Time passed and she had to sell the jewels she wore to buy food. She washed her dress so many times in the river, it turned yellow from old age and wear. On top of everything else, her hair fell out from worrying so much and from malnutrition. She felt very alone and despondent, and she knelt at the river’s edge and cried until she was hoarse and her eyes were red and swollen. Her tears flowed into the river and out to the sea, where her sister, Yemayá, heard her and came to her rescue.
“Please don’t cry anymore, Ochún!” begged Yemayá. “I’ll help you. From this day forward, all the gold in the river will be yours. You’ll be a wealthy woman again. And, I will also give you all the coral in the sea, so you can adorn yourself with it. You’ll be beautiful again. I’ll give you gold cloth so you can dress like a queen. From now on, gold will be your color. You’ll always dress in gold, to remind everyone of your status. You’ll be a wealthy and powerful queen again, wait and see!”
“But I’m all alone and have no one to keep me company,” Ochún cried.
“Don’t worry,” replied Yemayá. “I’ll give you my most beloved and precious bird, the peacock, to be your companion. His beauty is second only to yours.”
“But my hair, my beautiful tresses! All gone! Without my hair, I’m nothing,” lamented Ochún.
“My sister, don’t you see that my love for you has no bounds? I will cut off my own hair and give it to you, so you can make a wig for yourself until your hair grows back.” With that, Yemayá cut off her more prized treasure, her long beautiful hair, and handed it to her sister.
This pataki explains the reason Ochún and Yemayá work closely together. They look after and defend each other’s children. It also explains why daughters of Ochún and Yemayá usually don’t cut their hair too much. Long flowing hair is a symbol of their feminine strength and beauty. In addition, the pataki tells us why Ochún dresses in gold, and how the peacock became associated with her.
The story reminds us that Ochún's life wasn't always easy. We associate her with beauty and pleasure, happiness and joy, but she also knows extreme hardship. She's like the phoenix that rises from its own ashes, because she's able to overcome terrible obstacles and triumph in spite of them. She's sometimes helped by one of the other Orishas, like Yemayá in this story, so she understands the importance of strategic alliances. She expresses deep gratitude to those who support her, and repays them with affection and loyalty.