The Birth of the Ibeyi: the Pact of Oshún and Yemayá

My note: I wrote this story when my writing skills were still weak, back in the mid 90s. It appeared in a small booklet that I published with Original Publications titled “The Ibeyi, the Children of Miraculous Birth.” That booklet is long out of print and the rights are mine again; but I want to make sure this material is still available to those who need it. So I’m posting another patakí from that booklet.

Lately I’m very focused on the Ibeyi. I’ve worked with them a lot the past few weeks. In my ita (back in the dark ages!) Yemayá told me that twins were coming to my family. She said that when twins came to the family, everyone related to them by blood would enjoy their blessings, and a new current of life, love, and prosperity would come to a family that had all but fallen apart. It sounded nice, and I smiled. Even though I know ita always unfolds, I wasn’t sold. Obviously I wasn’t having any children; and both of my sisters were done having children. They were raising their families. Well, in March my youngest sister (whose only daughter just turned 18 and started college) gave birth to twins.

Ita never lies. Yemayá’s words never fall on the floor. Maferefun Yemayá! Maferefun Ibeyi.

Celebrate with me the next couple of weeks as I explore the spirituality behind these wonderful orishas.

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Shangó was married, having taken Oba for his wife; she was a proper spouse, attentive to her husband’s needs and always predictable. Yet he was a man of war, virile in nature; soon he grew bored. Oshún soon caught his eye. Each wanted the other desperately, and each thought to seduce the other secretly. It came to pass that the two orishas were lovers, and spent many passionate nights in each other’s arms. Yet not only did Shangó have a wife at home, he also had a kingdom to defend, and in time his duties called him away from both women and into far away lands. Alone, Oshún pined for her lover. Days turned to weeks, and weeks became months – the orisha noticed changes within herself while her lover was away. Her lithe figure grew slowly at first, and then enormously; there was no denying to herself that she was pregnant with Shangó’s child. Not wanting the other orishas to know of their affair, she hid herself away for nine months to bear her child alone. Yet when the pains began and the child was born (a son) she reeled in disbelief as it was quickly followed by a second, a beautiful girl. The joy of birth became dulled by fear and doubt, “I am so young and unwise, too irresponsible to raise a single child. Whatever am I to do with two?” Frightened at the thought of rearing two children, Oshún took her twins secretly, at night, to the house of her friend, Yemayá.

Yemayá was worried when Oshún showed up at her home; the two orishas were close, and not even she had heard from the Oshún during her months of hiding. At first she went to embrace her sister, and then drew back as she saw the two bundles that she was holding. “Oshún,” whispered Yemayá, noticing that the bundles were moving, “what have you there?” The young orisha stepped closer, into the house and the light. Yemayá saw that she held two young infants, recently born. “Children!” she exclaimed. “They’re not human – they’re one of us! Sister, are they yours?” A single tear fell down Oshún’s cheek, and a strange, frightened smile crept over her face. Without a word, the little one’s eyes gave Yemayá the answer she sought.

Oshún sat down with Yemayá and told her about the birth – how she had an affair with an unnamed man, and then in shame and secrecy hid herself away to have the baby alone. Her intentions had been noble: to give birth to the child and raise it, without a father. Yet the birth of twins frightened her. “What will the other orishas think?” asked Oshún. “I am too young for one child; I have no husband, and the father belongs to another woman in marriage. Already I am a bad mother, more concerned with myself than their welfare; how can I raise them alone? I cannot even take care of myself!”

While Oshún had been telling her sister her troubles, Yemayá had held each child in turn; now she sat there with one embraced in each arm, holding them tightly against her breasts. She felt part of her coursing in each of them. She looked in Kaindé’s eyes and saw her sisters eyes, which were the same as her own; yet when she looked in Taewó’s eyes, the resemblance was unmistakable. “My son, Shangó, is the father – is he not?” No word fell from Oshún’s lips; she just stared at her sister and nodded her head.

“Then there is nothing more that needs to be said. We are sisters, you and I, and I will help you raise your children. I will be as a Mother to Taewó and Kaindé, not just their aunt and grandmother as is our true relation; and you, Oshún, will be as their aunt since you are my sister. Yet together we will always know who the true mother is, and as they grow the Ibeyi will know that they have two women who love them dearly, both as a mother loves her children. They will be blessed, for they will have the two of us to guide them and care for them throughout their lives.”

Oshún looked at her sister in thanks; unable to find the words, she began to stammer, “But . . . Shangó . . . the other orishas . . .”

Yemayá, being wise and knowing that her sister came her out of guilt and shame, continued, “My sister, no one but you or I ever needs to know that you are their true Mother. Your relationship with them will be because of me, because you are my sister, and none need ever question why or how you become so close to them. Just as one of my mortal children on earth is often a child of yours and vice versa, so will it be with these children. Claim to be their mother: claim to be their aunt. It matters not. And your secret is always safe with me. Shangó will know that he is their father, as will the entire world, when they see the boy Taewó. Yet none will ever know, especially not Shangó, that you are their biological mother until you are ready to divulge that secret yourself. Thus is our pact made and sealed!”

Oshún kissed her two beautiful children goodbye and goodnight; her tears fell freely over them both. Embracing her sister tightly, she then left the house without a word. Knowing that she had made the right decision did little to soothe her heart – a piece of it went out to each, a part of her own immortal spirit that she would never reclaim. For days, she kept to herself in darkness and secret, filled with sorrow until she heard that her lover, Shangó, had returned from his wars.

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4 thoughts on “The Birth of the Ibeyi: the Pact of Oshún and Yemayá

  1. Totally amazing story, trust me that Is not rough draft. Also, thank you for keeping these Patakis alive and known.

  2. How crazy. I was just told I will be having a set of twin grandchildren today. I was upset, sad, and confused. But thanks for sending this. So needed to read this.

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