Study Notes for the Orisha Oshoosi
Compiled by Alashe Michael Oshoosi, Omo L'Ode Ti'wale*
Registered © Michael Oshoosi, 2015
All Rights Reserved
(*"child of the owner of the ashe of the Great Hunter has come home").
The orisha Oshoosi is venerated in Nigeria and in Brasil (as Oxossi), and in Cuba (as Ochosi), Benin/ Dahomey (as Aje) and in the United States (as Oshoosi). In many other countries and local regions this orisha exists under various names: for example, as Enrinle--who is sometimes seen as an alter-ego of Oxoosi--in Brasil,Cuba, and Nigeria and as "Ode" in many places as well. Other aliases are described below. Some of the roots of the name and qualities of this orisha go back to ancient Egypt where he is associated with the gods Shu and Osirus ("0-Shu-Osi"), and with Horus (as "Ori") who is represented in the cosmos as "Ori-on" or "Orion," the constellation, the great Hunter and the child of Osiris and Isis. Isis also serves as his "dog star" companion--"Sirius" or--the bright- est binary star in the night sky. "Osiris," a Greek name for Ausar, was both a fertility god and foun- der of Nilotic civilization along the banks of the Nile and, later, the master of the nightly after-world and judge of resurrection and reincarnation. "O-sho-osi" also has multiple iterations in the Yoruba language with several slighly different, but related meanings. (Please see the page entitled "Oshoosi Affirmation," supra).
Salient Qualities, Traits, and Anthropological Roots
Oshoosi is a hunter, a scout, and a frontiersman or pioneer that locates the best places in the for- est, along the rivers, in the mountains or elsewhere to exploit natural resources so as to found a civilization, to nurture and supply it, to create its institutions, and to "police" it. This is because, as a hunter/ warrior he is also a tracker, and bounty hunter, a skilled observer, and a night watch- man. Hence his ashe is also associated with institutions that confine animals (e.g., zoos, preserves) and people (e.g. hospitals, asylums, sanctuaries and jails).
With these qualities, Oshoosi can point to the quickest route in nature to find and obtain animal resources and medicine and the quickest way for civilization to be established (along side the ri- verbank); the survival arts of which he masters. And, by similie, where he also can guide the indiv- idual most directly along the path of his or her solutions in life but, most especially, quickly to that person's spiritual-ideal (whatever path it may be on).
The archtypical progenitor of Oshoosi was his father "Ode" (open spaces, frontiers and "openess" in character) or "Odede," the wizened old hunter that shepparded the people from the hunter-gatherer clans and river-bend (trading posts) encampments into agricultural civiliations based on eating, storing and trading grains--farming-- among other things. Urbanization, more complex ec- onomies and the emergence of warrior and dominant classes turned much of the commons into "private preserves" and, eventually, into "private property." This evolution required the build- ing of institutions for civil administration (regulating "rights" and "stations") in social life and prop- ogated rules, ethics, religions and a "social contracts" congruent with their needs to retain power, to maintain blood-lines, and to maintain control over the populace (to the exclusion of comp- etitive "others"). Odede, like Osiris is, by analogy, the guide into this 'new frontier' of urban and class-based "civilization"; of its organization and order.
In this sense, especially, as "Ode"--as "owner" of free-ranging "outside" ashe of Hunters or fisher- men--was also considered the patron of individual and "social" psychology; that is, of its precursors of magic and wizardry in the period of the advent of the agricultural economies and pastoralism. The first instance of antagonistic "political economic" classes also evolved in these pre-classical soc- ieties, to wit: slavery, where the first class struggle of all was, fundamentally, between that of the slave owner and the slave.
Evolution of the Concept of a "Good Character" (Iwa Pele) and Its Desirability in Early Societies
Thus Odede is also a guardian of "good and personable character" (iwa pele) as he, like his son Oshoosi, is a "cool" orisha of white cloth ("Asho'fun'fun" or "Orisha 'fun'fun"). Oshoosi is the spokesperson (yes, there is a female "road," "pool," or "camino" of Oshoosi along with multiple male types) for the orisha "Obatala"--the father of most prominent orishas and the icon of wisdom, forbearance, health, and good fortune. Oshoosi is the king's crier (i.e., his gbede gbeyo or afede'feyo).
Next, but not least, the hunters and their foraging wives were the sources of divination; all divinat- ion. "Divining" or "reading," writ original, essentially meant inspecting the tracks (and remains: the entrails or livers) of animals, or the ways of insects and birds to determine what was, and what was likely to be, the state of affairs in that savannah or wooded-area in the not-to-distant past and fut- ure. Even gathering and foraging had its divinatory aspects for "reading" the environment and its
spirits; as women were to also discover. They could tell what would be the circumstances of suvival for all who operated in that area, in that time-period. Families and clans in that period also had ways of propritiating and making-offerings to the putative spirits of the wild life and fauna around them. I suppose that ritual--if only as reciprocal mime--is as old as song-making, tool-making and as old, perhaps, as dialogue itself.
Oshoosi represents the best in the conscientious ideal of these original clans. As such--with these qualities, properties, combined--he can be relied on to most directly guide one to one's "conscien- ce" or "eriokan" (a term derived from "eri" or "ori"--"head" and "okan" or "heart") in order to mon- itor one's personal integrity. The central Africans who later became Nilotic (Nile) Africans evolved the concept of the deities "Ma'at" and "Sahu" (in KMT) to embody the elements of "good charac- ter"; ethical and gentle. And judgements (or being a judge/constable) are roles that come natural-
ly with the ashe of Oshoosi.
