Osun Across the Waters, Olokun, and Poseidon

On my last trip to the university’s library, I happened upon a book. I was looking for some books that might talk about maraj lwa, because while that is not the primary topic of the book Sacred Marriage that Beth and I are working on together, we do want to mention it, at least in brief. As someone who is outside of the traditions, I’m sensitive to the fact that the various African diaspora traditions are often represented poorly, and I want to avoid that. I also want to bring the subject up for possible compare-and-contrast (though, at the end of the day? I suspect the differences are less tradition-specific and possibly more individual-specific) I’m realizing that I’m likely going to have to contact actual people with my horribly bumbling questions as they come up, instead of going with book and article research, and to that end, if anyone knowledgeable wants to point me in proper directions, I won’t say no, and you’ll get a proper thank you in the acknoweldgements portion of the book!

Er, anyway.

Looking at books, when this gem caught my attention.

I’ll be honest: my first thought was, ooh, this could help deepen my understanding of Aphrodite. I don’t have a Matron in the Matron and Patron sense of the word, nor do I have a “main” goddess. If I had to name one, though, Aphrodite would be it. She championed for me, and for my role in my marriage before I could do so myself. While I attribute Hera and Aphrodite both in playing pivotal roles in saving my marriage when I was bound and determined to destroy it, Hera’s interest in me — while being kind and generous and warm — is not personal. I’m important to Her because I’m important to Poseidon, which is fine, because She’s important to me because She’s important to Him. This isn’t necessarily a bad foundation to start a relationship. But with Aphrodite? It was more than that.

I have wiggly understanding of Her and the faces of various spirits and gods that have gone into our understanding of who She is. I’m a polytheist, but I still think the gods and spirits play it a bit loose (or rather, can play it a bit loose) with faces and names and such. So, while I don’t think that Aphrodite=Osus=Yemeya=Freyja=Venus=Astarte, I do think that hard and fast lines of division between Them might be more our invention than Their own. I also think “Families” of gods and spirits can help us understand our own better. For this I mean cultural-to-the-spirits and not so much to our human understanding. In my experience, there is a kinship/sameness/sharing-of-language/understanding/being to the “water” divinities that renders them a culture unto their own. This is how, despite my no experience with, relationship with, or devotion toward Manannan, the theft of his statue cut me. He is, an a way, a cousin of my Beloved, and an affront to one is an affront to the whole.

So, I picked the book up thinking, it’s peripherally related to research I want to be doing anyway, and it binged my Aphrodite connection, and worse comes to worse, it’s about a water  divinity, so why not? Why not?

I went in bracing, because I am a person with a somewhat “open” head. That is, I sense the gods and spirits around us. Not all of them, not all the time, but . . . enough of them, enough of the time. Often, when I look, I can get a sense of Them “looking” back, even if it’s just a cursory glance. (and it’s often no more than that, especially if they’re not starved for attention.) Osun is far from being starved for attention, but She looked back, and She was kind enough. She brushed aside my “not the right sort of person,” with brisk efficiency. She humored my “Aphrodite, right? A little? Some?” while taking me to task trying to understand something based on its likeness (or lack of) to some other thing. She gifted me with greater insight into my relationship with my mother, and a better appreciation of the nuances to be found within the African diasporic traditions — that is, when you have people, you have people, and no hard and fast descriptor is ever, EVER going to work as anything more than a general representation.

She lead me to a podcast about Olokun (find below). Now, I’m sitting with that. Because Poseidon is laughing, and is still, and is possessive and is encouraging, and is having too much fun with making my head hurt.

I’m not at a point where I’m that much of a syncretist that I can look to Narasimha or Matsya or Olokun and think: different faces for Poseidon in different places and times. But He’s been urging me to expand beyond the Mediterranean, with my studies. There’s this idea that I can find Poseidon reflected clearly in the faces of Others, and there’s a reminder that so much of what we know of Their worship is how humans interacted with Them in certain times, in certain places, within certain frame-works. If you’re trying to be of that tradition or if you’re trying to recreate a tradition inspired by those of the past, then having a more narrow focus is desirable.

