on healing, orishas, and the diaspora

“The deities, which numbered more than four hundred in Africa, were reduced to several dozen relevant entities in the New World.  Termed orichas in Candomble, Shango, Batuque, and Santeria, and loas in Vodoun, these gods are inexorably linked to the spiritual and material well being of their devotees.  Osanyin, the secretive god of leaves, has special importance in the area of health and medicine.  Among Yoruba-Dahomey descendants in the Old and New Worlds, he symbolizes the mysterious and curative nature of the vegetal kingdom.  Legend describes how Osanyin’s knowledge of plant lore was coveted by Iansa, goddess of storms and winds, who in her jealousy raised her skirts and caused a great wind to scatter the sacred leaves in all directions.  Quickly collecting them where they fell, each oricha retains his or her own medicinal healing domain and associated plant pharmacopoeia.”

— Voeks, Robert.  “African Medicine and Magic in the Americas.”  Geographical Review 83.1 (1993): 66-78.

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