Oya The Mother of Nine (9).

The Tale of how Oya Yansan got her 9 colors and her children. a story of friendship , How she got the Buffalo Horns as one of her attributes , and the rainbow


The tale of Oya Yansan, from a long hunt to her home by the black waters of the Niger.

There her children are being raised by Osayin, the herbalist, and taught the ways of the woods. She clothed her children in purple, and calls each by a secret name–but they see her only at times, she stays few days, and leaves them in the care, to an old healer.

One day she did not return from the hunt, the children were hungry, and Osayin was worried. He turned to Eleggua, who watches everything, and asks where she may have gone.

To the East, Eleggua goes searching for Oya , far beyond the borders of the land, but though he searches far, he finds only tall grasses waving in the breeze, and tracks of the water buffalo.

To the West Osayin, himself, continues searching, and from a high place he seems to see her dancing, but when he gets to the plain, it is a flock of Vultures covering the seashore and the remains of a great catch of fish.

To the South, Ochosi, the tracker, who often finds the tracks when no one can see the way. Ochosi goes hunting, and though Ochosi is able to find traces of Oya’s journey. And people who claim to have seen her a great warrior dressed in black with a purple sash, they tell him she has gone north to the country of her people.

And so the three friends return to the village, each having journeyed and returned without Trace of OYA Yansan. The villagers are hungry and they do not know what to do as the harvest has been poor. The three friends, do not know what to do but are fearful of leaving the children without their mother, so packing their belongings, they take the children with them.

To the North, then, Eleggua, Ochosi, and Osayin go journeying with the nine children until they come to the hut of Orunmila, the seer and divinatory Table of IFA.

He greets them, “I have been expecting you, the Fool, the Bow, and the Reed. I have seen you for many days in my readings, for you come to bring home the bounty.”

“What” speaks Eleggua, “I know of no such bounty, I seek only my friend Oya Yansan, whose children miss her and go hungry.”

“It is a bounty–I see nine children and a mother who does not return and only now you miss her? She shall be your bounty indeed.”

Ochosi spoke also. “I see her tracks everywhere. The villagers speak of a brave woman warrior, dressed in black with a purple sash, who comes, stops oppression, but leaves before anyone can thank her.”

“You see her bounty justice–and you do nothing but track her traces–what must you learn?”

Osayin shook his head sadly. “I was entrusted with the care her children, but she has left no word and not returned.”

“You speak of trust,” Orunmila spoke gently, “and for that, I will speak. She has come by this way and left you these horns. Go home, and she will return when you blow them in blessing the feast.”

“But what shall I tell these her children,” asked Osayin?

“Tell them she will return when the hunters return from the South with no food, when the sailors return from the West with no fish, when the lands to the East are dry, then they should blow their horns and she will return.”

And the three returned to the village by the river Niger concerned, For Orunmila’s riddles did not explain how to find OYA Yansan.

They waited for another moon and thought of Orunmila’s words.

Eleggua looked to the East and saw only the shifting stars.

Osayin looked to the west and saw only the Vultures on the seashore.

Ochosi pondered the South and the strange tales of a warrior who took no food as the reward.

And they knew that it was time to call Oya Yansan home.

And they blew on the horns.

The wail of the horns died out, and there was a dead silence.

And from a distance, they could hear the snort of some beast enter into the village.

They watched and from the forest came an immense black buffalo, bleeding from many wounds, who ran at each of them, chasing them into huts as if mad with fear.

The buffalo ran about the village, and they thought it best to stay indoors they began to peer outside it was if they knew to wait.

And the rhythm of its running made a strange dance like the sound of drums of the elders. And all the villagers began to dance.

Ignoring the buffalo as it continued to run. And no one could be still. Soon, the beast began to tire. And the drums fell silent.

The buffalo ran into the center of the village and collapsed, dead of exhaustion and blood.

The villagers looked upon the beast, now dead in the village. It skin now hung in tatters, like cloth, from its many battles and even as they watched, the tatters became loose, and the hooves shrank.

Until finally they saw the body of Oya Yansan, seemingly dead upon the ground.

“No, it cannot be,” cried Osayin, “we saw her tracks everywhere and we never suspected.”

“She is the Bounty we knew was to come but not at the sacrifice and death of our friend,” replied Eleggua.

“Only the hunter knows what it is to be hunted,” observed Ochosi. We tracked her to the East, to the West, to the South, and never knew that we chased a friend. And now, she is dead.”

“I am not dead,” spoke a voice from above, and they turned but saw no one.

“I am not dead,” and it was if the sky itself sang her words.

“You see my old form, and your old friend, that was but a shell.

“For, I am the spirit of the wind, and nothing will keep me from my children.”

And the wind blew as if a great howling of drums and Oya Yansan arose alive again, calling to her children one by one, but not by name for their name was secret.

“Not many of you will know me, as you once knew me.”

My youngest child, you shall be the Dark Mother (pulling out a cloth of Black). You will lead them by secret ways through the forest when they have lost their way.” 

“I have shed much blood from the spears of the hunters, you my child shall remember, you are the Blood Mother (pulling out a cloth of Red). You will always remember the blood of the warriors who fight in your behalf.” 

“The sun shines golden in the fields ripe for harvest, and you will always know its abundance if you call on me. You are now the Golden Mother (pulling out a cloth of Orange).”

“I blind the enemy so that they are diverted and do no harm, you I call my Shield, the sun (pulling out a cloth of Yellow). Do no harm when deflection will do.” 

“Osayin taught you well the patience of waiting. Sometimes you cannot see the pattern until the cloth is finished. You are now the Weaver Woman. Take this cloth of Green, as you must pull the reed when it is ripe and let it dry.” 

“Ochosi traced you to the ends of the earth and looked upon the sea. There my winds are forever bringing change. You are now the Hurricane (pulling out the cloth of Blue), forever changing the sea and the land.” 

“When justice is not done, I grow angry and become the seeker after truth. I call you Lightning, blasting from a clear sky (pulling out a cloth of Indigo).” 

“And when you are old, you will teach the young my words, for you shall be the Crone (pulling out a cloth of Purple). You will be old before your years, and call even the elderly to learn at your feet.” 

“And you, the eldest child, they will see but seldom as you will follow in my footsteps, invisible as the wind, you are the Dancer in the Flame (pulling out a cloth of Silver).”

Know my friends, Eleggua, Ochosi, Oyasin, that you did not fail me.

You, Oh wondering villagers, you cared for my children even in your hunger. Now when you have the need, call me by my horns and there will be fish in the sea, a Bounty on the land, and meat for the hunter.

Take up the colors of my children as my token of love and affection, and when you see them in the sky, know that I am there, and here, and in your heart. For you are now the Rainbow, and I am the Wind.