Oshun Goddess – Symbols, prayers, offerings to this Orisha

Oshun (also known as Osun or Oxum) is considered the most beautiful of all Orishas in Yoruba Mythology. We can understand her as a Goddess of love, beauty, and wealth. In this article, I will explore her stories, how to recognize her in Santeria, Umbanda, and other religions, her symbols, prayers, and offerings, and how to understand her archetype and her children’s.

In Neo-Paganism, Oshun fits the Maiden Face of the Triple Goddess.

Oshun, as well as other Yoruba Goddesses, are in my free Goddess Oracle! Use the button below to access it, flip a card and receive a message from a Goddess!

Orisha Oshun - Goddess of Love and Riches

Oshun and Yemaya: Fresh and salt waters

There are countless stories and narratives involving Oshun and Yemaya. What they all have in common is that Oshun rules over the fresh waters of rivers, lakes, and waterfalls while Yemanja rules over the salty waters of the seas. However, when we get to know these different stories and versions, we come across variations that portray the two of them as sisters or sometimes as daughter and mother, respectively.

One of these stories is about how Oshun was born as a result of a relationship between Yemaya and Orunmila.

It is said that Orunmila was walking with his procession and, during this promenade, he came across another procession where a beautiful woman was being venerated. This woman was Yemaya. Orunmila fell in love with her at first sight. He then asked Eshu to go to her, ask her name, and invite her to visit Orunmila’s palace.

Eshu did as he was instructed but Yemaya refused the invitation on the first attempt. However, after a while, she accepted and visited Orunmila. Yemaya was married to Obatala, so this visit to Orunmila was secret and nobody knows what they talked about or what happened there until today.

It is known, however, that Yemaya got pregnant again and from this pregnancy, a beautiful girl was born. As Yemaya had many (many indeed!) children, Orunmila sent Eshu again to the newborn so he could look for spots on her skin or a lump on her head. If he found any, that would be proof enough that the child was his daughter and not Obatala’s.

Eshu went and found spots on the girl’s skin, there were some birthmarks. Orunmila decided to take her into his custody and named her Oshun. In the palace, she was treated like a princess. She was given everything she wanted and she was totally spoiled by her father. This contributed to her personality as an adult, as she is always surrounded by wealth, jewelry, and beauty.

Oshun Goddess Orisha who rules over fresh waters
Oshun Goddess Orisha who rules over fresh waters

Oshun and Ogun: Seduction to save humankind

Oshun Orisha always knew how beautiful she was. Furthermore, she was sure that she could always achieve whatever she wanted through her willpower, determination, and by using her beauty.

One day, Ogun, The Blacksmith Orisha, gave up working at the forge. He simply got tired of creating weapons and utensils for other Orishas and humans so he decided to leave the city and return to live in the forest. All the Orishas tried to convince Ogun to return to the forge because without him everyone would starve due to a lack of utensils and tools to plant and harvest eventually.

Ogun didn’t care and responded violently to everyone who visited him in the forest and asked him to return to the city and to the forge.

That’s when Oshun intervened. She said she could convince Ogun to come back. All the Orishas laughed at her because she was too young and “fragile” so she would never be able to defeat the mighty Ogun if he reacted violently against her. She insisted on having Obatala‘s permission and she got it. It was now up to the most beautiful Orisha to bring Ogun back.

How do you think she accomplished this feat? Seducing Ogun!

She wore only a few transparent yellow scarves in the form of a skirt and went to the forest where Ogun lived. As the wind blew, Oshun danced and entered the forest. Ogun saw her dancing and he was immediately mesmerized by her beauty. Oshun pretended not to know about Ogun’s presence and kept approaching him and dancing in the wind.

When Ogun appeared in front of her and tried to embrace her, Oshun dodged in a dance movement and began to walk and dance toward the city. Ogun tried to catch her, but she delicately dodged dancing and continued on her way to the city.

Ogun was so crazy about Oshun that he didn’t realize he was leaving the forest and entering the city. Suddenly, all the other Orishas started to celebrate and clap their hands! Ogun had returned!

Because of his pride, it was clear that Ogun would not allow himself to be contradicted and claim that he left the forest because of a woman who was dancing. So he pretended to leave on his own and went back to the city and the forge.

Oshun was acclaimed for her intelligence and, thanks to her, Ogun went back to work ensuring that everyone had the tools to produce and harvest food so humanity wouldn’t starve.

Oshun Orisha art by Andressa Meissner
Oshun Orisha art by Andressa Meissner

Oshun and Shango’s love story

Oshun had all the lovers she wanted. We can even make a parallel between her and Goddess Aphrodite in Greek Mythology and say that she is one of the main Goddesses of love that we have in the world. She only needed to wish and any man or Orisha would fall in love with her.

However, with Shango, the situation was different.