The Nature of Hunters
Successful hunters and trappers not only had keen intellects, perceptions and tenancity, but per- sonal courage was expected of them as well. Indeed in some areas the most revered of them hunted at night, sought game the larger the better, and would often set out alone for weeks at a time. While a hunter may stalk game, he cannot successfully chase it. Therefore his cunning lies in
inducing his prey to use its own nature to come to where he will be; to use it own nature against it.
This orisha's ashe lies, then, in ambushing, stalking, sniping and stealth; followed by the ability to deliver lightening fast death with an arrow or rifle. He is a master of in-fighting, snares and traps and no one fights with him and wins. His is a lethal intelligence; an enemy's worst nightmare (lit- erally) as Oshoosi is associated with the unfathomable snares and hidden traps As an ijala warrior, the ashe of an omo-Oshoosi (a child of Oshoosi) includes becoming possessed in the execution of certain martial arts that members of that caste learn. And as the only orisha that is gifted to "as- tral travel," he can dispose of his game or enemies in their dreams. Hence, hiding is useless for these, the ill-fated prey of Oshoosi.
Olofi, another Yoruba name for God, arranged for human beings---through the fashioning work of Obatala (and Oduduwa)--to have a joint in the middle of their arms, shoulder sockets that faced outward, not forward, a rotating spinal-and-hip column for maneuverability and throwing objects, and long legs for running great distances. All of these attributes were not possessed by any other form of ape or monkey. And these qualties were all needed for throwing things directly or-- like the drawing an arrow with a bowstring--"throwing" them indirectly.
And as magician or sorcerer and maker of talismans he is associated with incantations: oogun ashe (medicines), ogo (curses) and protections, camouflage, odorlessness or scentlessness (by using anise/ fennel, or even garlic, for example, to achieve this). Invisibility, and "shape shifting,' i.e., going back and forth into animal forms as needed, and by the use of invisibility through camou- flage are in his arsenal. (By contrast, the orisha Oya--a female warrior of the wind--camouflages herself through invisibility). Oshoosi and the orisha Oya of the wind and respiration (called emi) or 'soul breath' are easily allied because both have warrior temperments. And because the hunter's world--like a sailor's-- would collapse without mastery of the winds.
When Oshoosi, the orisha, comes to possess a devotee, i.e., an Oshoosi priest, the orisha Oshoosi sometimes signifies his presence by making dog-like barking sounds; as he is associated with dogs. He is especially sensitive to the songs and praise chants of ode warriors like Ogun, and of Yemoja and Obatala. And, finally, this generally well-balanced orisha is quite favored(!), like Oya, by our "Holy Mothers." (It seems to me that the well-known exiled revolutionary Assata Shakur in Cuba was depicted in a way suggestive that she is a child of, or possessed of, the ashe of the Oshoosi-Oya combination in the film "Eyes of the Rainbow, 1997, by the seminal Cuban film-maker, Gloria Rolando. And, similarly, but in regard to well-known liberation theologists, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, or father Bertrand Aristide of Haiti seem to me to share the attributes of these two orishas as well).
Regarding Oshoosi, polarities are politesse and an erudite and civil temperament, on the one hand, and invincible combativeness, on the other; a dedication to the founding and sustenance of civil- ization, on the one hand, and a serious tendency to isolate in the forest (or in exile), on the other. Being respectful of women and reproduction, he is a protector of children and, like his brother Ogun, a skilled negotiator.
Oshoosi is the most sensitive of orishas to issues of injustice. And one should not ask Oshoosi for justice when what is really needed and ought, in many cases, to be the thing most sought, is mer-cy (because justice can be harsh and irreversible). Unless your hands are clean, play it safe and first confess one's ethical shortcomings to Oshoosi, and only then ask for mercy, justice and a strategy!
Jurisprudence belongs to Oshoosi.
Priests of Oshoosi in History
Most of the Africans directly initiated to Oshoosi did not make it into the New World as slaves to the Europeans. They were the first to fight and the last to die in resistance. In fact, in some of their villages in western Nigeria and, especially, in Benin (Dahomey), the hunter/warrior peoples protec- ted by Oshoosi and Ogun were never taken captive as slaves by anyone. In Ife lfe, a powerful spir- tual urban center among the Yorubas, the chief priest of Obatala seves as the chief priest for Osho- osi: the Aworo Ose. However, Oshoosi is still celebrated in west Africa, contrary to some unin- formed Cuban views.
Because of Oshoosi's mandate to be the guardian of justice in civil society, and especially in view
of the fact that he serves as the spokesman--the agbede gbeyo or afede'feyo--for Obatala (no less), it is natual for Oshoosi to be concerned with ethical policing in any society where policing has emerged.
Oshoosi Is the Orisha of Justice, NOT the Orisha of the Police, Doctors, nor Zoo-Keepers.
First, let's deal with the stereotypes of Oshoosi and policing. This is the history:
"Oshowusi" or "Osowusi" is a 'night guardian of the people'; a policeman of sorts. He, and other officials, protected the integrity or the "ashe" of the ilu or "town". And, therefore, the police and other officials were called the "ashe'lu" (in Cuba) while the words for "police," generally in Yoruba-land, are awon or olopa. Thus, traditionally, hunters-removed-to-towns served as frontier guards, sentries, gate-keepers (ba'ile) and "policemen" of the town because there were no professional police forces anywhere.