I’m not. I’m interested in Poseidon, and I find the past fascinating, and parts of it do inform my approach . . .but I want Poseidon. Here, and now, in this world, by the many places He shows His interests to be, in the faces of the people who praise, honor, and worship Him. I am not going to say Olokun = Poseidon, because my experience that the being I know as Poseidon is a bit loose with names and faces (they are containers, if you will, and we all know how water will conform to the container it is in; it’s a bit like that) but also because He tells me that, well, yesno. More of a yes than when I ask about Neptune (and isn’t that interesting?) but still yesno. It’s not quite the response I get regarding Vishnu. It’s enough that I want to look into this being and His worship and history and faces and stuff.

I can’t look at these sorts of things and help but hold cultural appropriation in my mind. Should I even be looking in this direction? But I don’t know that learning about or reaching out to various Powers not of my culture is cultural appropriation. I’m not setting  myself up as some great Knowledgeable Devotee of Olokun, for example. I’m just curious. There’s a seemingly natural (to Them) overlap or kinship, kindredship, something, between the Germanic/Scandinavian Powers, for example, and a number of the Powers within the African diaspora traditions, enough that I’m all neck-craning and “Oh, what’s over there? Whose Pops talking to?” I’m just . . . interested, in reading, in studying, and listening to others talk about their experiences, and maybe, maybe, maybe eventually setting up something temporary to say, ‘hi. You matter to my Beloved in ways I don’t quite understand, and I don’t have to matter to you, but this makes me inclined to hold affection in my heart for You and, here, have this drink.”

I dunno. It’s an interesting place, right now, is all.

Er. So! If you’re interested at all, and you can get your hands on it, the Osun book is fascinating. It was informative, the essays were many and varied. There is a maturity to how they speak of their devotion to their Powers, and a lack of apologies for having “out there” beliefs that i see too much in some pagan (my own, included!) writing, there’s a frankness in their struggles, and while I realize that jealousy and “I’m right, so and so is wrong,” is part of human nature, from the writing, there seems to be less of being threatened by other peoples different experiences with a god or spirit. Different roads to Them, is how it’s talked about, and I like that — not just because of the road and traveling and Odin.

And, also, this podcast was interesting to listen to. If I giggled like an idiot every time he mentioned Poseidon in a matter of fact way, it’s only because I don’t hear people talking about Him much, and it made me very happy.

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17 thoughts on “Osun Across the Waters, Olokun, and Poseidon

  1. Okay, on maryaj lwa I think there MIGHT be an academic article or two around. Check JSTOR. I can ask Mami if she knows any resources which are legit and can be used. Otherwise, her book (Haitian Vodou) might have some references (it has been a few years since I read it), and I think the Haitian Vodou Handbook also has some. You can also readthis story of my spiritual brother Garth marrying Ezili Freda several years ago.

    And yes, there is certainly something to the Heathen-West African link. I have it both by being Kemetic and involved with Vodou. My friend River is also Heathen and an initiated Santera. Then there are the people I know who are involved in African religions and get pinged by Himself or Loki.

    • Thank you for links and suggestions! I’ve been meaning to email you about this for forever, oh my ‘in’ person. 😉 I’ve seen the Heathen-West African thing come up time and time again with different people to dismiss it as a quirk. Also: Odin. There’s no tool that works that He’s going to not get into so He can learn it and bring it to His People. I’m not interested so much in academics as I am in talking to people involved — mostly, again, to give a brief compare and contrast, point out references for people wanting to know more, and — the biggie — not having a flare up in my food-in-mouth disease.

  2. The fascinating thing about Olokun is that, depending on lineage, Olokun is either male, female, both, neither, or all three (corresponding to the surface, surface depth, and deep depths). in most lineages, He does not speak directly but only through another Orisha, and He is almost never crowned. I haven’t listened to that podcast completely, but there person responsible for it has a mixed reputation.

    In terms of maryaj Lwa, there is very little written on it because it is considered a privileged/insider practice and how it is done is specified by lineage. Most reputable books on vodou mention it at least, but most information is given out in person.

