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Storms, wind, thunder, lightning, the dead
Member of Orisha
Iansã Sculpture at the Catacumba Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Other namesOyá or Oiá; Yàńsàn-án or Yansã; and Iansá or Iansã
Venerated inYorùbá religion, Umbanda, Candomble, Quimbanda, Santeria, Haitian Vodou, Folk Catholicism
Symbollightning, the sword or machete, the flywhisk, water buffalo
Colorpurple or red/burgundy, the rainbow
RegionNigeria, Benin, Latin America
Ethnic groupYorùbá
Personal information



Haitian equivalentMaman Brigitte
Catholic equivalentSaint Brigid

Ọya (Yorùbá: Ọya, also known as Oyá or Oiá; Yàńsàn-án or Yansã; and Iansá or Iansã in Latin America) is an Orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms.[1] As a river deity she is also regarded as a deity of children, able to provide children to her devotees or those who come to her banks at the Niger river.


Ọya lived on Earth as a human from the town of Ira, in present day Kwara state, Nigeria, where she was a wife of the Alaafin of Oyo, Shango. In Yorùbá, the name Ọya is believed to derive from the phrase coined from "ọ ya" which means "she tore," referring to her association with powerful winds. She is often depicted as a buffalo in traditional poetry, and was believed to have the power to shape-shift into a buffalo. The African buffalo serves as a major symbol of Ọya, and it is forbidden for her priests to kill a buffalo.[2] She is known as Ọya Ìyáńsàn-án, the "mother of nine", because of nine children she gave birth to with her third husband Oko, after suffering from a lifetime of barrenness. She is the patron of the Niger River (known to the Yorùbá as the Odò-Ọya).[3]

In the Yoruba religion, Ọya was married three times, first to the warrior orisha Ogun, then Shango, and finally, another hunting and farming deity, Oko.

Oya was traditionally worshipped in only the areas of Yorubaland once under the control and influence Oyo empire. Because of the Atlantic slave trade, many of her followers of Oyo origin were kidnapped and sold to the new world, where her worship became widespread. Oya worship has also spread to other parts of Yorubaland.


In Candomblé, Oya is known as Oiá, lyá Mésàn, or most commonly, Iansã, from the Yoruba Yánsán. Iansã, as in Yoruba religion, commands winds, storms, and lightning. She is the queen of the river Niger and the mother of nine. She is a warrior and is unbeatable. Attributes of Iansã include great intensity of feelings, sensations, and charm. Another ability attributed to Iansã is control over the mysteries that surround the dead.[4] Iansã is syncretized with Saint Barbara.[5] In the Candomblé nação (association) of Angola Congo, Iansã is associated with the color red.[6]


  • Salutation: "Eeparrei!", or "Epahhey, Oia!"
  • Consecrated day: Thursday
  • Colors: red, purple and rainbow, burgundy
  • Symbols: "Buffalo tail" eruquerê, a ritual object; or a copper sword
  • Prohibitions: pumpkin, stingray, and mutton
  • Food: acarajé/àkàrà[7]

Ritual foods[edit]

Acarajé is a spherical patty made with peeled, crushed black-eyed peas, stuffed with small shrimp, okra, crushed peanuts, and other savory, piquant spices. The ball-like patty is fried in dendê oil (Red palm oil). It's a traditional Afro-Brazilian dish that is also a traditional offering to Iansã in the Candomblé tradition. A simple, unseasoned form of acarajé is used in rituals and a version served with various condiments is sold as a common street food in Bahia in the northeast of Brazil. Ipeté and bobo de inhame are also associated with Iansã.[6]

In Yorùbá, her food is Àkàrà. Eggplant, mulberries, pudding, and dark chocolate are also foods for Oya.

See also[edit]


  • Judith Gleason, Oya, San Francisco: Harper, 1992 (Shamballah, 1987), ISBN 0-06-250461-4
  • Charles Spencer King, Nature's Ancient Religion, ISBN 978-1-4404-1733-7


  1. ^ Adeoye, C. L. (1989). Ìgbàgbọ́ àti ẹ̀sìn Yorùba (in Yoruba). Ibadan: Evans Bros. Nigeria Publishers. p. 303. ISBN 9781675098.
  2. ^ Machacek, David W.; Melissa M. Wilcox, eds. (2003). Sexuality and the World's Religions. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576073599. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  3. ^ A Bahia de Santa Bárbara Archived 22 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Obaràyí : babalorixá Balbino Daniel de Paula. Salvador, Bahia, Brasil: Barabô Design Gráfico e Editora. 2009. p. 568. ISBN 9788562542008.
  5. ^ Henry, Clarence Bernard (2008). Let's Make Some Noise: Axé and the African Roots of Brazilian Popular Music. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 9781604730821.
  6. ^ a b Barbosa, Ademir (2015). Dicionário de Umbanda. São Paulo: Anubis. pp. 108–109, 240. ISBN 9788567855264.
  7. ^ Araujo, Carlos de (1993). ABC dos orixás (in Portuguese). Rio de Janeiro, RJ: Nordica. pp. 72–74. ISBN 9788570072252.