Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oxum by Jorge Hernandez


Oxum is the goddess of fresh surface waters. Oxum is also the goddess of vanity and coquetry. She is also the most spontaneous of the orixas. She is in love with herself. She’s in love with her motion and can’t keep her eyes off herself. When Oxum comes down she is given a fan made from brass, which is her metal., and which she uses as a mirror when dancing.  She is also given a sword because she is a warrior. When she dances with the fan she holds it at eye level and sees herself as if she was looking at a mirror.


Oxum’s rhytm is ijexa. Ijexa is a calm 4/4 rhythm which means that with slick changes in the bell part, she becomes afoxe. Afoxe is not a specific rhythm to which all orixa choreographies are set in a non-spiritual ambience. Oxum steps in a zigzag pattern on heavy beats. Right crosses a little in front, left steps out; left crosses center and right steps out, etc. While doing this, her hips move back and forth, and her torso waves gently which each step. One hand is fully away from her body, holding a sword, and if she’s not holding the sword she is caressing her own hair and body while the other hand holds the mirror. When there’s no sword or mirror being used the dancer uses her palm as the mirror where she sees her own self. Oxum stands for her love that she has for herself and the acceptance of her own body.


I saw Mama Oxum at the waterfall

Sitting at the river shore

Gathering lilies, lilies, ay

Gathering lilies, lilies, ah

Gathering lilies to decorate our altar.

This song calls forth waterfalls and flowers to express the calmness and beautifulness of Oxum.

In the depths of the Ocean

There is a palace

Where Oxum lives

[there] lives the mermaid

[there] lives lemanja

[there] also live her children

Who have nowhere else to stay

In this song Oxum is in water living with a mermaid and Iemanja. Her sign is water thus the song has to do with the ocean. 

Oxum & her children

Oxum dances with glasses of water in her palms spilling forward the water that presents her tears. She does this when she enters the head of her child at the beginning of hymns or drums. It is said that the children of Oxum are those people that cry easily or all the time, the people whose eyes get watery over a sweet thought, and also those who are sweet and kind. On Saturdays but more in specific the Saturday nearest the feast day in December for Our Laday of the Conception, which is Oxum’s alter image, Oxum’s children get together at the waterfalls of Rio’s Tijuca forest and they offer her material signs of Oxum’s  sel-love, sensuality, sweetness, tears, and richness. Some of the things they leave her include : cups of water,honey, champagne, boiled eggs and black-eyed peas, makeup, combs, flowers, copper bracelets, and mirrors.

Oxum in Brazil

With her mirror and gold finery, Oxum has taken the role of the woman who is given to flirting. She still holds some affiliation with fertility, but she is better known as Ifa’s wife. Ifa is the original babalawo and  caretaker of secrets. Some of the things Oxum learned from Ifa were the divination system of the shell game and the power to know the future and control it. In Candomble myths,  priestesses got the right to practice divination from Oxum.

Works Cited:

Secrets, Gossip, and Gods: The Transformation of Brazilian Candomble

By paul Christopher Johnson-2005

Osun across the waters: a Yoruba goddess in Africa and the Americas

 by Joseph M. Murphy, Mei Mei Sanfor-2001

Samba: Resistance in motion

by Barbara Browning-1995


  1. Nice bibliography, but you do not place citations int he text, so I cannot tell how you arrived at your information. Make a habit of using quotes and references in the text.