Orishas

August 3, 2016

 

An orisha is a god that reflects one of the manifestations of the supreme God/the All Father (Eledumare, Olorun, Olofi) in Yoruba Religion.  They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognize themselves and are recognized through their different numbers and colors which are their marks. The orishas are often best understood by observing the forced of nature they rule over. Many orishas have 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 Santeria, Candomble, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji.

 

Daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's ori.

 

Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters it is taken to mean a portion of the soul that determines personal destiny and success.

 

Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate. Ashe is the power to make things happen. Ashe represents a link to the eternal presence of the Supreme God, the Orishas, and the ancestors.

 

People that believe in orishas strive to obtain ashe through iwa-pele and in turn they experience alignment with the ori, which is inner peace and satisfaction with life.

 

Iwa-pele means gentle and/or good character.

 

Ashe is the divine energy that comes from Olodumare, the Creator, and is manifested through Olorun, who rules the heavens and is associated with the sun. Ashe is sometimes associated with Eshu, the messenger Orisha.

 

Eleggua is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as he is the child - like messenger between the two worlds. Eleggua is the first and most important Orisha in Santeria. He is the owner of the crossroads, the witness of fate and acts as the connecting agent in this workd. Eleggua is often perceived as a trickster or impish child who tests our integrity. He has a very close relationship with the orisha of divination, Orunmila. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Eleggua is called first before any other orisha as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life.

Names: Eleggua, Elewa, Elegba

A.K.A: Saint Anthony

Colors: Red and Black

Numbers: 3 and 21

Prayer: Echu oba lona tosi gbogbo ona ire o ache

 

Ogun is the god of iron, war, and labor. He is the owner of all technology and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Eleggua opens the roads, it is Ogun that clears the roads with his machete. Ogun is a mighty warrior, the divine blacksmith who crafts tools and weapons and the hardest working Orisha of them all. Ogun is the father of technology, the cutting edge of the knife and the power of metal. Ogun is often perceived as a powerful muscular man wearing a skirt made of palm fiber and he carries a machete.

Names: Ogun, Oggun

A.K.A: Saint Peter

Colors: Green and Black

Numbers: 7 and 3

Prayer:  Ogun oko dara obaniche aguanile ichegun ire

 

Oshosi is the third member of the group known as the Guerreros or Warriors, and is received along with Eleggua, Ogun and Osun in order to protect the Guerreros initiate and to open and clear their roads. Oshosi is the hunter and the scout of the Orishas and assumed the role of enforcer of justice for Obatala with whom he has a very close relationship. Oshosi is the divine hunter whose arrow never misses its mark. He stalks silently through the forest hunting his pray. He is the force of blind justice that is applied equally to all. He is best friends with Eleggua and Ogun and is often found hunting with them.

Names: Ochosi, Ochossi, Oshosi

A.K.A: Saint Norbert

Colors: Blue and Amber/ Blue and yellow

Numbers: 3 and 7

Prayer: Ochosi ode mata oba akofa aye o unso ire o wa mi Ochosi omode ache

 

Obatala is the kindly father of all the orishas and all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created of the universe, it is Obatala who is the creator of the world and humanity. Obatala is the source of all that is pure, wise, peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side though through which he enforces justice in the world. Obatala is the eldest of the Orishas, the owner of white cloth, the king of peace and logic. He encourages us to use diplomacy and reason when acting and is often the Orisha who mediates disputes between the other orishas. Obatala is actually an androgynous Orisha where half of his avatars are male and the other half are female. It is therefore possible to have a female Obatala like the road Obanla in addition to male roads like Ayaguana. Obatala's shrine is placed higher than the other Orishas' shrines out of respect for his status as their elder. He is often depicted as an elderly black man with chalk white hair dressed in white robes. His color is white which is often accented with red, purple and other colors to represent his/her different paths. White is most appropriate for Obatala as it contains all the colors of the rainbow yet is above them. Obatala is also the only orisha that has both male and female parts.

Names: Obatala

A.K.A: Our Lady of Mercy

Colors: White

Number: 8

Prayer: Obatala oba laye ela iwo alara ache

* Obatala Obamoro's shrine draped in light lavender cloth with oke on the right and Agidai on the left.

 

Oya is the ruler of the winds, the whirlwind and the gates of the cemetery. Her number is 9 which recalls her title of Yansa or "Mother of Nine" in which she rules over the egun or dead. She is also known for the colors of maroon, flowery patterns and nine different colors. She is a fierce warrior who rides to war with Shango (sharing lightning and fire with him) and was once the wife of Ogun. Oya is a fierce female warrior and the Orisha of change. She took the secret of slinging lightning from Chango. She fights with machetes and scares away Iku (death) with her horsetail fly whisk. She is the owner of the cemetery gates, but does not live in the cemetery contrary to common belief. She resides in the market place. She is depicted as a lithe powerful warrior woman wearing a skirt of 9 different colors.

