Not too long ago I was driving down the highway during a particularly strong thunderstorm. The rain stopped for a brief moment and the sun managed to find a break in the deep, dark, rolling clouds. But on the other end of the horizon, I saw the most intense rainbows I’ve seen in my life. Not only did the ends touch the ground, the typical arch going from ground arcing through the air and returning back to the ground was matched with a faint opposite that started way in the clouds, arced down and then went back into the clouds. I had never seen such a setup before. And didn’t think a rainbow with a mirrored image floating in the sky above was even possible.
The clouds gathered once again and the sunlight’s contribution to the rainbow disappeared. But five minutes later the clouds dissipated once again, the sunlight came back, and the rainbow came back, stronger than ever, with its mirror image in the clouds. I started to get suspicious. A couple minutes later the sun went away again. But a few minutes after that the rainbows came back for a second encore. I got the message. It was time to do a little something about Oshumare.
To listen to some people describe Orisa you’d swear they were more human than anything else. Orisa are supernatural beings that cannot be described in human terms. Even terms like Iya and Baba, mother and father respectively, really don’t do the Orisas justice because many of us have a tendency to take such terms too literally. Many people want to think of Iya and Baba in terms of sexuality and little else. Most people will use vague terms like paternal energies and maternal energies and other vague sounding nonsense to try and put these things into perspective. But really, to try and wrap human consciousness around the meaning of sexuality for an Orisa is a fool’s game.
Nowhere does the misapplication of sexuality is more evident than when we try to describe the Orisa Oshumare. Some describe him as androgynous and others might go so far as to say that he is bisexual. What the hell? Bisexuality refers to a biological condition where sexual behaviors manifest as an attraction to both genders, male and female. People who have a bisexual orientation will have an attraction to both people of their own sex and people of the opposite sex. But what does that mean for an Orisa? Is there such a thing as a homosexual Orisas as well?
Like most of the things we’ve been we’re taught about Orisa and the rest of Ifa, the ancient African spiritual tradition rooted in the Yoruba people, we simply accept what we’ve been told about Oshumare without really thinking about what we’re being taught.
The rainbow is a manifestation of Oshumare. He’s often referred to as the serpent and the rainbow, but he is no serpent. Caring and attentive he’s the messenger that carries communications back and forth between our plane of existence and olorun, or heaven. When people need some assistance getting their messages to any Orisa, Baba Oshumare will be there to help facilitate a dialogue. However, more often than not these days, people are ready to send a message but all too often have deaf ears to hear the response. These days, business is pretty slow for Baba Oshumare. The number of people who are ready to listen as well as they are ready to talk dwindles almost on an hourly basis.
These days, more people see the rainbow in the sky and the last thing they think of is an Orisa let alone Oshumare, and the children of Ifa are no exception. If it is not one of the most popular Orisas such as the Babas Ogun, Sango, Obatala, Orunmila, or Esu or one of the Iyas Yemonja, Oya, or Osun then most people don’t know much of anybody else. Oshumare is part of that obscure majority of Orisa. And if people think they do know him it is as an example of some spiritual sexual perversion.
Baba Oshumare is the Orisa recognized as a manifestation of the rainbow. It’s not to be interpreted as a judgment of his masculinity, at least not in our basic human terms. Orisas aren’t so limited and we really should learn not to transfer our ideas and experiences to them. Baba Oshumare is as prime an example as any Orisa for how we as humans misinterpret nature’s manifestations into the most incorrect terms. And some of us wonder why we’re out of touch with our spirituality. We experience the rainbow and yet we still do not see.