*** The leaf is his knife and his wand. Osanyin represents the two sides of herbal power. The same thing that can cure you, if used improperly can kill you.
Herbalists and Priests enlist the aid of Osanyin, the spirit of herbal medicines, in their work against mental and physical illness caused by malevolent forces and individuals. The Yoruba believe the power of Osanyin is vested in a wrought iron staff, called an Osanyin staff, that is placed on altars to this Deity (Orisha).
The staff is composed of a circle of small birds and a shaft in the middle that elevates a large bird above smaller ones. The reason for this division could be to suggest the relaying of Metaphysical powers from the celestial to the Terrestrial realm. The Yoruba reference to Osanyin as “The one who sees everything, like God (Olodumare)” allowing him a vantage point from which he can protect all of humanity below.
The birds, emissaries of Ogun, refer to the Herbalist’s understanding of and power over these malevolent people. There are typically sixteen birds, invoking the most sacred number of divination, surrounding and confronting the central bird, which represents the smallpox God.
Osanyin the Deity of healing credited with all knowledge of herbs, leaves and roots for medicinal purposes. The myths of origin, history and religious beliefs of West-Africa were carried by the slaves across to the Americas and the Caribbean. This factor has maintained a continuity in space and time with the original cult. To the Yoruba, health is a state in which there is a blending of physical, mental, emotional social moral and spiritual well-being. To achieve this harmony they resort to divination to find out the cause of and remedy for their illness. The traditional healers fall into four groups and of these the diviner/herbalist meet the needs of anyone who is ill by providing both diagnosis and medication. Among this group are the Herbalists (Onishegun) who diagnose and provide the remedy through dialogue with the deity and the Osanyin who acquire the knowledge of herbs and the associated incantations through a system of apprenticeship. The herbs are collected by the Herbalists (Onishegun) under whose watchful eyes the medications are prepared.
*** There Are No Òrìshás Without Leaves ***
Òsányìn is a deity or divinity of the medical herbage, his importance is primordial and no ceremony within the Ifá philosophy is made without his involvement. He is the one who finds the force, the vitality and the power of performance, no divinity can pass trough, without him. This power lives in several leaves and herbs, the name of these leaves and herbs and their use, is the most secret of the Deity (Òrìshà) cult.
Every divinity has its particular leaves and plants, the use of one contraindicated leave could have harmful effects and harvesting is done with extreme care. In wild places, brush or forest where plants grow freely, the plants that grow in gardens should be discarded, because the forest is the home of Òsányìn.
The priests of this Deity (Òrìshà) wakes up very early without having any sexual activity from the day before and goes to the forest without greeting anyone on their way. The priest offers incantations to strip the leaves, roots, bark and fruits and deposits his offering to the deity before leaving the forest.
These priests are aware of the leaves used interchangeably, among them we note that there are leaves with virtues such as sheet of fortune, happiness, joy, fertility, fame, longevity, courage.. . But there are also leaves of misery, fever and other even more fearsome illness. The leaves come in form of decoctions, baths of purification which are intended to form a magic lake between the divinity and certain objects that are enshrined including the blood of a specific animal. The employment of the leaves is fundamental, because these leaves are used to elaborate the divine powder of the deities and receive a growing force that creates a strong bond of interdependence between the worshipers.
Òsányìn is the doctor, by a divine mandate and haves a deep knowledge of botany and diseases that afflict humans, he is in charge of preparing the medicine for children and infants. He’s the only divinity that is able to use the corn meal oil to prepare medicinal ointments. All the plants are attributed to this deity, because of the principal basis of his role in the planetary system.
It exist and persists a judgment that Òsányìn is the divinity of sorcery and witchcraft and his followers seek his support against their enemies, in times of disputes, disagreements and fights. This contributes in a double misconception, because the key to the way of living is to live without being attacked and without attacking, however no matter which plan is initiated to any individual, looses the effect if the power of justice is on the individuals side, this because Òsányìn is neither an aggressive deity nor a warrior, he is only a medical deity in the planetary system and he is used to cure and remedy those painful diseases that science has not been able to defeat.
