Sunday, August 16, 2009

şango (21)

african tankas
oyo’s fourth oba
was perhaps its greatest king;
a man of power
sent from ọrun to àiyé,
was the great mystery’s gift.

was not pleased, was very wroth;
despaired for his folk.
away from him, they had turned.
were a sinful, evil lot.

he sent them şango
to study, civilize them;
who was said to be,
from a child, of an untamed
& bloody disposition.

this boy could spew fire,
orun’s fire, out of his mouth.
he was too clever,
skillful in sleight-of-hand tricks,
& he could call down lightning.

endowed him with many gifts,
but thru’ sorcery,
he controlled & mastered them.
the people were afraid of him.

greatness apparent,
he became oyo’s fourth king,
& in seven years
through constant warfare & strife,
expanded by triple his realm!

he, in time, became
a punishing moral force,
a scourge against sin.
he would seek out murderers,
liars & evil-doers

among his people.
he surely would strike them down
with thunderstones, lightning
bolts & loathsome sorcery;
burn their homes & possessions!

he would take revenge
on those who hurt or offended
friends & favorites.
his justice was swift & sure;
his retribution, deadly.

his love for magic grew.
jealous of his sorcery,
he brooked no rivals.
one day, craving even more
power, he sought out eşu.

he wanted a charm
of great power that only
eşu could fashion,
& sent ọya, his wife with
a large goat to make ebo;

beg the òrìşà,
maferefun eşu, to
grant his desire.
the divine messenger, who
knows all men’s hearts, knew şango’s,
was pleased with his offering.

“come back tomorrow,”
eşu said, “i will have what yr
husband desires, then.”
i wonder what şango is
up to, ọya thought, intrigued.

he had told her naught
but to bring whatever the
òrìşà gave her
back to him unopened &
untouched if she loved living.

she could not return
home empty handed, so she slept
in the woods that night.
at morning light, she got up
& went back to eşu’s house.

òrìşà eşu
met her at the door. he gave
her a knowing look
& a calabash. “what şango
desires is in there, wrapped up

in banana leaves.
don’t look & don’t touch!” he smiled.
curious ọya
coveted magic as much
as şango. she could not bear

the thought of şango
knowing something she did not.
she waited until
she was out of eşu’s sight
& opened the calabash.

she took out the charm
& unwrapped it. brown powder.
she put a little
on her tongue. nothing happened.
disgusted, she dismissed it.

she rewrapped it, put
it back in the calabash.
one of eşu’s tricks,
she laughed – nothing ventured
nothing gained – none the wiser.

şango was waiting
anxiously for her return.
when he saw his wife
he ran out to her. “do u
have it? where is it, woman??

she opened her mouth
to answer him, but before
her affirming words
came, a sheet of flame flew out
of her mouth & singed his beard.

she fled for her life.
şango chased her all over
the compound hurling
his thunderstones & lightning
bolts. she hid among the sheep.

his anger was huge,
but the people loved ọya.
& begged him, they did,
on her behalf. “please forgive her
kabiyesi, let her be.”

şango relented
he really did love ọya,
tho’ she vexed him much
& he had his charm. he’d use
it on an auspicious day.

on that fateful day
şango ascended the hill
behind his palace
to practice his sorcery.
he wasn’t sure the charm would work.

he took the powder
orally. but when he spoke
the words of power
fire & lightning spewed out of
his mouth & out of control

destroyed his palace
& killed several of his
wives & young children.
full of remorse he hung himself
on a karite nut tree

& descended thru
a hole in the ground into
the domain of death.
while dwelling among the dead,
he saw the virgin, yewa.

yewa, the daughter
of oduduwa, who had
become so obsessed
with şango her father sent
her to the house of the dead

to dwell forever,
& save her virginity.
she had become the
òrìşà who consumed the
flesh of the dead.

she rendered the waste
of their inert flesh into
the earth’s nutrients.
& she was still unearthly
beautiful. seeing şango

again awoke in
her the longing. he seduced her.
she took in his seed;
was soon big with child. life was
begat in the domain of death,
brusina, the virgin’s child.

by impregnating
the eater of men with the seed
of life in the realm
of desolation & loss
şango triumphed over death.

heard of this & marveled. lifted
shango up, he did.
mo juba awo şango
mo juba awo ojo

(i humble myself before the mysteries of shango!)
(i humble myself before the mysteries of rain!)

© Joseph McNair; 2009


  1. Ire alaafia professor.......May Olodumare continue to grant you ase and your Ori always be with you.Ogbo ato asure iwori wofun.

    Aboru Aboye Abosise

  2. Aboru Aboye Abosise
    Thank you for your kind words Oloye. May the creator bestow on you what you wish for me. I f have said it, it is done, i am ogbe-irosun