All posts by Lisa Chango

Ochún Is Golden

Ochún is Golden

Waking up at dawn, I hear a lively smattering of bird calls as they make a harmonious cacophony. I leave my slumbering family in the motorhome to take a solo walk towards the forested river of the Ochlockonee River in Florida. I quietly slipped out to trek off to salute the rising sun in the East and experience the river at dawn. I was treated to an incredibly immense beauty: a visual dance of light, colors and shadows interwoven onto the stream as I walked along the path of Ochún’s majesty.

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One of my greatest reasons for this journey was to discover and learn from the Orichas in their natural element. As you may imagine, the city of Los Angeles, with its concrete river as the only significant watershed in the urban metropolis, was a poor study area in this regard. As I approached the River, I thanked Ochún for allowing me to be in her presence. The river was calm and serene. And as I continued along the path I saw the crack of the Sun’s ray coming over the horizon. Ache Olorun! I prayed to the four corners, Oldumare, Olorun, Olofi, Eggun and all the Orichas for this day and for giving me this opportunity to witness the rising of the sun.

A Calm and Serene Ochún
A Calm and Serene Ochún

What I witnessed unfold in front of my eyes was breathtaking, and the ensuing kernels of knowledge received filled me with gratitude which in itself helped further deepen my spiritual understanding.

Gazing at the awe inspiring scene in front of me, I was treated to a jaw dropping display of the immense, tightly woven tapestry Olofin and the Orichas weave, where it becomes difficult to truly know where the work of one Oricha ends, and the work of another begins. I was being allowed to witness the magnificent interplay between these forces of nature as they interweave and illuminate one another as they constantly create the world in front of me. And I saw how each of the Orichas are multi-faceted, none more so than Ochún herself.

The Sacred Efe or Manatee... Maferefún Ochún, Maferefún Olokun, Maferefún Obatalá
The Sacred Efe or Manatee… Maferefún Ochún, Maferefún Olokun, Maferefún Obatalá¡. Manatee Springs, FL.

And all of this wondrous interplay was being revealed through the magic lens of Ochún’s mirror… the river.

Here is a series of photos (with editorial input) I took in order to try to share some of the beauty that was witnessed. Of course, pictures never do justice to the immense beauty that surrounds us as they are only two dimensional. When we wander in the forest, in nature we are in the presence of abounding life that uses all our senses to experience it fully. All pics are of the Ochlockonee River near the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida, a remote part of Florida unless mentioned otherwise….

What I learned about Ochún from this morning’s walk…

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The River is Ochún’s mirror…

Ochún is often pictured holding a mirror as she gazes at her beauty. The river is a mirror to the sky and the heavens up above. She reflects back exactly what is in front of her, but one of Ochún’s mysteries is that somehow more is revealed through the reflection she presents than without it.

Her mirror reflects not only our physical appearance but also creates a window to our soul. In order to speak to Ochún you need to be pure of heart and speak with clarity as her reflection reveals everything, good and bad and there is no crevice to hide our soul. To be able to see yourself in the mirror everyday, our actions and our hearts must be pure.

How Ochún got her colors:

Ochún’s colors are gold and yellow. When Olorun shines on Ochún she is golden. She glistens like gold.

Ochún, messenger of Heaven:

All Yawos are taken to the river before making Ocha, We are taken to the River to give account of the rites we are undertaking to Ochún who then passes the message on to Olofi. I guess Ochún’s mirror does reflect directly upon the heavens. Interestingly enough we do not just throw coco to Ochún’s otanes but we need to visit with her directly at the river.

Ochún the Orisha of Love…

Ochún has so much beauty in her we are left mesmerized and enchanted by her that it is easy to fall in love with such beauty. Nuff’ said…

Fertile grounds…

Ochún is the Oricha of fertility. The river supports and creates so much life around her from the fish, the trees and forest, to the birds that eat the fish and animals and even humans who all need her in order to eat as we sustain ourselves from her sweet waters.

When I first read and learned about Ochún’s attributes, I too saw them through the lens of the modern world where Ochún is described as coquettish and vain who constantly looks at herself in the mirror, who also loves material things such as gold and jewels. Ugghhhh! I hate to say it but in those terms Ochún sounds downright shallow and somehow profane. Yet, I realize that in this modern world we tend to reduce knowledge into easily consumed bite-sized morsels for our modern convenience. In the process we are losing the depth of knowledge to learn about the Orichas and the significance of their attributes. And even an apparent shallowness merely hides an unsuspected, incredible depth. The Orichas’ Aché comes from the depths of their nature. In order to harness that Aché it is important to understand it. Walking in Ochún’s beauty has helped me gain such insight that I can now call upon when needing her aid. Maferefun Ochún! May we all be blessed by your beauty.

