Oshunmare, also spelled Oshumare or Osumare, is another Orisha in the Ifa religion. Oshunmare signifies the “rainbow” or the coming together of heaven and earth. The origins of the worship of this deity can be traced back to the Yewa realm of African heritage.
Several religions describe Oshunmare as having a feminine and masculine essence. In other words, this Orisha appears to be unisex, spending half of the year as a man and the other portion as a woman. There is indeed much debate and uncertainty about Oshunmare’s sex, even among its worshippers.
This Orisha is often symbolized by a snake biting its tail to establish a circular ring. The snake represents abundance and intellect. Worshippers often pray to this spirit for the well-being of the ill, and specifically for ailments associated with blindness and progressive vision loss. Oshumare aids in the protection of persons suffering from these disorders.
The Rainbow and the Serpent
Oshunmare was a Babalawo during his earthly sojourn. He had a long stretch of failure in his life, and his peers despised him. Though he eventually rose to prominence and power. This aspect of his journey is connected to the rainbow. The rainbow is an elongated structure symbolizing patience and perseverance through trials.
Oshunmare is also connected to Oya because he possesses the colors of the sky and governs works performed in the heavenly realm. Oya is an Orisha associated with storms and astral turbulence. Charged with nourishing the clouds with water, he is instrumental in the rain cycle, which is likewise linked to Oya’s domain.
One of Oshunmare’s responsibilities is to direct energies that cause movement. This deity is the master of all that is elongated. It has the power to control the umbilical cord, which is usually buried with the placenta underneath a palm tree. The palm tree becomes the possession of the newborn. Thus, its health depends on the tree’s preservation.
As the serpent rainbow, Oshunmare is an emblem of longevity and stability. It wraps itself around the planet to prevent it from collapsing. It would be a disaster for the world if Oshunmare lost its power.
Myths About Oshunmare
Olofin, the monarch of Ife, was Oshunmare’s principal client and took advantage of him. Oshunmare predicted the king’s fortune every four days, but the king rarely paid him. Resultantly, he struggled to make ends meet.
Fortunately for him, the queen of the kingdom, Olokun, summoned him. She had a son suffering from an unusual illness – he had seizures, couldn’t stand, and rolled over fiery leaves. Oshunmare cured the child’s condition. Accordingly, she gave him many gifts adorned in a magnificent blue garment.
Olofin, astounded by this unexpected grandeur, felt horrible about his past avarice. So he competed with Olokun’s kindness by also gifting Oshunmare riches and offering him exquisite red robes. Oshunmare became wealthy, dignified, and well-liked.
Thereafter Olodumare, the Supreme Being, summoned Oshunmare to heaven. Since then, Oshunmare has resided in the sky and returns to earth as a rainbow. People grow wealthy and content on these occasions.
Oshunmare governs transition and cycles, like poverty, wealth, rain, and drought. Oshunmare is a protector because he guards the umbilical cord. The Yoruba believe that the umbilical cord links the world of the living and the dead.
When a child is delivered, the placenta and umbilical cord are buried beneath a tree, preferably a palm tree. However, only the child’s parent knows the location of the tree. This process ensures that evildoers do not have control over the child until it is fully grown.
Oshunmare appears to have contributed to the creation of the earth. It is the deity of metamorphosis and infinity. When this Orisha dances, it points up and down, demonstrating the connection between heaven and earth.
Learn more about African deities in this episode of the African Spirit Reintegrated + Reimagined: