The Major Deities of the African-Derived Religions, Voodoo and Santeria
The 7 African Powers are seven of the most well-known and celebrated deities (orishas) of the Yoruban pantheon. The orishas are common to all faiths of Yoruban origin, although they are not always considered to be the same deities. In Santeria, Voodoo's sister religion, they are referred to as Las Sietes Potencias. In Macumba traditions (Candomble, Umbanda), they are called Orixa. In Vodoun, they are called Lwas (Loas), and in Palo, they are referred to as Nkisi.
In all of these traditions, the Orishas have many aspects (Caminos), which are often quite diverse. In this lens, we will take a look at Papa Legba (also Ellegua), Yemaya, Oshun, Obatala, Ochosi, Oya, and Ogun. I will also identify their associated saints.
A Guide to Serving the Seven African Powers for the Individual Voodoo Practitioner
Papa Legba, Guardian of the Crossroads
Legba has his origins with the Fon people of Dahomey (Benin) Africa and is said to be the guardian and trickster of the crossroads and entrances. He is one of the most widely worshipped loas and is known by several names. In Surinam in Brazil he is known as Exu, in Trinidad, in Cuba he is known as Ellegua, and in Haiti and New Orleans he is known as Papa Legba. Papa Legba is the master linguist, the trickster, warrior, and the personal messenger of destiny. He has the power to remove obstacles and he provides opportunities. All ceremonies begin and end with Papa Legba, and there can be no communication with any of the other loas without consulting him first. His gift for linguistics enables him to translate the requests of humans into the languages of the spirits and loas.
To learn more about this deity, please see my other lens Papa Legba, Loa of Opportunities and Gatekeeper to the Spirit World.
Papa Legba Voodoo Doll, available from planetvoodoo.com
NA GIRA DO EXU - Invoking the Spirits of Brazilian Quimbanda
Yemaya, Mother of the Seven Seas
Mother of all Orishas
Yemaya is the Mother of the Seven Seas, the Santeria Orisha of fertility and motherhood. She offers protection to women. She is likened to the patron saints Lady of Regla, and Mary, Star of the Sea.
Myth has it that Yemay gave birth to the 14 Yoruban Goddesses and Gods. When her uterine waters broke, it caused a great flood creating the oceans. The first human man and woman were borne from her womb.
Yemay is the Creation Goddess, and is often depicted as a mermaid. She is associated with the moon, ocean, and female mysteries.
Mary, Star of the Sea
Yemaya Santeria and the Queen of the Seven Seas
Oya, Mistress of the Marketplace, Ruler of Hurricanes
Oya is the Goddess of the Niger River, and the orisha of wind, lightning, fertility, fire and magic. She creates hurricanes and tornadoes and carries the spirits of the dead to the underworld. This is why she is closely associated with cemeteries. Her full name is Oya-Yansan, which means "mother of nine."
Oya is the mother of disguises and wears many masks. She is revolutionary, efficient, strong-willed, and indispensable in emergency situations. If you need help in business, Oya can bring you prosperity in economic affairs.
Oya has been syncretized in Santeria with the Catholic images of Our Lady Of Candelaria (Our Lady of the Presentation) and St. Theresa. In Brazilian Umbanda she is represented by Saint Barbara.
Our Lady of Candelaria
Oya Voodoo Doll, available from planetvoodoo.com
The Mask of Oya
Fernandez Barrios presents us with the gift of her spiritual wisdom, learned over a lifetime of deep and conscious practice.
Ogun, Wild Man of the Woods & Father of Technology
Ogun (Ogoun) is the traditional warrior, similar to the spirit of Ares in Greek mythology. As such, Ogun is mighty, powerful, and triumphal; yet, also exhibits the rage and destructiveness of the warrior whose strength and violence can turn against the community he serves. Ogun gives strength through prophecy and magic.
In Yoruba mythology, Ogun is a son of Yemaja (Yemaya) and Orungan. In Santera and Palo Mayombe, he is identified with Saint Peter. In Haitian Vodou, he is associated with St. James the Greater and St. George. In New Orleans Voodoo, he is associated with St. Anthony and St. George. In all his incarnations Ogun is a fiery and martial spirit. He can be very aggressively masculine, but can rule the head of female, or effeminate male initiates of his choosing. He is also linked with blood, and is for this reason often called upon to heal diseases of the blood. In addition, he is often called upon to bring work to the unemployed.
