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Temple of Oshun in Osogbo, Nigeria. Wikimedia Commons.

In so many ancient civilisations across the globe, love is in the guardianship of a particular deity; usually, although not always, this is a goddess. You might be familiar with Venus and Aphrodite, goddesses of love to the Romans and Greeks. In Western Africa, the Yoruba people also have a goddess who has love as their domain, her name is Oshun.

The Yoruba people reside in the south-western area of modern Nigeria and in the south of Benin. Traditional practitioners of the Yoruba religion believe in a pantheon of around 400 different gods and goddesses known as Orisha. Each of them governs a different aspect of the world or of human life. Oshun is principally the goddess of love but is also sometimes known as the goddess of sweet waters and protector of the River Oshun in Nigeria.

Near to the edge of the River Oshun is a sacred grove dedicated to Oshun goddess of love and sweet waters. The grove is made up of dense forest and is the site of many Yoruba shrines to Oshun. The area was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 and is very important to the people of the Yoruba religion.

In art and throughout culture, Oshun is depicted in a similar way to her counterparts from other cultures such as Aphrodite. In the majority of depictions, Oshun is shown as a sensual, charming, beautiful, and coquettish woman. She is often adorned with gold jewellery, bracelets and beads, mirrors, and other elaborate decorations. In some portrayals, she also has the tail of a mermaid, perhaps in ode to her connection with water.

Today, Oshun is still honoured in Nigeria at an annual ceremony which takes place in the sacred grove on the banks of the River Oshun between June and August.

-Erin Sykes
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tags: mythological girls, myth, religion, Oshun, Africa, Yoruba, goddess, love, water, river, Nigeria, Benin

Picture Source: Wikimedia Commons

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