I’m still with the energy of my previous text. I felt a very strong need to share some myths of the orixás that I wrote yesterday: Oxumaré, Iemanjá and Nanã — which will be divided into three articles, each dedicated to an orixá. Also, however hard work it is, I’m also translating them into English. A lot of my “gringos” friends ask me about this and there’s little English literature about them.
Every time I talk to someone about the orixás and their mythologies, they ask me where I learn these “things”: study and practice. My main references for studies are the beautiful book by Reginaldo Prandi “Mythology of the Orixás”, in which he reports the main (and most repeated) mythologies that are passed on orally in Candomblé terreiros in Brazil. And, for the historical and visual part, Pierre Verger’s book “Orixás”, a fundamental work to understand the African history of them, brought by the slaves and how Brazil and Cuba (New World) adapted their African practices to Catholicism (catechization forced by slavery). In terms of practice, I had my experience in the northeast where I’m from and a lot of this knowledge is part of the regional culture. Here in São Paulo, I learned the practice of incorporation through the mystical group I attend, but it’s a place that practices more Umbanda than Candomblé.
I don’t want to focus on these differences (perhaps in another article), but it is important to emphasize here that I am speaking in a place of admirer and practicing of Afro-descendant religions and not in a place of specialist. I speak with enormous respect for the history of blackness in this country and in a composition to the anti-racist moviment that makes it essential these days.
Before bringing the myths, I also wanted to share why I incorporated this ancestral knowledge so much into my spiritual practices.
I was raised Catholic, baptized and went to church on Sundays (somewhat forced by my mother who is very Catholic). However, I couldn’t connect with that punishing God, for that man spiked into the cross in suffering. That didn’t make any sense to me and out of curiosity I started to explore other religiosities. It’s important to say that today I have another connection through the history and practice of Christianity, but that is (also) for another article.
It was until on February 2, 2008 I went to an Iemanjá party in Salvador and my soul smiled, really. It suddenly made a lot of sense to me that the connection with our spirituality, or with the divine in this dimension, was made through the connection with nature. The more I read the myths of the orishas and replace their names with their main elements of nature, I see more and more the beauty of telling the relationships of these elements between them, in a mystical way (Greeks did that too). And it is with this feeling of discovering the connection with the divine in nature that I want to share some myths.
The rainbow-serpent that collects the water that falls from the earth during the rain and takes it back to the clouds (Verger, 2018).
“Oxumaré that stays in the sky
Controls the rain that falls on the earth
Come to the forest and breathe like the wind
Father, come to us so that we may grow and have a long life”
(Verger, 2018, p. 213)
Feminine and Masculine together, represents the multiplicity of all beings, one of the reasons rainbow is their element. As an element of nature, its relationship is with the Rain:
Oxumarê draws the rainbow in the sky to stop the rain
They say that Oxumarê had no sympathy for Rain
Every time she gathered her clouds
and she watered the earth for a long time,
Oxumarê pointed to the sky menacingly
with their bronze knife
and made the Rain disappear, giving way to the rainbow.
One day Olodumare contracted a disease that blinded him.
He called Oxumarê, who cured him of blindness.
Olodumare feared, however, that he would lose his sight again
and did not allow Oxumarê to return to Earth to live.
In order to have Oxumarê around, he determined that he should live with him,
and that only once in a while he came to Earth on a visit, but only on a visit.
While Oxumarê does not come to Earth,
everyone can see they in the sky with their bronze knife,
always making itself in the rainbow to stop the Rain.
(PRANDI, 2001, p. 224)
2022 is the year ruled by Oxumarê… and there has never been so much rain in this country… and looking at the mythological/spiritual perspective, all these effects of nature want to tell us something. For me, because this orixá is so close to the rains and, even more, it is the orixá of transformation… I feel that these rains are coming to clean something, to transform something… at least my beginning of the year has been like that.
Oxumarê turns into a snake to escape Xangô
Oxumarê was a very handsome and envied boy.
His clothes were all the colors of the rainbow
and their jewels of gold and bronze sparkled afar off.
Everyone wanted to get closer to Oxumarê,
women and men, everyone wanted to seduce him
and marry with him
But Oxumarê was very restrained and lonely.
He preferred to walk alone through the vault of heaven,
where everyone used to see him on a rainy day.
Once, Xangô saw Oxumarê passing by,
with all the colors of his dress and all the gleam of his metals.
Xangô knew the fame of Oxumarê
of not letting anyone get close to him
He then prepared a trap to capture the Rainbow.
He called him for an audience in his palace
and when Oxumarê entered the throne room,
Xangô’s soldiers closed the doors and windows,
imprisoning Oxumarê along with Xangô.
Oxumarê became desperate and tried to escape,
but all the exits were locked from the outside.
Xangô tried to take Oxumarê in his arms
and Oxumarê escaped, running from one corner to another.
Not seeing how to get rid of it, Oxumarê asked Olorum
and Olorum heard his plea.
At the moment when Xangô immobilized Oxumarê,
Oxumarê was transformed into a snake,
that Xangô left with disgust and fear.
The snake slithered across the floor in quick, sinuous motions.
There was a small gap between the door and the floor of the room.
and it was through there that the snake escaped,
it was through there that Oxumarê escaped.
Thus, Oxumarê got rid of Xangô’s harassment.
When Oxumarê and Xangô were made orixás,
Oxumarê was in charge of carrying water
from Earth to the palace of Xangô in Orum,
but Xangô could never get close to Oxumarê.
(PRANDI, 2001, p. 226–227)
Son of Oxalá and Yemanjá, he represents heaven, earth and water. That’s why its power of transformation — time and eternity — “after the storm always comes calm” as the popular saying goes. Orisha of movement.
In his Catholic representation he is associated with Saint Bartholomew, whose prayer speaks of the force of his sweeping under the Earth of all our enemies:
PRAYER OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW
You who are the lord of the winds
You who sweep the cold earth,
You who make the trees and palms bend with the force of your wind.
Who command the cyclones, tearing with the power of Your Force,
Devastating and transforming everything you find along the way,
reducing to wreckage
Where to pass the sweep of your forces,
Always reaching the places where God wants to renew,
For man is evil by nature, selfish and pretentious.
And you, Saint Bartholomew, were chosen by God
To shake the places that by nature
They must show more forcefully the presence of God.
Well, the man
in your infinite ignorance,
With each passing day, God forgets,
And he comes to consider himself a god over the cold earth.
you were chosen
to show the man
That the strength of God still reigns for all centuries
And when man is completely ignorant of his presence,
You, Saint Bartholomew,
You are in charge of transforming the world.
And as you are known in the four corners of the earth,
Commanding typhoons and hurricanes,
It is what I ask of you
that you carry all evil in your wind,
All falsehoods of mine and my enemies,
Today and overnight and tomorrow, all day.
So be it!
(Ordem Princípio e Luz)
Fasten your seat belts because 2022 is being/will be intense!
PRANDI, Reginald. Mythology of the Orishas. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2001.
VERGER, Pierre. Orixás: Yoruba gods in Africa and the new world. Salvador-BA: Pierre Verger Foundation, 2018.
ZOLRAK. The sacred tarot of the orixás. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Editora Pensamento, 2018.
Image taken from Instagram @axeenergia