Home Institution

Mills College

Publication Date

Spring 2005

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


This study follows the trail of Oyá, a black feminine Orixá, or goddess, within the Afro-Brazilian spiritual tradition of Candomblé, through her elemental forces as the winds, storms, tornadoes, the river Niger, and buffalo. I unearth the influence of Oyá on the lives of three black female followers as she is manifested in the world as a black woman, a mother, a warrior and a lover.

I interviewed three black followers of Oyá and found that she is primarily a motherly force which provides protection, guidance and security for her followers. As a warrior, her energy inspires perseverance, determination, and self-protection. As a lover, Oyá expresses her values of autonomy and independence, sexual freedom, and she dislocates the traditional roles of women and men. I found that a psycho-spiritual investment in Oyá foregrounds a transformed lived reality for the women in this study: Oyá prepares her women followers to live in an unstable, unpredictable, harsh world, and expands the space for them to be black women in the world.


Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Women's Studies


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