Who are the Orishas?
(Versión en Español)
The Yoruba religion isn’t a polytheistic religion, although the Orishas are referred as Gods sometimes, there is only one supreme deity in our religion. God has the representations as the catholic religion does.
Olodumare, the creator of all things and father to us all. Olorun, the manifestation of God visible to us as the sun, the owner of the heavens. Olofi, the representation of god that communicates directly with the Orishas, teaching them what humans must know.
The Orishas are intermediaries between the humans and God also watch over us to report our actions to Olofi. Also they use their ‘aché’, or spiritual energy gave to them by Olofi, to maintain harmony in the world.
In the past, most of Orishas were humans and gained their status after death, similar to the Catholic saints.
The word Orisha means “head guardians” as they’re the ones watching us for Olofi. We can worship them, but they are never placed above Olodumare.
As previously told, each one of Olodumare’s eldest children are imbued with aché, with this spiritual power they guard the earth, watch over human affairs and the nature. They’re represented with colors, numbers and in occasions with the image of a Catholic Saint.
Here is a list of some of the Orishas and a little information about them:
Also known as Elegguá, Elewá and Elegbá. In catholic religion he’s represented by Saint Anthony.
Colors: Red and black
Number: 3 and 21
Eleguá is the first and one of the most important Orisha in Santeria. He is the owner of all paths and the witness of fate. He’s often perceived as a trickster who tests our integrity.
Also known of Oggún. In catholic religion he’s represented by Saint Peter.
Colors: Green and black
Ogún is a mighty warrior, the divine blacksmith and the hardest working Orisha of them all. He is often perceived as a powerful muscular man wearing a skirt made of palm fiber and he carries a machete.
Also known as Ochossi, Oshoshi. Represented by Saint Norbert.
Colors: Blue and amber
Number: 3, 7
Ochosi is the divine hunter whose arrow never misses its mark. He is the force of blind justice that is applied equally to all. He is best friends with Eleguá and Ogún and is often found hunting with them.
Represented by Virgen de las Mercedes
He 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 others.
Also known as Oshún, and represented by Our Lady of Carida Del Cobre.
Colors: Yellow and amber
Ochún is the Orisha of love and beauty. She is a generous and loving mother, but she can also quickly turn bitter if she is wronged. She is the youngest of the orishas and is depicted as a flirtatious, mixed-race woman dressed in yellow, gazing in a mirror.
Also known as Shango, Sango and Shangs. Represented by Saint Barbara.
Colors: Red and white
Changó is the king of the religion of and was once the fourth king of the city of Oyó in Yoruba land before he was deified 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. Changó is a ladies’ man and a charmer.
Also known as Yemoja and represented by Our Lady of Regla.
Colors: Blue and clear
Yemayá is the mother of all living things, the queen of heaven, earth and all waters. She resides in the ocean and is the mother of many of the other Orishas. 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.