Tag Archives: orishas

List of African/Yoruba Orishas (Archive and work in progress)

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This is a sort of an expansion on someone else’s work.  The original post is here: http://www.abibitumikasa.com/forums/showthread.php/55468-Comprehensive-list-of-all-401-orishas-%28ako%CC%81jo%CC%A3po%CC%A3%CC%80-oru%CC%81ko%CC%A3-a%CC%80wo%CC%A3n-o%CC%80ri%CC%80s%CC%A3a%CC%80-mo%CC%A3%CC%81kanle%CC%81ni%CC%81rinwo%CC%81%29

…so you can see why I would want to archive the content.  There is also a character encoding problem.

If anyone would like to add to this list, please feel free to post.  Mind you, this is a list specifically of Orishas from Yoruba and associated African traditions.  If you have an addition that has thusfar been exclusive or nearly so, to a specific group or region but allows for others outside to give observance, please make that clear.

If you would like to browse the list of deities from all areas of west to central Africa and the diaspora, click here.

Eshu/Alagbara/Elegbara/Alagba
Gender: Male
Numbers: 3, 4, multiples of 3
Colors: Black and red or black and white
Domain: Gates, boundaries, borders, crossroads.  Known as the gate keeper between the Orun and the Aye (spirit and physical realms) and the seen and unseen.
Attributes:  Both a protector and a trickster, he can both cause and prevent accidents or misfortune.  He is the master of luck, and can open doors or close them.
Important Notes:  Eshu is served first, except in cases of blood offerings when by default of using a weapon, Ogun is served first.  It is also a good idea to begin any Orisha project or craft by giving some reverence to Eshu first.

Aara
No information found.  Seems to be associated somehow with Oduduwa.

Aasa
Gender: Female
Domain: A river in Nigeria.
Important notes: One of the wives of Lagbonna in a story in which she, Osun, and Yemaya/Yemoja shared the same husband, and he turned them into rivers because of their jealousy and constant fighting.

Adihe
Gender: ?
Domain: Law and Justice
Important Notes:  Said to appear in the form of a chicken, embodied in a bamboo or like material staff and mat, punishes people who come to the king or judge with exaggerated complaints.

Aginju
Gender: Male
Sacred Number: 6
Sacred Color: Red, hot red, red and gold
Embodiments/Symbols: double bladed axe (oshe), obsidian
Domain: Wilderness, wastelands, untouched Nature, volcanoes, the unexplored or uncharted lands, places that man can’t go, places that neither man nor other animals can go, things that man can never know or perceive, freedom, revolution
Associations: Husband of Yemoja, husband of Oshun, father of Shango
Important Notes: Aginju (also known as Aganju) is a very primal force, and may seem rather inhumane, but we all need him to survive.  He is the fire in the belly of the Earth, and part of the mechanism that helps us mammals to be warm blooded.

Ajaye, Olofin
Gender: Generally regarded or referred to as male, although being an aspect of Olodumare, they are all-gendered
Domain: Ashe, energy, life force, vitality, procreation, spark of creation
Important Notes:  This part or aspect of Olodumare gives the Orishas their power, and does not speak directly to humans anymore, except the Ancestors of the first generation.  He created the boundary between the Orun and the Aye, which Eshu now balances and guards.  Now, in order to tap into the Ultimate Olodumare’s Source, we must go through Eshu and meditate on Olorun.

Aje Shaluga
Gender: Depends where and who you ask
Sacred Number: 5 or 7
Sacred Colors: Blue, green, yellow, amber, gold, off-white
Embodiments/Symbols: Cowrie shells
Domain: Wealth, currency and real valuable materials/property specifically, rivers
Associations: Husband/wife of Oshun, Wife of Olokun depending where one is from
Important Notes: He/She is said to be very generous and have a big heart, and will save those who are in dire financial straits who petition him/her with sincerity.

Ara
Gender: Group, male and female
Sacred Colors: Black and yellow
Embodiments/Symbols: Bees nesting in shade trees, a beehive on a odan tree, an angry swarm of bees
Associations: Familiars of Shango
Important Notes: The Ara are deities of thunder, closely tied to Shango.  They may be the “death from the skies” aspect of lightning strikes.

Ayelala
Gender: Female
Sacred Colors: Red and white, red
Embodiments/Symbols: Red or white cross, red or white X
Domain: Justice, fairness, anti-corruption, fair use of power or strength
Important Notes: Ayelala is a venerated and deified Ancestor.  In her material life, she was a slave girl who was sacrificed in place of an adulteress.  She promised that when she died, she would become a guardian of truth and justice, and strike with death, people who broke grave promises and used their power unjustly.  Though her origins are the Ilaje in Ondo state in Nigeria, she is worshiped today as far as Benin because indeed, she does strike down the unjust enemies of those who go to her for help.  Photos of those she has striken are posted outside her temples.

