The Orishas, ​​Gods or saints of the Yoruba Religion and Santeria


Yoruba mythology is very broad, full of mysticism, stories, legends that tell us about the Orishas (Saints) and their importance in the creation of the world and their influence on the human being. Each deity has different characteristics, attributes that can vary depending on the region or ethnic group in which it is worshiped. At we prepare an investigation for initiates and believers of the Osha and Ifa rule to expand their knowledge about this culture.

The Orishas Warriors of Santeria

The Fundamental Orishas of the Osha-Ifa rule

Major Orishas

Other deities of the Yoruba religion

Who are the Orishas? The saints of "La Santeria"

To understand what the Orishas are, and how they are recognized as saints in the Rule of Osha or Ifa, popularly known as: “Santeria”, it is necessary to remember that these deities come from the culture belonging to the Yoruba people, located in the Southwest of Nigeria. . This West African population that stands out for its rich tropical vegetation and abundant crops, has come to be considered one of the most advanced communities in Nigeria, with a complex social and religious cultural structure. The origin of the Yoruba people begins with the founding of the Ilè Ifè city-state, a city recognized in its mythology thanks to enjoying the honor of being the place where God created man, which is why in its name it bears the word Ilé = home.

It is considered that the original Yoruba pantheon was joined by different local deities from the surrounding nations as the Yorubas were unified after being founded by the renowned king Oduduwa, also known as: Obalufe (king of the town of Ifè). Their children and descendants formed a dynasty of kings who were deified and later transformed into Orishas.

It is then that the Orishas or Saints belonging to the Afro Cuban Santeria are beings that were originally mortal who for various reasons transcended becoming divine beings, deified by their people, motivated by their outstanding feats of life. It is important to note that most of the Orishas in life were kings of the Yoruba nation, outstanding warriors and notable protagonists in the history of their society.

Certainly, there are a large number of Yoruba deities, with different hierarchies that are sometimes difficult to determine clearly due to the large number that comprise it. However, it is necessary to contemplate the most representative as we will do below:

OLODUMARE, The Supreme Deity

Creator God and Lord of the universe and the Orishas or Saints in Santeria. It is attributed omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence. It is not in direct contact with human reality. It is the primary vital energy, the higher being, the supreme force from which all universal Creation springs, from whom all living beings emanate.


Personified by the Sunit is considered the most sensitive and material manifestation of Olofin and Oloddumare.


Manifestation of Olodumare in direct contact with living beings. Also known as: «Igba Odun» is the feminine energy of Olodumare. Other versions of Olofin indicate that it is the divinity that gave rise to the world, the rest of the divinities, animals, men and that it responds directly to Oloddumare.

On the other hand, It has come to be considered that these three very high spiritualities are the same energy under different names and representations because: Olofin could be an honorary title, as well as, Olorun means: "owner of Heaven", references to Olodumare.


It can be considered the counterpart of Olodumare. Its origin is unknown, it co-inhabited with Olorun since the beginning of time. Ruler of the darkness or emptiness of the original Universe. It can be defined as the basic energy of movement and chaos in the universe, it causes balance at the same time that it causes imbalance. A leading participant in changes and evolution. Distributor of the elements of the sacrifice (Ebo) according to the nature of the offering.

Echu was considered in Cuba by the Catholic colonizers as a representation of evil (the devil), defining Santeria as: "witchcraft used for evil." When in reality, Santeria is a religion inherited from the Yoruba culture, in which this saint or deity is simply considered to be in charge of creating a dynamic balance between all forces, including spiritual ones, with destructive and constructive capacity.


He is adored and consulted on all important occasions. Its recommendations and mandates cannot be disregarded with impunity. Both the Yorubas and the Santero and Babalawos Cubans consider Ifa as a guide that predicts the future. He is consulted in relation to any subject. His system of divination or oracle, enjoys great importance from its origin to the present.


It is the Soul or Spirit of the dead, the depositories of the secrets of knowledge. The concept of Eggungun includes the spirits of the ancestors, of the near deceased, of those who belong to the family line of the believer, whose actions in life made him worthy of respect and adoration for his disembodied spirit of the earthly world.

What are the Orishas? Meaning within Santeria

The Orisas are the equivalent to the saints in Santeria. Its function is to be the intermediaries between God and men. These spiritualities were fused with the force of nature, entering animals, plants and all levels of existence. The Yorubas state that each person is born with a purpose, an end and a destiny in life, but various events normally alter it, therefore, the Orishas are in charge of fixing it and collaborating so that each individual can fulfill that destiny. In the Yoruba pantheon there are 401 deities, however, due to the spectacular arrival of the Africans to the American continent, only a smaller number of them were worshiped.


