Orisha: The Legend of Sango & his Wives

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For as long as I can remember, I have been very fascinated by the Yoruba legend. The legend of Sango and his wives has always been my favorite. I have dreams of completing a modern tale based on this legend. Sort of like what Marvel has done with Thor.

I mean, if you think about it, Thor is actually the Caucasian Sango. They both share similar traits; Sango has his oxê, which is a double edged axe, while Thor has his hammer. They are both the gods of thunder… It’s only right we have our own modern twist of this legend.

You can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across some stunning images by Atlanta-based photographer and Noire 3000 Studios CEO, James C. Lewis depicting the African (Yoruba) gods and goddesses. I’ll share a few of them here (with his permission).

But first, let me tell you the story of the legend of Sango and his wives; and don’t worry, this is unlike the the story of The Legends of Knights of Kajuru – which you should read, by the way.

PS: There are differing accounts about this Legend. I suspect that this may be partly attributed to oral story telling.

... If you think about it, Thor is actually the Caucasian Sango. Click To Tweet

The Legend of Sango & his Wives

Legend has it that there lived a great god called Sango. He was the fourth Alaafin of the Oyo Empire and the god of thunder and sky. He had three wives, Olori Oba, his first, Olori Osun (Oshun) and Olori Oya.

Of all three wives, he loved Osun the most because she was the best cook.

Oba, wanting to regain her spot as Sango’s favorite decided to ask Osun how she managed to keep Sango so happy with her meals. Now, Osun didn’t want to lose the special affection Sango had for her to Oba. (seems quite reasonable to me…)

She also despised the older wife because, as the first wife, Oba’s children were to inherit Sango’s kingdom. So she decided to play a trick on her. She told Oba that the reason why Sango loved her so much was because she cut off a piece of her ear many years ago and cooked a meal for him with it.

Oba was pleased and thought Osun to be foolish for disclosing such secret to her. She thought to herself ‘If Osun is getting so much attention by cutting only a piece of her ear, how much more she would get if outdid her rival?’ So when it was her turn to do the cooking, she cut off her whole ear and put it in the food she had prepared, which she presented happily to Sango.

Not long after he started eating, Sango noticed a piece of ear floating in his soup. He became furious and accused Oba of trying to poison him. He was so mad, that he rained thunder down on his household causing the women to flee.

As they ran, Oba fell, and she became the River Oba. Osun also fell and became the River Osun. (I’m not sure what happened to Oya) but these two rivers exist today in Oyo and Osun States. It is said that they form turbulent rapids at their tributary. (I can’t be the only one that finds this fascinating!)

This is certainly something I would like to see for myself, so I’m hoping to visit these states again, this time, to know more about the legend and hopefully get enough material to help me with my book.

PS: James, the owner of these amazing photographs, has more images on his website. If you’d love to see more or purchase any of them, here’s a link to do so: James C Lewis

Are you as fascinated as I am with African folklore and legends? What are your favorites?

6 Comments

  1. This is a great post! I love learning about the folklore in different places around the world. So interesting to imagine the people who came up with these stories and how they relate to the natural world they lived in!

    • Thank you, Rachel. That’s what intrigues me too. I’m looking forward to seeing these rivers for myself!

  2. What a fascinating story! As I was reading your post, I was bugging my husband (who is yoruba by the way) with questions about Sango. Please, please, please do write your book. I am looking forward to it!
    http://www.madelinewilsonojo.com/2017/12/four-great-ways-you-can-share-your-story.html

    • Haha, what was his reaction? It appears lost of Nigerians don’t like to talk about him. We’ll see how far I can get with the book in the coming year 🙂

  3. I do find them fascinating but I haven’t read much about it. Many Nigerians avoid it because it doesn’t go well with Christianity/Muslim religion.
    Maybe one day I’ll actually learn more.

    • True. I guess it’s because Sango is worshiped by some people and this conflicts with their beliefs. But it puzzles me to think that many people are happy to enjoy movies and books based on variations of Greek mythology (for e.g Thor, Hercules, Percy Jackson, just to mention a few) but won’t want to read/see a movie about Sango?

      Hopefully, my book would change that 🙂

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