Profile of a Goddess: Oya, Goddess of Wind

By catalyst

Meet Oya, Yoruba goddess of transformation.
by Carol Koleman
goddess.jpgName: Oya- Goddess of Wind

Religion: Yoruba (African)

AKA: Oya-Ajere (Carrier of the Container of Fire), Ayaba Nikua (Queen of Death), Lady of the Wind, Goddess of the Nine Skirts, Lady of War, Bearded Amazon, Thunder Maiden, Iya Yansan (Mother of Nine), Ayi Lo Da (She Who Turns and Changes), Oia, Yansa, Yansan, Olla, Aido-Wedo

AKA in other mythologies: Maman Brigitte (Haitian), Brigit (Celtic), Eris (Greek), Kali (Hindu)

Symbolism: Machetes, multicolored skirt, lightning, scythe, ax, spear, number 9 (for the nine tributaries of the Niger river), wind, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderbolts, water  buffalo, buffalo horns. These symbols represent her many aspects including winds of change, chaos, transformation, storm, protector of women, fierce warrior, and guardian to the gates of death.

Interpretation and a story: Fierce Oya, warrior goddess of wind, charges forth with machetes in hand, preceding her earth god husband, Shango. Together they storm into battle, uprooting trees, destroying buildings and razing everything in their path. They come in the form of hurricane, tornado, thunder and wind storm, and they leave nothing untouched. All is devastated, within and without. Oya cuts through the debris and all that is stagnant with her swords of truth.

She is feared for her destructive force yet worshiped as the proponent for structural change in all things. She strips us to our foundation so that we may rebuild. Oya clears the path for new beginnings. Oya presides over our transitions from life to death and all changes in between. We inhale and exhale Oya with every breath we take. She is our first breath at birth and our last breath at death.

Once while hiking in the foothills, I experienced the power of Oya. A gust of wind from the north blasted me so suddenly that it almost knocked me to my knees. I raised my hands as if to hold it at bay, but it kept on so strong that I had to lean into it to keep from falling over. The wind died for a moment and then it shifted and blasted me from the south. It calmed again, and just as I was questioning whether it could be possible to experience winds from all four directions in a matter of minutes, I was bombarded, this time from the west. Something extraordinary was happening.  Somewhat hesitant, I turned to the east and challenged the wind. I yelled, "Come on, I'm ready for you!" Immediately after the words left my mouth, the wind charged over the mountain and forced itself down my throat. My lungs filled with air without having to take a breath. I felt her crash through my body like a cyclone picking up debris and whirling it away. Then she left as suddenly as she came.  A great power was manifesting itself to me. I was being given something, reminded of something. What it was I couldn't identify at first because it came from beyond anything that I knew. I felt the presence of divinity knocking against my body, trying to enter. Before I knew her name or what she was, I was being visited by Oya.

I literally came to the mountain to run that summer afternoon, but the experience transformed into something remarkably metaphorical. I discovered that I was trying to run from the feeling of helplessness, of not understanding, of powerlessness. I was searching for strength to change and to find some kind of glimmer within myself. Oya entered me that day and cleared away everything that I no longer needed. I felt courageous, powerful, devastated and renewed. I came looking for a glimmer and thanks to Oya, discovered a lightning bolt! Though I tried to reject her presence, to stop her from entering, it was no use. I could not control the wind. She persisted in bombarding me from all directions with the message, 'Wake up! You are Goddess!'

Knowing that Oya is within me, that I am the warrior goddess charging out to conquer my world…with flaming machetes.

Meditation: I share this story in hope that it may reach you and inspire you to go out and find Oya on your own mountain (or some other promising outdoor place where you may conjure up the wind). The power she instills when discovered is profound; words can barely relate the actual experience. She is everywhere, but you must be open to recognize her. For that you must be ready for change.

Be in a place where you won't feel embarrassed (or carted off to the nearest psych ward) to shout into the wind and hold up your arms to welcome it. Don't have expectations; the wind may not come to you from all directions. It may be a gentle gust or it may pummel you. Whatever the case may be, take Oya as she comes to you because that is what you need at that moment. Gulp her down, fill your lungs, feel her breath over your body. She cleanses, she nourishes; she devastates and destroys. Accept her gift of change, and recognize in yourself what must be torn down and blown away to make room for transformation. Allow yourself to be buffeted in the chaos that Oya creates. And if you find yourself challenged by her tempest, remember that Oya is the breath that sustains life. She'll make sure that you weather the storm.

I work in ways deep
Ever present
Always moving
I work in ways dramatic
With thunder and lightning
Sweeping and uprooting
I work in ways subtle
Pushing and prodding
Wearing and tearing
I swirl you and twirl you
I splatter you and scatter you
I shock you and rock you
I clear the way for what is to come
I can be slight or stupendous
Brief or long lasting
Up roaring or uprising
What I can't be
is ignored
– Philo

References:, Ancient Deities (Turner & Coulter), Goddess,

Music: Much Yoruba music is spiritual in nature, devoted to the Orisas (deities) of Yoruba mythology. It became perhaps the most prominent kind of West African music in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles and greatly influenced the music of Cuba. There are drum compositions for Oya (in the traditional dundun hourglass tension drums); however I was only able to locate the written composition.

Questions for the Goddess? Email:

This article was originally published on September 30, 2007.