Deity owner of the roads that lead men to their destination. Skillful Warrior, but also mischievous and tricky. It can be represented as a child or an adult. He is in charge of punishing those who do not comply with the rules established by the Orishas. It opens all the doors of the positive ways, as well as, the doors of the negative. His job is to be a messenger for the rest of the divinities. Enjoy the consideration of being the first to be worshiped, greeted, and cared for in the Yoruba pantheon.


Warrior and powerful sorcerer, owner of all metals, the Smithy and all metal tools for work. Guardian of the truth of Ifá, who represents the pacts, the word, the promises, the creative work and the war. In Cuba he is recognized as a violent saint who is an expert in rough work. Revered for his tireless disposition to work and great physical strength. He is the protector of all who use tools to provide food and defense.


Great warrior and expert hunter. It rules in prisons and courts, since it is considered a totally just saint. Due to his hunting skills, he is also related to abundance and prosperity. A connoisseur of the arts of sorcery, Oggun's faithful companion, he lives interned in the mountains. It represents balance in all the senses of life. He participates in the phenomena between the spiritual alignment of the forces of nature and ancestral spiritualities, therefore, he collaborates with people to help them align with their destinies.


Messenger of Obatala and Olofi. Ozun is also received when the warriors surrender; He is the guardian of the head of the believers, Orumila leaning on him to have the powers of divination and real and eminent knowledge. He does not "speak by letter of a snail (he is not consulted)" although he always accompanies the warriors. It represents life itself. Its receptacle is a covered metal cup, usually with a figure of a rooster on the lid. Its receptacle is always closed, it must never be opened; and it must be protected against possible falls since, this fact is an announcement of the death or misfortunes to come from its owner.


He is an older Orisha, son of Oroiña. Owner of volcanoes and magma and earthly energies of great power such as: the power of the rivers that divide the territories; the lava that pierces the earth's crust; earthquakes and the momentum that makes the earth spin forever. His temperament is bellicose and angry. He is always accompanied by his double-bladed ax and his characteristic cane. It is the force that takes away the embarrassment of the iworos.


He is revered as the tutelary deity of medicine, a sorcerer, a healer who knows the secrets and powers of herbs, roots, barks and everything related to the vegetable kingdom. He lives internally in the mountains and his participation is fundamental for the consecration of all religious attributes.


The Yoruba tradition in Santeria says that Obatala is a particular representative of Olorun, which is why he enjoys a higher hierarchy over all other deities. The Yorubas describe him as a masculine divinity and the youngest creation of Oloddumare, possessing a particular Ashe that protects him from the influence and manipulation of Eshu. For the Cuban santeros it is a deity that can be both male and female. Orisha of peace, purity and order. Saint who rules over heads and provides good health and tranquility. It represents the paternal feeling.


It is identified as the divinity that owns the rivers. He is linked to the river that bears his name in Nigeria, in addition to being the tutelary deity of the city of Osogbo. Owner of fertility, considered a powerful sorceress and ancestral mother. In Cuba it is attributed the power over beauty, love, gold and wealth.


It is also known by the name Oya Iansa. Orisha from the war, of the winds, the storms, the spark, the storms, and tornadoes that in a very violent way devastate what they find in their path; Thunder is also attributed to him considered the announcement of lightning, symbolizing Oyá preceding her husband Chango. He is foreman of the dead. In Africa, in the land Egbado is known as: Yànsán or Iyàmesán and is related to the Niger River of West Africa. She is a violent and warrior Orisha who fights with two swords alongside Chango, accompanied by the dead.


Her name Yemaya or Yemoja is a contraction of "Yeye-omo-eja" (the Mother of fishes). Deity owner of Motherhood and Fertility, since, being the owner of the waters, it is considered that it is through her that life is generated. During the gestation of the embryo it also intervenes thanks to its presence in the amniotic fluid. In Cuba she is identified as the owner of the sea. Knowledgeable of the spiritual arts.


It is also known as: Sànpónnà and San Lazaro, among other names. Protector of the Beggars and the sick. He is an older Oricha and a highly revered saint. Deity of diseases in general; in particular it is related to smallpox, leprosy, venereal diseases and skin conditions. It is said that he is the son of Naná Burukú, but some believe that he was born directly from Obatala. His name means "father of the world." This saint likes to work with the dead. 


Deity of the land, agriculture and crops. He is the patron of the farmers; He is an arbitrator in disputes, especially if they are for women; he is the judge in the trials of the Orishas. He is very industrious, knows how to keep secrets deeply and is chaste. Ensures prosperity on earth. Their messengers are bees.