Names: Oya, Yansa, Yansan

A.K.A: Our Lady of Candelmas or Saint Theresa

Colors: Brown, dark red or multi-colors

Number: 9

* Oya and Ogun fight side by side with the powers of lightning and iron.

 

Oshun rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, streams and rivers, embodying love and fertility. She also is the one we most often approach to aid us in money matters. She is the youngest of the female orishas but retains the title of lyalode or great queen. She heals with her sweet waters and with honey which she also owns. She is the femme fatale of the orishas and once saved the world by luring Ogun out of the forests using her feminine wiles. And in her path or manifestation of Ibu Ikole she saved the world from draught by flying up to heaven (turning into a vulture in the process). Ikole means Messenger of the House (of olodumare). For this reason, all who are to be initiated as priests, no matter what orisha rules their head, must go to the river and give account of what they are about to do. She recognizes herself in the colors yellow and gold and her number is five. Peacocks and vultures are hers and we use them often to represent her. When Oshun gave birth to the Ibeji, they were the first twins born and she was stunned as a witch. She kicked the Ibeji but to reclaim her position in society. Oya took in the Ibjeji and raised them as their adoptive mother. The Ibeji are depicted as two young children or babies: one boy named Taiwo dressed in red, and one girl named Kehinde dressed in blue. While Kehinde was born second she is considered the elder of the two. Oshun is the Orisha of sweetness, love and beauty. She is the embodiment of feminine grace, and is flirtacious coquette. She is a generous and loving mother, but she can also quickly turn bitter if she is wronged. Once she is soured, she is unforgiving and unbending. Oshun can accomplish miracles untold. She is the youngest of the orishas and isdepicted as a flirtacious, mixed-reace woman dressed in yellow, gazing in a mirror.

Names: Ochun, Oshun

A.K.A: Our Lady of Charity of Cobre

Colors: Yellow and Gold

Number: 5

 

Obba is the orisha of marriage and personal transformation. She was Chango's legitimate wife who was shunned after trying to ensnare Chango with witchcraft. She fled to the cemetery and underwent a powerful transformational journey that made her come into her true power. She is depicted as a homely woman, missing her left ear, wearing a head wrap to cover her wound. 

Names; Obba

A.K.A: Saint Catherine of Siena

Colors; Brown, Opal and Coral

Numbers: 8

 

Orisha Oko is the Orisha of agriculture and the fertile earth. He rules the mystery of the black earth that gives birth to crops and life, fertility and procreation. He is often depicted as a hard working farmer who wears a straw hat and plows the earth with a team of two oxen. 

Names: Orisha Oko, Orichaoco

A.K.A: Saint Isidore

Colors: Light blue and pink

Numbers:7

 

Olokun is the Orisha that rules the depths of the sea where light does not touch. He is a mysterious Orisha and there is some debate about whether Olokun is male of female. He is a primordial orisha arising out of his own ashe as the first oceans formed on the surface of the earth. He gathers the sunken treasures and souls of the drowned and rules from the depths. He is usually not depicted in a human form. 

Name: Olokun

A.K.A: None

Colors: Dark blue with green

Numbers: 9

 

Orunmila is the Orisha of divination and the patron of the Ifa sect. He along with Eleggua witnessed all of destiny unfold and therefore can be consulted to know where a person's fate is headed. He developed the oracles of Ifa: the Ikines (palm nuts) and the okuele (diviner's chain). His priests are known as Babalawos and function exclusively as diviners. They do not ordain people into the mysteries of orishas other than Orunmila. He is depicted as a wizened black man with growing hair, dressed in traditional African garb carrying his wooden diviner's tray. Orunmila is the orisha of wisdom, knowledge and divination. He was the only orisha allowed to witness the creation of the universe by Olorun and bears witness to our destinies in the making as well. This is the source of his title of Eleri Ipin or "Witness to Destiny in it's creation." His priests, the babalawos or "Fathers of the Secrets" must devote themselves entirely to the practice of divination and the accompanying arts. Through the Table of Ifa his priests unfold the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the unfolding of our lives. His colors are green and yellow which reflect Orunmila's relationship with Osayin (the secrets of the plant world) and with Oshun, who is his apetebi with whom he has an extremely close relationship.

