Oba

Oba

Also known as:

Obba

Classification:

Orisha

Oba, beautiful Yoruba river spirit, is overshadowed by other more famous river orishas like Oshun, Oya, and Yemaya, who began her incarnation as the orisha of the Ogun River. Being overshadowed is the central theme of Oba’s sole surviving myth.

Oba is Shango’s first wife, a position of rank and authority. One woman is never enough for Shango, a situation that was acceptable to Oba providing that his other women were properly subordinate. After all, kings have harems. Shango’s passionate love affairs with Oya and Oshun, however, were just too much. Shango treated them like queens. As anyone familiar with those two orishas knows, neither is subordinate to anyone.

Oba was puzzled and frustrated. She saw the passion, desire, and love in Shango’s eyes for Oya and Oshun, and she wanted it for herself. One of her rivals played a nasty trick on the sincere, gullible Oba, explaining that the key to Shango’s heart was a magical culinary ingredient. Whenever she cooked for Shango, this orisha said, she sliced off one of her ears and fed it to him. Oba was dubious but the orisha insisted that it was true; furthermore, the ears automatically regenerated, she said, pointing at her own two ears.

Oba was desperate and ready to try anything. When Shango finally arrived at her compound, having torn himself away from other lovers to meet his husbandly duties, he noticed the blood-stained bandage around Oba’s head but didn’t ask questions. When presented with the grisly appetizer, her severed ear, he was so appalled and disgusted, he fled from Oba’s embrace, never to return.

Which of Oba’s rivals played the trick? No one likes to say and there is much speculation. Perhaps they colluded together. (Of course, only one of those orishas is a famous chef.) Regardless, do not petition or make offerings to Oba simultaneously with Oshun and Oya. All three should be kept separate.

This myth may give the wrong impression: Oba is not submissive, stupid, or passive. She is an extremely competent, independent market woman involved in commerce and politics. Oba is a powerful orisha who can provide for her devotees. She is Shango’s first wife because she is beautiful, independently wealthy, and smart. In attempting to assert her rights, she was outfoxed by the more devious Oshun or Oya. Love is Oba’s Achilles’ heel.

Oba is venerated as a goddess of love in Brazil but considered a guardian of prostitutes in parts of Africa. She is invoked to punish those who exploit loving hearts. Oba is the orisha of lakes and ponds. Offerings may be placed on a home altar or brought to the lakeshore and presented there. Oba is syncretized to Saint Rita.

Favored people:

Faithful wives, prostitutes, those who would risk everything for love, as well as women married to abusive, neglectful, and/or cheating spouses

Iconography:

It can be difficult to find images of Oba but they exist, especially in Brazil where she is envisioned as a shapely, bejeweled woman with a bandaged head. She may be represented by images of Saint Rita, although this emphasizes Oba’s identity as suffering wife, not sexy love goddess. She may be represented on an altar by a jewelry box or music box.

Element:

Water

Colors:

Red, white

Day: Saturday

Sacred site:

The Oba River, Nigeria

Offerings:

Flowers, candles, wine, water taken from a lake or pond (don’t give her spring water or rainwater). If you would cook for her, she likes beans with onions and shrimp.

See Also:

  • Oshun;
  • Oya;
  • Shango;
  • Yemaya

Santeria Library - Books

You may be also interested in :

The Santeria Experience -Migene Gonzalez-Wippler
Orisha Oko – Orisha of Fertility, Progress and Evolution: A Guide to Accessing the Divinity’s Blessings - Awo Olumide Achaba
Eshu-Ellegua Elegbarra: Santeria and the Orisha of the Crossroads - Raul Cañizares
Santeria: Correcting the Myths and Uncovering the Realities of a Growing Religion -  Mary Ann Clark
Diloggún tales of the natural world - Santería stories - Ócha'ni Lele
Mysteries and Secrets of Voodoo, Santeria, and Obeah - Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe
Obí, Oracle of Cuban Santería - Ócha'ni Lele
The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination: How to Cast the Diloggún, the Oracle of the Orishas -  Ócha'ni Lele
Prayers to the Orishas
Osogbo: Speaking to the Spirits of Misfortune –  Ócha’ni Lele
Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America - Miguel A. De La Torre
Santeria: the Religion: Faith, Rites, Magic - Migene González-Wippler
Exu, Divine Trickster and Master Magician – Denise Alvarado

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Source:

Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.