Spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba religious system
This article is about a type of spirit. For other uses of Orisha, see Orisha (disambiguation).
The orisha are spirits that play a key role in the Yoruba religion of West Africa and several religions of the African diaspora that derive from it, such as Cuban and Puerto Rican Santería and Brazilian Candomblé. The preferred spelling varies depending on the language in question; òrìṣà is the original spelling, coming from the Yoruba language; orishá or orichá in Spanish-speaking countries, and orixá in Brazilian Portuguese.
According to the teachings of these religions, the orisha are spirits sent by the supreme creator, Olodumare, to assist humanity and to teach them to be successful on Ayé (Earth). Rooted in the native religion of the Yoruba people, most òrìṣà are said to have previously existed in òrún - the spirit world - and then became Irúnmọlẹ̀ - spirits or divine beings incarnated as human on Earth. Irunmole took upon a human identity and lived as ordinary humans in the physical world, but because they had their origin in the divine, they had great wisdom and power at the moment of their creation.
Some believers and practitioners of the Ifá religion, where the pantheon system of òrìṣàs originates, believe that òrìṣàs are a different class of divine beings who became deified, divinized or transformed after their departure from their human state on Earth. These practitioners believe the òrìṣàs to have been ordinary humans who were deified upon their death due to the lives they lead, their outstanding spiritual growth an extraordinary feats accomplished in their lives while on Earth.
The òrìṣàs found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of òrìṣà is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.
Yoruba tradition often says that there are 400 + 1 orisha, which is associated with a sacred number. Other sources suggest that the number is "as many as you can think of, plus one more – an innumerable number". Different oral traditions refer to 400, 700, or 1,440 orisha.
Practitioners traditionally believe that daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's Orí. Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters, it is taken to mean a portion of the soul that determines personal destiny.
Some orisha are rooted in ancestor worship; warriors, kings, and founders of cities were celebrated after death and joined the pantheon of Yoruba deities. The ancestors did not die, but were seen to have "disappeared" and become orisha. Some orishas based on historical figures are confined to worship in their families or towns of origin; others are venerated across wider geographic areas.
Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate, and is described as the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation that is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept of spiritual growth. Orìṣà devotees strive to obtain Ashe through iwa-pele, gentle and good character, and in turn they experience alignment with the ori, what others might call inner peace and satisfaction with life. Ashe is divine energy that comes from Olodumare, the creator deity, and is manifested through Olorun, who rules the heavens and is associated with the sun. Without the sun, no life could exist, just as life cannot exist without some degree of ashe. Ashe is sometimes associated with Eshu, the messenger orisha. For practitioners, ashe represents a link to the eternal presence of the supreme deity, the orishas, and the ancestors.
The concept is regularly referenced in Brazilian capoeira. Axé in this context is used as a greeting or farewell, in songs and as a form of praise. Saying that someone "has axé" in capoeira is complimenting their energy, fighting spirit, and attitude.
The orisha are grouped as those represented by the color white, who are characterized as tutu "cool, calm, gentle, and temperate"; and those represented by the colors red or black, who are characterized as gbigbona "bold, strong, assertive, and easily annoyed". As humans do, orisha may have a preferred color, food, or object. The traits of the orisha are documented through oral tradition.
- ^ abKevin Baxter (on De La Torre), Ozzie Guillen secure in his faith, Los Angeles Times, 2007
- ^ abc"Orisha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago, Ill.: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- ^Clark, Mary Ann (2002). "Children of Oduduwa". Then We'll Sing a New Song: African Influences on America's Religious Landscape. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 93. ISBN .
- ^ abFalola, Toyin (2016). Encyclopedia of the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN .
- ^ ab"African Religions". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. 1999. p. 20. ISBN .
- ^Robert D. Pelton (1989). The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight. University of California Press. ISBN .
- ^Cynthia Duncan, Ph.D., About santeria
- J. Omosade Awolalu, Yoruba Beliefs & Sacrificial Rites. ISBN 0-9638787-3-5
- William Bascom, Sixteen Cowries.
- Lydia Cabrera, El Monte: Igbo-Nfinda, Ewe Orisha/Vititi Nfinda. ISBN 0-89729-009-7
- Raul Canizares, Cuban Santeria.
- Chief Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon, Apetebii: The Wife of Orunmila. ISBN 0-9638787-1-9
- Fakayode Fayemi Fatunde (2004) Osun, The Manly Woman. New York: Athelia Henrietta Press.
- James T. Houk, Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad. 1995. Temple University Press.
- Jo Anna Hunter, "Oro Pataki Aganju: A Cross Cultural Approach Towards the Understanding of the Fundamentos of the Orisa Aganju in Nigeria and Cuba". In Orisa Yoruba God and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora, edited by Toyin Falola, Ann Genova. New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc. 2006.
- Baba Ifa Karade, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, Weiser Books, York Beach, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-87728-789-9
- Gary Edwards (Author), John Mason (Author), Black Gods – Orisa Studies in the New World, 1998. ISBN 1-881244-08-3
- John Mason, Olokun: Owner of Rivers and Seas. ISBN 1-881244-05-9
- John Mason, Orin Orisa: Songs for selected Heads. ISBN 1-881244-06-7
- David M. O'Brien, Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah.
- S. Solagbade Popoola, Ikunle Abiyamo: It is on Bent Knees that I gave Birth. 2007. Asefin Media Publication
- Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit.
- Robert D Pelton, The Trickster in West Africa chapters on Eshu and Legba. 1989. University of California Press
- J Lorand Matory, Black Atlantic Religion. 2009. Princeton University Press
1. The Kingdom of Kush
Though often overshadowed by its Egyptian neighbors to the north, the Kingdom of Kush stood as a regional power in Africa for over a thousand years. This ancient Nubian empire reached its peak in the second millennium B.C., when it ruled over a vast swath of territory along the Nile River in what is now Sudan. Almost all that is known about Kush comes from Egyptian sources, which indicate that it was an economic center that operated a lucrative market in ivory, incense, iron and especially gold. The kingdom was both a trading partner and a military rival of Egypt—it even ruled Egypt as the 25th Dynasty—and it adopted many of its neighbor’s customs. The Kushites worshipped some of the Egyptian gods, mummified their dead and built their own types of pyramids. The area surrounding the ancient Kushite capital of Meroe is now home to the ruins of over 200 pyramids—more than in all of Egypt.
2. The Land of Punt
Few African civilizations are as mysterious as Punt. Historical accounts of the kingdom date to around 2500 B.C., when it appears in Egyptian records as a “Land of the Gods” rich in ebony, gold, myrrh and exotic animals such as apes and leopards. The Egyptians are known to have sent huge caravans and flotillas on trade missions to Punt—most notably during the 15th century B.C. reign of Queen Hatshepsut—yet they never identified where it was located. The site of the fabled kingdom is now a hotly debated topic among scholars. The Arabian Peninsula and the Levant have both been proposed as potential candidates, but most believe it existed somewhere on the Red Sea coast of East Africa. In 2010, a team of researchers tried to zero in on Punt by analyzing a mummified baboon that its rulers once gifted to the Egyptian pharaohs. While their results showed that the remains most closely matched animals found in modern day Ethiopia and Eritrea, the precise location of the Land of Punt has still yet to be confirmed.
