How the Orisha Received Their Ashe (Powers)
By Iyalorisha Oyaseye Fakayode
Apetebi at Oyeku Ofun Temple
Whenever any Orisha needed any guidance or help, they would go to Orunmila. Orunmila was an excellent diviner and master in the art of medicine and magic. Everyone loved Orunmila because he loved and took care of everyone.
One day an Orisha named Oko had a problem on his mind and came to Orunmila for assistance. “Baba Orunmila, please hear me out. Here I am, living on Earth, but I have no way to distinguish myself amongst the others here. I have no special talents or powers that make me stand out from the rest. Whenever anyone has a problem they run to you. I would like to be of assistance to others in some way of my own. Please, what can you do to help me?”
Orunmila pondered for a minute. “I see, I see… Let me think about this for a while. I will see what we can do.”
The next day another Orisha named Ogun came to Orunmila. “Baba Orunmila, am I not an Orisha?,” Ogun asked him. “I should be powerful! Humans should be praising me. Alas, I have nothing that distinguishes me from any other Orisha. Baba, what can you do to make this better for me?”
Orunmila answered him, “I am thinking… I will see what we can do.”
It did not take long before all of the Orisha came, one by one, to Orunmila’s abode looking for their own powers. Sango went to inquire, Osanyin went to inquire, Eshu went to inquire, and many more. They all came to Orunmila, asking for special gifts and wisdom that they can use to help the world.
Orunmila was distressed. His wife, the Apetebi, noticed that Orunmila was not well. He did not touch his food for days and he tossed-and-turned in his sleep. Worried about his health, she called his friend, Alagemo the Chameleon and asked him to go and talk with him. When Alagemo arrived he suggested they take a walk together in the sacred forest. On their walk, Alagemo asked Orunmila why he was so heavy with worry and trouble.
Orunmila replied, “I love all the Orisha equally. If I give one Orisha one thing, the others may complain that their gift was not as powerful. They all say to me, ‘give me a power so I can also assist the world’. But there are so many powers, some great and some small. Who am I to know who I should give what? How can I treat them all equally with such a problem?”
Alagemo listened and thought before he spoke. “My friend, why don’t you leave the distribution to chance? Return to your Mother in the Sky and send a messenger here to announce that on a certain day, all the powers will be poured from the sky. Let all the Orisha catch and keep what they can. By sending a messenger to tell everyone, it will all be fair and no one will say that you favored another.”
Orunmila smiled, “Wise Alagemo, your name will forever be great!”
Orunmila returned to the sky and prepared everything. He sent down a messenger to Earth who visited every Orisha and informed them that in five days, all the powers would fall from the sky. They should grasp what they can, or collect where they fall. The Orisha were very excited and appreciated Orunmila.
On the fifth day all the Orisha came out of their homes. Powers fell from the sky and the Orisha caught them here and there. Some jumped up high into the air, others picked up what fell on to the ground. Some dashed through others and snatched what they could, while others held out their hands and caught whatever they grasped. Eshu who was very strong and did not hesitate to shove anyone aside, he gathered a large amount of powers. He caught powers to defeat his enemies, the power of great strength, and even the power to confuse people, the power of the word/language (Ofo Ase), and many many more. Because of all the Ashe that Eshu received, everyone respected Eshu and sought to keep him happy at all times.
Orisha Shango picked up powers that had fallen in a near by field. He collected the power to control lightening. From then on, everyone called him Jakuta, the stone thrower. He was honored and respected all over. He soon became the ruler of the city of Oyo. Orisha Oko, who was the first to ask Orunmila for powers, received the power to make crops flourish. People from all over praised him and gave him gifts so that he would bless their fields and their food would continue to grow abundantly. Orisha Ogun merged through the crowd and caught powers that made him very strong, so strong no enemy could defeat him. He received a machete that could cut through any evil and make way for divine progression. He became the owner of the power of iron and metals, and was known as a powerful blacksmith. Orisha Osanyin grasped the healing powers of curing through the special knowledge of plants and their medicinal purposes. All the Orishas, left and right, received something so that they could continue to live on Earth and contribute to the world with their special gifts. Now people could go to them and they would find assistance through the powers of the Orisha.
Let us end on this note: just as the Orisha have special, divine powers (Ashe) to contribute to the world, we too have been blessed with our own special talents, gifts, and powers. Some of us may have gifts that are more recognized than others, but this does not mean that the divine favors one more than the other. We are all special and have our own powers to make this world a better place. The key is finding our own inner divine special gifts and talents. Orunmila is still helping people find their inner Ashe through his dedicated priests and priestesses. And the Orisha, with their individual Ashe, are all still helping us here on Earth today.
[Reference: Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes by Harold Courlander]
About the Author:
Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA.
She is a very devout worshiper of the Orisa, especially Orisa Oya.
She and her husband together founded and run Oyeku Ofun Temple, a traditional Ifa and Orisa temple.
She is a talented artist, bead-maker, seamstress, and craftswoman.
Also, she is a loving wife and mother.
She currently resides on the beach in Northern California with her family.