    That being said, it is very, very different than what most polytheists and pagans consider to be divine marriage, as it reflects how marriage is considered in Haiti. It is employed for a variety of reasons, such as preparing for initiation, opening certain roads, or preserving your life. It is somewhat impersonal in that you often don’t know your Lwa prior to Them asking for maryaj and that the primary way of relating is as business partners–if you want something, you negotiate out what you will give your Lwa for it and, if They deliver, then you pay Them. Sex between a vodouisant and their Lwa isn’t unheard of, but it’s not the focus nor will you find many vodouisants willing to talk about it as it is considered a very private topic. The Lwa one is married to aren’t referred to as spouses or husbands/wives, either, for a variety of culturally based reasons.

    Most African and Diasporic religions have a marriage component–initiates to Orisha traditions are called brides of their Orisha, though that terminology drops away after a specific time period, Akan has an extensive spirit marriage history, and on and on. My best unsolicited advice would be to mention those things as existing and point people towards those traditions if they are curious, as you will inevitably be called exploitive for writing about a closed practice when you are not a participant in those faiths.

    • That’s pretty much that our approach was going to be, honestly, as our aim isn’t to talk about paths we’re not a part of. Still, I always prefer to have that knowledge I can, even if I’m using it only to keep my feet out of my mouth. So, thank you.

      *edited because I need to stop thinking I can type on my phone.

  3. Well, as a Gnostic I believe all faiths are one Spiritual Science handed down to us by the Gods and their spirit children (which includes us humans too).

    I’m a Santero (Santería and IFA, the two if not the main Diaspora religions who worship and mention Ochun/Oshun/Osun) is not Aphrodite. However the reason you see the connection is because they operate on the same wave length (I.e. Love and Prosperity) and both have associations with water (Aphrodite comes from the Sea, Oshun is more a Lady of the Lakes and Rivers).

    I think Poseidon is telling you that there are sects of Deities among the spirit world who work in concert with one another. And that it’s important to work with them all despite your pantheon.

    That’s why I love Gnosticism, my Pantheon is everything so I do not restrict myself to any pantheon. If you read about the Hindu God (once a human man) named Mahavatar Babaji (Great Avatar, Revered Father), the Gurus say that he not only lived in Jesus’ time, but he knew Jesus Christ HIMSELF and that after death he Ascended as a God on the same level of Holiness and Power as Christ and that they work together for the salvation of humanity. In fact Hindus are greatly invested in Mystical/Esoteric Christianity but that’s a whole other subject altogether.

    Poseidon (unless I am confused) is telling you that just as the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks mixed Deities and even Synchronized them to create greater powers via the synchronization you could do the same in your worship.

    • I’m going to continue forward assuming the best intentions here, but I also need to respond to this, because this is starting to really bother me.

      Re: Osun/Aphrodite — I tried to be clear that I don’t necessarily view Them as one and the same, but if I wasn’t, let me say again: I’m a polytheist in that I believe the gods are distinct individuals with Their own agendas, personalities, goals, likes, wants, and dislikes. Do I think They can play fast and loose with names, as They wish? Heck, yes. Does this cause me to think that maybe the “This is Zeus” and “This is Poseidon” line isn’t all that defined in some cases? You bet. But the lens that culture and historical cultus provide is an important lens to view them through and even if I thought Osun = Aphrodite, in actual worship I would approach Them as Osun is Osun and Aphrodite is Aphrodite. As I said, I’m /not/ a syncretist in my approach, and I’m not looking to become one. Nothing wrong with it, but Poseidon has drilled into my head that He is Poseidon too much for me to dismiss that now.

      I also think I talked enough in my post about “families” of spirits (in this case, water divinities) having a kindredship, a sameness, that I was clear I understood the feeling of affinity between Osun and Aphrodite as I was experiencing it was likely from that connection.

      I can appreciate that you don’t know me that well, that you maybe haven’t read my blog, and that maybe I’m not all that clear all the time, So, I’m not intending any of this in a confrontational manner, but I want to the frank with you.