Best known as ancient Rome’s rival in the Punic Wars, Carthage was a North African commercial hub that flourished for over 500 years. The city-state began its life in the 8th or 9th century B.C. as a Phoenician settlement in what is now Tunisia, but it later grew into a sprawling seafaring empire that dominated trade in textiles, gold, silver and copper. At its peak, its capital city boasted nearly half a million inhabitants and included a protected harbor outfitted with docking bays for 220 ships. Carthage’s influence eventually extended from North Africa to Spain and parts of the Mediterranean, but its thirst for expansion led to increased friction with the burgeoning Roman Republic. Beginning in 264 B.C., the ancient superpowers clashed in the three bloody Punic Wars, the last of which ended in 146 B.C. with the near-total destruction of Carthage. Today, almost all that remains of the once-mighty empire is a series of ruins in the city of Tunis.
4. The Kingdom of Aksum
During the same period that the Roman Empire rose and fell, the influential Kingdom of Aksum held sway over parts of what are now Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. Surprisingly little is known about Aksum’s origins, but by the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. it was a trading juggernaut whose gold and ivory made it a vital link between ancient Europe and the Far East. The kingdom had a written script known as Ge’ez—one of the first to emerge in Africa—and it developed a distinctive architectural style that involved the building of massive stone obelisks, some of which stood over 100 feet tall. In the fourth century, Aksum became one of the first empires in the world to adopt Christianity, which led to a political and military alliance with the Byzantines. The empire later went into decline sometime around the 7th or 8th century, but its religious legacy still exists today in the form of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
5. The Mali Empire
The founding of the Mali Empire dates to the 1200s, when a ruler named Sundiata Keita—sometimes called the “Lion King”—led a revolt against a Sosso king and united his subjects into a new state. Under Keita and his successors, the empire tightened its grip over a large portion of West Africa and grew rich on trade. Its most important cities were Djenné and Timbuktu, both of which were renowned for their elaborate adobe mosques and Islamic schools. One such institution, Timbuktu’s Sankore University, included a library with an estimated 700,000 manuscripts. The Mali Empire eventually disintegrated in the 16th century, but at its peak it was one of the jewels of the African continent and was known the world over for its wealth and luxury. One legendary tale about the kingdom’s riches concerns the ruler Mansa Musa, who made a stopover in Egypt during a 14th century pilgrimage to Mecca. According to contemporary sources, Musa dished out so much gold during the visit that he caused its value to plummet in Egyptian markets for several years.
6. The Songhai Empire
For sheer size, few states in African history can compare to the Songhai Empire. Formed in the 15th century from some of the former regions of the Mali Empire, this West African kingdom was larger than Western Europe and comprised parts of a dozen modern day nations. The empire enjoyed a period of prosperity thanks to vigorous trade policies and a sophisticated bureaucratic system that separated its vast holdings into different provinces, each ruled by its own governor. It reached its zenith in the early 16th century under the rule of the devout King Muhammad I Askia, who conquered new lands, forged an alliance with Egypt’s Muslim Caliph and established hundreds of Islamic schools in Timbuktu. While the Songhai Empire was once among the most powerful states in the world, it later crumbled in the late 1500s after a period of civil war and internal strife left it open to an invasion by the Sultan of Morocco.
7. The Great Zimbabwe
One of the most impressive monuments in sub-Saharan Africa is the Great Zimbabwe, an imposing collection of stacked boulders, stone towers and defensive walls assembled from cut granite blocks. The rock citadel has long been the subject of myths and legends—it was once thought to be the residence of the Biblical Queen of Sheba—but historians now know it as the capital city of an indigenous empire that thrived in the region between the 13th and 15th centuries. This kingdom ruled over a large chunk of modern day Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It was particularly rich in cattle and precious metals, and stood astride a trade route that connected the region’s gold fields with ports on the Indian Ocean coast. Though little is known about its history, the remains of artifacts such as Chinese pottery, Arabian glass and European textiles indicate that it was once a well-connected mercantile center. The fortress city at the Great Zimbabwe was mysteriously abandoned sometime in the 15th century after the kingdom went into decline, but in its heyday it was home to an estimated 20,000 people.
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|Real Name||Shango, Sango, Xango|
|Relatives||Oya (wife), Olorun (father), [Yemoja] (mother), Ogun (brother), Ochosi (brother)|
|Base of Operations||Oyo Empire (city of Ife')), Earth|
|Occupation||King of the Oyo Empire|
Protector of Earth
|Education||Tutored by the Orisha Royal Historians|
|Eyes||Brown (normally), Red (when using powers)|
|Place of Birth||Ife' in the Oyo Empire|
|Creator||John F. Allen|
|First Appearance||Romulus Rising (Novel) 2015|
Shango is the king of the Oyo Empire. He is the Yoruba god of thunder who now serves as a member of the Vindicators.
Shango is one of the Orishas, an offshoot of the Progeny, who in turn are a race of extra-dimensional beings still worshiped as a gods in the Yoruba religion of Nigeria, Santeria religion of the Caribbean and Candomble of Brazil. He is the son of Obatala, the Orisha supreme and twin brother of Ogun, Orisha god of war. In ancient times Shango founded the city of Ifé and serves as the ruler of the Oyo Empire. Shango was taught how to be a warrior by Obatala and brought up in the warrior culture of the Orishas, who valued strength, courage, and loyalty above all else. He desired to be exactly like his father, the war hero, and received the powerful battleaxe known as Oshe.
Shango proved himself a great warrior, often leading his band of warriors, which included his brothers, Ogun, Ochosi, Eshu and Oshn, also known as the Guerreros, Yoruba word for "warriors". The Guerreros were often accompanies by Shango's wife, Oya.
Powers and Abilities
As an Orisha, Shango possesses a number of superhuman attributes common among the Progeny. However, some are considerably more developed than those of the vast majority of his race. Shango is the second most powerful Orisha, tied with his brother Ogun and surpassed only by their father, Obatala. Shango is a Yoruba warrior god, trained and skilled in the arts of battle, and he has been doing it for eons. He has usually been shown to rely solely on his superior fighting ability, strength, and well nigh invulnerability. Shango is arguably one of the most powerful beings Earth has encountered thus far.
- Progeny Physiology: As an Orisha, an offshoot of the Progeny race, Shango possesses a host of superhuman abilities.
- Superhuman Strength: As an Orisha, Shango is the strongest of them. His strength enables to overpower any normal human and most other races (not Progeny) with relative ease. Shango is in the class 100 strength level.
- Superhuman Stamina: Shango's advanced musculature is considerably more efficient than that of any human and most other races, including the Progeny. As a result, his muscles produce practically no fatigue toxins during physical activity compared to those of humans and most other members of his race. His virtually inexhaustible stamina enables him to exert himself at peak capacity for an undefined period of time without tiring at all.
- Superhuman Dense Tissue: Shango's skin, muscle, and bone tissue have several times the density of the same tissue in the body of a human being, contributing to his superhuman weight. At full power, he is invulnerable to powerful energy blasts, weighted impacts, falls from great heights, explosions and various other opposing forces.
- Nigh Invulnerability: When he is at full power and armed with Oshe, Shango possesses nigh-invulnerability and immunity to such human ailments as diseases, toxins, poisons, corrosives, fire, electrocution, extreme cold, asphyxiation, lead, radiation poisoning and blunt force trauma.
