Oya, also known as Iansa, is the goddess of wind, lightning, magic and fire.  These attributes illustrate how she has a powerful, violent and unpredictable nature as they can all be surprising forces.  Due to her unpredictable personality she is one of the most unique orixas as there is no way of knowing exactly what she may do. 

Judith Gleason explains in her book Oya:In Praise of the Goddess, it is Oya in her uniqueness who needs to be brought forth now, a uniqueness so complicated as to swirl even the mind of a votary who out to be able to deal with her vagaries and so reduce them to a certain coherence She is determined and destructive, but will reward those who acknowledge her, for those who do not she may unleash forces of destruction. If we grant the Goddess her due, she may compassionately guide us toward transformation

Her children too have this sense of rewarding where appropriate, they are sensual and lovable, but will not forgive betrayal.

Oya resists male authority and refuses to accept this, thus showing her strength and determination; she [refuses] to stay out of the enclaves of cult and culture preempted by male authority (Gleason p.9).  She is a role model for women, and the elements fire and wind are considered to be feminine; she is often sought out for guidance by women going through tough situations.  She is one of very few orixas who are involved with death, as a person dies she takes their soul to the other world.  She lives at the gates of cemeteries and enables this transition.

She wears red which can represent a variety of things such as love, passion, danger and power, in keeping with the contrasting ways in which she works.  Her symbols include buffalo horns, locust pod, fly whiskmachete, or special beads (coral, or brown glass beads with a black and a white stripe, altering with read beads, which fix their power (Gleason p.6).  Her movements are quick and she wields her machete, slicing it quickly and suddenly, she may wear a skirt which can billow out to represent the wind, but this can also be seen through the hurricane created by her back and forth footwork and her hands moving in and out.  She has a strong posture to show her power and will often throw lightning.  The music to accompany her dance is usually based on two or three atabaqu drums which will create a constant quick patter sound; however they can also change extremely quickly due to the ever surprising movement from Oya and the rhythms can take a long time to master.

Written by Hannah