Oshun, in particular, was very attached to Oya and she fell into a deep depression thinking about what might happen to the girl. “What can I do to get my sister back?” she asked herself. She had no money, and no army to fight for her. She determined to work harder and catch more fish in the river. Selling the fish, she could make some money, and with the money, perhaps she could pay ransom for her sister.
Oshun knew it was important to get Oya back before Oya reached puberty, before the men who kidnapped her would sexually claim her as their prize. She saved all the money she could, and then she set out to the town where the kidnappers lived to see if they would exchange Oya for the money.
Oshun located the leader of the group and addressed him with a pleading look in her eyes and honey in her voice. She hoped the man would take pity on her and free Oya. “Please!” Oshun exclaimed. “My sister means the world to me. I would give anything to have her back home with me again. Take pity. This is all the money I have in the world. Take it and give me my sister.”
Oshun fell to the ground sobbing and begging the man to have pity, but he refused to show any compassion. He said to her coldly, “either you do what I ask of you, or I will take my revenge on Oya. You’ll never see your sister again. I’ll put her in my harem.”
Oshun thought about what Yemaya would say, because Yemaya believed that virginity was a girl’s greatest treasure and only a husband has the right to claim it. She knew Yemaya would never agree to such a bargain with an immoral man. But, when she thought about Oya, she felt such concern and worry, she knew she had to do whatever was required to free her sister from the captors. Filled with shame, she nodded and told the man she agreed.
Later, when Oshun returned home with Oya, she explained what had happened and begged Yemaya to forgive her. “I understand why you made this great sacrifice,” said Yemaya. “You did it to save our sister. You made the bargain to free her. You have nothing to be ashamed of. We’ll speak no more of it.”
Oya’s captor refused the copper coins that Oshun had saved to pay the ransom, so Oshun and Yemaya decided they would give these coins to Oya to decorate her crown. They melted some coins and made copper bracelets for her. This is how they showed their love for her, and their happiness in having her home again. From that day forward, Oya wore 9 copper bangles that her sisters made for her.
A long silence followed as Oya stood in the shadows and waited to see if Olofi would recognize her. “What about Oya?” cried Oshun at last. “What can you give her? She must reign over something, too.”
Olofi’s heart was softened, but he shook his head sadly. “There’s nothing left, I’ve given it all away,” he said. “But there is one place that doesn’t have an owner, and that’s the gates of the cemetery. Would Oya want this?”
Oya accepted to show gratitude to Olofi and to her sisters who helped free her from the captors. She became very powerful in her own right, as the one who monitors all the comings and goings of the world of the living and the world of the dead. She sets the boundaries between the two worlds, and makes sure everyone stays in their proper place. Any coming and going between the two worlds takes place under her watchful eye. Since that day, Oya has been the guardian of the gates of the cemetery, and the living pay tribute to her by leaving a few copper coins at the gate whenever they visit the cemetery.