One does not normally equate a belief in gods or goddesses with the continent Africa. However, like most countries and continents across the world, Africa has its own interpretation of divine beings.
One of the best known African goddesses is Oshun. Some refer to her as the goddess of love. Others believe she is much more than that. Either way, there is no denying that she is described in ways appropriate to a true goddess.
Oshun is believed as radiant as the stars in the black of night. Some say she sparkles like the river with which she shares her name.
Usually pictured as flirtatious, Oshun is the picture perfect goddess of love. She is beautiful, enticing, flirtacious and charming.
Her skin is described as velvet perfection, smooth, silky and flawless. Her brown eyes are known to be intoxicating; drawing people in and binding them to her. Her curves are well-defined and she is often pictured with unusually wide hips.
Her favorite color is blue, but she also loves yellow and white. She usually carries or wears peacock feathers.
Oshun is not just recognized in Africa. She is also important to the Caribbean. There she is associated strongly with fertility. Her many followerers believe that love cannot occur without Oshun’s stamp of approval.
Like Aphrodite and many other love goddesses, Oshun is also associated with the water. It is believed that she not only draws her power form the water but that she also gives power to the water; ensuring a good harvest from it.
In Puerto Rico, Oshun is attached to great wealth and is pictured with pumpkins, a symbol of wealth. They also associate the goddess with healing.
The Santeria of Cuba celebrate Oshun as well. To them she represents maternity and marriage.
Oshun is often noted as one of the wives of the powerful thunder god, Chango. It is said that she bore him human children.
In the bigger sense, Oshun represents much more that mere fertility, healing, love or wealth. She represents all of the things that people look at as luxuries. This includes things like fashion, well-decorated houses, sweet perfumes, money and more.
Sometimes known as the Modest One, in reality Oshun delights in adjourning herself in the very luxuries she represents. She is often pictured in satins, silks, and velvets, adorned with jewels, gold, silver and other precious metals. She is rarely shown without some form of peacock feathers either in her hair, as part of her clothing or in her hand.
Known to be benevolent and kind, with a generous heart. Oshun also suffers from fits of temper. While she seldom loses her temper, when she does, it has been known to leave massive destruction in her wake.
One story says the once mortal Oshun became a prostitute in order to feed her poor children. But her children were taken away from her because of what she had become. In response, Oshun went mad in her grief. From that day forward she dressed only in white for many years.
A god saw the beautiful Oshun weeping on the bank of the river. He fell in love with the forlorn woman and brought her everything her heart could desire. She used the many treasures to win back her children. She was so indebted to the god that she agreed to marry him. As a wedding present he made her a goddess.
It is said that Oshun had many husbands, but they were never enough for her. She eventually took lovers as well. Some of them were mortal. It is believed that her decendents still populate the African continent to this day.
The Book of Goddesses: A Celebration of the Divine Feminine by Kris Waldherr; Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 2006