This piece of writing is intended to be a guide for utilizing altars as a spiritual technology to channel creative genius. As a practitioner of the Ife Yoruba tradition, I will focus on ways to honor the Yoruba Orisha, Oshun, who presides over the divine flow of creativity, beauty, love, fertility and abundance.
The Yoruba faith is rooted in Nigeria and consists of the base codes for spiritual traditions such as Ife, Santeria, Umbanda, Candomblé and a great number of other spiritual traditions across the African diaspora.
The Orishas are deities within traditions of the Yoruba faith. They represent spiritual essences and codes, ancient wisdom personified. The most popular of the Orishas are Obatala, Elegua, Yemaya, Shango, Elegua, Oya, Ogun. By honoring and paying respect to the Orishas through prayer and offerings one can open a clear channel of communication to receive their wisdom and guidance. I have seen some of the Orishas appear to me as clear as day and maintain a connection to them through prayer and altar work. Of these seven Orishas mentioned above, Oshun has a very special place in my heart.
Her creative genius has the potential to heal you. It is an infinite creative force that is nourishing to the soul. Honoring Oshun has the capacity to broaden your consciousness in a way that expands your capacity to receive, hold, digest and translate creative genius with power, wisdom and grace.
As you read this article, ask yourself: What is creative genius to you?
In what ways would you like to see your creativity flourish?
My name is Nova Scott-James. I’m an artist, an innovation doula and a witch. I make films and performance art, practice divination and energy work, and support creatives in channeling their best work.
I consider myself to be a daughter of Oshun, I love her and feel affinity towards her, but I am not crowned as a Yoruba Priestess of Oshun. Through the grace of the universe, I am able to channel a deep connection with Oshun.
The information shared comes from my work with my friends and mentors, elder Yoruba Priestesses, Babalawos and oral histories that have been shared with me. I have their blessing and support in sharing this information. I’ve shared more information at the end about how to get in touch with some of these spiritualists.
The value in honoring and understanding Oshun is the possibility of opening a portal to more deeply understand your own capacity to channel creative genius.
I discovered at a very early age that I was both clairvoyant and clairaudient and have since developed those skills through many years and training and mentorship.
While I have dedicated a significant amount of time, practice and study to a number of spiritual traditions including Nichiren Buddhism and Indigenous-American Lakota traditions, my core spiritual practice is rooted in the Yoruba tradition.
Originating in Nigeria, the genius of the Yoruba tradition can be found today all across the African Diaspora. It is found in the Ife tradition, in Santeria, and many more lineages across the African and Afro-Latino diaspora. The Orishas across the Yoruba tradition are deities that each carry their own codes and infinite seeds of wisdom.
While similar to spirit entities that exist in the ether and can be channeled here in our Earth plane, they are very distinct from spirits such as your ancestral guides or other non-family related spirits or angels that show up to guide you.
Metaphysical technologies are ancient and have been refined throughout culture. They have practical value in our modern lives. It is important to approach spiritual technology with intention, as you would with any other kind of tool.
Altars, divination practices (with shells, a crystal ball, runes, etc.), songs, and mantras are all examples of incredibly powerful tools we are use towards any particular internal or external goal. The internal does not manifest without an external manifestation — vice versa.
Your intention can be anything true to your soul and does not need be complicated. To set your intention you can slow down, focus your attention on your breath, and ask yourself what your heart desires.
I’m going to focus on creating an altar in honor of Oshun and also offer some suggestions for song and movement as means of channeling.
Altars are one of the most common and most potent spiritual technologies.
I want to ask you to pause and take a deep breath.
Feel your breath at your root anchoring you.
Feel in your heart what genius creative gifts have been bestowed upon you.
Now let’s continue.
Oshun is the mother of rivers, lakes, and streams. She manifests the frequencies of creativity, love, happiness, fertility, money, opportunity and abundance. She is the keeper or tradition, art and culture and known as Ye Ye, the mother of all of us.
While she is a graceful mother, Oshun is an orisha that you don’t want to offend. She is like a scorpion and will take out those who cross her like a warrior.
We can find this divine feminine force represented in many other traditions, for example in the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, the Greek Goddess Aphrodite, the Roman Goddess Venus, the Hatian Goddess Erzuli Fréda and many more.
On the deepest level, Oshun represents fertility and a woman’s womb. That same power that generates new life is analogous to the creative force that channels creativity into this world.
In this vein, you can view your creative work as an energy you are giving birth to. Or, if that does not resonate, you can also harness your creative energy as you do your sexual energy.
Oshun’s colors are gold and orange. Therefore, using gold and orange in an alter will enhance your prayers.
It is a common misconception that Oshun favors the color yellow, but this is not true. Using the proper offerings will generate a stronger connection to Oshun’s powerful force.
Creating an altar for Oshun is accessible to anyone approaching the practice with a heart full of love, honor and truth. You do not need to be a Yoruba practitioner to pray to Oshun.
It’s important to take seriously the issue of cultural appropriation. We all appropriate other people’s cultures all the time; it’s completely inevitable and not inherently wrong.
You can appropriate culture in two different ways: being honorable and wise, or being dishonorable and ignorant. The former approach is an act of reverence, respect and celebration, while the latter is an act of violence and should always be checked.
Your approach —that is to say, your way of being —is really what matters. Check yourself and check your friends — with love!
While participating in Yoruba practices is effective, even for those not of it’s lineage, a disconnection from the spiritual traditions of your own indigenous ancestral heritage is one of the devastating effects of white-body supremacy and western- European colonialism.
I do encourage everyone to explore what spiritual practices their ancestors were dedicated to. There is great power and value in discovering what your ancestors practiced — in particular, your indigenous ancestors. Take the time and effort to find that information; it will serve you well.
Below I offer specific guidance on making an altar for Oshun at home. Make sure to give Oshun her own alter space, not one shared with offerings to other figures.\
How to Make an Altar for Oshun
Gold Cloths, Orange Cloths, Silks, Gold Jewelry, Mirrors, Peacock Fans, Glittering Ornaments, perfumes
Offerings for Oshun:
Honey, Sunflowers, Oranges, Pumpkins, Gold Candles, Orange Candles, Representation of the Sun
Suggestions for Altar Offerings:
Build your altar in alignment with the suggestions made above. Take your time while building it. Enjoy the creative process of creating an altar that feels aesthetically inspiring and pleasurable to you.
Slice an orange into 5 pieces and drizzle honey on top. Offer this plate to Oshun with your prayer. You can speak your prayer out loud, write it down, or even dance it! Whatever feels authentic to you. Envision the manifestation of your creative genius and speak gratitude for your prayers being answered.
To end this piece, I will share some words to honor Oshun’s glorious blessings.
Mafeferon Oshun. Thank you for the sweet honey goodness that is your essence. The divine pleasure that is your electric charge. The creative genius that we are able to collectively channel from your ever-flowing river of abundance.
In this piece, I have used as reference, oral histories shared with me by Aimeé Garcia, a Yoruba Priestess of 22 years. In addition to being a priestess, she is also an energy worker and reader in Bronx, New York City.
If you’re interested in working with Aimeé, you can reach her via email at
email@example.com or via her website, at ssevensirenss.com
If you’re interested in working with me you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my website, at mothershipalchemy.com
Note: Please be aware that Nigeria is currently dealing with a crisis of state sanctioned violence against it’s citizens. Nigerians are taking a powerful stand against SARS, a violent state –sanctioned police force.
Please take the time to pledge your solidarity with Nigerians. They deserve to be protected and free. You can learn more and offer support here.
Featured Image – Landscape of the waterfall taken by Nova scott-James