Names: Orunmila, Orunla, Orula

A.K.A: Saint Francis of Assisi

Colors: Yellow and green ( or brown and green)

Numbers: 16

Prayer: Orunmila Ibikeyi Oludumare ela isode ache

 

Shango is the king of the religion of Santería and was once the fourth King (Alafin) of the city of Oyó in Yoruba land before he was defied and became an Orisha. He is the Orisha of lightning, thunder and fire, the owner of the sacred batá drums, the power of passion and virility. Changing is a ladies' man and a charmer. Changó is the master of dance, a fierce warrior and a powerful sorcerer who spits fire. He is depicted as handsome, young man wearing a crown and carrying a double headed axe. Perhaps the most 'popular' of the Orishas, Shangó rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums, and dance. He is a warrior Orisha with quick wits, quick temper and oaths epitome of virility. Shangó took the form of the fourth Alafin (supreme king) of Oyó on earth for a time. He is married to Obba but has relations with Oyá and Òshun. He is extremely hot blooded and strong-willed Orisha that loves all the pleasures of the world: dance, drumming, women, song and eating. He is ocanami with Elegguá, meaning they are of one heart. When one sees him with the quickness with which lightning makes short work of a tree or a fire. His children have an innate ability for divination. To acknowledge the greatness of this King, all in the religion raise up on the toes of our feet (or rise out of chairs if we are sitting) at the mention of his name. His colors are red and white and he recognizes himself in the numbers four and six. He is most often represented by a double headed axe. Numbers: Shangó, Changó, Sango
A.K.A: Saint Barbara
Colors: Red and White
Numbers: 6
Prayer: Shangó obá adé ok I, obá ina, Alafin Oyó aché o.

Aggayu is Shangó 's father in Santería. Some god families say he is Shangó's younger brother, but they are related to one another in every instance. Aggayú is the Orisha of the volcano and the ferryman who takes who takes people back and forth across the river. Some lineages refer to him as the Orisha of the desert. His worship is closely aligned with that of Shangó. He is depicted as a stocky built man who walks with huge strides and carries a double headed axe with a curved double handle.
Names: Aggayú, Agajú, Aganyu, Aggayu Sola
A.K.A: Saint Christopher
Colors: Brown and Opal
Numbers: 9

Yeguá is Oduduwa's special daughter who he was keeping as a symbol of purity and chastity. Unfortunately her purity was tainted when she was violated by Changó. She is the Orisha  associated with death as she rules the decomposition of the body in the grave and the mysteries associated with the dying process. She is depicted as a mysterious woman, withdrawn from society residing in the bottom of a grave.
Names: Yeguá, Yewá
A.K.A: Our Lady of Montserrat
Colors: Pink and Burgundy
Numbers: 7 or 9

Yemayá is the mother of all living things, the Queen of heaven, earth and all waters. She resides in the ocean and her children are countless like the fishes in the sea. Yemayá is the mother of many of the other Orishas as well. In addition to being a loving mother she is a fierce  protectress. She can fight with a machete or a scimitar and bathe in the blood of her enemies. Yemayá is often depicted as a voluptuous black woman with full breasts dressed in blue. Yemaya lives and rules over the seas and lakes. She also rules over maternity in our lives as she is the Mother Of All. Her name, a shortened version of Yeyé Omo Eja means "Mother Whose Children are the Fish" to reject the fact that her children are uncountable. All life started in the sea, the amniotic fluid inside the mother's womb is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. In his way, Yemayá displays herself as truly mother of all. She partakes of Olokin's abundance as the source of all riches which she freely gives to her little sister Osún. She dresses herself and seven skirts of blue and white and like the seas and profound lakes she is deep and unknowable. In her path of Okutti she is the Queen of witches carrying within her deep and dark secrets. She is most represented often by the fish who are her children.

Names: Yemayá, Yemoja
A.K.A: Our Lady of Regla
Colors: Blue and Clear ( and white)
Numbers: 7 (seven for  the seven seas)
Prayer: Iyá eyá ayaba Olin omá iré gbogbo swank Iyá

 

Babalu Aye is one of the most beloved, worshipped and petitioned Orishas in our religion. He is the Orisha of small pox, contagious diseases and of healing. In many ways he has become the modern day patron of HIV/AIDS and other epidemics. His worship is shared with the Arara people of Africa. Babalu Aye's name was famous with the song Babalu and sung by Desi Arnaz in 1946. Babalu Aye is depicted as an old man covered in pox sores, walking on crutches and accompanied by two dogs. 

Names: Babalu Aye, Babaluaye, Asojano
A.K.A: Saint Lazarus
Colors: White, blue, brown, and black
Numbers:17 
 

 

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