In Cuba, Santeros often refer to police officials, to this day, as the "ache'lu. The police in Cuba can be pretty tough and people, therefore (being highly Yorubic in beliefs), tend to be very deferen- tial and circumspect when dealing with the orisha and ashe of Oshoosi because he is the one who, among many other things, i, the "owner of police and jails." And he is also the one who can direct spiritual, social and legal means to best control them ethically --lest they become an op- pressive gang. And for good cause, because in many different types of countries (our own includ- ed), they often do! By contrast, because of respect for "Ochosi," when compared to the western capitalist countries, there is very little "street crime" in Cuba! (Of interest probably only to pract- itioners of Yoruba religion, technically there is an eshu "road" called "Ashe'lu," but this is a differ- ent usage of the phrase as far as I, the author, know).
Interestingly enough, when I was there I s aw no police with guns unless they were escorting trucks that delivered currency. Also, I traveled from one end of Cuba to the other and, in terms of police visibility, on the streets, none of them were blancos (in regard to"race,"). And--since most of them do not carry guns--I noticed that the few who did seemed to be dispropor- tionately Afro-Cuban.
Oshoosi is also associated with all of the "ache'ilu" that control entry and exit from caged environ-
ments. For example, doctors are the gate-keepers for hospitals--a strange and forbidding place, like jails, to traditional Africans--that housed ill people by caging them in, or zoo-keepers who cage an- imals in zoos, or gamewardens that protect animals from extinction by fencing them into preserves and tracking down poachers.
Sometimes criminally-minded Cubans or Brasilians here, or in their countries of origin, will seek the power and protection of Oshoosi to evade the police for the anti-social crimes that they have com-mitted (or intend to). This is an egregious mistake and goes only to show that even the Gods are defenseless against stupidity! This is because Oshoosi ('Ochosi') is the guardian of justice not the guardian of criminality, rogues or gang-minded cops.
Handcuffs are very popular symbol of Oshoosi. Indeed, handcuffs are applied to people who have been hunted and captured by the police, but they were originally used to chain the captive to the ache'ilu--i.e., to the arresting official. In the religion, the handcuffs given to the neophyte priests of Oshoosi to place on his altar also tie the priests of Oshoosi to this orisha of justice and to social ethics! His work, like the roles and symbolism of all of the orishas is to bind you--at least their priests--to righteousness (though not perfection) in life.
The First "Police" Africans-in-America Had to Deal With Were White Slave Patrollers:
Since 1704 !
The lack of Oshoosi policing ethics is wholly evident in the class-based societies of the West; espec-
ially. For example, until the the white men's slave patrols began in the American colonies in the early 18th century, there were no "police" in the western hemispshere. Indeed, the colonialists in what was to become then, and afterward, much open debate in the Continental Congresses about slavery, conditoned their willingness to ratify entrance into the new union--i.e., into the republic of the United States of America--upon the adoption of the Second Amendment guaranteeing them their "rights" to maintain "well-armed militias"--i.e. "well-armed" slave patroller gangs. These were the forerunners, 100 years earlier, of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan and into which every able-bodied white man (including a young colonel George Washington) was required to serve--begining
in the Carolinas in 1704--in starting at the age of sixteen in the southern colonies and states! Later on the "Bobbies," became the first "professional police" and were formed in the UK around 1816 (they were unarmed), and in Boston in 1838. Prior to these develpments, from time in memorial, and continuing today, criminal investigations and armed en- forcement were carried out by court-connected "constables" (i.e., a detective and judge combin- ation) or by marshals, sheriffs or inquis- itors.
Thus the phenomenon of 'policing' in society (meaning, simply, to keep things organized and civil)
is within the province of the orisha Oshoosi. However, to the extent that a priest of Oshoosi has an opinion about them at all (an opinion based on the ashe of Oshoosi) it would most likely be that he is neither a respector nor a disrespector of them per se. There are certain indispensible roles in ev-very complex society and "the police" is one of them. What matters first is: Whose "order" (i.e., soc- ial and class rule and interest) are the police serving to edify in any given place? And second, do they treat the citizery equally, humanely and with dispassion (i.e. act like professional civil ser- vants) on the one hand, or do they function as a self-perpetuating gang of thugs who knowingly, with impugnity, and with abandon, oppress segments of the populace (usually the most defense- less ones) or countenance it in their peers, on the other?
Please be referred to the author's policy brief on police reforms entitled "Police Reform" in the Navigation Bar of this web site for some proposals on the ethics of policing that ought to be considered for policy reform in the contemporary United States.
ORIKI (PRAISE TITLES) OF OSHOOSI
Oshoosi is sometimes referred to as the Oba L'oke (king of the mountain) where he protcts the domain of Obatala).
Oshoosi 're 're-ooo (Oshoosi is great in good fortune)
Odede (owner of the ownside and open frontier places)
Osho wu si (the famous one)
Ode de (The hunter arrives).
Oshoosi Odede (Oshoosi arrives standing tall).
Oshoosi ode mata (Oshoosi do not shoot).
Oshoosi Ode mata sele (Oshoosi,the shooting hunter does not miss).
Ode ata matase Onibebe (The owner of the riverbank where he hunts and associates with Oshun and Erinle).
Osholokere (The forest magician or wizard)
Oluwo igbo (The king of the forest) Olog'arare (Master of Himself)
Oshoosi Alaketu (Oshoosi,the king of Ketu (Benin) Africa, and king of the Ketu "nation" in Brasil)
"Enibumbu, Olodo-Odo, Olomi-omi lba se..." "I praise all you pools (or "roads," "types," or "camin- os" or "ona") of Oshoosi and all of your rivers! All you waters, I salute!" (see section on Abatan, bel- ow).
Ode olorore (Hunter of abundance).
Aguerre is one of the types.
There are many more; please see the "Simple Oshoosi Prayer" section, below.