Ogun Voodoo Doll, as seen on National Geographic's Taboo
Ogun, Santeria and the Master of Iron
Chango Voodoo Doll
Chango, Orisha of Fire, Power, Thunder, & Sensuality
Chango (Shango, Xango) is the orisha of lightening, dance, thunder, power, passion, and sensuality. He is the epitome of all things masculine, and the dispenser of vengeance on behalf of the wronged. He has the power to help you win wars, defeat your enemies, and gain power over others. He will ensure you are victorious over all of your difficulties. Chango is believed to have once been a Yoruban king; thus, he must be treated as such.
According to Yoruba and Vodou belief systems, Chango hurls bolts of lightning at the people chosen to be his followers, leaving behind imprints of stone axe blade on the Earth's crust. These blades can be seen easily after heavy rains. Worship of Chango enables a great deal of power and self-control. Chango altars often contain a carved figure of a woman holding a gift to the god with a double-bladed axe sticking up from her head.
In art, Chango is depicted with a double-axe on his three heads. He is associated with the holy animal, the ram, and the holy colors of red and white.
Obatala Voodoo Doll
Obtl, Supreme Deity of the Yoruba Pantheon
Obtl is the creator God, a symbol of peace and purity, the Father of humankind, and messenger to Olofi. His color is white, containing all the colors of the rainbow. He rules the mind and intellect, cosmic equilibrium, male and female. Obtl is likened to the patron saint Our Lady of Mercy.
Obtl is the supreme deity of the Yoruba pantheon, the great African tradition from which much of New Orleans Voodoo originates. As the Creator god, all of the other Orishas are but aspects of Obtl.
Obtl also created "defective" (handicapped) individuals while drunk on palm wine, making him the patron deity of such people. People born with congenital defects are called 'eni orisa': literally, "people of Obtl". He is the god of the north. He is always dressed in white, hence the meaning of his name, Obtl (King who wears white cloth). His worshippers strive to practice moral correctness as unblemished as his robe.
Obatala : Santeria and the White Robed King of the Orisha
Oshun, Goddess of Love
In Yoruba mythology, Oshun is an Orisha (spirit goddess) of love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy.
According to the Yoruba elders, Oshun is the "unseen mother present at every gathering", because Oshun is the Yoruba understanding of the cosmological forces of water, moisture, and attraction. Therefore she is omnipresent and omnipotent. Her power is represented in another Yoruba scripture which reminds us that "no one is an enemy to water" and therefore everyone has need of and should respect and revere Oshun, as well as her followers.
To learn more about Oshun, check out my lens devoted to this awesome love goddess: Oshun.
Oshun Voodoo Doll, available from planetvoodoo.com
(Re)writing Osun: Osun in the Politics of Gender, Race and Sexuality - From Colonization to Creolization
Resources for the Seven African Powers
Resources about the various Orisha, divinities and forces in Santeria/Lukumi.
- orishas - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Definition of orishas from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary with audio pronunciations, thesaurus, Word of the Day, and word games.
- OBEAH AND ORISHA: The Seven African Powers
Seven African Powers explored and their relation to Obeah.
A selection of articles related to Orishas. ... These deities correspond to Olorun and the Orishas of Yoruba mythology, and to Olorum and the Orix of ...
- Macumba, Umbanda, and Orishas in Brazil
Macumba, Umbanda, and Orishas in Brazil.
- THE ORISHAS IN MUSIC
The Orishas are divine beings originally worshipped by the Yoruba people of West Africa. Their worship was carried to the New World in the holds of slave ...
Seven African Powers Macuto Amulet, www.planetvoodoo.com
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Deadicated LM on October 01, 2012:
Awesome Lens and Graphics; thanks for sharing.
anonymous on September 19, 2012:
what color belongs to what ,saint,like orange belongs to ,red belongs to etc.
anonymous on July 17, 2012:
i love them all
allenwebstarme on April 13, 2012:
Very interesting worth reading.
Margaret Schaut from Detroit on January 15, 2012:
Really fascinating. And mysterious!
Rose Jones on January 07, 2012:
Interesting, fascinating images to take with me as I drift off to sleep.
bfaz10 on November 12, 2011:
very interesting read!
jamesnodturft on May 19, 2011:
Oya visited my dreams right before the tsunami that hit Thailand.
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mywebcontent on October 30, 2010:
Interesting lens. I don't know much about Yoruba culture, but I am aware of it's heavy influence on the voodoo religion. It is all very interesting to see the similarities in the different spiritual beliefs on the planet.your wish is your command
anonymous on August 31, 2010:
Thumbs up!Great lens... very informative. Thanks for the good read.----------------------------- Yeast infection no more Review
religions7 on December 18, 2009:
Great lens, blessed by a squidangel :)