Dagbe, Idagbe, Dangbe
Gender: Androgynous
Sacred Colors: Rainbow, Shiny or “oil slick” black
Embodiments: Black python
Domain: Lifespan, Immortality, Endurance, Permanence or Temporalness
Important Notes: Came directly from the sea, and is the venerated Ancestor of the royal family of the Savi Hweda.  As the legends and tales of his-her blessings spread, s-he became a more widely worshiped Orisha/deity of duration.

Ogun, Ogoun
Gender: Male
Sacred number: 3, 4
Sacred Colors: Combination of red, black, and green; black and green; iron/gunmetal black
Symbols/embodiments: Tools, Weapons, three legged pot or cauldron perhaps with a chain around it filled with tools according to one’s local traditions
Domain: Earth, metal, gifts from the Earth, technology, creativity, inventiveness, practical intelligence, weapons and the use of weapons, warfare and strategy, industry, labor, work
Important notes: Ogun is one of the most important Orishas to the Yoruba people.  He is to be thanked for a lot of what makes a prosperous and civilized life possible and comfortable.  Click here for an excellent essay on Ogun by Awo Fa’lokun Fatunmbi.

Yemoja, Yemaya
Gender: Female
Sacred number: 7
Sacred colors: Blue, combination of blue and white, sea or river blue/green, transparent blue or blue-green, pearlescent
Symbols/embodiments: Boats, anchors, shells, fish, boating or seafaring equipment, pearls, river opals
Domain: Rivers, water
Important notes: In west Africa, some places she is regarded as the general river owner/embodiment, and some places, the mother of all life on Earth.  Some places give more prominence to Olokun.  What you should do depends on what your ancestry is, what traditions you follow, or where your soul leads you.

 

(to be continued)

You may notice that some of these are a bit different to what you’re used to seeing.  So as not to repeat what others have already written about extensively, here is a page on clarifications about the difference in practice and beliefs between Ifa and related belief systems in Africa and the diaspora.

Often times, ignorant people create strife between Ifa/Orisha practitioners, claiming that if something isn’t done according to their (diaspora) ways, they’re not doing it right.  If they understood how people in Africa manage to coexist and share and exchange information and community spirit despite the differences, perhaps they would learn to do so as well.

Why are many Hoodoo practitioners now calling Orishas?

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In the past decade or so, many people who practice Hoodoo are turning to the Orishas.  Before, the connection to the actual African, European, and Native American deities was usually either unspoken or overridden.

The reasons why they are now spoken and embraced is because more people now understand that there is no real conflict between the Spirits and Christianity.   Those who believe in the Omnipotent Unfathomable Creator worship the same God who Jesus did.  Also, more people are embracing their freedom of religion where they have it, and getting back to their roots.

Many though, are still comfortable with the Christian style of Hoodoo.  They don’t feel any particular call to a more African flavor of spirituality, and this is fine for them.  It is no less relevant or powerful, nor does it mean that someone has problems with other paths.  They simply prefer to do things the way they have done them all their lives, and not to change things up or abandon what have become solid and legitimate traditions.

So if you are one of the more biblically centered types, don’t feel pressure to do things another way if what you’re doing is working for you.  This is not a popularity contest.

Vodun FAQ: Are the Orishas Aliens?

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It is possible that some Orishas are physical extraterrestrials, where others are spirits or higher dimensional beings, and still others forces of nature to which we apply personalities so as to better understand them.  We can speculate, but it is difficult for anyone to say who is who or what objectively.  Each person who has experienced something can only speak from their own perspective.

One should approach this in terms of what works.  The most well known Orishas have endured time, human forgetfulness and ungratefulness, cultural upheaval, political opposition, and competing belief systems.  Those are invariably forces of nature who, though an alien could just as easily speak for them or be ridden by them as a human, are more than whatever physical body they may be using at the moment.

Another thing to consider is that if visiting beings could survive our atmosphere and live among us for any length of time, it’s likely that they’d be essentially human.  Though they may have been from a different planet and have further advanced technology, they’d be people.  It’s not too far fetched to think that without any regulations but their own sense of ethics, some may have come to our world for a visit or to stay.  Genetically, they’d have evolved similarly though, so it takes nothing away from the Orishas if humans or any other kinds of beings visited us.  They’re subject to the same laws of nature that we are, and when they die, the worms eat them the same as us.

