Oyá, The Owner of the Wind
Oyá Yansá is the owner of winds and storms, and she brings change, wanted or not, into the lives of humans. She's the fiercest of the female Orichás, and she fights side by side with Changó in many battles. She goes into battle with two swords and, like Changó, she also uses lightening to strike down her enemies. She guards the gates of the cemetery, making sure that the boundaries between life and death are respected. She often wears a mask because she likes to protect her privacy. Oyá spends time with Oba and Yewá, female Orichás who live inside the cemetery, but Changó is her favorite companion. The patakís (sacred stories) say Oyá was married to Ogún, but Changó seduced her and took her away to live with him. Changó made a lot of enemies because he was always seducing other Orichá's wives. One night, while he was dancing at a party, some of his enemies locked him up inside a jail, and threw away the key. Oyá wondered why he didn't come home, but in a vision she saw he was being held prisoner. She called down a terrible storm and a lightning bolt broke the bars of the jail where Changó was being held. Oyá came rushing in on the gusts of the storm and rescued him. Since that day, Changó respects her abilities as a warrior. Although he isn't faithful to her as a husband, he never crosses her in battle. Oyá's army is made up of egun (spirits of the dead), and she uses violent winds to blow away everything in her path. Generally it's said that Oyá is the daughter of Obatalá and Yemú (Yembó). Yemayá and Ochún are said to be her sisters. Sometimes Oya is called by the name Yansa.
Oyá wears a full skirt made up of nine different colored pieces of cloth. It's often topped with a skirt made of dried palm fibers. Her movements tend to be abrupt and violent, so her skirts fly around her when she moves. Tornadoes are thought to be caused by Oyá's skirts that whirl as she dances. Oyá can wear any color except black. She lives in a porcelain sopera (soup tureen), which has either nine different colors, or a variation of dark burgundy and brown hues. Her number is 9, and her metal is copper, so her initiates often wear 9 copper bracelets in her honor. Her favorite foods are white rice with eggplant, and black eyed peas cooked and shaped into little balls. She also likes grapes. To call her, her followers shake the large seed pod that falls from the framboyán tree, which echoes the sound of thunder. Because her clothing contains nine colors, some people say that the rainbow, which is also made up of different hues, belongs to Oyá. She's the patroness of the marketplace, a symbol for transition and change in the human world. Offerings for Oyá are often left in the marketplace.
Other Characteristics of Oyá
Oyá dances with a black iruke (a whip made out of a horse's tail), which she swings rapidly over her head to represent the wind. Her dance steps are very quick and frenetic making her seem like a whirlwind as she moves. Her eleke (beaded necklace) is made of alternating dark red and dark brown beads with black or white dots on them. Other lineages use lavender colored beads with yellow stripes, or black and white beads alternating. Oyá's day of the week is Friday, which is the day when she hands out punishment for anyone who has disrespected her. She's syncretized in the Catholic religion with the Virgin of Candelaria, the Virgin of Carmen, and in some parts of Cuba with Santa Teresa de Jesús. In Cuba, her feast day is normally celebrated on February 2, which is the feast day of the Candelaria. Oyá inspires fear, but she stands up and protects those who respect her. She brings purification into our lives by blowing away all the things that no longer serve us, and allowing fresh winds to blow in new things. Her children are generally very powerful and strong. When they're happy, they're calm and gentle as a breeze, but they can become violent and domineering when things don't go the way they want. Because they're capable of deep loyalty, they make good husbands and wives, but they're jealous. They don't like to be shut up in the house, because they get bored easily. They find daily routine monotonous.