In the visual for “Hold Up”, the third track on Beyoncé’s 6th album Lemonade, the singer brings terror to a quaint town as she manically - and quite jovially - smashes cars and store windows motivated by suspicions of her creating lover. But it’s not just intuition fueling her rampage, visually, Beyoncé is channeling something much more powerful - the Yoruba goddess Oshun.
Oshun is one of many dieties, or Orishas, of the Yoruba based religions that originated in present day Nigeria and traveled with the slaves to the Americas during the slave trade. These traditions survived largely through out Latin America and the Caribbean and are still practiced in many iterations, most notably as Santeria in Cuba, Vodou in Haiti, and Candomblé in Brazil.
Oshun is the goddess of love, beauty and womanhood. She dwells in rivers and fresh water and is known for her sweetness and her benevolence. But if betrayed, she's known to bring the fury - sound familiar?
She is often depicted wearing yellow and holding a fan and a mirror, a symbol of her femininity, but in the visual for "Hold Up", Beyoncé trades in those accessories for a baseball bat named Hot Sauce as she ransacks the town in a flowing golden Roberto Cavalli frock.
On Facebook, Maximiliano Goiz, a practitioner of Santeria penned a viral post on Beyoncé's tribute:
Goiz notes that Oshun isn't just a beautiful and envious marauder. Whether intended or not, Beyoncé seems to carry on the deeper significance of goddesses’ image throughout the short film. Oshun is also associated with fertility and womanhood - she is a mother.
The progression of Lemonade’s narrative shows Beyoncé healing through her husband's alleged betrayal and passing down her wisdom and self-assurance to the next generation. The film sets Beyoncé on a southern plantation in the company of some of today’s brightest young icons such as Zendaya, Amandla Stenberg and Quvenzhené Wallis. She reminisces on the lessons she's learned from her mother and grandmother, and recites a poem about daughters (Nail Technician) by Somali-British writer Warsan Shire. In these scenes, Beyoncé is even accompanied by French Afro-Cuban duo Ibeyi, made up of twins Lisa-kainde and Naomi Diaz, whose own music venerates the Orishas of Cuban Santeria. Their most famous single "River" ends with a chant honoring Oshun, and their name, Ibeyi, is a reference to the twin Orishas whose mother, according to legend, is Oshun - coincidence? I think not.