- Superhuman Speed: Shango can move at extreme speeds. He can fly via the winds at least as fast as the speed of sound.
- Superhuman Agility: Shango's agility, balance, and bodily coordination make him a great warrior for battle. He moves with incredible grace and speed despite his size and body density.
- Regenerative Healing Factor: Despite his near invulnerablity, it is still possible to injury Shango and the other Orishas. However, due to their Progeny physiology, he is able to heal at a rate much faster than any normal human being.
- Immortality: Shango, like all other Orisha, is immortal as it is impossible to kill an Orisha.
- Master Combatant: Shango is the greatest Orisha warrior, with the exception of his brother Ogun, the Orisha god of war.
- Master Axe Wielder: After eons of practice wielding Oshe, Shango has mastered the art of fighting with it and is proficient in hurling it. He can even swing it to block physical and energy projectiles/projections.
- Master Tactician: For eons, he has ruled over the Oyo Empire and fought many battles with outside forces, set to take over his kingdom.
Oshe Shango possesses a double-headed war axe called Oshe. Shango's mystical war axe Oshe, possesses numerous elemental powers. Oshe is extremely durable and is virtually indestructible. A few examples of the feats Shango is capable of while using Oshe are:
- Weather Control: As a result of wielding Oshe, Shango is granted the ability to control the base elements of a storm. It can control these elements and can create giant raging electrical storms complete with thunder, lightning, hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, tidal waves, earthquakes, and torrential rains on a moment's notice. He is able to summon a class 5 tornado. Shango can manipulate patterns of weather and create raging storms of rain, thunder and lightning. Shango's limitations with this ability, if any, are unknown.
- Lightning: Shango chiefly uses the projection of lightning bolts generated by Oshe.
- Material Transformation: By summoning lightning from the sky and using Oshe as a conduit, Shango's normal garments are transformed into his battle armor.
- Mystical Link: Only Shango can command Oshe. It will return to Shango whenever he throws it at an opponent.
- Flight: Shango is capable of traveling through the air with great force, by riding lightning generated by Oshe.
- Immense Speed: Shango is capable moving at least as fast as the speed of sound.
- Energy Projection: Shango can project powerful blasts of electrical energy from Oshe at will. He can even channel outside energies for stronger energy attacks.
- Indestructible: Oshe is virtually unbreakable, nothing known is able to shatter, dent or destroy it. It can cleave through virtually any known material, even Ogundium. Oshe was forged by Shango's brother, Ogun, when there were on better terms.
More and more people are being drawn to their pre-Christian ancestral ways. Modern African American, Afro-Caribbean, South American and many other magical people feel called to work with the Orishas, including the Seven African Powers. Learn about the Seven African Powers and how you can begin working with them in African spirituality and folk magic.
Who Are the Orishas?
The Orishas are a group of spirits originating from Yorubaland, which is a region in Africa spanning Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Some people liken the Orishas to gods and goddesses. They are similar but not quite the same. In the Yoruba religion, there is one main creator god known as Olodumare. Moreover, the Orishas are spirits (more similar to demi-gods or angels) that work under the watchful eye of Olodumare. Olodumare created the Orishas and therefore has domain over them, including over the Seven African Powers. However, the Seven African Powers are invoked in many different religions and magical systems including Lucumi, Vodou, Santeria, Candomble, folk Catholicism and many more!
Who Are the Seven African Powers?
The Seven African Powers are seven of the most potent and venerated Orishas. When the Seven are brought together in invocation and prayer, they will do amazing things for their people. The Seven African Powers are these seven Orishas: Eshu Elegbara, Ogun, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun, Shango and Oya. Now, depending on who you ask, the 7th (Oya) is sometimes substituted with Orunmila or Ochossi.
A note on online sources: I’ve done considerable research on the Seven African Powers, and I find it interesting that because of the forced syncretization of the Seven African Powers with seven Catholic saints, some sources claim the original 7 were never Orishas. That they’ve always been saints. But I disagree and believe this is a dogmatic and patriarchal way to shut out indigenous original religion. Ultimately, it’s up to you what you believe about the Seven African Powers.
The Seven African Powers and Saints
Now for the fun stuff. Let’s take a look at each of the Seven African Powers, their qualities, and the saints they were syncretized with. You may choose to work with individual Orishas OR learn how to invoke the Seven African Powers together at the end of this article!
1. Eshu Elegbara
Eshu Elegbara is also known as Elegua, Exu, Eshu and Legba (or Papa Legba), depending on the tradition. This powerful orisha is the messenger between worlds and is guardian of the crossroads. Nearly every spirit associated with the crossroads is a trickster, and Eshu Elegbara is no exception. He is one of the Seven African Powers who’s a psychopomp (a guide for the dead) and also a guardian of travelers. He is the Orisha to call upon when you need a road opened and to open communication with all other Orishas and spirits.
Eshu Elegbara’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: crossroads, all roads, paths, thresholds and doors, psychopomp, messenger, traveling, fertility, comedy, mischief, healing
- Saints: Saint Anthony, Saint Lazarus and Saint Peter
- Manifestations: over 200 manifestations depending on the tradition, as a virile young man with a phallus, a concrete head with cowrie shell eyes and mouth, old limping man with a cane and hat, etc.
- Colors: Black, Red
- Offerings: tobacco, rum, candy, toys, spicy food (hot sauce and peppers)
- Animals: mouse and rooster
The 2nd of the Seven African Powers is Ogun, iron-working healing Orisha. They say Ogun isn’t just a spirit of iron, that he is iron. Therefore he rules over metal working and alchemy of any kind. Ogun’s polarity is present in his healing abilities and his ability to destroy. A patriarchal spirit, he watches over children and families and is one of the most venerated Orishas in the African diaspora. Known as the spirit who never rests, Ogun is a shaman and healer and has close ties to blood. Judika Iles warns in her Encyclopedia of Spirits, that if you’re bleeding in any form to NEVER approach Ogun.
Ogun’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: iron and metalworking, alchemy, healing, weapons, oath-taking, orphans and the homeless, cutting through obstacles, technology, vehicles/transportation, railroad tracks, shapeshifting (werewolves – lou garoux)
- Saints: Saint James the Great, Saint Peter, John the Baptist, Saint Martin and Andrew, Archangel Michael
- Manifestations: virile, strong man with fiery eyes, manifests as metal itself; there are MANY manifestations and personas of Ogun including Ogun Blandjo and Ogun La Flambo
- Colors: green, red and white, black, blue
- Offerings: leave offerings by railroad tracks, red palm oil, red candles, cigar, rum, wine, liquor, dragon’s blood, metal, chains, railroad spikes, metal tools, weapons, toy planes and cars, meat, red beans, grains of paradise, spicy foods, etc.
- Altar: concealed in a cabinet or closet with 3-legged cauldron and offerings
Obatala is an Orisha of the Seven African Powers known as a “cool” spirit of healing and peace. He’s also credited with the job of creating human bodies – particularly with imperfections like blindness and other defects. Perhaps he knew variety is necessary for human evolution! Obatala is the gentlest of the Seven African Powers and very patient. His domain is over legal matters and he brings legitimate justice. Obatala prefers people who control their emotions and are level-headed.
