Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Red Buffalo Woman

This is an old Yoruba story about the Goddess OYA, in HER aspect as the "Red Buffalo Woman". It is taken from the book "The Hero with an African Face" by Clyde W. Ford.


"He left on his evening hunt, staying out all night, but Chief of Hunters sighted nothing; he just lay on his platform up in the trees. Dawn came to the forest, and Chief of Hunters decided to wait a bit longer until it was light enough or him to make his way back home easily. All of a sudden he saw a buffalo cow approaching, looking right and left, seeing no one, she continued strolling majestically along the path. When she came to the base of a termite mound, to Chief of Hunters suprise, she began to remove her own skin - arm strips, leg strips, and the hide of her head. He watched her make a bundle of all this and stuff it inside the anthill. Then looking right and left again, and seeing no one, she changed herself into a beautiful woman"

What a magnificent sight to behold: the Goddess unmasking to reveal her divinely human form: she is vulnerable now but eminently approachable in this transformed condition.
Chief of Hunters will have to plot his course with care:

"As Buffalo Woman headed off down the road towards the market, carrying locust-beans for sale, Chief of Hunters waited until she was out of sight, then slipped down from his perch and sneaked over to where she had hidden her skin. He took the bundle and went home with it. Then Chief of Hunters went to the market to buy some locust-bean seeds. "Three shillings of Iru [a delicacy made from fried locust-beans] please," he said to Buffalo Woman, still in her beautiful human form. "Only I cant pay you now, can you come to my house to collect what I owe you," he added.
"Iru, Iru," Buffalo Woman called out on her way back to the forest that evening, "who in this compound bought Iru from me today?"
"Over here," said Chief of Hunters, I bought Iru from you this morning."
"I have come to collect my money," replied Buffalo Woman.
"Very well," Chief of Hunters replied, then added,"but wont you come in for a moment?" "Here," he continued, "have something to eat before your journey." And he offered her some yams and drink that he had sacrificed to Ifa.
Having eaten yam and drunk some wine, the beautiful woman felt tired and very sleepy. She fell into a deep sleep, and by the time she woke up it was late enough to leave without arousing suspicion among Chief of Hunters neighbors. But when she reached the place where she had hidden her skins, Buffalo Woman found them missing.
"Ai," she cried out, "Ai," what sort of thing is this? "I looked left and right and I saw no one," she recalled. "Who then could have taken them?" she mused. It must have been the man who bought my locust-beans without paying," she realized. "I better go have a word with him."
When Buffalo Woman reached his house, she pleaded with him: "Please return those things you removed from my hiding place in the forest."
"I didnt see anything of yours," Chief of Hunters responded.
"You did," said Buffalo Woman. "Please, I beg you. Have pity on me, I implore you to return my things!"
"Marry me, then!" said Chief of Hunters abruptly.
"I will," smiled Buffalo Woman. "Only you must promise never to mention to your other wives where you found me nor what you took from me," she admonished.
"Is that all?" said Chief of Hunters with suprise. "Well then, I promise," he pledged. And so it was that Chief of Hunters married Red Buffalo Woman.

The marriage of the Hero to a Goddess is to be understood not only in the conventional sense of a wedding between two people but also in the spiritual sense of a sacred union of a person with his or her highest spiritual striving. Buffalo woman, Goddess of the Forest, is this spiritual ideal of Chief of Hunters; his superlative name implies that he has mastered not only the outer workings of the hunt but the inner as well, and he is therefore ready to achieve this highest revelation - namely, the realization of the Goddess, the motive force behind the cycle of predator and prey, life and death, to which he is so intimately bound. We know this, also, because Chief of Hunters is one manifestation of the Yoruba Deity OGUN, the God of the Hunt. But winning the Goddess is not the end of the story, keeping her is the next challenge, and here Red Buffalo Woman will teach Chief of Hunters a lesson he will never forget....