Ochún's Iridescent Beauty
Ochún’s Iridescent Beauty



When Nature Talks…


Having been born and raised in East Los Angeles I had very little opportunity to experience nature. Growing up, my one and very limited interaction with nature was on my daily walk to school. My path from our apartment complex to school was a sidewalk lined with jacaranda trees with their purple flowers. Everyday I would pop the purple flowers under my sneakers in order to awaken my senses. Needless to say, while growing up nature was an entirely abstract concept. Where I lived there was no such thing as camping or girl scouts. The one thing that was available, the annual 4th grade overnight camping trip where they take poor inner city kids to nature, was forbidden by my mom.

After our journey to Huautla de Jimenez I realized that I could no longer live without nature in my life. I had gone through my entire life devoid of nature and now avoiding nature was no longer an option. Like a plant that needs air, water, sun and earth my soul also needs the same air, water, sun and earth in order to thrive. My soul was slowly dying in the fast lane of the 10 Fwy commuting two hours a day to driving our kids to the westside for a better school than the ones the eastside of Los Angeles had to offer. And after that daily commute I would spend the next nine hours of my day at work. I was physically exhausted and my soul was drained of all its strength.
The trip to Huautla de Jimenez really crystallized all the things I was lacking. My life was lacking serenity, peace, balance, which had been replaced by deadlines, appointments and long drives in the Los Angeles wilderness to nothingness.


When we met the Chota Chjine (Wise Woman) that was to do our ceremony, she had such a beauty, light and peace emulating from her. It was as if she held a giant secret to universal happiness and contentment. Her family and her live in what the western world and even modern Mexico of today would consider humble and primitive surroundings. The kitchen I adored instantly, as it had instantly reminded me of my great Aunt’s house (my Tia Josephina lived in a small pueblo in the Sonoran desert). I felt right at home on the earthen floor and the pit fire wood stove where coffee brewed all day long. The old lady who looked to be ninety, with braids that almost reached the earthen floor took care of the fire all day long. You could find her in the kitchen day and night tending the fire or mixing the nixtamal. As humble as the surroundings were, there was such a richness and bounty in the Chota Chjine’s daily life. She walked in the beauty of her surroundings and the nature that surrounded her and I was amazed by their ability to live in nature. She not only was the elder Chota Chjine, or the wise woman of her area. She ran the local indigenous hospital outside her house as well as the indigenous church perched on top of the hill. She combined both the medicinal and spiritual properties of the plants around her and used the confluence of both worlds to complement each other in order to heal. As Santeras we do this as well, as we use sacred plants and the Orichas to aide us in our struggles.
Yet at that moment I realized that I hadn’t truly walked in nature, that in order to truly understand medicine, healing and spirituality that I need to immerse myself in Nature. Nature that abounds and teaches us… if we are listening.

When Nature talks…
In the concrete jungle of Los Angeles, I had daily interactions with animals, mostly the winged variety who would forewarn me of my day ahead. My Egguns and I developed a system of communication that can warn me of danger ahead, when to be cautious or to alert me to good news coming my way. Each bird or insect had their own separate message. I might blog about this later but a quick reference was that for me hummingbirds brought good news, insects foretold of quarrels, ducks brought stability or a need for stability in the home and birds of prey brought more complicated messages and warnings from the spiritual realm. Even in Los Angeles I was able to develop a system of communication with my egguns and the spiritual world that abounds. But I had yet to walk in nature and listen to when the mountain speaks.

Cerro de Adoracion

At Nindo Tocoxo, the sacred mountain of the Mazateco Indians and the spiritual power of their ancestors, we went to give our offerings and prayers prior to our ceremony. Nindo Tecoxo is an monumental mountain of over 2000 meters that is a surprisingly easy walk. The route starts on the trail near Maria Sabina’s house that now houses a tiny museum to her life and legend as the world’s most famous Shaman. At the top of the mountain we saluted the four corners and did our prayers and offerings with our guide, who was a curandera in her own right who would be bringing us to the Chota Chjine for the evenings ceremony. After our prayers we each walked with our guide and stopped for a moment at the spiritual apex of the mountain. In that moment, with an open heart I whispered my prayers to Chikon Tocoxo, the deity who ruled over the Mazatecs who lived there at the top of the mountain. As I finished my guide said, “Did you hear that?” “Yes, I did.” The sound of a strong waterfall gushing down the mountain top was clear, even though there was no water in sight or any waterfalls within miles. My guide pronounced “Chikon Tocoxo is very happy with you. He has accepted your offerings and prayers. You are fortunate and I rarely have this happen”.
Nature speaks to us, validates our experience and encourages us when we are on the right path.

The purpose of this journey and extended travel is to experience and learn from Nature. The Orichas are elements of nature, they live in Nature and so, in order to deepen my understanding of the Orichas, I need to deepen my understanding of nature.