Obatala’s Magical Associations
- Domain: justice and legal matters, peace and serenity, protection of the blind, mute, and those with various birth defects, easing tempers and rage, sobriety, creativity, healing
- Saints/Deity: Jesus Christ
- Manifestations: similar to Jesus, long hair and pure white clothing
- Colors: white
- Offerings: cascarilla powder, sugar, shea butter, water, milk, NO ALCOHOL, white rice, banana, white flowers
- Animals: white doves, white elephants, snails
One of the female Seven African Powers, Yemaya is a water Orisha presiding over the oceans. Depicted often as a mermaid, Yemaya’s domain is over all things related to the ocean. She is a sister of Oshun, Orisha of rivers. The Great Mother and protects motherhood as well as female sexuality. She gives abundant treasures and foods like the sea but can also be angered like the sea. Don’t venerate Oya and Yemaya in the same area, they don’t get along! Yemaya protects abused and neglected women and children and also travelers over the sea. Invoke her at the beach.
Yemaya’s Magical Associations
- Domain: female fertility issues, motherhood and children, abused women, over-seas travelers, beauty, the ocean, all ocean creatures, love, healing, abundance, people born under Water zodiac signs, anyone who’s ancestors survived the passage from West Africa to the New World are her people!, erotic dance
- Saints: Black Madonna of Regla and Stella Maris
- Manifestation: mermaid, beautiful woman wearing sea colors, sexually charged, hair and clothes decorated with shells, coral, crystals etc.
- Colors: blue, white, pearl
- Offerings: seashells, jewelry, perfume, coral, flowers, watermelon, pomegranate, duck, lamb, fish, plantain chips, coconut cake, molasses
Another of the female Seven African Powers, Oshun is the Orisha of the rivers. Baptism by water invokes her purifying essence. When Oshun calls to you, it’s like a gentle river enveloping you. But if she’s angered – watch out! Her domain is over all things that flow like water, love, milk, money, honey, etc. Invoke her for cleansing rituals with water, to heal reproductive problems (for fertility), for romance, divination, employment, magic and much more! Some believe Oshun and Yemaya are sisters and venerate them together. Oya and Oshun don’t get along!
Oshun’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: motherhood and babies, fertility, healing, cleansing, love and romance, self love, rivers and fresh water, divination, witchcraft, wealth
- Saints: Catherine of Alexandria and Our Lady of Charity
- Manifestations: beautiful woman wearing yellow or gold and five golden bracelets, with a mirror at her belt, as a mermaid, manifests in cinnamon and honey, as fresh running water, waterfalls
- Colors: Yellow, gold, orange
- Offerings: mirrors, rosemary, lantana, marigold, pumpkin, makeup, brushes, perfumes, oils, flowers, fans, sandalwood, honey (ALWAYS taste the honey before offering it to her – legend has it she was once almost poisoned by honey!), chamomile tea, shrimp and spinach, yellow and orange fruits and veggies, cinnamon, river stones, amber, coral
- Animals: all river fish, leopards, crocodiles, crickets, vultures, parrots and peacocks
Shango is one of the “hot” orishas and is known as the lord of thunder and fire. He’s the fertile male god who’s intimate with Oba, Oshun and Oya. Keep he and Ogun far away from each other! They are rivals. Shango will brings justice via lightning and he protects his followers from evil. He loves music, women, and fun.
Shango’s Magical Associations
- Domain: thunder and lightning, justice, protection, male fertility and virility, the sky, music and musical instruments, love, dancing, fighting
- Saints: Saint Jerome, John the Baptist, Saint Barbara
- Manifestations: powerful handsome man with a red coat and cowrie shells, on lightning with a double-axe
- Colors: red and white
- Offerings: copper, mugwort, high john the conqueror root, lots of spicy food, red foods and red palm oil, liquor like red wine and rum, sugar and cascarilla
- Animals: horse, ram, leopard, crocodile, turtle, lizard
Oya is the last of the Seven African Powers, though sometimes she’s substituted with Ochossi or Orunmila. She manifests as a horned water buffalo or a beautiful woman. Her domain is the Niger River, fertility, secrets, shapeshifting, spirits, cemeteries, etc. Never invoke her and Yemaya or Oshun together (the only exception is when invoking the 7 African Powers!)
Oya’s Magical Associations
- Domain: Niger River, female fertility, magic, divination, women’s secrets, female warriors, cemeteries, spirits of the dead, horse farms, libraries, healing of ancestral lines, winds (hurricanes too!), marketplaces
- Saints: Saint Barbara, Teresa of Avila
- Manifestations: beautiful woman, water buffalo, wears 9 copper bracelets, antelope
- Colors: maroon and purple shades
- Offerings: flowers, starfruit, plums, purple grapes, nine eggplants as traditional offering, bean fritters, red wine, set up an altar at home or set offerings at cemetery gates
- Animals: antelope, water buffalo, locust, sheep, horse
Respect and Reverence for the Culture and Seven African Powers
It should go without saying that if you plan to invoke and work with the Seven African Powers for healing, abundance, fertility, etc. that you should approach them with respect and reverence. Understand the culture and people from whence the Seven African Powers came. These spirits, the Orishas, were brought to the Americas on the backs of the enslaved Africans. They’ve survived because of the culture. Have a respect and understanding of what the Orishas’ people endured and henceforth survived. If you don’t have respect for the African diaspora and culture, the Seven African Powers will not have respect for you!
Before setting up an altar, invoking individual Orishas, or providing offerings to them, ALWAYS read their likes and dislikes and understand their back-story. Some Orishas don’t get along with one another and should never be venerated in the same space. To haphazardly throw Shango and Ogun on the same altar without doing research may anger them! Be smart and respectful.
Ways to Invoke the Magic of the Seven African Powers
In addition to working with and venerating these Orishas individually, you can call upon them as the Seven African Powers in times of great need OR to cover ALL of your bases! Even though some of these Orishas don’t get along on a normal basis, when invoked at the Seven African Powers their animosity towards one another is somewhat canceled out. Moreover, there are different ways to invoke the Seven African Powers including prayer, candles, oils, and more. All of which will be detailed below.
Seven African Powers Candle and Prayer
Find Seven African Powers candles online, at local botanicas or conjure shops or at your local Walmart or grocery store! I’ve found a few 7 African Powers candles at Walmart in the candle aisle for a dollar a piece. They typically depict the 7 saints the Orishas are syncretized with but the power is the same! Burn it every day for 7 days along with the prayer on the label. When you burn the candle and pray over it, you’re invoking ALL the Orishas’ powers and covering all of your bases for prosperity and protection.
Seven African Powers Oils, Incense and Soaps
Using oils, incense and soaps specifically created with the energy of the 7 African Powers will bless any ritual or spell you do. Use the oil to anoint doorways, wallets, candles, your car, and your body to invoke their blessings and protection. Burn the incense during prayer as offering to them. Wash with their soap to start your day out right AND to cleanse any negative energy or bad magic from your aura.
Call on the 7 African Powers When…
You need to cover all of your magical bases or you have a great need. They aid in self-empowerment, strength, prosperity, opportunities, protection of family and home, healing, career, motherhood and fatherhood, fertility, peace, justice and legal matters and much more! If you find working with one spirit or god isn’t enough, invoking the 7 African Powers will pack the spiritual punch you need!