      I’m not looking for people to explain to me what Poseidon might mean. When I am suspecting that I’m not receiving His messages clearly, I have people I turn to who help me hear or see better/more clearly. The ability to communicate with Him has never been a problem, not in all our time together, and Poseidon has been in my life for two decades at this point — not occasionally, not on the weekends, but pretty much all the time since He walked in. I know the direction He wants my path to take very well, and the times that I stumble or drag my feet have never been because I was unsure about His input.

      Furthermore: I’m oathbound to Poseidon /and/ Odin. That alone should make it clear that I’m not interested at all in sticking to one and only one pantheon. So, while I appreciate the spirit of intent in the advice you’ve given me, it’s all either unnecessary (in that you’re rehashing what I already said in the post you’ve responded to) or it’s unsolicited and thus unwanted.

      • I was not saying you viewed them as the same I was just making a statement and I thought perhaps you would have liked my view as a Santero. It seems as if instead I upset you.

        I am a reader and fan of your blog. Sorry for offending you. I’ll go be quiet now.

        -Jose

        • I do appreciate your view s a Santero; I was specifically looking for such input and so I thank you for that. I’m keen to remember there may be awkward communication on both our ends due to language issues, do I’m not trying to be a jerk here. I did not ask for advice regarding Poseidon. I wouldn’t ask for that publicly, even if I required it, and being offered it does offend me. Perhaps it shouldn’t offend me but it does. It suggests that someone — you in this instance — knows better my relationship with Him than I do. I don’t mind talking about him and I don’t mind others sharing their understanding of him, but when it crosses into advice that I haven’t sought out it hits me as rude. Again, I’m believing that’s not you’re intent, which is why I’m even addressing it. You don’t need to not comment. You only need to know unsolicited advice isn’t wanted.

          • Okay, but it wasn’t advice simply a suggestion. In Santería we believe that sometimes you get vibes from reading or hearing something and that is the Orishas (Gods) sending an answer to a person through you.

            We receive answers to things that way. That’s a part of our spirituality. It doesn’t mean I think I know Poseidon better than you do. In fact I think you know him better than I. I just read your post, got an idea and believed it was a vibe to reveal something.

            I will not do that again, apologies.

            • I understand where you’re coming from and I appreciate the apology. Please understand that the getting a vibe or a ping or an understanding/possible message via Powers isn’t unique to your tradition. Whether to act upon them on or not is ultimately up to us and our input into another’s path or understanding isn’t always wanted. I try to always ask first unless the person is a close friend. Asking permission is a good policy.

  4. So hhhmmm. For me Yemaya is upper sea and Olokun deep sea so I put him(?) with Poseidon. I think the water deities are family, and as such often speak the same code that families do with each other and sometimes can speak for other members, but are still separate. I will listen to the podcast when not on my phone. 🙂

    Oh, ignore people who try to tell you “everyone’s all the same!!!” mix and match at will. They lack discernment. Sure, syncretism is good and possible, but it isn’t shove and mash FFS. But, preaching to the choir, I know.

    (I heard Poseidon laughing as I read this post.)

    • The podcast was interesting. I wouldn’t say great — I wouldn’t say, listen without discernment, and I’d say that even more, considering Alex’s input about the mixed reputation. (Though, at the same time, there are plenty of ‘our’ folk who have mixed reputations who still put out thought-provoking material, so, take that for what it’s worth, too?)

      My favorite part was that Poseidon was mentioned. The rest? It was interesting, but nothing, er, earth-shaking . . . .*ducks*

  5. (I’m not really adding anything new to the conversation but I forgot to comment earlier so…)

    I’ll echo that there’s a scarcity of material on maryaj lwa; this is true even in academic databases (or it was several years ago when I was doing some related research of my own). Any reference that was more than “This is a thing and it happens” was “This is a thing that sometimes happens and it happens only after confirmation is sought and it happens with the goal of achieving particular outcomes”. It reminded me more of historic royal marriages than of anything else, actually. (Which, come to think of it, is quite fitting.) So even if you wanted to talk about the subject in your book in any detail, you’d probably be stretching to find authoritative information. (So yeah, your strategy of not really talking about traditions you’re not part of is sound but you already knew that. ) ❤

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