The Types--"Roads," "Ona," "Caminos," or "Pools"--of the Oshoosis
Oshoosi and Erinle's (lnle's) "roads" in Brasil are called "ibu" or ponds and are the equivalent to the ona or the "caminos" (roads) of other orishas because there are no "roads" per se in the bush. In total, in some places, they are said to be 21 in number; including male and female types (Oshoosi okunrin and Oshoosi obinrin, respectively). Some of the more noteworthy ones are: lbujuto and lnle (or Erinle). But again, in Cuba, there are two main "caminos," roads, or "pools" of "Ochosi."
The entire list is to be found in cubanyoruba.blogspot.com/2007/04/oshosi.html . They are: Ochosi (of the) Highway, Oshosi Kayoshosi, Oshosi Ale, Oshosi Marunde, Oshosi Iualamo, Oshosi Otin, Oshosi Onile, Oshosi Abedi, Oshosi Bi, Oshosi Gurumujo, Oshosi Odde, Oshosi Odde kills, Ochosi Ode Ode, Oshosi Buru, Oshosi Beluja, Oshosi Bomi, Oshosi Kadina, Oshosi Bilade, Soft Ochosi, Oshosi Tunde, Oshosi Omiale, Oshosi Deyi, Oshosi Of, Oshosi Tafao, Oshosi Elefaburu.
Characteristics, Traits, and Associated Information About Oshoosi's Allied Orishas: ErInle (Inle) and Abatan and Others *
[IMPORTANT NOTE ON SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON ORISHAS CONTAINED IN THIS WEBSITE.
All of the information on the nature of the orishas contained in this section, and the way their character-
istics are enumerated, is public domain information en toto deriving from folkloric legends and stories
repeated time and again by priests, diviners and common-folk alike on three continents and going back
hundreds of years. No writer "owns" this world cultural heritage corpus of stories and myths about the
orishas nor their descriptions (i.e., no one"owns" Ifa, its legends, mythic hero's and deity's characteris-
In addition to being common sense, this principle regarding the Yoruba/Ifa/Santeria religion has been
recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Social & Cultural Organization) in its protect-
ion of the literary and oral literature of Ifa as a world cultural heritage corpus since 1998, thanks to the
efforts of Dr. Wande Abimbola, the awise of Ifa, of Ile Ife, Nigeria, precisely in order to prevent any in-
dividual writer from claiming personal ownership or "credit" of the description of African deities found
in the copious oral literature of Africa, Cuba, Brasil and (now) the United States and Europe. "Ifa" is the
broad name for orisha religion which includes all of the deities and their natures descrbed herein. Dr.
Abimbola is the 5th ranking babalawo in the World, and the official world spokesman for the religion of
Ifa as it is based in Ile Ife, Nigeria.
My knowledge of these orishas and their traits came first and foremost from my padrino and abuelo
in this religion, Anya bi Osun (ibae!) and Ode Ilu (ibae!) who initiated me into the "mysteries" of these
orishas--especially (Er)Inle and Abatan--in 1989 as a required part of my initiation to "Ochosi" in that
year. My next source of information on these minor orishas, e.g., (Er)Inle and Abatan, "allied" to Osho-
osi ("Ochosi"), was obtained in the 1990's, from literature published in the Candomble school of "Orixa"
religion in Brasil which was given to me by my egbon (older sister), Oya Dei, in Oakland, California, and
from many other books and seminars as well.
In the Millenium I came across additional descriptions of these orishas in various websites as that way
of sharing information had become popular. Notable among these sources was the work of Martin Tsang
in his (now defunct) website titled inle.freeserve.co.uk. His recitation of information (because neither
he nor anyone else personally invented the descriptions of the orishas) on the orishas "Inle" and Abatan
was quite useful to me. And, finally, for the edification of the discerning reader I have appended at least
fifteen websites--many of them existing for years now--that also describe the traits and characteristics
of the "allied" orishas (to Oshoosi)--especially (Er)Inle and Abatan--in exactly the same way as do I and,
earlier, as did Martin Tsang. Please see the End Note to this section for those sites. The only way to list
the traits and characteristics of the various orishas is to list them; hence all writers' enumeration of these
things is similar because the subject matter is quite limited and, for centuries, has had only minor variat-
ions from country to country.
Arquetipo (Brasil) is associated with rapid, alert movements, harmonizes the community and the family, is generous, is hospitable and is loyal provider and protector of women and children.
Oreluere (Brasil) is known as a friend and protector of Oduduwa, is a chief of the forest villages that resist invasions (he is sort of a commander of the National Guard and "Special Forces"). The Coblocos of Brasil--half Indian and half African folk of the forests--are associated with Oshoosi. And here in North America Oshoosi is associated with the First Nation tribes (of Indians).
Logun-Ede: the story is told that near the town of Ede--nine miles from the capital of Oshun wor- ship, Oshogbo --there is a wizard's grove (which is what "Oshogbo" means). The ruler of the area and, particularly, of the Oshun cult is called the "Ataoja" ("one who uses his hands to feed the fish"). The Ataoja originally wanted to build his capital too close to the Oshun river--endangering, among other things, her scared shrine areas. Upon the first attempt someone chopped down a tree that fell into the Oshun river; whereupon she cried out "Osho igbo" ("you've destroyed my indigo pots"). Hence "Oshogbo" from this eytmological source as well. This first Ataoja was a hun- ter named "Olotumene (sp?) Laroye"; one, as a hunter, who was probably possessed with the ashe of Oshoosi.