A Few Sources Used:
- Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Iles
- Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Iles
africangods and goddessesseven african powersSours: https://otherworldlyoracle.com/seven-african-powers/
African wiki seven powers
Religion of the Yoruba people of Africa
The Yoruba religion (Yoruba: Ìṣẹ̀ṣe) comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practice of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in present-day Southwestern Nigeria, which comprises Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, and Kwara as well as Lagos States, parts of Kogi state and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, commonly known as Yoruba land. It shares some parallels with the Vodun practiced by the neighboring Fon and Ewe peoples to the west and to the religion of the Edo people to the east. Yoruba religion is the basis for a number of religions in the New World, notably Santería, Umbanda, Trinidad Orisha, Haitian Vodou, and Candomblé. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of Itàn (history), the total complex of songs, histories, stories, and other cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba society.
The Yoruba name for the Yoruba religion is Ìṣẹ̀ṣẹ, which also refers to the traditions and rituals that encompass Yorùbá culture. The term comes from a contraction of the words Ìṣẹ̀, meaning "source or origin," and ìṣe, meaning "practice, or tradition," coming together to mean "The source of our tradition," as many of the practices, beliefs, traditions, and observances of the Yoruba originate from the religious worship of the orisa.
According to Kola Abimbola, the Yorubas have evolved a robust cosmology. In brief, it holds that all human beings possess what is known as "Àyànmọ́", which is regarded as destiny or fate. Every person is expected to become eventually one in spirit with Olodumare (also known as Olorun, the divine creator and source of all energy). Furthermore, the thoughts and actions of each person in Ayé (the physical realm) interact with all other living things, including the Earth itself.
The anthropologist Robert Voeks described Yoruba religion as being animistic, noting that it was "firmly attached to place".
Each person living on earth attempts to achieve perfection and find their destiny in Orun-Rere (the spiritual realm of those who do good and beneficial things).
One's ori-inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must grow in order to consummate union with one's "Iponri" (Ori Orun, spiritual self).
Iwapẹlẹ (or well-balanced) meditative recitation and sincere veneration is sufficient to strengthen the ori-inu of most people. Well-balanced people, it is believed, are able to make positive use of the simplest form of connection between their Oris and the omnipotent Olu-Orun: an adura (petition or prayer) for divine support.
Prayer to one's Ori Orun produces an immediate sensation of joy. Èṣù Elegbara initiates contact with spiritual realm on behalf of the petitioner, and transmits the prayer to Ayé; the deliverer of ase or the spark of life. He transmits this prayer without distorting it in any way. Thereafter, the petitioner may be satisfied with a personal answer. In the event that he or she is not, the Ifá oracle of the ÒrìṣàÒrúnmila may also be consulted. All communication with Orun, whether simplistic in the form of a personal prayer or complicated in the form of that done by an initiated Babalawo (priest of divination), however, is energized by invoking ase.
In the Yoruba belief system, Olodumare has ase over all that is. Hence, It is considered supreme.
Main article: Olodumare
Olódùmarè is the most important "state of existence". Regarded as being all-encompassing, no gender can be assigned. Hence, it is common to hear references to "it" or "they" (although this is meant to address something of a singularity). "They" are the owner of all heads, for during human creation, Olódùmarè gave "èmí" (the breath of life) to humankind. In this, Olódùmarè is Supreme.
Perhaps one of the most important human endeavors extolled within the Yoruba literary corpus is the quest to improve one's "Ìwà" (character, behaviour). In this way the teachings transcend religious doctrine, advising as they do that a person must also improve their civic, social and intellectual spheres of being; every stanza of the sacred Ifá oracular poetry (Odu Ifa) has a portion covering the importance of "Ìwà". Central to this is the theme of righteousness, both individual and collective.
The Yorubas as a people regard Olodumare as the principal agent of creation.
According to one of the Yoruba accounts of creation, at a certain stage in the process, the "truth" was sent to confirm the habitability of the planets that were newly formed. The earth, being one of these, was visited but considered too wet for conventional living.
After a successful period of time, a number of divinities led by Obatala were sent to accomplish the task of helping earth develop its crust. On one of their visits to the realm, the arch-divinity Obatala took to the stage equipped with a mollusk that concealed some form of soil; winged beasts and some cloth like material. The contents were emptied onto what soon became a large mound on the surface of the water and soon after, the winged-beasts began to scatter this around until the point where it gradually made into a large patch of dry land; the various indentations they created eventually becoming hills and valleys.
Obatala leaped onto a high-ground and named the place Ife. The land became fertile and plant life began to flourish. From handfuls of earth he began to mold figurines. Meanwhile, as this was happening on earth, Olodumare gathered the gases from the far reaches of space and sparked an explosion that shaped into a fireball. He subsequently sent it to Ife, where it dried much of the land and simultaneously began to bake the motionless figurines. It was at this point that Olodumare released the "breath of life" to blow across the land, and the figurines slowly came into "being" as the first people of Ife.
For this reason, Ife is locally referred to as "Ife Oodaye" - "cradle of existence".
Main article: Orisha
An Orisha (correct spelling: Òrìṣà) is an entity that possesses the capability of reflecting some of the manifestations of Olodumare. Yoruba Orishas (commonly translated "unique/special/selected heads") are often described as intermediaries between humankind and the supernatural. The term is also translated as "Deities", "Divinities" or "Gods".
Orisha(s) are revered for having control over specific elements of nature. They are thus also referred to as Imole. There are those of their number that are more akin to ancient heroes and/or sages than to primordial divinities. These are best addressed as dema deities. Even though the term Orisha is often used to describe both classes of divine entities, it is properly reserved for the former one.
|Orunmila / Ọ̀rúnmìlà||The Yoruba grand priest and custodian of the Ifa oracle, source of knowledge who is believed to oversee the knowledge of the human form, purity, the cures of illnesses and deformities. Babalawos are Orumila's subordinates as priests and followers.|
|Eshu / Èṣù||Often ill-translated as "The Devil" or "The Evil Being", Eshu is in truth neither of these. Best referred to as "The Trickster", he deals a hand of misfortune to those that do not offer tribute or are deemed to be spiritual novices. Also regarded as the "divine messenger", a prime negotiator between negative and positive forces in the body and an enforcer of the "law of being". He is said to assist in enhancing the power derived from herbal medicines and other forms of esoteric technology. |
Eshu is the Orisha of chance, accident and unpredictability. Because he is Olorun's linguist and the master of languages, Eshu is responsible for carrying messages and sacrifices from humans to the Sky God. Also known for his phallic powers and exploits, Eshu is said to lurk at gateways, on the highways and at the crossroads, where he introduces chance and accident into the lives of humans. He is known by a variety of names, including Elegbara.