"After several years, Buffalo Woman had given birth to four children by Chief of Hunters. One day, when he noticed his crop of red beans was ready to be harvested, he asked all his wives to come out to the fields to help. Now, his elder wives had never stopped asking where that "reddish" woman had come from. No relatives had arrived, not one, not once to visit her, nor had she ever been sent for by her family.
"What sort of woman is this?" they thought. But Chief of Hunters refused to tell them. One evening, however, they plied him with enough food and drink until he was no longer able to contain himself. "Esteemed husband, father of the household, you owe it to us," his other wives began. "It`s only proper that we should know the character of one with whom we are forced to associate," they continued. "We are from good families - apparently she is not - but whatever her lineage we deserve to know. Dont you think its about time you told us?" they demanded.
"Cant you leave the poor woman alone?" Chief of Hunters boomed. "What`s she to you?" he roared in his drunkenness. "Wasnt she that buffalo cow I saw taking off her skin out in the forest that day?" he slurred. I bought Iru from her and she came to collect her money. That`s why I married such a buffalo, someone to confide in, someone to shine for me," he confessed in his stupor. "What do you skinny women know of the wonders of the forest anyway?" he went on. "Why shouldnt a hunter marry an animal? Now, does that satisfy you? Get off my back, Im tired." And Chief of Hunters lapsed into a deep sleep.
"Hey, hey," the women gloated. Its a good thing you told us now, isnt it?" they said to his deaf ears. The next night, Chief of Hunters spent on his farm. His wives would join him the next morning. As soon as they arose, they stopped by Buffalo Woman`s door.
"Are you ready?" they inquired.
"Not quite," she replied.
"Hurry up!" goaded the wives. "The sun is up already. Its going to be a hot day."
"Please be patient," replied Buffalo Woman, "I`ll be ready in a moment."
"Reddy, Reddy, come when your ready," they taunted.
"We`ll go on ahead," the wives sneered. "Take your time, Reddy, just keep chewing your cud. Your hide`s in safekeeping in the rafters, so count yourself fortunate, Red Woman!"
"Ai, Ai!" Buffalo Woman`s stomach hit her back with the shock of it. As soon as her co-wives were out of sight, she sent her children out, put her hands on her bag of magic power, then went to fetch water. Now she climbed up to the storage place under the roof, seized the bundle containing her hide, and began to soak it. Then Buffalo Woman put on her skin, bit by bit, over her calves, over her thighs, and over her arms.........

Buffalo Woman poses a significant threat to Chief of Hunters other wives, for she personifies the wild, unknown, chaotic energies of the forest, and they stand for the domesticated, stable energies of society, the status quo. They can only coexist if they accomodate each other`s vastly different requirements. Buffalo woman proves herself capable of existing in thier domesticated world, but the other wives are unable to handle her "wildness". Chief of Hunters should have mediated this domestic dispute, but this is NOT a story about maintaining domestic harmony; it is a story about the choice between living a life committed to the authentic impulses of one`s highest spiritual ideals [marriage to the Goddess] or living a life committed to society`s status quo [marriage to the other wives]. By withdrawing to his farm, Chief of Hunters fails to take a critical step on the path to an authentic life. For after shape-shifting back to her animal form.....

"Buffalo Woman jumped down and ran through the town without touching or harming anyone, on her way to chief of Hunters farm. She ran into the first wife, and killed her, then the second wife, and killed her, and the same fate happened to the third. When her children saw her coming along the path, they began to run, crying, "Please dont hurt us!"
"See," Buffalo Woman said, stopping to pull the hide away from her cheek, "I`m your mother!"
"No you`re not, you`re a buffalo," screamed the children. "Leave us alone! Won`t you please go back to the forest?"
"Of course, it must be so,"replied Buffalo woman. "I am going back to the forest." But first she broke off a piece of horn from her head. "Let me give you this," she told her children. "Whenever you want me to do something for you, just ask this. Call me properly, call me OYA, for that is my name and I will always answer to it. Should anyone act with malice towards you, just let me know. Should you ever want anything - money, wives, children - just call on me, call OYA, OYA!
"Farewell, my children," she said for a final time, pulling the hide back over her face and setting off in the direction of her husbands farm.....
Chief of Hunters saw her coming from a distance; he instinctively knew. "My wives have ruined my life!" he cried.
Buffalo Woman would have klled him at once, but he began praising her. "Noble Buffalo, nothing stops you. You make your own road through the thicket. No undergrowth is too dense for you. Fighter, please dont kill this hunter simply for the sake of killing. It was he who fed you yam. It was he who gave you guinea-corn wine to drink. Please spare the hunter who hosted you, fighting bush-cow!"
Buffalo Woman was moved to pity.
"This day I`m gone for good," she stated. "But I have left a piece of horn with my Children. You too may call on me if you need me - that is, if you know how. Know that I am this sound - OYA!. Know that I am this form - Red Buffalo Woman. Know that I am this power."
Whereupon Buffalo Woman vanished into the forest.

Corner an African buffalo and it will turn and run swiftly or else stand fast and mount an unrelenting fight; affront the Goddess inappropriately and She will respond in a swift and unrelenting way. In the death of the 3 wives, we should not read revenge too quickly, for Buffalo Woman`s response was not the simple vanquishing of foes, It is yet another face of the Goddess -as the destroyer of unyeilding forms, the smasher of vain, self-absorbed egos. Then, in the next moment, upon encountering her children now afraid of her wild form, she lifts her mask for a final time to reveal her essential humanity; rest assured that though it was necessary to appear as the Great Destroyer, she has also never stopped being the bliss-bestowing GREAT MOTHER!
Even the children of the Goddess are no ordinary lot but are symbolic of us all, for the Goddess offspring is humanity!
The message of the Red Buffalo Woman is contained in the last words spoken by Chief of Hunters: "NOBLE BUFFALO, NOTHING STOPS YOU. YOU MAKE YOUR OWN ROAD THROUGH THE THICKET.NO UNDERGROWTH IS TOO DENSE FOR YOU.
So the horn of Red Buffalo Woman reminds us that her power can be ours when we need it; we need only call her name and follow her form, making our own road through the thicket of our lives, FOR NO UNDERGROWTH IS TOO DENSE FOR US TO TRAVEL!!!!

