Ramblings about Okana

Two of my basic diloggún courses start their study of Okana next week, and I was up late last night tossing various concepts about Okana around in my head; and, of course, these concepts found their way to paper. One of the concepts most olorishas aren’t familiar with is that the odu were, at one time, mortals. From their lives we learn much about the odu itself, Okana being no exception. There are two origin stories about the woman who we know as Okana. Both deserve mentioning since they have bearing on the odu’s ashé.

It is said that all of the odu were once people, and this sign, Okana, is no exception. There is one story-line in the religion teaching that Okana was the illegitimate daughter of a king, the king who ruled a town named Itile. His mother was a slave; she was sold as a slave as punishment for her involvement in two murders. The mother was a witch, and it was through witchcraft that she killed two of her female rivals. It is said that the rivalry was over a man. All three women wanted the same man, and the witch (Okana’s mother) wasn’t having any competition. Of course she became the king’s slave, not his wife, and he used her for sex. Okana was born out of wedlock and from forced sex (let’s face it — it was nonconsensual so it was rape). Later there was a son born from this, and the son was sent far away where he served as a slave in a temple; but he grew up to become an Ifá priest. Okana never knew her brother.

Please note that the issue of rape and nonconsensual sex has always been a theme explored throughout the diloggún. Take, for example, the story of Ogundá. He was rough, uncaring, and liked violent sex (as do many who have this odu in itá). One day he took a young woman by force and his intercourse was so rough that he broke many bones in her body. Had Eshu not the ashé to heal her (and had Eshu not been a close friend of Ogundá), his life’s story would have ended there. And this was a turning point in the life-story of Ogundá. He began a journey to change his ways. And change, he did; however, his first legitimate wife was the osogbo Arayé. There are other stories, of course, about why Ogundá stopped having violent, rough sex. There is a little known and little recited story about how Ogundá was so rough that he fractured his penis during intercourse, and this is what slowed him down, sexually, for a long time. But, again, rape is a theme here.

We find this theme in the olodu Osá as well. Osá was the daughter of Ogue (the orisha) and Euje (a mortal woman). But it is said that Osá was conceived when Euje was raped by the king of a town named Otá. Ogue did nothing to avenge his wife’s rape at the time; however, he got his vengeance.  The king of Otá was sick, and Ogue was called to heal him. Ogue, remembering that the king raped his wife and went unpunished, claimed the king was beyond his powers to heal and he let him die when he could have been saved. But at no time did he put his anger or aggression towards his innocent child, Osá. Instead, he accepted Osá as his natural daughter and raised her with all the love and affection that was his to give. He did not hold the rape over the heads of his wife or her child. He did not blame the victims; he loved them, and took out his revenge on the rapist by doing nothing – at all. And this is a huge lesson for all of us who operate under Osá’s ashé. Sometimes the best revenge or vengeance isn’t revenge or vengeance at all; simply, we refuse to help those who have hurt us or our loved ones in their darkest hour of need, and that is the greatest punishment we can give. Osá tells us that those who hurt us or our loved ones will need us one day. Literally, their lives could depend on our intervention, and if we withhold it because of what they have done to us, they will die.

Back to Okana: there is another more prevalent story-line about the life of Okana told in the diloggún. It is said that when Okana was born on earth, Okana manifested as a woman. She was the daughter of Sedikoron (father) and Ajantaku (mother). They died while she was quite young, but left her a wealthy woman who lacked for nothing. She was not a very nice woman, and in a lot of ways was very promiscuous. She spent her life trying to master and use love charms and potions that were constantly backfiring on her. A lot of her magic was put into trying to seduce Shangó, but her charms were so weak that Shangó barely noticed her. This made her angry and bitter. She suffered all her life for love unreturned and unacknowledged. During her life, Okana tried to curse many people; and while her curses did work to an extent, in the end, she suffered almost as much as they. What she sent out always came home to roost to some degree, and she learned that she could not curse those close to her and expect not to suffer herself. Her youth was filled with these follies; her old age, she began living by the wisdom of hard lessons learned in her youth.

Another concept I’ve been thinking more deeply about in relation to Okana is the following patakí:

There was a time when the cause said to the effect, “You cannot exist without me.” And to this the effect replied, “And you, you would not be useful to humanity if I did not exist.” 

Obviously, cause and effect is a concept born in Okana, and this can be expressed in a mathematical/scientific formula (in each odu, there is something that can be expressed in a scientific or mathematical formula): There is something called “The General Formula of Causality” and it is used by scientists; it also expresses very well the philosophical concept of cause and effect. In my opinion, this formula also expresses the truth of the olodu Okana:


[A] [B] [h [A] ———-► h [B]]

For every [A] and [B] [the happening of [A] causes the happening of [B].


For every A and B the happening of A causes the happening of B. “h” stands for happening. The arrow stands for “causes”. This is the general scientific formula, in which the logical symbols can stand for different variables. Let us understand A as temperature and B as pressure of a gas. Thus, if you increase the temperature, then you will cause the pressure to be increased too. This is called Boyle’s law; it was discovered by the theory of causality in scientific terms. This formula is also a wonderful expression of “Efficient Cause.”

If we understand Okana as the law of cause and effect, Okana equals cause and effect. They are both wrapped up as dual poles of Okana. Therefore, to express this equation as a spiritual emanation of Okana, we could write the formula thus:


Okana = (A) (B) [h (A) ———-► h (B)]

Okana equals that for every A and B the happening of A causes the happening of B.


One of my students sought to apply different concepts found in Okana, including patakís, to the formula of causality: “As mind is Cause, it has a vibration. Nothing in the universe is stagnant or still. All things are energy in motion at all times. As mind vibrates there is an effect, equaling in meaning that the energy emitted from mind (cause) will produce in kind (effect.) The Law of Cause and Effect states that for every movement of energy such as in a natural occurrence, or a human thought that takes the form of an image, feeling, desire, belief, expectation or action there is a corresponding effect. For this reason the Law of Cause and Effect influences every aspect of your living experience. This is where I believe Okana comes into play. She continued with, “From a good thing (mind) was born a bad thing (undisciplined thought), and from a bad thing (undisciplined thought) was born a good thing (the need for correction/awareness/conscious connection to thoughts, words and actions. This need is probably what brought the client to the mat.”

Let’s see if we can find a way to fit that into the formula we just worked out based on the philosophical concept and the scientific formula of causation:


Okana = (A) (B) [h (A) ———-► h (B)]

Okana equals/says that for every A and B the happening of A causes the happening of B.

We define (A) as a good thing and (B) as a bad thing.


Okana says that for every (good thing) and (bad thing), the happening of a (good thing) causes the happening of a (bad thing). The proverb on which this is based is “From a good thing was born a bad thing.” We find that the proverb my student mentioned fits in with the formula perfectly; it is almost as if that proverb was written with this formula in mind.

Now, let’s redefine our terms: Let’s say that Okana, in this instance, is mind. A mind is one thing; and I, like my student, believe that Okana references the mind as a primal cause. Of course in macrocosmic terms we’re talking the mind of Olódumare, and on mundane terms, we’re talking about the minds of humans. Let’s define (A) as she did in one of her examples, an undisciplined thought. Let’s define (B) as the need for correction. We have this:


Olódumare’s mind = (A) (B) [h (A) ———-► h (B)]

Olódumare’s mind says that (A being an undisciplined thought) (B being the need for correction) [the happening of an undisciplined thought creates the need for correction].


And again, with a formula we have demonstrated a spiritual truth.

Pretty awesome stuff, no? THESE are the types of issues that keep me awake at night!