It is said that she appealed to Logun-Ede, the son of Oshoosi and Oshun, (and also connected to Oshun's eshu "Laroye") to ask for his help in obtaining deference for her wishes. The Atoja agreed to move the town farther away and to keep her sacred grove well-respected. In exchange, Oshun promised eternal protection for the town. In time, the Muslim Fulanis invaded in a jihad against Yorubaland, but they were stopped at the gates of Oshogbo, and turned back. A similar thing happened at the frontier of the Oyo state where the children of Shango also turned back northern in- vaders. Logun-Ede is often referred to as a fierce male variant (or son ) of Oshun. And the eshu (random force) "Laroye" is, as mentioned, still connected to Oshun and Oshoosi by being rooted in this legend. Logunede's colors are dark green pants, gold colored shirt, and yellow "skirt." (Many male and female orishas wear "skirts" of cloth or mariwo (grass)--on top of their regular pants; some times symbolizing sweeping brooms).
Otin is a female riverine type of orisha Oshoosi revered in Onisa, Nigeria and is referred to (also) as the wife of Erinle in Cuba and southern Brasil,though considered male in the northern Candom- ble Brasilian systems. Where considered "male," Otin is a part of the ebu or egbe (guild society, lodge, order or cabildo) of Ogun's hunters. As "Yemoja's anchor" this orisha links Erinle to Olokun. And remember that Erinle is also considered an alter ego of Oshoosi. They all speak or, in Inle's case (spoken for because Yemoja actually speaks for him) in the odu of lrosun. Otin appeared to the leader of the people of lnisha and prescribed for them the place to found the town of lnisha.
Otin, having an Oshoosi-like quality of closeness to Obatala, has a parallel existence in Ketu or Benin (Dahomey). There this orisha is call Age and has a close relationship and is a protector of Lisa (their version of Obatala). Otin accepts offering best at the juncture of the river and the ocean, i.e., and in the omodus (the 'junior' odus) of Oche-edi or Odi-che. She signifies a close bond bet- ween Yemoja and Oshun.
Erinle / Inle
Erinle, lnle, Eyinle, Enle (in all locations) is associated with riverine zone medicine magic ( oogun) and was known to the Yoruba before Osayin (who is also associated with Oshoosi). He is a fisher- man, an animal breeder, a ferocious hunter--i.e., an "Ajaja"--or "one who eats dogs!" (meaningthat he is aggressive), is wealthy, and is refined in his dress and appliques: cowries, coral, and feathers. He has the memory, intelligence, power and ferocity of a forest elephant and his names means "the elephant in the earth" --the most aggressive kind.
Erinle is bi-gendered (not "bi-sexual"); spending half the year in male form and then in female form in the other half. He is associated, in female form, with Yemoja Mojelewu. Typically he is the con- sort of Oshun and is also sometimes seen as "the son" of Yemoja Mojelewu and associated with her on the sea; to which, ultimately, go his ebbos or offerings. He is associated, with orisha Oko on the farm and with Eshu Elegua, Ogun, and Osayin in the forest or "igbo" because of his close connec- tion to medicine, charms, and amulet-making. Prior to being called "Inle" he was called "Igbo"; a forest physician. Many latino and Brasilian (or latino-influenced) practitioners who are homo- sexual revere Inle as their protector or even their guardian orisha. This belief is a contemporary projection on their parts.
His symbol is an ibojuto I (which is an "osun" or communication fetish) in the form of a trident- like staff--(like Neptune's trident)--that rises from under the sea--that is, from his underwater castle where he--the "ode ko'baye"--once lived with and saw orisha "Olokun"(no other orisha has) until Yemoja summoned him from there and, thereupon, re-seated him at the bottom of the indigo col- ored Erinle river in Nigeria. Though he is mainly known as a riverine orisha and associated, there- fore, with Oshun and Oshoosi (owner of the riverbank), his origins lie in the very depths of the ocean; the richest place in the world, and the worlds last repository of wasted things and ancestral bones, with Olokun. Hence they share prominence in the olodu called Irosun. And, since the min-
eral and biological resources of the ocean are essential to life and healing, and since (Er)Inle is the
physician orisha (even before Osayin and Ogun), it is natural and prescribed in the omodus called
Irosu-Odi and Odi-'rosun, that one of his most potent locations for ebbo (healing rituals) is where the rivers flow into the oceans. His preferred fish, for offerings, come from the ocean.
The snakes associated with Abatan--an associated orisha for lnle and Oshoosi--crawl up the outer arms of the ibojuto and signify medicine and rejuvenation. It is the equivalent of Ofa Oshoosi, the iron bow and arrow that lives on the top of Ogun's iron pot. The ibojuto stands beside Yemoja or may sit atop the orisha Abatan. Also associated with Erinle's magical and medicinal powers are his staff which has carved or iron birds on it; his Opa Orere. And as a warrior orisha, Erinle also enjoys the use of the obe Ogun--the war knife of Ogun. This androgynous Orisha--male and female, river- ine and oceanic--is syncretized with San Rafael, the Catholic healer saint. And, in Cuba, he is juxta- posed with Saint Norbert and, in other places, with St. Thomas and St. Sebastian.
Some of the specific ibu of Enrile are Ojutu, Alamo ("Ibu-Alama"-a separate road of Oxossi in Bras- il), Owaala, lyamokin, Aanu, and Abatan. Erinle's seven sacred stones (otans) are kept in the earth- en vessel called Awo Ota Enrinle. Erinle is silent; his tongue having been cut out by Yemoja in a fit of erotic anger and jealousy toward Oshun (her daughter) because of Erinle's affection for her. And, thus, since then she, Yemoja, speaks for him in divination. (see below).
lbualama and Enrinle in Ketu (Benin/Dahomey) are the two main roads of Oshoosi.