|Ogoun / Ògún||Orisha of iron and metallurgy.|
|Yemoja / Yemọja||Mother of Waters, Nurturer of Water Resources. According to Olorishas, she is the amniotic fluid in the womb of the pregnant woman, as well as the breasts which nurture. She is considered the protective energy of the feminine force.|
|Oshun / Ọ̀ṣun||A second wife of Shango, the one time Oba of Oyo (another Yoruba Orisha, see below), she is said to have entered into a river at Osogbo. The Yoruba clerics ascribed to her sensuality, beauty and gracefulness, symbolizing both their people's search for clarity and a flowing motion. She is associated with several powers, including abilities to heal with cool water, induction of fertility and the control of the feminine essence. Women appeal to her for child-bearing and for the alleviation of female disorders. The Yoruba traditions describe her as being fond of babies and her intervention is sought if a baby becomes ill. Oshun is also known for her love of honey.|
|Shango / Ṣàngó||Associated with virility, masculinity, fire, lightning, stones, Oyo warriors and magnetism. He is said to have the abilities to transform base substances into those that are pure and valuable. He was the Oba of Oyo at some point in its history. He derived his nickname Oba Koso from the tales of his immortality. Shango is the Orisha of the thunderbolt, said to have ruled in ancient times over the kingdom of Oyo. Also known as Jakuta (Stone Thrower) and as Oba Koso (The King Does Not Hang).|
|Oya / Ọya||The third wife of the one time Oba of Oyo called Shango (another Yoruba Orisha, see above), she is said to have entered into the River Niger. She is often described as the Tempest, Guardian of the Cemetery, Winds of Change, Storms and Progression. Due to her personal power, she is usually depicted as being in the company of her husband Shango. She is the Orisha of rebirth.|
|Osanyin / Ọ̀sanyìn||Represented as a one eyed, one hand, and one legged figure, he is the orisha of herbs, plants, magic, and healing.|
|Babalu-Aye/ Ọbalúayé||Meaning, "Lord, ruler of the world," and a widely feared orisha, he is also known as Sopona, the deity of smallpox. As Obaluaye, he is the orisha of diseases and sickness. While he has the power to inflict smallpox and other disease, he is also associated with the ability to heal those afflicted with these diseases. In the 20th century, worship of Obaluaye was banned by the British colonial Government as they were believed to purposely infect people with smallpox.|
|Obatala / Ọbàtálá||Also known as "Orisa-nla," meaning "the big Orisha," he is also known as the Sky father. He is often equated with purity, and represented by "ala," white cloth, and "efun," white chalk. He is regarded as the creator of Earth and shaping humans from clay. He is also known as the protector of the disabled.|
|Aganju / Aganjù||Roughly translating to "darkness of the wilderness," Aganju is regarded as the orisha of the forest, the desert, volcanoes, and the wilderness. He was originally a king of the Oyo empire before being deified after his death|
|Oshosi/ Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀sì||He is the orisha of hunting and the forest, and is another patron of hunters.|
|Olokun/ Olóòkun||A primoridal force present at creation, Olokun, meaning "Owner of the ocean," is an androgynous orisha embodying the ocean. They are the parent of the orishas Aje and Olosa, and represents wealth, healing, and the vastness of the sea.|
|Aje / Ajé||Not to be confused with Iyami Aje, she is also called Aje Saluga. Aje is the representation and the orisha of wealth and economic success. She is also a patron of traders, businesspeople, and markets. The Yoruba word for Monday, is called Aje as it is often the first day of the week when markets open.|
|Oduduwa/ Odùdùwà||Regarded as the founder of the Yoruba people and the first King of Ife, he is also associated with an androgynous orisha of creation. Most Yoruba people monarchs claim descent from Oduduwa. He is a father or grandfather of Oranmiyan, Sango, Ajaka, Obalufon, and other Ooni of Ife. He is also regarded as an ancestor of the Obas of the Benin Empire.|
|Ayangalu/ Àyàngalú||Ayangalu is the orisha of drumming, the patron of the talking drum, and the orisha of Yoruba music. People born into drumming families often have the prefix "Àyàn," in their first or last names.|
|Ọba/ Ọbà||The first and most senior wife of Shango, she is the Orisha of the River Oba, and also is the orisha of domesticity, energy, movement, and the flow of time and life. She is most known for being tricked by the other wives of Shango into cutting off her ear and attempting to feed it to Shango.|
Irunmọlẹ are entities sent by Olorun to complete given tasks, often acting as liaisons between Orun (the invisible realm) and Aiye (the physical realm). Irunmole(s) can best be described as ranking divinities; whereby such divinities are regarded as the principal Orishas. Irunmole, from "Erinrun" - 400, "Imole" - Divinities or Divine Spirits.
The Yoruba believe in Atunwa, reincarnation within the family. The names Babatunde (father returns), Yetunde (Mother returns), Babatunji (Father wakes once again) and Sotunde (The wise man returns) all offer vivid evidence of the Ifa concept of familial or lineal rebirth. There is no simple guarantee that your grandfather or great uncle will "come back" in the birth of a child, however.
Whenever the time arrives for a spirit to return to Earth (otherwise known as The Marketplace) through the conception of a new life in the direct bloodline of the family, one of the component entities of a person's being returns, while the other remains in Heaven (Ikole Orun). The spirit that returns does so in the form of a Guardian Ori. One's Guardian Ori, which is represented and contained in the crown of the head, represents not only the spirit and energy of one's previous blood relative, but the accumulated wisdom he or she has acquired through myriad lifetimes. This is not to be confused with one’s spiritual Ori, which contains personal destiny, but instead refers to the coming back to The Marketplace of one's personal blood Ori through one's new life and experiences. The Primary Ancestor (which should be identified in your Itefa) becomes – if you are aware and work with that specific energy – a “guide” for the individual throughout their lifetime. At the end of that life they return to their identical spirit self and merge into one, taking the additional knowledge gained from their experience with the individual as a form of payment.
See also: Yoruba history
African diaspora religions
According to Professor Adams Abdullahi suberu, the Yoruba were exquisite statesmen who spread across the globe in an unprecedented fashion; the reach of their culture is largely due to migration—the most recent migration occurred with the Atlantic slave trade. During this period, many Yoruba were captured and sold into the slave trade and transported to Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Uruguay, Venezuela, and other parts of the Americas. With them, they carried their religious beliefs. The school-of-thought integrated into what now constitutes the core of the "New World lineages":
The Vodun faith, which originated amongst a different ethnic group (the Gbe speaking peoples of present-day Benin, Togo, and Ghana), holds influential aspects on the African diaspora in countries such as Haiti and Cuba, also New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States.
In Latin America, Yoruba religion has been in intense Syncretism with Christianity, Indigenous religions and Spiritism since the first arrival of African immigrants. In Brazil, the religion of Umbanda was born from the rich interaction of beliefs that Latin America provided. Followers of Umbanda typically consider themselves Monotheistic, but honor Catholic Saints and Orisha as manifestations from god or as Tutelary deities. Umbanda worship also include elements from Native South American rituals such as the ritual use of Tobacco and communication with the spirits of deceased Indian warriors (Caboclo).
In the 1949 documentary Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol en Loíza Aldea, anthropologist Ricardo Alegría noted a similar tendency at Loíza, Puerto Rico, arguing that the affinity between the black population in the municipality and the Catholic saint Santiago Apóstol may derive from the way in which he is depicted as a warrior; a similar theme to some depictions of Shango and Adams. This theory supposed that this resemblance was used by the population as a covert form to honor their ancestral deity.
Yoshiaki Koshikawa, professor of literature at Meiji University, became the first Japanese person to be initiated as a babalawo in 2013.