The problem with alien intervention theory is that it could be demeaning to human genius and will.  Scientists have found chimpanzees who make tools, and whales who cooperate.  Is it really too much to think that a very intelligent human could have figured out that friction makes heat that can make fire?

Oshun, Ochun, Oxum

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Oshun as Romantic Love

Oshun as Romantic Love

Some say that in Africa, before western influence, there was no such thing as romantic love.  The truth is much more complicated than this.  There was romantic love, and it was well recognized.  It was just referred to as intense lust, so in daily life, familial love and admiration was given a higher priority.

People did respect that intense lust so much though, that they named its Orisha: Oshun.

Attributes

  • Sacred number: 5 and multiples of 5
  • Colors: yellow, yellow and green, yellow and amber/honey/champagne, yellow and blue, yellow and white, honey, champagne, amber, shades of yellow until standard orange
  • Domain: beauty, prosperity, feminine charisma, female sexuality, sweet things, oratory skills, pride, romantic love, sexual attraction, dance, feminine wiles.
  • Symbols: yellow hearts, peacock feathers, mirrors with yellow, bronze, or gold frames, yellow sashes, yellow headwraps, yellow belts, yellow skirts, yellow headbands, fans, fans made from peacock feathers

There are many apatakis about Oshun’s ways and antics.  Many of them were to teach people a lesson about the nature of beautiful women.  Some, like the story of Oshun and Iroko are cautionary both for people who take the promises of beautiful women too seriously and those beautiful women who procrastinate or forget promises they’ve made to get their way.  Some are epic like the ones about Oshun defending Shango in a way that people didn’t expect from such a beautiful woman.  Some are tragic like the story of Oshun’s fight with her mother Yemaya.

Oshun is regarded as vengeful if crossed, but otherwise extremely generous.  She can be impulsive and sometimes overly flippant about things others take more seriously, but she is not evil.  She just is the way she is because she can be.

Her domain is the pleasures of life, and often with great pleasures come great pain.  Life would however, be extremely boring and dull without her.

Oshun is very popular these days.  Though it is good to honor her, one should bear in mind that there are other female Orishas too, and other good and important things about being a woman than being pretty and lusted after.  Some people tend to forget others, and this is understandable, but I somehow don’t think Oshun appreciates the paradox and conflict that giving things to her that belong to her sisters Oba and Oya creates.  So be respectful of her and what she likes, and don’t appropriate things to her that she doesn’t like.

As an example, there’s the new feminist standard for “beauty” that people try to push on her.  It is a good thing to go to Oshun to make yourself more beautiful, but if you go to her to try to look like the skin stretched over bones and silicone ideal from Hollywood, it’s not going to work.  The more you go to her, the more you are asking her to make you look naturally beautiful, not synthetically beautiful.  You’ll end up looking aerobics instructor beautiful or dancer beautiful, not skeleton beautiful unless you’re Gothic and that’s the legitimate aesthetic goal.  If it’s the latter though, Maman Brigitte is going to do more for you in that since fat cell shrinkage rather than just distribution needs to happen.

Gay and intersex persons who are outwardly male but inwardly female, as well as crossdressers who need to go there occasionally can benefit greatly from communing with Oshun.  It will help you to gain more of the essence of feminine grace and beauty.

Origins

Originally, Oshun was the Goddess of the Oshun river in Osogbo, Nigeria, but as her followers increased and spread, so did her duties.  She came to be recognized in just about all pleasant, drinkable and bathe-able freshwater springs, fountains, streams, creeks, and rivers around which grew palm and eucalyptus trees.  Almost everywhere there are adherents of Vodun and similar west African systems, there is at least a fountain dedicated to Oshun where offerings are brought.

To this day in Osogbo, there is an annual festival of Oshun where people from all over the world go to honor her.  Prospective priests of Oshun also go there to gain the blessing of the ancestral priests.

Offerings to Oshun

Wild LettuceOfferings to Oshun should be taken to fresh water streams, ponds, lakes, and especially rivers.  If you can’t get to one, a fountain or pool will do.  Oshun loves natural sweets.  She loves honey the most of all sweet things.  All food offerings to her should be coated with honey or have honey in the recipe.  Just remember to always taste a little of it first.

She likes pumpkins, butternut squash, and other yellow, golden, and orange fruits.  I’ve had very good results from giving her golden pears and apples.

She likes yellow flowers, and ambery, honey, sweet smells.

Of the more savory things Oshun likes very much, wild lettuce and eggs are the most popular.  I have also had good results from offering delicacies such as baby corn, hearts of palm (ethically cultivated), artichoke hearts, and white asparagus.  She likes the finer things.

