Today, November 25, is the Feast Day for St. Catherine of Siena who is the Saint that is syncretized to the Orisha Goddess Obba – also spelled Oba. I am delighted to share bits of information about this lesser known Orisha Goddesss. Maferefun Obba!
There are very few stories about the Orisha and Goddess Obba. She came with the diaspora and is worshiped in Lukumi, Santeria, and Candomble, but there are not many children for her.
The one myth that has survived from Yoruba and through the diaspora is the telling of Obba’s ear. She was the senior wife of the King and warrior, Chango. He is known for his wandering eye and when he spent time with the Goddesses Oshun and Oya, Obba became jealous and worried for her position as his wife.
Obba began to search for ways to make Chango love her more. In some stories, she is said to have consulted with Oshun and Oya, as well as the diviners. The end result in every story is that Obba is told to cut off her ear and mix it into Chango’s favorite stew. She is told that this will “bind” Chango to her and increase his love and attention. As Obba was preparing his stew, she cuts off her ear and puts it in. When Chango eats the stew, finds the ear, and sees Obba’s bandaged head, he is enraged and leaves the home. She remains his “respected” wife in some stories while some tell of her fleeing to the cemetery in shame and sorrow (Chango cannot go into a cemetery) and others say that she was so distraught that she cried a river of tears and became that river.
My relationship with Obba is evolving and has been somewhat hesitant on both sides. Long conversations with a Priestess friend and my own invitation to Obba to come into my home began to yield glimpses of her. Even now, I will be sitting at my desk working and suddenly, I am overwhelmed by the smell of cooking. I perceive Obba in the kitchen, stirring a pot. I see her skirt of pink and red and her head is always covered. She appears often in profile and has yet to show her left side – the side of the mutilated ear. She evokes strong memories of my Grandmother’s kitchen; of me working on homework or reading in the kitchen while my Grandmother bustled around preparing food. My heart has softened to her and she has been making her presence known more frequently. We are finding our common ground and getting to know each other.
I see Obba as a serious woman and she has appeared in a range of ages within my meditations. She has evolved from a young woman eager to please, even to mutilate herself, to gain attention and love, into a woman in charge of her home, comfortable in her sovereignty, with tones of seriousness and occasionally stoic sorrow. Obba wants to feed, to nurture, to offer love, and a safe space.
I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out my initial resistance to Obba, because there WAS resistance. I wondered if it was a symptom of being a Daughter of Oshun, the Orisha Goddess that may have advised Obba to cut off her ear. It is said that where the River Oshun and River Oba intersect in Africa, the waters are rough and raging. Obba may not be fed at a place that Oshun has been fed, and vice versa. The energies of the two Goddesses are not complementary according to most sources. And yet, my Oshun does not seem to mind Obba’s presence.
There is a resistance to the traditional role of woman for me, as well. My initial reaction to Obba’s story was a fundamental disbelief that she would have mutilated herself for the love of a man who rejected her so emphatically. Through meditation and the Obba visits, I have been exploring these feelings; remembering how so many of us have been in relationships where the approval and love of the other seemed vital. Obba has been showing me her transformation … her solitude that is determined and content, much like my own. She reflects back to me the determination of woman to survive even in the face of shame, sorrow, and mutilation, physical and emotional. My love and connection for Obba is growing as I explore and test our connection.
Correspondences for Obba
Obba represents marriage, the home, domesticity. She is Goddess of the kitchen (as is Oshun) and brings in the energy of the hearth and nourishment. Obba is also associated with journeys and experiences of personal transformation.
She is the River Oba, but in Cuban worship, she is mostly associated with ponds, lakes, and lagoons. Oshun has taken over the rule of rivers and fresh water.
Her head is covered with a white kerchief or wrap (sometimes pink or other colors). I found some references that Obatala gave her the white covering for her head and that connection also reinforces the idea that she may be found in the solitude of the cemetery since Obatala rules spirits. It is said that she is a guardian of the tombs and keeps the records of the dead, as well as she is the one receiving the female ancestors.
Her colors are pink, red, and white (due to her association with Chango), blues, and sometimes a dark red. In some traditions, they also list brown, opal, and coral.
Cooking spices and herbs are sacred to Obba and I have a mortar and pestle for her that I keep near my kitchen. She likes whole, all natural foods, and corn grits seem to be a favorite. Honey is sacred to Oshun so it is not generally used for Obba.
She is shown carrying a dagger, sword, cutlass, and machete. There is a saying in Africa that Obba “fights on the left” and she does have warrior skills. She also carries a copper shield and this is sometimes used to cover her left ear. Copper is her metal and besides the shield, she has a copper crown as well.
Obba likes rhodochrosite crystals and pink kunzite. For flowers, any that are pink or white would be appropriate.
In Santeria, she is syncretized to St. Catherine of Siena, although there are some references to St. Rita and Joan of Arc.
We may approach Obba for inspiration and strength during tumultuous relationships, during times of sorrow, and in transition. She is the mother/grandmother that always welcomes you home. Obba is very protective of women in abusive relationships. Issues for the home, domestic tranquility, and establishing the “center” of your home would also come under Obba.
Obba is not considered a major Orisha, but I am glad to include her here. I would love to know if you have had experiences of her or what your reactions are to her story.