Main article: Nigerian Chrislam
Nigerian Chrislam refers to the assemblage of Islamic and Christian religious practices in Nigeria. Chrislam also refers to the series of religious movements that merged Islamic and Christian religious practice during the 1970s in Lagos, Nigeria. The movement was pioneered by Yoruba peoples in south-west Nigeria. Chrislam works against the conventional understanding of Islam and Christianity as two separate and exclusive religions, seeking out commonalities between both religions and promoting an inclusive union of the two. Chrislam also occupies a distinct geographical space; Nigeria is often understood to be geographically and religiously polarized, with a predominantly Muslim base in the North, and a predominantly Christian base in the South. However, the Yoruba peoples that occupy the South-Western Yorubaland region of Nigeria are a Muslim-majority ethnic group with a large Christian minority.
- ^ abcAbimbola, Kola (2005). Yoruba Culture: A Philosophical Account (Paperback ed.). Iroko Academics Publishers. ISBN .
- ^ abcdỌlabimtan, Afọlabi (1991). Yoruba Religion and Medicine in Ibadan. Translated by George E. Simpson. Ibadan University Press. ISBN . OCLC 33249752.
- ^ abcdJ. Olumide Lucas, The Religion of the Yorubas, Athelia Henrietta PR, 1996. ISBN 0-9638787-8-6
- ^ abcỌlabimtan, Afọlabi (1973). Àyànmọ. Lagos, Nigeria: Macmillan. OCLC 33249752.
- ^ abcdeBolaji Idowu (1982). Olódùmarè: God in Yorùbá Belief. Ikeja, Nigeria: Longman. ISBN .
- ^Ifaloju (February 2011). "Odù-Ifá Iwòrì Méjì; Ifá speaks on Righteousness". Ifa Speaks... S.S. Popoola, Ifa Dida, Library, INC. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- ^Opoku, Kofi Asare (1993), "African traditional religion: An enduring heritage", Religious Plurality in Africa, DE GRUYTER, doi:10.1515/9783110850079.67, ISBN
- ^Halliday, William D. (2018-09-08). ""Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life" by Edward O. Wilson, 2017. [book review]". The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 132 (1): 78. doi:10.22621/cfn.v132i1.2129. ISSN 0008-3550.
- ^Leeming & Leeming 2009 – entry "Yoruba". Retrieved 2010-04-30.
- ^Cf.The Concept of God: The People of Yoruba for the acceptability of the translation
- ^Courlander, Harold (March 1973). Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes. Crown Pub. ISBN .
- ^Omobola, Odejobi. "Influence of Yoruba Culture in Christian Religious Worship". International J. Soc. Sci. & Education. 4: 586.
- ^ abAkintoye, Prof S. A. (2010). A history of the Yoruba people. Amalion Publishing. ISBN . ASIN 2359260057.
- ^Brown (Ph.D.), David H. (2003). Santería Enthroned: Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion. University of Chicago Press. ISBN .
- ^Oditous (2010). "Anthropology: [Yoruba]". Anthrocivitas Online. Retrieved 2011-03-27.
- ^Karade, Baba Ifa (1994). The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts. York Beach, New York: Weiser Books. ISBN .
- ^Fandrich, Ina J. (2007). "Yorùbá Influences on Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo". Journal of Black Studies. 37 (5 (May)): 775–791. doi:10.1177/0021934705280410. JSTOR 40034365. S2CID 144192532.
- ^Hernández 2002, pp. 125
- ^ abcdJanson, Marloes (November 2016). "Unity Through Diversity: A Case Study of Chrislam in Lagos"(PDF). Africa: Journal of the International African Institute. 86 (4): 646–672. doi:10.1017/S0001972016000607. S2CID 147663644 – via SOAS, ResearchGate.
- Hernández, Carmen Dolores (2002). Ricardo Alegría: Una Vida (in Spanish). Centro de Estudios Avanzados del Caribe, Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Academia Puertorriqueña de Historia. ISBN .
- Voeks, Robert A. (1997). Sacred Leaves of Candomblé: African Magic, Medicine, and Religion in Brazil. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN .
- Fayemi Fatunde Fakayode, "Iwure, Efficacious Prayer to Olodumare, the Supreme Force" ISBN 978-978-915-402-9
- Chief S. Solagbade Popoola & Fakunle Oyesanya, Ikunle Abiyamo: The ASE of Motherhood[permanent dead link] 2007. ISBN 978-0-9810013-0-2
- Chief S. Solagbade Popoola Library, INC Ifa Dida Volume One (EjiOgbe - Orangun Meji)ISBN 978-0-9810013-1-9
- Chief S. Solagbade Popoola Library, INC Ifa Dida Volume Three (OyekuOgbe - OyekuFun)ISBN 978-1-926538-24-2
- The Way of the Orisha by Philip John Neimark: Publisher HarperOne; 1st edition (May 28, 1993) ISBN 978-0-06-250557-6
- Olódùmarè : God in Yoruba Belief by Bolaji Idowu, Ikeja : Longman Nigeria (1982) ISBN 0-582-60803-1
- Dr. Jonathan Olumide Lucas, "The Religion of the Yorubas", Lagos 1948, C. M. S. Bookshop.
- Leeming, David Adams; Leeming, Margaret Adams (2009). A Dictionary of Creation Myths (Oxford Reference Online ed.). Oxford University Press.
- Morales, Ed (2003). The Latin Beat. Da Capo Press. ISBN ., pg. 177
- Miguel A. De La Torre, Santería: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-4973-3.
- Miguel R. Bances – Baba Eshu Onare, Tratado Enciclopedico de Ifa. Los 16 Meyis y sus Omoluos u Odus o Signos de Ifa.
- Ológundúdú, Dayọ̀ ; foreword by Akinṣọla Akiwọwọ (2008). The cradle of Yoruba culture (Rev. ed.). Institute of Yoráubâa Culture ; Center for Spoken Words. ISBN .CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
The Seven African Powers
A syncretized depiction of the Seven African Powers as seven of the chief Orishas of the Lucumi faith
The Seven African Powers are a common spiritual force that people petition within Santeria but there is a common misconception around who they are and how they function. If you visit any botanica (spiritual shop) you’ll find candles with something akin to the image on the right claiming to be 7 African Powers Candles. You’ll also find spiritual supplies like baths, oils and powders that claim to work for the Seven African Powers. Who are these powers in reality?
The image to the right shows a collection of seven different saints: Our Lady of Mercy, The Virgin of Regla, Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Saint Barbara, Saint Joseph of Arimathea, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Martin of Porres (reader-submitted correction: Saint Benito of Palermo), and Jesus on the Cross in the center. Under each saint image is the name of one of the Orishas. The name Olofi is under the image of Jesus. The vignettes of saint images are linked together with a metal chain with 7 of Ogun’s tools hanging from the bottom. Because of the image to the right, most people mistakenly think that the Seven African Powers are the orishas: Elegua, Ogun, Orula, Chango, Oshun, Yemaya and Obatala. But how did this syncretization come about? Who are the Seven African Powers if they aren’t the Orishas? Can anyone work with the Seven African Powers or is it limited to initiates of Santeria only?
