled.

This is why the Yemoja of the Yoruba tribe is now the Yemaya of the Lucumi. Instead, Yemaya is a descendant of Yemoja, a form or expression of the former.

When a deity begins to take on images and depictions, that expression of the deity is more of exalted man than god. The more form it is, the more it takes on image, the less that it is a pure beam of light and the more it begins to act as how anything would living within our dense human environment.

There was a time when the same Oriete who told me that I was Yemoja gave me an Eshu, or they called it The Warriors. When I took it home, things changed for the better for me. Life became bright and good. For about 3 months, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

And then everything slowed down, but I was still confident that things would return to better. Eventually, I made my way to Africa for my initiation into Ifa and Orisha. When you initiate in Africa, you not only receive Ifa but also the Eshu that walks with Ifa (there is a secret here but will mention in classes — please remind me). This Eshu is made from a Yongi stone and decorated. When I returned home, I placed my Eshu beside the previous Eshu that I received from the Oriete.

I am a loyal person, and so that previous Eshu had done so much good for me so I did not want to get rid of it just because I had gone to Africa. But what happened next shocked me.

After about a month being home, I realized that the previous Eshu began to burst. It literally split itself into two and the cowrie shells that were eyes, nose and mouth all fell off and broke. It started to tear apart and I wondered what was causing this.

I called the Elder who had taken me to Africa.

He explained that the force of the new Eshu that I had received during initiation had overpowered the previous Eshu that was created from cement.

I tell you this story to show you the difference that was prepared from the Yangi stone, as opposed to the one that was expertly created from the Oriete, but made out of cement. Although the second was powerful and served me for some time, the new one resonated a vibration higher than the other.

But realize that the power of the previous Eshu served me for 3 months and then disappeared. The power was only for a time.

All deities carries with them different frequencies or vibrations depending on the culture or geographical enviornment in which they are, how they are ritualized or venerated. If we divert our attention to the water as how the post began speaking about Yemoja, we would understand that Yemoja, although a feminine energy, is not the only deity of the river or of the ocean of the Western world. There is a plethora of deities. The difference is that where Yemoja is found, she can be looked upon as Lord of that area. In Africa, she is found at depths of the rivers. There is also a particular secret that she holds with another river deity, Olokun (but more on this mystery another time).

Overtime, I would like to go through some of these Orishas and the metaphysical understanding of them along with the traditional understanding, because I am asked frequently about them and I also realize that people take these remarkable Beings quite literal. Which is concerning. Those who are interested should have a depth of understanding from a spiritual point of view as opposed to literal, so as not to confuse the mind. Overtime I will have posts that I will speak about these deities and juxtapose them with others from other cultures that are the same but have their expressions differently in other societies.

I wanted to continue the part two of the previous post on Spiritual Drama but I realized that the place I wanted to take the readers of my blog, they may not be ready to go. I will reserve that part two until the minds are both prepared and ready for all I wish to tell.

Until then,

Obara Meji

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9 days ago

Greeting to you, beloved OM… our minds are prepared and we are looking forward to the lessons. As you would say, Love and light to you, Obara Meji

Queen Okunmayowa
9 days ago

Aboru boye teacha! Great Post and thank you for your wisdom, can I just say for me some of these literal meanings helped me to process and come to some kind of understanding until I knew better as you said humans minds are limited so we try to process by adding literal meanings whichi know is wrong. I have a question in the world of dreams when a deity appears as a gender does this also have a meaning ? because from what I understand energy is male and female so why appears as a gender ?

Queen Okunmayowa
9 days ago
Reply to  Obara Meji

Ahhhh I understand now, but if the world of dreams Communicate via symbols doesn’t the gender it appears as have a meaning that’s my question? The reason why I ask is this lool it may sound funny to you but for me I understood with the lil knowledge I have about Interpretation, before i knew it myself that I was pregnant a deity would appear in different ways shape or Form and I would know I was pregnant and what child I am to have. Do not be Offended teacher am just learning.

yang yeo
12 days ago

The help is supposed to be perfect, I’m glad for that word unscrambler

17 days ago

Just have to say, Wow… This post is higher level thinking and reading all together. Thank you Obara Meji for breaking things down for this human mind to learn to understand. This is a must read again because a lot of important information regarding the Yemoja or Yemaya to be learn here. I really enjoy and learn a lot when you tell your story and write it. I just have to say Thank you because you put so much into your writing for us to learn and have a better understanding of things.

12 days ago
Reply to  TCanada

Completely agreed.

17 days ago

Ok, When a deity begins to take on images and depictions, that expression of the deity is more of exalted man than god. The more form it is, the more it takes on image, the less that it is a pure beam of light and the more it begins to act as how anything would living within our dense human environment.

I know that the orishas take on different personality, so it can be easier for the human mind to comprehend, but I wanted to know how do we humans keep the energy in their highest and purest vibration.

17 days ago
Reply to  Obara Meji

Thank you! I appreciate you answering. ❤

17 days ago

Thank you Obara meji, may the forces of the universe strengthen and bless you.please I want to ask must I be initiated by a priest or priestess to the water Goddess. I’m from the eastern part of Nigeria. Secondly I had a dream where I was given money, afterwards I went to an occasion and was trying to collect a souvenir,then an old man asked me to forget about the souvenir and come help him sweep his compound. Please what does helping him sweep signify. Thank you

16 days ago
Reply to  Obara Meji

Thank you very much for your reply, I don’t mind you sharing your insight to my dream. Light and love to you

Intellectual Bhutu
17 days ago

Greetings Obara Meji, Well done . Though you say you are holding back, in this time, you will no longer be able to write without going deep . The wisdom embedded in this post is beautiful. I loved the use of energy and the expressions of gender to clarify common misunderstandings of deities and spiritual practices. As I read, I was also able to apply the concepts you explained to Christianity and Islam…without questioning validity of a religion or spiritual practice, it is evident that the further west it travelled, the focus and interpretation took more form than energy. In… Read more »

18 days ago

Give thx for the wisdom Iya. I appreciate the nuanced understanding which you convey.

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