Before I had the idea of doing “Goddess Cosplays,” I wished to understand more of what it meant to be feminine. I have a feeling of what it means to me, in my life, but what about to the world – to those that see gender as a social construct, to those that feel unnerved by a shirt cut a bit too low, to women who shave their legs and to the women who don’t, and to those who choose to hide their bodies in drapes of fabric.
When I first searched for the term, “feminine ideal,” one of my top results was a wikipedia page for the “feminine beauty ideal.”
This is the first paragraph from that page:
The feminine beauty ideal is “the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets, and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain”. Feminine beauty ideals are rooted in heteronormative beliefs, and heavily influence women of all sexual orientations. The feminine beauty ideal, which also includes female body shape, varies from culture to culture. Pressure to conform to a certain definition of “beautiful” can have drastic psychological effects. These ideals have been correlated with depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem, starting from an adolescent age and continuing into adulthood.
What I felt and still feel while reading this is hard to describe. Even now, I’m still revising and defining what it means to me to value and identify myself as a feminine woman. When reading this, I can’t help but feel a hint of guilt about loving my body, following traditional gender norms, and embracing beauty.
How do I uplift myself and my love of feminine archetypes without crushing the fragility of those who choose a different path?
While I continue to seek guidance about this, femininity remains a source of happiness, wonder, and exploration and that is how I found Oshun, the river Goddess.
Oshun is a Goddess from the Yoruba religion in West Africa. In this religion, after the creator, Olodumare, finished his work he saw that something was still missing in the world: sweetness, love, and kindness. After this realization, he then created Oshun, the only female orisha of the original 17 orishas to be sent to earth. The other deities were given their divine powers by the profit, Orunmila.
The desire of Olodumare was to populate the earth and to see it grow. Before Oshun, the other orishas failed at this task, but even after Oshun came into the world she was misunderstood and then mistreated. Most of the time Oshun could be seen fanning herself and gazing into her reflection in the mirror. Because of her love of beauty, luxury, and her, at times, petulant disposition, she was left out of many rituals and celebrations. Feeling ignored, she fled the earth and took her divine feminine energy with her. The rivers stopped flowing, food ceased to grow, and flowers no longer blossomed. The orishas then turned to Olodumare for help, and when hearing of their troubles he asked for Oshun. They told him that Oshun wasn’t practical and that they left her alone while she looked into her mirror.
What they failed to understand is that Oshun is the law of attraction. She embodies sensuality, fertility, and the sweetness of life.
The orishas then began to worship her and begged for her return. When she came back to the world mankind began to populate the earth, the rivers flowed once again, and beauty returned.
“WHAT THEY FAILED TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT OSHUN IS THE LAW OF ATTRACTION. SHE EMBODIES SENSUALITY, FERTILITY, AND THE SWEETNESS OF LIFE.”
Gods and Goddesses are far from perfect. In the many stories I hope to tell, you will see that they create more drama than you imagine in a season of Keeping up with the Kardashians. But, the stories they tell are relevant to their history, and more importantly, if we find that these stories are still being told today we should ask ourselves why. Old stories often hold onto ancient wisdoms that can be relevant to us today.
Oshun’s divine powers are very similar to that of mother nature’s and similar to many goddesses in numerous religions and cultures. They teach us the importance of respecting nature and the devastation and fortune it can bring to mankind.
Her mirror to many can easily symbolize vanity and narcissism. I’m sure that can be true of her nature as I’ve seen her being described as vindictive and demanding at times. However, I can’t help but look at her gaze into her mirror and see a Goddess seeking excellence worthy of the admiration and attention she requires.
My research of Oshun won’t stop here, and you will without a doubt see me redo this cosplay in the future. Through the slave trade she traveled with her people to South America, Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States. There are many variations of Oshun that are still being worshipped and celebrated today. She is already a favorite of mine and her stories have many teachings about nature, femininity, and the importance of attraction beyond the definition set by wikipedia. Oshun has come to me at the perfect time and I’m so thankful to share one of her many stories with you.