This Ibualama is also depicted as "the son" of Oshun and Enrinle in some stories. He inhabits the riverbank and, like his father, is decribed as unbelievably fierce and effective as a hunter: "swift as a hawk; he who hunts like a cat." Logun-ede is also called "Laro" (and his "Eshu" is referred to as "Ele- gua Laroye"--the lawyer-spokesman of the Eshu pantheon; closely associated with Oshun and Oshoosi). As an eshu he is gleeful and quick to take sacrificial offerings. He is especially assoc- iated with the llesa (lyesa) people of Nigeria and is called the "Prince of llesa."
* * * *
Abatan (a specific ibu or "pool" of Erinle)
Along with Erinle (lnle), Abatan is associated with Oshoosi. She is considered a wife to the orisha Erinle and a nurse who helps him prepare his medicine (oogun ashe). She, as an orisha, can be seat- ed on top of Erinle; like the orisha Dada that can seated atop Shango. Abatan is considered an "av- atar" or another form of Erinle in Africa, but is considered "the wife" of Erinle In Cuba. (The term "wife" is used loosely in Yoruba religious liturgy; often meaning 'loyal companion' and is applied to men and women alike). For example, sometimes Oshoosi has been referred to as "the wife" of Ogun. And new initiates--male and female--in orisha religion are called "yawos" or "wives" of an orisha; from aya or "wife"). Abatan is the "nurse" of (Er)Inle; both of whom are aides to Oshoosi.
Her role in relation to Oshoosi/Erinle is connected to her natural representations on earth: the pond, marsh or swamp. Her eleke (a ritual beaded neckless) contains alternating patterns of 7 and 14 beads in the colors of yellow, green, gold and coral. Offerings to her are made at a marsh. In Nigeria, Abatan is an ibu of Erinle. She provides Oshoosi and Erinle with nutrients and attracts game that can be ambushed at "the pond." Abatan is received whenever Enrile is received, and although Oshoosi can be given singularly as "orisha adimu'' (i.e., as a specific catalyst ritual for a major problem), whenever Oshoosi is crowned on someone's head, Erinle and Abatan should also be given to the initiate. In fact, the orisha "Oggue"--an avatar of Oshoosi--and the true squire
of Obatala should be given as well if possible.
Nursing a person goes better with the ashe of Abatan to heal the wounds of iron (e.g, in surgery).
I often put spirulina in her vessel as an ashe.
Abola and Aboqui are described as twins that always accompany Oshoosi (see "Agolaroye. com/ ochosi.php). They are 'guardian angels' of hunters.
Sample Stories of Orishas Associated With Oshoosi
The relationship between Oshoosi and Oshun is legendary. Both have ancient roots in the Egyptian or Nilotic deity "Shu." But more importantly, Oshun is known to be Oshoosi's lover and, like Ogun, entices him out of the forest to serve and provide for civil society, and specifically, to bring game to her market concessions to be sold. She first obtained honey (oyin) from him and in exchange for this favorite nutrient, charm and antibiotic of Oshun's, she promised him that she would send a swarm of bees to sting out the eyes of anyone who threatens him. When Oshun divines, in the absence of Orumila, animals sacrificed to Oshoosi must only be sacrificed outdoors and never in front of Oshun. Oshoosi children often forego honey out of respect for Oshun.
Oshoosi is regarded as a "child of Obatala." (His "father" in Africa is Oduduwa), He is also the guar- dian of the gate to Obatala's castle. He speaks for Obatala as his multilingual spokeman (his agbe- de beyo or afede'feyo). Oshoosi is, effectively, orisha funfun; an orisha of "white cloth" (asho 'fun 'fun) ; meaning a "cool-headed" oris- ha. Accordingly, he favors shea butter (ori) more so than palm oil (ope, epo) when being fed--especially if his feeding is in the con- text of an ita ceremony (a very special divination reading). For ex- ample, like one's "life destiny reading" that occurs near one's natal birth (in Africa) or upon one's deep initiation into an orisha cult or society (in the western hemisphere).
With Osayin, Eshu, Akoro (Ogun) and lgbo (Erinle)
These orishas are related to Oshoosi in the following way. All three of these orishas were the sons of Yemoja Okute (Yemoja Ogunte/Okuti)--the "mother of the fishes" of (probably) the Ogun river). Eshu, being mischievous, was made by Yemoja to live outside the house. Akoro worked on farms. But lgbo, who had 'locks' or very curly hair, was born to be a hunter. lfa warned Yemoja that lgbo was destined to leave forever if he went out to hunt in the forest. lgbo went into the forest to hunt despite Yemoja's instructions to him to the contrary.
While there he met Osayin (an herbalist from Mali) who drugged him and when he awoke, the hunt had begun He did not remember the world of men as he had been transformed into Erinle (Ode) while he had been asleep. When the hunt was over the other hunters could not fetch him. When discovered to be missing by Yemoja, Akoro set out to find him by taking all kinds of metal tools into the bush to clear paths and to search. By this time Enrinle was dressed as if in a hunting party, but Akoro took him home on his shoulders. Upon returning, Yemoja rejected him for his disob- edience. But both Osayin and Akoro decided that could not live with their brotherly hunter and returned to the forest with. After a quarrel about him, they decided to hunt together forever with Akoro becoming Ogun, Eshu becoming Elegua, lgbo becoming Erinle, and Osayin remaining the god of herbalism and medicine. In utter despair at having lost all three of her sons Yemoja became a river--the Ogun river. (There are versions of this myth that say that Erinle precedes Osayin--an "imported" deity from Mali--as the original herbalist--doctor among the Yorubas).
With Yemoja, Yemonya, or Yemenya--("yeye omo eja" = "Yemoja" = "mother of the fish children").
