The Orishas of “The Brother/Sister Plays”

Many of the characters in Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet are named after Yoruban orishas. An orisha (also spelled òrì?à) is a spirit or deity that mediates between the natural and supernatural worlds. Here’s a glimpse into the features of certain characters’ orishas.

Eshu (aka Elegba and Elegua) is the orisha of chance and uncertainty. Known as the “trickster,” he lurks at gateways and doorways to introduce chaos and accident into the lives of humans. He is also seen as the “divine messenger,” delivering messages and sacrifices between the natural and spiritual worlds, and is known for his sexual exploits. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Marcus Eshu, Elegba, and Elegua all have divine visions or insights.

Ogun is the orisha of iron, metal work, and war. He is dependable and helps overcome spiritual and psychological obstacles. Ogun is also the only character appearing in all three of “The Brother/Sister Plays.”

Oshun is the orisha of sensuality, beauty, and fertility. She has the power to heal with water, and is often called upon to cure female ailments. Oshun is a strong and confident woman, but she also has a passionate, easily angered spirt. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Shun, Osha, and Shaunta Iyun all have characteristics of this orisha.

Shango is the orisha of masculinity, virility, warriors, thunder and lightning, and fire. He has three wives, Oya, Oshun, and Oba. He is said to be able to transform ordinary items into something pure and coveted. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Shango is a soldier in Iraq who woos several other characters.

Oba is said to be a dutiful wife, despite having been left by her cheating husband Shango. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Oba raises Marcus on her own.

Oya is often described as the tempest, the winds of destruction, change and progress. She is the orisha of rebirth and is often depicted with her husband Shango. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Oya is faced with several difficult decisions that change the course of her life.

Oshosi is the orisha of hunters. He resides in the forest. In “The Brother/Sister Plays,” Oshoosi Size escapes to the woods with his friend Elegba.

The Characters of “The Brother/Sister Plays”

MARCUS Family Tree

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