It is said that Oshun met the young Shango when he appeared in the village playing drums. She tried to seduce him but ultimately failed. Shango despised her. She kept trying until she managed to sleep with him eventually. Even so, he still despised her and didn’t give her proper attention.

One day, Shango lost all the wealth he had and ran away in shame. Only Oshun stood by his side. Over time, she was getting rid of everything she had to remain there, by Shango’s side. Firstly, she got rid of her jewelry, then her dresses, later her many combs, and lastly her fancy mirrors. She was left with only a white dress that she wore every day.

She washed her only white dress every day in the river. From washing the same white dress so much, it turned yellow. From then on, Shango started to love Oshun. She still wears yellow and golden dresses.

Shango’s wealth and fame returned and the two got married. Eventually, Oshun started to live with Shango in his palace. However, Shango realized that Oshun was no longer interested in him as before as she was always concerned about her possessions, items, and her own wishes.

Shango got irritated and had her locked at the top of a tower. The two divorced and Shango elt free to love anyone he wanted.

Meanwhile, she got trapped in the tower until Eshu discovered that she was there and immediately told Orunmila, her father, about the situation. Orunmila created a magic powder and gave it to Eshu, ordering him to take it to her and blow it over her head.

Eshu did what Orunmila asked and blew the dust over Oshun’s head. Instantly she became a pigeon and flew out of the tower into her father’s palace, where she dwelt again in total comfort.

Oshun bathing in the river art by DanFF
Oshun bathing in the river art by DanFF

Oshun Opara and Oya: Envy and revenge

In this story, Oshun Opara and Oya are portrayed as sisters. There are many stories that place Oshun, Oya, and even Yemaya as sisters. In this one, the two live together in a palace and each has their own room. Oxum is always considered the most beautiful of all women and Orisha and Oya did not know her own beauty.

One day, Oshun Opara leaves her room and forgets the door open. Oya enters and faces a huge collection of mirrors. In her sister’s mirrors, Oya sees herself and gets surprised by her own beauty. Such is her beauty that she feels more beautiful than her sister!

Oya is so happy that she leaves the room and tells everyone that she was as beautiful, even more adorable, than her sister!

When Oshun Opara finds out about this, she is overcome with anger, envy, and hatred. She gets out of control and just wants revenge! To do this, she goes to Egungum’s house (Egun are spirits of the dead and Egungum are the more “important” spirits of the dead) and steals a mirror that only showed death, the ugly, and the scary.

She then takes this mirror and hangs it in Oya’s room. When Oya enters, Oxum Opara closes the door and locks it! Oya is trapped in her own room! When she looks in the mirror, Oya only sees bad and scary images. She even sees herself dead rotting away! Despair takes over her and she starts to beat herself against the wall. She tries to leave the room, but she can’t. Oya dies in her own room.

After that, Obatala decided to transform Oya into an Orisha and punished Oshun Opara to dress in the same colors and use the same metals that were used by her dead sister.

Oshun always holds her mirror and praises her own beauty
Oshun always holds her mirror and praises her own beauty

Oshun learns how to use Cowrie Shells for divination

I know two different stories that explain how Oshun learned to use Cowrie Shells reading for divination. In both stories, the Orisha becomes the first woman to have this ability and she succeeds through her shrewdness and intelligence.

In the first version, she learns how to use Cowrie Shells from Obatala. It is said that Obatala had learned how to use them from Orunmila and he kept the secrets of this art only with him and with Babalawos who connected with him. Obatala had no desire to teach these skills to anyone else.

Oshun, however, wanted to learn them. At all costs. And she insisted and asked Obatala several times but she always received a negative answer.

One day, Obatalá went to bathe in a river and left his clothes next to it. At that moment, Eshu took the clothes and mocked Obatala that he would have to leave the river naked. Oshun, who was passing by, saw Obatala ashamed. She proposed taking the clothes stolen by Eshu back in exchange for the knowledge of how to use Cowrie Shells for divination.

Obatala reluctantly agreed. He thought that she would never be able to trick Eshu and get his clothes back. He was mistaken. though!

The Orisha met Eshu, slept with him, and got Obatala’s clothes back. By returning them, she got the much-desired wisdom to use Cowrie Shells!

Another story tells that Oshun learned to use Cowrie Shells for divination directly from Eshu. In this version, in addition to Obatala, Eshu also had this gift. The beautiful Orisha asked some witches for help to be able to deceive Eshu and learn to play Cowrie Shells from him. She made offerings in exchange for a magic dust.

One day, when meeting Eshu, Oshun saw that he had his precious Cowrie Shells in his hands. She then challenged him to discover what she held in her closed hands. Eshu approached and, suddenly, she opened her hands and blew the magic dust, leaving Eshu temporarily blind.

He got desperate and dropped all the Cowrie Shells on the floor. She pretended to help and started asking him questions: “How many Cowrie Shells did you drop?” and he replied: “Sixteen! You always use Cowrie Shells in groups of sixteen shells!”. Oshun continued: “I think all of them are open, what does that mean?” and Eshu replied: “This is Odu Alafia!”. She started inventing all the possible combinations and Eshu, in desperation, revealed everything.