The Influence of Syncretization and Santerismo
A Yoruba descendant initiated to Obatala
The syncretization of the Orishas with the individual Catholic saints isn’t that unusual but the grouping of these particular Orishas together is what makes it unique. In order to understand how this portrayal of the Seven African Powers came about, we need to explore another spiritualist tradition called Santerismo. Santerismo developed out of Puerto Rican Espiritismo (Spiritualism) blended with Orisha worship outside of a Lucumí ritual framework. In Santerismo it is common for spiritualist mediums to become possessed by Catholic saints referring to themselves by the names of the Orishas. Santerismo really began to take root in the Puerto Rican community in New York City in the 1950’s shortly after Celina Gonzalez’s song “¡Que Viva Changó!” came out in 1948. The song’s lyrics really display a close syncretization between Saint Barbara and Chango, and the spiritualist community ran with it. Santerismo is NOT Santeria (Lucumí/Lukumi). Santerismo is a spiritualist tradition open to personal revelation while Santeria is an initiatory religion with strict rules. The term “Seven African Powers” is something that exists in Santeria, but they are not the Orishas, they are spirits of the dead – guides – that we’ll discuss a bit later. But the spiritualists in Santerismo didn’t understand the difference and they assumed they were the Orishas themselves.
It is also interesting to note that the image of the seven Catholic saints put together in that manner, along with the proliferation of magical supplies dedicated to the Seven African Powers didn’t really come about until the 1970’s and 80’s corresponding with an influx of Latinos into the United States especially from Puerto Rico after a referendum in 1951 officially made Puerto Rico a commonwealth of the U.S. The second generation of Puerto Rican kids was born in the 70’s and 80’s and many of them were born and raised in New York amid the Espiritismo tradition’s influences.
The Seven African Powers Are Spirit Guides Not Orishas
A historical drawing of an Abakuá Ñáñigo
The Seven African Powers are actually spirits of the dead from the seven different African tribes that were brought to Cuba and forced into slavery. Within a Santeria (Lucumi/Lukumi) cosmological understanding, the Seven African Powers are araorún (citizens of heaven – dead spirits) – they are not usually Egun (ancestors of blood or initiatory lineage). When a person speaks of the Seven African Powers they refer to a group of 7 different spirits, one from each of the following tribes: Yoruba, Congo, Takua, Kissi, Calabari, Arará, and Mandika. A person who has a connection with the Seven African Powers will have one spirit guide from each of these tribes unique to him, and one of the seven will dominate the group and orchestrate their efforts. This is an interesting cultural reflection of the history of Cuba where these seven formerly hostile tribes were forced to live and work together to survive.
Within the diloggun oracle’s corpus of information, the Seven African Powers are heavily referenced in the odu Edigbere (7-8). Interestingly, this odu also speaks about the importance of the drum as a tool to call down the Orishas and it also speaks about the power of Congolese magic within the religion of Palo Monte. If a person were to receive the odu 7-8 in a diloggun reading it would indicate that they have the Seven African Powers in their court of spirit guides and it would be up to them to use Spiritualism (Espiritismo) to determine who they are, what their names are and who is the primary one that heads the seven. A strong relationship with that one leading spirit guide allows that person to call upon the support of all seven spirits in any endeavor. The Seven African Powers are called upon for help with spiritual evolution, overcoming obstacles, and cultivation of personal power. Anyone can petition the Seven African Powers as they are spirit guides and everyone, initiated or not, have access to spirits of the dead for their guidance. Typically they are petitioned by lighting vigil candles that are of 7 colors, or using 7 different candles of different colors. It is also traditional to tie strips of cloth or handkerchiefs of seven different colors in a bundle. By whirling this bundle of loose multicolored cloth in the air over your head, as you call the Seven African Powers and petition them for help, you’ll be calling upon the ancestral spirits of these seven tribes to work.
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List of Yoruba deities
Wikipedia list article
The following is a list of Yorubaorisha (òrìṣà), or deities.
Some in Oyo say Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀sì is female, Ogun's wife.
The Supreme God has three manifestations:
- Olodumare - The Lord God of the Source of Creation
- Olorun - The Lord God of Heaven
- Olofi - The Lord God of the Palace, conduit between Orún (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth).
Metaphysical personifications or spirits
- Orunmila - spirit of wisdom, divination, destiny, and foresight
- Ori - personification of one's spiritual intuition and destiny
Àwọn òrìṣà ọkùnrin (male orishas)
- Aganjú - orisha that was a warrior king, walked with a sword as a staff, and is associated with fire. He is not associated with volcanoes in Yorùbáland in West Africa, contrary to what is believed in cuban-style practice of orisa.
- Ọbalúayé - orisha of the Earth and strongly associated with infectious disease and healing
- Erinlẹ̀ - an elephant hunter and physician to the gods
- Èṣù - Èṣù is the orisha of crossroads, duality, beginnings and balance
- Ibeji - twin orisha of vitality and youth
- Lógunẹ̀dẹ - a warrior and hunter
- Ọbàtálá - creator of human bodies; orisha of light, spiritual purity, and moral uprightness
- Odùduwà - progenitor orisha of the Yorubas
- Ògún - orisha who presides over iron, fire, hunting, agriculture and war
- Okó - a hunter and farmer
- Osanyin - orisha of the forest, herbs and medicine
- Oṣùmàrè - divine rainbow serpent associated with creation and procreation
- Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀sì - orisha of the hunt, forest, strategy and of the knowledge
- Ṣàngó - orisha of the thunders and lightnings
- Akògún - a warrior and hunter, wear straw
Àwọn òrìṣà Obinrin(Female Orishas)
- Ajé - orisha of wealth
- Ayao - orisha of air
- Yewa - orisha of the river Yewa. of the maternity and of the children
- Nàná Bùkùú - orisha of the river and of the earth
- Ọbà - first wife of Ṣàngó and orisha of domesticity and marriage
- Ọtìn - orisha of river, she is hunter and wife of Erinlẹ̀
- Olókun - orisha of the seas
- Ọ̀ṣun - orisha who presides over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth, diplomacy and of the Ọ̀ṣun river
- Ọya - orisha of the Niger River; associated with wind, lightning, fertility, fire, and magic
- Yemọja - a mother goddess; patron deity of women and of the Ogun river
- Yemowo - wife of Ọbàtálá and of the water
Difference between Yoruba òrìṣà worship and what is practiced among Afro-Hispanics
These are the major orisha worshipped in Santería / Regla de Ocha / Lucumí religion:
- Elegua, Yemayá (Yemọja), Oshún (Ọ̀ṣun), Shangó (Sangó), Obatalá, Oya, and Ogún etc. (missing: Elegba and Oshosi),
- Elegba, Yemayá (Yemọja), Osún, Shangó (Sangó), Obatalá, Oya, and Oshoshi. (missing: Elegua and Ogún)
As one can see, Babalú-Ayé (whom "Ricky Ricardo" sings to in his famous song) is a very lesser deity in Afro-Hispanic worship.
Cuban orisa worship, sometimes referred to as Santería, is still widely practiced in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Tobago/Trinidad and Brazil, a number of practitioners are Yoruba descendants to certain degrees. Remnants of the Yoruba language is still used ceremoniously as a ritual language, and is referred to as Lukumí. Due to 200 years of separation from the motherland, Lukumí became a lexicon of words and is not a spoken language. Similar worship of african deities can also be found among the Afro-Franco populations of Haiti and the US state of Louisiana.