For QMRBW and Sisters Sesa and Sekhmet:

If it seems we are reading far too much into a "simple" African tale, know that the legend of Red Buffalo Woman is told specifically as a healing narrative. When the Ifa oracle is cast, should the person receive the sign known as Osa-Ogunda, this is the narrative that will be chanted by the Babalawo [Yoruba preist]. The afflicted person would thus be determined to be suffering from a condition of impotence and ineffectuality, possibly but not necessarily sexual, and the medicinal herbs given are called "fighting medicine,"comprised mainly of a plant called "buffalo leaf." Applying "fighting medicine" to the body is only the beginning. Hopefully the legend of Red Buffalo woman lingers in one`s mind, calling one back to issues deeper than manifest symptoms. It all depends on one`s capacity for inner growth.

CANT STOP
DONT STOP

This work was taken from: THE HERO WITH AN AFRICAN FACE by Clyde W. Ford, 1999
bantam books, isbn 0-553-10544-2
please purchase this book, so Ford`s work can continue......
Htp from PNF

10 Comments:

Blogger Quantum Consciousness said...

I know her. And she really prefers to be bliss giving Great Mother, but it's often necessary to be Red Buffalo Woman. Dayum
Asante Sana Dear Brother Born

12:24 PM  
Blogger Sekhmet said...

Htp and respect Brother Born, I have added the book to my ever increasing "wish list"!!

I see shades of Sekhmet within Buffalo woman, she is Hathor (buffalo),her duality is Sekhmet. I am open to correction (smile).

One question, why did she agree to marry Chief of Hunters? Did she want to be "tamed" for a while, for if she lived in her skin, she lived wild and free? She had the power of transformation, why agree so easily? I await your comments. L&L

9:58 AM  
Blogger Born Understanding said...

Sek....she married Chief so quickly because he had already proven himself [hence his title as chief] as equal to the task of being her husband. Remember, Chief is a manifestation of OGUN [God of the Hunt, Iron, and War].Plus, if they dont marry, no children, so no US!

3:07 PM  
Blogger Sesa Woruban said...

I'm gonna try to keep this brief. As a woman, this story pains me on so many levels because I recognize the truth in it.

This is going to be long. I am only expressing my heart. I am not invalidating any other views. No, I didn't tie it up in a neat little bundle. *kicks rocks*

1. Goddess knew exactly what she went there to do. She could have made herself hideous for protection (making herself undesireble). It was she who set the "trap."

2. Goddess picked the hunter. She probably had 'seen' him there many times. She certainly smelled him as buffalo have a keen sense of smell. I had a boyfriend that told me that he didn't want short children so he picked a tall girl. Goddess wanted his warrior blood for her 'Geb-bound' children.

3. Goddess couldn't leave her children with mothers such as these. These women had not yet matured. She was just protecting her furture as we goddesses are prone to do.

4. The hunter's intentions were to trick, trap and keep her (he thought he was in control, po thang). The hunter 'recognized' and 'gave props' (lmaooooooo) to the Goddess. As a result, Goddess was merciful, as we goddesses are prone to be.

Now she has a herd to lead, guide and take care of. She becomes the Great Mother (one of the seven of Akhan fame? - wow!). Her sight is bad, her hearing is bad, but she can smell her children and she gave them a way to CATCH HER ATTENTION!!! They MUST call her BY HER NAME - OYA (ASE)!

The end made me feel better about the tricks of the hunter, the lack of sisterhood towards the Goddess and the deceit of the wives towards the husband.

One more thought - those wives spoke with one voice and acted as one person (one nation). They separated themselves from the Goddess. The positive and negative aspects of this BEG to be explored.

What a multi dimensional story!

Blessings Born! Thanks so much

6:53 PM  
Blogger Born Understanding said...

Thank YOU Sis.....thank you!

12:57 PM  
Blogger Sekhmet said...

This story is indeed multi-dimentional. It seems to me Oya knew the outcome even before the start. She asked Chief of Hunters not to tell the wives. As soon as he did their true feelings towards her surfaced. Yet they did act as one! What did she see within this sisterhood? Why did they align against her? Oya lived amongst them for a time, gave birth and all the children of Chief lived together. Did the wives recognise her Goddessness and were jealous? And why would Chief choose to have such bitter wives? Am just throwing some thoughts out there :)

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Anonymous Rabia said...

HTP CHIEF....
I have been reading your work and listening to you for about a month now, and I must say, although I have had a few good headaches because the infomation, is all new to me as well as inspiring, I welcome it. Thank u so much for being patient with me thru my ignorance of this new entity or realm that I am imposing upon. I feel this information is meant for me and I shall continue this path

thank u

Hajja Rabia

12:47 PM  

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