Yemoja is the mother of Oshoosi (in the New World while Yemu or "Yembo" is in Africa) and very fond of him.In some apatakis (patakis are stories) she riv-aled Oshun for the love of Erinle and ultimately cut his tongue out in anger; the result of which, as mentioned, was that she speaks for Erinle to this day.
This is the most famous Oshoosi story form. Basically it holds that Oshoosi owned a parrot that was noteworthy for knowing his secret incantations that made his medicine charms work-in tipping his arrows with this concoction made of herbs. One day he went out for a hunt and stayed a very long time indeed in the forest. In the meantime, someone came to his home and devoured his par- rot.
When he returned home, he pointed his arrow into the sky and uttered a curse that directed the arrow to pierce the heart of whomever had ended the life of his parrot Odide. He did not know that the culprit was his mother Yemoja. She died of the wound. From that time Oshoosi first lear- ned to be careful with his words; especially his curses. And he learned that justice, to the extent that it is blind, can be merciless as well. So justice should be dispensed with wide-open eyes.
There are numerous variations of this story. The most common have it that Oshoosi had game birds hanging or curing around his hut when he took off for a long hunt. While he was gone, his mother visited his abode and found it to be messy. She cleaned it up and also cooked the birds without him knowing it. When he returned he was angered at not knowing who had taken liberties with his birds and proclaimed the curse, shot the arrow, and produced the same result.
Oshoosi is not necessarily a good businessman. The Omo Obara (probably Shango) was tending a farm one day. On that day ode went to the forest to hunt, but had no luck finding game. He asked the Kingof the Forest for help. The king, the Oluwo Ogbo, gave him six pumpkin seeds and disap- peared back into the forest. Ode thought that these seeds were magical but eventually noticed that they remained unchanged. He gave them to Omo Obara who promptly planted them, and bec- ame rich from selling them in the market place. Ode was never again able to find the Oluwo lgbo when he searched for a replenishment of his gift. Magic is useful,but not always practical. The Mus- lims have a saying: "Pray to Allah five times a day (but tie your camel !)"
With Oggun & Orumila
This story comes from the excellent Cuban website called Cubanyoruba.blogspot.com. I cite it here under the "fair use" doctrine of US copyright law as a brief quotation for educational purpos- es only). This is the story or "apataki." It is not attributed to a particular omodu ("holy scripture" for lack of a better translation) on the site. *
"Oshosi was the best of the hunters and their arrows never failed. Nevertheless, he couldn't get
their preys because the thickness of the forest prevented it. Desparate he went to see Orunmila,
and he advised Oshosi to do ebbo. Oshosi and Oggun were enemies because of Eshu, who gos- siped about each other, but Ogun had a similar problem. Although nobody was able to make paths in the thick forest quicker than him, he wasn't able to kill any piece as the animals escaped from him. Ogun went to see Orunmila too and received instructions to do ebbo. He went to do the ebbo, so both rivals went to the forest to fulfill his. Without realizing Oshosi dropped his ebbo on Oggun, who was laying in a trunk. They had a strong discussion, but Oshosi apologized and they seemed to talk and to count his problems to each other. While they spoke, in a distant spot step a deer. Quick like a ray, Oshosi get up and shot an arrow, that crossed the neck of the deer leaving it dead." You see, Oshosi sigh, "now I cannot take it." Then Oggun took his machete and in no time he opened a path to the deer. Both of them very happy arrived to the animal and they shared it. From that moment they agreed upon whenever they'll be there one for the other and realized that when separated they were nobody, reason why they made a pact in the house of Orunmila. That is why Oshosi, the hunter, always walks with Oggun, the owner of irons." Ogun's tools made hunting more effective.
When Oshoosi is fearful Ogun can be counted upon to step in and "handle his light work"; that is, visit utter destruction on his enemies.
Offerings To Oshoosi by the Numbers 1, 7 and 21.
These can include virtually everything that any warrior orisha an eat: the ashes of ram, dog, goats, as well as roosted cow-peas, baked yams (especially with seven pieces of coconut in them), tree sap, snails, cornbread (especially with coconut in it), pork, roosters, Guinea fowl, and ox. Of course, fruit adimus (offerings) are favored. He likes liquorish (and anise or fennel which flavors it) and ani- sette and, especially, creme de menthe. Pheasant (!), hamsters, doves, pigeons, and peacocks are acceptable too. Ideally, give Oshoosi seven (7) units of whatever offering you make, though this
exact number is less necessary when it comes to animal sacrifices. The number 3 can also be used
because it is associated with Ogun (and Oshoosi's close relationship to that orisha); though gifts of
"3" to anyone is often avoided among Yorubas out of deference to the destructive ashe associated
with Ogun and the odu Ogunda--the number of which is "3" in the Cuban Santeria-Lucumi variant.
Except for the doves and pigeons, do not forget to treat Elegba to a little of the offering, and note that Ogun and Oshoosi often eat together). Oshoosi likes to accept obi abata (kola nuts) as a gift offering. Chewing an atare (Guinea pepper) and filling the mouth with anisette/rum and the spray- ing him with it is a favored "toast" to him. When feeding him it is best to do so outdoors, but--at least in the Brasilian traditions-- never put the heads of animals sacrificed to him in front of him (put the heads in the woods). And Oshoosi children do not eat any of the animals that is hunted by Oshoosi--especially deer. This taboo can and should be broken only to save the life of an omo (son
or child) of Oshoosi if he or she is deathly ill. A fairly simple meal for him is made in the following ways:
In the West Oshoosi's egbe (society) birthday celebration is October 21st, (in August in Nigeria) and he is revered during the whole month of October; syncretic for Libran justice and balance in character, perhaps.
