As Told by His Mother, Yembo

by Shloma Rosenberg

When my son was born the World rejoiced. When my son was born I rejoiced. His clever hands transformed all which was put before him. What an uncanny ability, to make something from nothing. I knew he would bring great things to the world. How was I to know the fate that would befall him ... or me.

My heart aches to remember the way it was. His coordination, his dexterity, the wisdom of his hands. His ability to create astounded the other Orishas. His twin sister, Onile, the earth, gave freely the gifts of her metals, her ore. I think she was as anxious to see what would come of them as he was to change them. It started beautifully. Her iron became tools in his hands. He hammered away day and night at his forge, all to serve Human. I could never tell between Ogun and Human, who worshiped whom. The adoration Ogun received from Human was what Ogun lived for. The hoe, the hammer, the axe and the shovel, Human exclaimed with delight at the treasures Ogun produced. The world began to shift, gently at first. Fields were cultivated, irrigation ditches dug, dwellings were built. Ogun and Human worked together well. The ebb and flow of give and take was so smooth. In those days it was known that peace and plenty were not to be fought for. The contradiction was obvious. Ogun looked on at the changes he had brought and knew that they were good.

But then something happened.

It started slowly; Human began to lay claim to its fields and its dwellings. Human said "This dwelling was built with my tools! This field was cultivated with my tools!" And so property was born. But the concept of property did not end with the Earth. Human realized that there were parts of itself that were weaker, or perhaps less oppressive than others. It lay claim to those parts and enslaved them. Plant and Animal also became objects to be bought and sold. Where they had previously given gently and sparingly of themselves to participate in the cycles of life they were now taken forcibly, without regard for balance. Many parts of Plant and Animal were stolen so often that they were unable to replenish themselves. Ogun witnessed these events and felt anger and guilt. How could his holy tools be misused in such a way? He went to Human to put a stop to its tyranny. But he did not take into account the fact that he had relied so much on the respect he had received from Human, nor the fact that much of his strength came from Human. He was overwhelmed. Human captured my sweet son and enslaved him.

Human knew that with Ogun's help, it could lay claim to other lands, lands that had already been claimed. Human proposed to Ogun its plan, a plan to create the tools of death. Ogun refused. "I make tools of life!" he said. Human beat him. "You have no right to lay claim to my sister, the Earth!" he said. Human drugged him. "I have nothing to work with, I cannot ask Onile to give of her gifts for this!" Human went to Onile and beat her. It tore from her womb that which was needed for its purpose.

Ogun was imprisoned. Human gave him only that which he needed to be able to work. He was never refreshed, never fed. He was drugged until his mind was numb. He was beaten for thousands of years. He was abused mentally, physically, and emotionally until he knew only what Human told him.

By the time he was released, he knew only the ways of Human, the ways of death. Gone from his memory were love, peace, and the ways of the earth. My child had become war, my child had become anger, my child had become hate.

Human worshiped its creation, which it has always had the tendency to do. It marched across the world behind Ogun, taking what it pleased, never sharing, never sparing a single thing. Ogun as war had become indiscriminate. All beings suffered. Children, Women, Men, Animals, Plants, the Air and the Water. Oppressed and Oppressor alike. They were all the same in my son's eyes.

It was then that I went to him. Against all that had been decreed by Olorun I went to him. "Do not interfere," I was told, "this must happen for them to learn." But I could listen no longer. The screams of my children had become unbearable. The damage to the Orishas to whom I had given birth was almost beyond repair. I had to try to stop Ogun, this monster that had been my beautiful son.

When he saw me there was not the least spark of recognition in his hollow eyes. He stared at me as a weapon stares at its target. Without feeling, without thinking he took me. He raped me as this Earth and all its inhabitants are raped every day.

My screams of pain and rage split the world. The universe paused, and in that instant my son returned. He saw what he had done and fell to his knees. In pain and shame he prayed to his father Obatala: "O Baba Mi, do not curse me, as I have already cursed myself. I banish myself to the depths of the jungle. I will not seek Human's approval. I will not harm another being. I cannot face my dear, sweet mother whose life I have violated so hideously. I am an Orisha and Orishas cannot die, but I will separate myself from the world so that I will never again create pain and death."

And so he went. The catastrophic results of his absence were not long in coming. Human, who had come to rely solely on the tools and weapons that Ogun created fell helpless to its knees. Fields dried and crops withered. There was no recollection in Human's mind as to how to function without my son. Earth began to stagnate. Even the other Orishas, whose domains had become reliant on my son's tools for maintenance, felt helpless and confused. For hundreds of years the Earth weakened.

We knew that Ogun must return. We knew that Ogun was an Orisha, and therefore perfect by his very nature. The Ogun that had been war and hate and anger was Human's creation. Ogun's gifts could be used wisely. We decided to bring Ogun back to the world.

Yemoja, Mother of the World, went out into the jungle to find Ogun. She returned in grief. "'Ogun you must return,' I said, 'Children die without the surgeon's knife. Women and Men starve without the plow and the hoe.' But he did not listen."

Oya took up the task. She, too, returned in grief "'Ogun you must return,' I said, 'Without your tools to build dwellings, Women and Children die from exposure. The World is suffering without the justice you bring. The peaceful are defenseless against those who would wage war.' But he did not listen."

"I will bring him back." said Oshun, and with that, danced into the jungle. She said it in such a matter of fact way that, in spite of myself, I believed her. She told me upon her return that when she had found him, he was slumped at his forge, sobbing with grief.

"Oh, Little Mother I beg you," he had cried, "Do not rend my heart with tales of the World! I can't bear to know of further heartaches I have caused. I who am the bravest of the Orisha, the strongest, should have seen the treachery of Human. I have ruined the world."

To which sweet Oshun simply replied, "I love you," and spread her honey across his lips.

When Oshun danced out of the jungle with Ogun the World rejoiced. When Oshun danced out of the jungle with Ogun I rejoiced. This was not the Ogun of Human's creation, it was my sweet son, Lord of Transformation, with his wise hands.

So now Ogun lives again in the world. It is an uneasy truce, living in the world of Human. Human tries day after day to resurrect their Ogun, the Ogun of war. From time to time it succeeds. We gain ground slowly, teaching the World the wise use of Ogun's gifts. We teach them of Ogun the explorer, Ogun the inventor, Ogun the discoverer, Ogun the bringer of food, the Ogun who is the creator of true progress. And every day, bits of war-loving Human break off to join together, creating a new humanity, one that will live in peace.