It is also known as Inle or Irinlè. He is an older Orisha, hunter and fisherman. Osha Doctor. Patron of the doctors, fish, and owner of the river. It is the deity of the extractive economy or, specifically, of fishing and pre-horticultural harvesting. It is androgynous and very beautiful. He is the personification of the earth, he lives on the earth and in the water. Its color is the combination of blue and yellow.


Orisha of female chastity, gloomy feelings, also rules over the dead. It is the divinity of the Yewá River. In a feminine deity but at the same time warrior and brave. He wears red clothes, a sword, and a cross chest necklace made of straw-braided sea snails. It is one of the most beautiful Orishas.


Divinity of Commerce and marital fidelity. She is the most intelligent of the pantheon and Warrior, she was the one who taught the rest of the Orishas the use of weapons. It is the Yoruba Athena. It is also related especially in America with sacrifice and suffering for the loved one. Chango's wife, wears red and white, uses shield and spear. Thanks to Oshun he cut off his ear to offer it to Shango at a meal as a symbol of his love, obtaining his repudiation; however, thanks to her sacrifice she will always be recognized as the most devoted wife.


They are two twin brothers, Orishas who represent good fortune, protectors of children and especially those born in multiple births. Being twins, they are associated with the principle of duality; Because they are children, they are related to everything that starts and sprouts: the birth of a river, the birth of human beings, the germination of plants


Orisha of the swamps, revenge and tranquility. Great grandmother of tradition. He is a very old river divinity, his nature is very calm, benevolent, dignified and gentle. Lover of children, they educate them with great sweetness and passivity, he is credited with the patience and brotherhood of his grandparents. They act confidently and it is very majestic. She is always well balanced and her actions represent wisdom and justice.


Divinity that is embodied in the African tree that bears the same name. This tree known as African teak, native to that region, although it can also be found in the Greater Antilles, the Virgin Islands, Florida and the Bahamas and to a lesser extent in most countries of the world, is loaded with great mysticism. It is said that around him and on his cup many spiritualities and sorcerers come. According to Yoruba belief, Iroko is considered a powerful spirit materialized in a tree, therefore, sacred.


Orisha that governs the Cattle, represented by two jars of bull or ox that symbolizes the spirituality of two witch doctors and lives with Shango. It embodies the energy of livestock that provide food for living beings.


Orisha of the Mountains and high peaks, charged with extracting the Ashe for men. The divinity Oke despite being directly related to Obatala, is actually the greatest disciple of the Chango lineage on Earth.


This divinity is the wife of Erinle, who owns the river sand. Fisher goddess. He lives in the lagoons, it is said that at night it is horrible and he wears light blue and a veil of white gauze with snails.


Orishas considered the guardians of the secrets of Oduduwa. They hold the spiritual secrets related to the bones and mortal bodies of the deceased. Its energy is said to rest in the sands of the desert.


Feminine divinity. Recognized as an elderly wife of Obatala. Some people interpret it as a path of Yemaya, but what is certain is that it is recognized as the mother of most of the divinities, from where all of them arose.


It is the most important deity of the human being. Your own spirituality. Its purest essence, even before this having self-awareness. In view of her individual importance she is recognized as the greatest of all the Orishas.


Vegetable Orisha, Shango's sister. In some places she is recognized as Shango's mother, since she is the one who raises him and lives with him a large part of his history.


Orisha of fortune, related to material wealth. Your benefactor actions are requested to obtain economic development. It is considered a funfun deity, some point out that it is an Obatala current and in other branches they identify it as an Oshun current. Its attributes include a large Aye snail in the company of a variety of snails and coins from different parts of the world.


Divinity that lives in the mountains and works with herbs, has only one leg and is believed to be the messenger of Òsànyìn. He is a powerful sorcerer who can be ruthless as he knows deep secrets of sorcery, plants and the bush.


Orisha of the Desert, sister and messenger of Oya. Daughter of Bromu and Brosia. She is tiny, she lives among the roots of the ceiba tree, she works in the air, she is a sorceress. Eat on top of a round mass of flowers with 9 lit candles. Represents virginity. You should always accompany Oya's children as it brings calm to their lives.


Female deity. It represents the fire from the center of the earth, it is said to be the voice of the volcano. She is recognized as the mother of Agayú.


Androgynous Orisha, half the year is male, half the year is female. He is depicted with a cobra. Divinity of the sky and the rainbow. It represents the communion between heaven and earth. Sudden changes, extremes. It represents the hidden, the unexpected. It is said that he is a servant of Shango, in charge of returning to the clouds, the water that he sends to the world through the rain. It represents the evaporation of water, a very important cycle because it supports life on earth. It is responsible for the communication between the two spheres, upper and lower of the cosmos. Arduous warrior, the government of the air and some atmospheric phenomena is attributed to him.

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