It is a belief that Òsányìn was born with knowledge about the plants and trees, because he did not learn from anybody. There are many different kinds of Òsányìn and the one that is one legged and known as – Òsányìn elésè-kan, is the fiercest and has great medicine knowledge.
Osanyin’s magic is so powerful that no one can unravel his spells. Consequently he is petitioned for any purpose where unconquerable magic is required. Osanyin is often depicted as an extremely disfigured, impish man. He has one eye, one hand, one foot, one tiny ear that can hear even a pin drop, and one ear larger than his head that hears nothing. He keeps all of his magic in a calabash that he hangs high in a tree, out of reach.
*** Ifa staffs usually have one bird and of course the inverted Agogo Bells. However, they are in effect the same thing. The sixteen birds surrounding the one bird is obviously a reference to the Itan of when Orunmila entered the town of the Aje (witches).There is a strong connection between Osanyin and Orunmila and also to Ogun, for the Opa Osun is made out of iron. Ogun lives in the forest, hence his connection to Osanyin.
*** Osanyin herbs have the power to neutralize the Ajogun – negative forces. Both staffs represent the triumph of consciousness -Ori over the forces of illness and destruction. Osun is the male aspect of Oshun, the spirit of the river. The Osun is a staff that is traditionally only given to Awo who have Odu pot. The staff represents Oso – the ability to astral travel. The bird on the Osun is a vulture, representing the Ashe of Oshun. Odu Ifa says that Oso comes to women via their menstrual cycle as a birth right passed from mother to daughter.
*** Being possessed by a female Orisha gives a man the ability to astral travel. When a man is in the astral realm he is in the land of the Mothers and to go to the land of the Mothers is challenging as a man, so Ifa teaches that a male Awo goes to the land of the Mothers disguised as a female bird. That is the reason why when a male Awo enters Igbodu wearing a Mariwo Ede and Beads dangling from his knee. This is the disguise of being a bird. After that, the Ifa Iyawo places his left foot on the Osun staff connection him to the Ancestors.
*** Ifa says that men can develop the ability of Oso as a consequence of receiving Ifa initiation- Tefa. Men are presented to Odu during Tefa. Being presented to Odu during Tefa gives men the ability to be mediums for female Orisha – among other things…
*** Praise to the owner of herbal medicines & leaves: The supernatural one, one-who-turns-all-leaves-into-medicine. One who is versed in the use of roots, one who has a sharp, pointed tail like that of a chick. One who has a liver as crystal clear as a fly’s. One who is as powerful as an iron rod. Aroni, the custodian of secrets who fastens medicine on his chest. One who forcibly takes the clothes from a sick man and staggers. He who fights without being guilty. A big masquerade for whom the mortar is rolled. Leaves in the hand – Leaves in the mouth – There is nothing you can’t do – One whose body is full of medicine . He who can revive and can kill – He who uses medicine to fight death. A leopard that prepares medicine to remove assaults. He drinks some water and uses some to anoint his head. He turns 200 leaves into one – One whose body is full of medicine. The mighty man who preserves the forest for medicinal purposes – The man who uses leaves to do all he wants.
Herbs have enormous magical power, as they hold the Earth’s energy within them. Each herb has unique properties that can enhance one’s magical goals. Herbs also may have medicinal properties. The magical practitioner can draw upon either aspect when performing a spell. Harvest herbs in the morning after the sun has dried the dew but before the heat of the day sets in. Use a sharp magical knife to cut herbs; the knife should be consecrated specifically for this purpose. Thank the plant for its gift, and offer it something in return, perhaps some water. Harvest only the amount of herbs needed, except when pruning the plants, to ensure healthy growth for the following season.
Roots on the other hand – often the most magically potent part of the plant – once chopped or powdered are fairly indistinguishable one from the other. Familiarize yourself with herbs and other botanical. Know what they should look like, and what they should smell like…