Offerings to Oshoosi
Simple Adimus (offerings)
Fruits (especially apples), pork 'n beans, various beans dishes, and yams (especially seven yams,
with one slit cut in each wherein seven pieces of coconut are placed in the slits) and smeared with lard prior to baking them. A great glaze for them (as well as a direct offering in itself) is a "spray" or dash combination of rum and annisette or (creme d'mente). Game birds like quail and pheasant are also highly appreciated by this orisha.
Asoso (prn: Ashosho)
The simple version: "Little Asoso" (Frejao, Frahino in Brasil). Black eyed peas and salt. Soak for two hours. Use a well-worn skillet and with a high fire throw them onto the skillet. Toast until brown or black. Pray to Oshoosi and put white syrup or maple syrup on them (do not use honey). Give them to Oshoosi indoors; no need to confirm with obi.
The more elaborate version "Big Asoso" Use four pounds of corn ears and cut off the kernels. Take all spoiled kernels out of the mix. Soak all day. Add salt and boil them until they are soft.
Drain the water off and make a corn pulp. In the meantime make a clay plate painted with bows and seven arrows circularly painted pointed outward from the center. Then open a coconut and take the brown inner skin off of the pieces. Cut the pieces into slivers and put them into the corn pulp. After placing the corn pulp into the clay bowl or bowl,place the plate on the earth three times saying "lyan'le" 3x. Then pour the white Karo syrup on the Asoso.
After three days lift the plate saying "Ofe !" Place the clay dish and Asoso under a tree in the woods. Confirm with obi (coconut pieces) to see if anything else is desired with the offering before going to the woods.
Ebbos (Sacrificial Offerings) to Oshoosi are profitably left at the door of, or on the grounds of, courthouses, jails and zoos or one's unjust enemies. Oshoosi can eat, as can all of the warriors, most of the animals fed to other orishas--especially red roosters.
The Ritual Colors for Oshoosi
Colors include violet or blue and amber or gold. Teal and amber or gold also work well. Add coral, jet black, green,and brass. His elekes will contain similar colors (with also a dash of red and green along with the black beads). In some places green is used as a color for Oshoosi (but teal is better).
The Carga ("Cargo") of Oshoosi
This awo (secret) is omitted here. These are ritual ingredients to make up the ashes for Oshoosi. Various dried plants, dried birds heads or other dried animal parts, and soils are used in some combination.
Crowning Oshoosi to an Initiate's Head.
It is necessary to include the following orishas in the initiation (the kario'cha or the "crowning") of
an omo Oshoosi (a child of Oshoosi) or olo Oshoosi (possessor of Oshoosi):
The Warriors: (the Ologuns or Los guereros) of Elegua, Ogun, Oshoosi, and Osun.
The Aides-de-Camp of Oshoosi: (Er)Inle and Abatan and Osayin (the orisha of herbs and herbalism)
The Necessary Orishas: Oshoosi, Oggun, Obatala, Oke, Yemoja, Shango, Oshun, and Oya.
Like all of the Ode warriors (guerreros in Cuba) like Elegua, Ogun, and Osun, Oshoosi's kids must
be crowned outside in a forest or forest-like shrine; an igbodu. Warriors in Yoruba are also called "Ologuns."
Implements and Adornments of Oshoosi
Bante (leopard-skin apron), tools, charms, deer horns, deer heads, turtle shells, animal pelts (e.g., leopard and monkey skins), bows and arrows, rifles, ram horns, dried game birds, fish-hooks, animal pelts, handcuffs, silver spears (weilded by his avatar Oggue--the squire of Obatala) and scales adorn his shrine or altar areas; . One calls to Oshoosi by using a cow-bell. Oshoosi's bow
and arrow sets (his flechas) live in his and Ogun's pots (or open vessels, caldrons, soperos, and half-gourd shells) and can be worn as jewelry replicas.
It is quite good to use a simple bramble bush (alone!) as an altar--called an ojobu or ojo'run-- for Oshoosi. It signifies traps and snares. A bramble bush-looking metal sculpture with many birds on
it is also an icon of Oshoosi; signifying his close relationship with "our Holy Mothers."
Two Easy Prayers to Oshoosi (traditional)
Iba Oshoosi,olog arare I salute Oshoosi master of himself
Agbani nijo to buru Wise one who gives blessings
Orisha ipapo odun Spirit of sweet togetherness
Koko ma panige Divination guides the hunter
Ode olorore Hunter of abundance
Obaloge are ojo pata ma ro The chief tracker overcomes fear
Ashe So be it
Osolokere Wizard of the forest
Asa la ko gbo ogun The hawk that collects the medicine
Ode mataode Spotted parrot
Ode mataogun Parrot of twenty spots
Ode gan fi di ja Parrot that guides me beyond fear
Ashe! So be it!
Oshowusi Osho the famous one
Ija tii ja iru erin One that cuts the elephant's tail
Akin nile, Akin loju ogun At home, hero of the battle front
Bi Oso o ti e le ja If Osho is a coward (fearful)
O ti gbekele Ogun He depends on Ogun (iron)
Ogun onire oko Mojude Ogun, the monarch of Ire (town)
Osho Olofa kan ata tu'gun Osho, the owner of one arrow
that kills many at the battle front.
*oriki for Oshoosi from Yoruba Kalendar 2009/2011 by chief priest Yemi Elebuibon, Akoda of Osogbo (Nigeria).
Existing Websites That Describe the Characteristics of the Orishas
Enrinle (Inle) and Abatan: Allies of Oshoosi
These sites also spell out the characteristics, colors, offerings, issues and stories (patakis)
of these orishas exactly as I have described them herein.
http://www.ecured.cu/index.php/Inle (Cuban revolutionario orisha)