And so Oshun mastered the art of using Cowrie Shells for divination!

Symbol for Oshun

The main symbol for Oshun is the mirror which she holds and uses to appreciate her own beauty. Oshun, the most beautiful of the Orishas, is easily identified by her clothes, symbols and objects. She can be represented as a young woman who is pregnant or not. She is usually naked or wearing long golden dresses. She frequently wears some golden accessories too.

In addition, she is also symbolized by the waters of rivers. She rules over all fresh waters.

Briefly, these are the symbols of Oxum:

  • Hand mirror;
  • Golden/yellow clothing and accessories;
  • Chickens (representing how she takes care of her children);
  • Rivers.
Symbols for Oshun
Symbols for Oshun

Remember we have different Orishas who represent different “types” of water. Oshun is the freshwater of rivers and lakes; Yemaya is the salty waters of the seas; Oya is the water from rains and storms, and Nana Buruku is the water from swamps and the bottom of rivers and lakes.

The archetype of Oshun and her children

Oshun is very determined to get what she wants and she is very smart too. However, she is also attached to luxuries and material wealth. This combination of characteristics makes the archetype of Oshun a very intense archetype that can take you on a roller coaster of feelings.

As a matter of comparison , I suggest reading the Archetype of Aphrodite. This article will help you to better understand these two aspects of the archetype of this Orisha.

The children of Oshun usually have as a shadow side the characteristics of being sensitive people, sometimes even emotional. In addition, they also care too much about the opinion of others and try to please everyone. Now, on the light side, the children of Oshun show a lot of intelligence, a positive attitude and the desire to always get what they want, regardless of situations.

It is also very common for Oshun’s children to be great lovers and not often get attached to relationships. So if you want to conquer a son or daughter of Oshun, you’ll need a lot of determination too!

Prayer to Oshun

This prayer to Oshun can be done to attract prosperity and love into your life. Just concentrate in Oshun’s energy and say the following words:

Hail Oshun, golden lady with golden skin, blessed are your waters that wash my soul and deliver me from evil. Oshun, divine queen, beautiful orisha, come to me, walking in the full moon, bringing in your hands the lilies of love of peace. Make me sweet, smooth and seductive as you are.

Oh! Mother Oxum, protect me, make love constant in my life so I can love all of Olorum’s creation. Protect me from all kinds of sorcery. Give me the nectar of your sweetness and may I get everything I want: the serenity to act in a conscious and balanced way.

May I be like your fresh waters that follow the courses of rivers, cutting stones and rushing waterfalls, without stopping or turning back, just following my path. Purify my soul and body with your tears of joy. Flood me with your beauty, your kindness and your love, filling my life with prosperity. Hail Oshun!

Prayer to Oshun

Offerings for Oshun

If you want to make offerings for Oshun, you’ll need some fruits and some other ingredients. Food offerings for the Orishas are called Ebó and I’ll present a recipe below. If you don’t want to prepare this recipe, check the list of offerings for Oshun that includes foods, fruits, and flowers:

  • Black-eyed peas;
  • Shrimps;
  • White wine;
  • Bananas;
  • Pears;
  • Papayas,
  • Peaches;
  • Daisies;
  • Marigolds;
  • Yellow Tulips;

Recipe for an Offering for Oshun (OMOLUKUN)

When you offer Omolukun for Oshun, you are pleasing this Orisha and she’ll bless you in exchange. The recipes for this Omolukun may vary depending on the region and tradition but it is traditionally made like this:

  • A bunch of cooked black-eyed peas;
  • 3 onions;
  • Oil (traditionally Dendê oil is used. Olive oil is accepted in some traditions);
  • 8 boiled eggs;
  • Shrimps (save some for decoration between the eggs)

Cook the black-eyed peas and boil the 8 eggs. Then, clean the shrimp and save some for decoration. They usually go between the eggs, so you need to save 8 of them. Mix the onions, shrimp, and oil until they are golden in color. Now transform the black-eyed peas into a dough and mix it with the onions, shrimp, and oil.

Place this dough on a bowl and decorate it with the 8 boiled eggs and 8 shrimp on top of it forming a circle. It’s ready.

Oshun in the Cowrie shells reading

When using cowrie shells reading for divination you can come across the Odu Oxé, the Odu in which 5 shells are open and 11 are closed. In this Odu, Oshun warns that it is time for you to focus on your professional activities and achieve your goals. Remember that Oshun is the Orisha of wealth too and if she is helping you, you better take advantage of it!

However, Oshun also warns in this Odu Oxé that this is not the time to start a love relationship. If you are already in a relationship, leave it as it is. If you’re looking for one, take a break now and focus only on the professional side.

Photo of author

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