Some offer her sea food.  I don’t particularly like this idea unless you know you got it from a traditional fisherman or diver.  Oshun and Yemaya wills can become conflicted within if someone contributes to the destruction of the oceans for the sake of looking more pious and extravagant.  So if you feel you must give sea food to Oshun, do so, but make sure you were actually led to do that.  Do some readings to confirm.

If you’re returning freshwater fish or plants back to the river or a lake, please check with local wildlife authorities beforehand.  Sometimes people have given catfish to a place and they have taken over, or this happened later when the area was closed off.  Only return animals or plants that may take root, to their native area.

Something new for the science savvy is the offering of Brassica Carinata, also called Ethiopian mustard or y’abesha gomen.  They have pretty little yellow flowers, and are very attractive to honey bees.  Their greens make excellent mustard greens dishes.  According to researchers in New Zealand, they also naturally filter nanoparticles of gold from the ground.

Love Spells

Since Oshun is the Orisha of romantic love, she is often called upon for love spells.  Although in Vodun proper, these wouldn’t really be called love spells but love petitions, workings, or offerings, they do basically the same thing: draw love from a specific person or help someone to attract a lover.

If you have a love working pending, there are things that you can do to help it along.  Read this article for things you can do to increase the success of your current love working.

Oshun Incense

Oshun enjoys sweet smelling, fine incense, but you must make sure it is of the highest quality that you can afford.  If you are handy with the spoon, you can also make your own.  This is the recipe for a basic devotional incense, adapted for the western kitchen.

  • a pinch of cinnamon or cloves for Eshu
  • 10 spoonfuls fenugreek
  • a handful of louisa
  • 5 eucalyptus leaves
  • 5 spoonfuls sandalwood powder (African camwood or Baphia nitida if you can find it)
  • a spoonful of yellow mustard seeds
  • a small handful of myrrh or copal
  • a small handful of dragon’s blood chunks
  • 5 gold leaves or a dash of gold dust

Crush and powder everything as well as possible, consecrate, and keep in a cool, dry place.

Oshun Oil

The basic recipe for Oshun’s devotional oil, again adapted for the western kitchen.  All of these ingredients should be dried

  • A 1 inch cinnamon stick, 3 guinea peppers, 3 English peppers (allspice), 3 coffee beans, a vanilla bean cut into 3 pieces, or 3 cloves for Eshu
  • 1 liter of sunflower oil
  • 1 ml vitamin E oil
  • 1/4 cup fenugreek
  • 1 handful of louisa or dried orange peels
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 freshwater pearls or cowrie shells
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon honey
  • (optional) 5 gold leaves

Put all of the other ingredients in a large jar or bottle.

Pour the sunflower oil over all.

Close the jar for 5 months in a cool, dark place.

Strain before use unless you like it “chunky” looking (which I do).

Click here for an article on some of the uses for Oshun oil.

Fashion for Oshun

One thing you should do for Oshun that carries some of the weight of an offering is wear yellow clothing, especially on Saturday, which traditionally starts at sundown Friday night and goes to sundown Saturday night.  The same day is an auspicious day for Yemaya as well, so it’s good to wear a combination of yellow and blue.

Oshun is famous for her beautiful head wraps.  So take the time to wrap up nicely on Saturdays as well.

Don’t skimp on the accessories.  Wear earrings (clip on or magnetic if you’re not pierced), necklaces, and five rings on your fingers, or five bracelets on your arms.

Attracting and Maintaining the Blessings of Oshun

Oshun is very generous to those who keep her ways, and do things to glorify her.    If you need more love and prosperity in your life, here are things you can do.

Be grateful for your beauty.

We are not all beauty queens or hotties or whatever, but we all have a little beauty in us.  We should never take it for granted.  So as much as you can, take care of your physical appearance.  Love your skin, your organs, your bones, and do what you can to keep them healthy.  You may not own the finest clothes, but what you have should be clean and in good repair.  Basically be well groomed, even if you think nobody is looking.  Oshun is looking.

Be grateful for your material possessions, and clean your home.

The price of having things is that you must take care of them.  As best as you can, keep a clean home.  Your bed should be a clean and comfortable place, since Oshun is the Orisha of romantic love.

Take care of those around you.

Help others to maintain their beauty and material possessions.  If your friend is ill or unmotivated, help them clean their home and keep themselves healthy.  Be positive about it, and not too preachy.  The idea is to spread joy, not judgement.  Feed people.  Host meetings to treat people when you can.  Be generous.

Dance.

Oshun lives in dance.  So once a day, turn on some music, and move.

Basically, be the hands of Oshun in humanity.  Spread joy and love where you can, and try to make the world a more beautiful place.