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The Orishas: Santeria Gods
Cuba`s Plantations 19th Century
While there are many orishas some are more prominent than others in the religion. Each is assigned a particular behavior along with various items that are theirs and theirs alone. In order to accomplish something one needs to offer ebbo to the proper orisha in order to receive that orishas ashe. Also the orishas claim one at birth we do not claim the orishas. For the sake of illustration we can compare them to the catholic saints. Just as certain saints are endowed with certain powers or spheres of influence so to is it with the orisha. Listed below are some of the more popular orishas along with their corresponding catholic saint,feast day, foods,herbs,attributes and area of influence.

Obatala-Catholic saint is Our Lady of Mercy. Feast day is Sept. 24. His color is white, his number is 8 and his day of the week is Thursday. Obatala has 24 paths or caminos meaning he has 24 different attributes. His eleke(necklace) is usually made of all white beads. His foods include: all white foods,milk,rice pudding,she goats,doves and white hens. Obatala does not consume alcohol and his children are forbidden to partake of it. Some of Obatala’s herbs are: algodon,maravilla,bledo blanco,cebolla,almendro and tamarindo. Obatala rules all white things as well as the bones and a persons head. Mountains and hills also belong to him. According to legend Obatala was the first orisha created. He is the god of peace and purity and aids all heavy thinkers like doctors and lawyers.

Eleggua-Catholic saint is St. Anthony of Padua(feast day June 13) or The Lonely Spirit(Anima Sola) feast day Nov. 2. His colors are red and black, his number is 3 and 21, his day of the week is Monday. Eleggua has the most paths or caminos at 101. His eleke consist of red and black beads. His favorite foods are smoked fish,possum,toasted corn,palm oil,fruits and male chickens. He is especially partial to candies and cakes. Eleggua is also found of cigars and rum. Some of Elegguas herbs are:abre camino,lengua de vaca,pata de gallina,rompezaraguey and hedionda.
Eleggua is the messenger of the gods and lord of all the crossroads. After Obatala he is the most powerful orisha. His blessing is required before any magic spell can be executed and he must also be feed or offered sacrifice before any other orisha. He is a master magician and his spells are impossible to break. He merits out justice as only he sees fit. He can also divine the future without the aid of any tools.Eleggua is especially found of children as he himself is often portrayed as a young boy himself. He carries with him many of the characteristics of a young boy in that he is found of playing tricks and is quite mischievous. Eleggua is usually represented as a stone head with eyes ears and mouth made out of cowrie shells and is usually kept behind the front door to guard the household. All the orishas need his permission in order to help any of their children or to carry out any of their magic.



Chango-Catholic saint is St. Barbara whose feast day is Dec.4. His colors are red and white and his numbers are 4 and six. Friday and the 4th of each month are sacred to Chango. Chango has many paths but 14 of them are the best known. His eleke consist of red and white beads. His favorite food is amala which is made with cornmeal and palm oil. Okra is also among his favorite as are bananas and apples. Among the animals sacred to Chango are roosters,rams,turkeys and turtles to name a few. He drinks dry red wine and despises cigars. Herbs belonging to Chango are:rosa de jerico,paraiso,quita maldicion,cedro,zarzaparilla and jobo to name a few. Chango rules over fire and thunder and lightning. He is a master dancer and could be considered the Casanova of the orishas. He is also a master drummer. He carries a mortar with him which is where he mixes his spells.

The legend states that Chango traded the gift of divination which was his originally with Orunla whose gift was the gift of dance. Each orisha thought they got the better of the deal as they were both interested in what the other had. Chango is probably the most popular orisha no doubt due to his romantic and flamboyant nature. He embodies passion,virility and power. He also symbolizes war and dance. Chango is also the only orisha worshipped by the mayomberos or evil practitioners from the Congo. Chango is mostly used to dominate a person or overcome ones enemies.

Oggun-Catholic saint is St. Peter whose feast day is Jun. 29th .His colors are green and black and his days are Tuesday and Wednesdays and the 4th of each month. Oggun walks nine paths or caminos. His eleke consist of black and green beads. Among Ogguns favorite foods are:plantains,kola nuts,white beans,palm oil,smoked fish,roosters and toasted corn. His herbs include:pata de gallina,anamu,pimenta negra,gengibre,romerillo and adormidera to name a few.Oggun also enjoys rum and cigars. Oggun symbolizes raw energy,violence and brute force. He is the orisha of the working man.He lives in the woods which he owns and is constantly at war.
He also works with iron. He is the brother of Chango,Eleggua and Ochosi and as brothers are prone to do they usually fight. Oggun is the patron orisha of policemen,farmers and surgeons. All metals come under his domain.Oggun also protects against accidents which he causes and aids in surgeries. Oggun’s wife is the beautiful Oya who has and continues to have a love affair with Chango. For this reason Chango and Oggun are always at odds with each other and cannot be in the same room together. Although Eleggua is the first orisha to be propitiated it is Oggun who eats first when an animal is sacrificed as he is the knife used in the killing.

Orunla-Catholic saint is St. Francis of Assisi whose feast day is Oct. 14th. His colors are green and yellow,his number is 16 and all the days of the week are under his influence.Orunla only walks one path. Among his favorite foods are:coconuts,black hens and names. Some or Orunlas herbs are: almorejo,altea,paraiso,albahaca and colonia. Orunla is the patron orisha of the babalawos or high priest of santeria. He is wisdom personified and represents someone always in search of knowledge. He owns the table of Ifa which is the premier instrument used to divine the future.
He does not allow women to be his priestesses and only men can be initiated into his mysterious. He is also known as Orunmila and Ifa and aids in curing mental illness. Only the babalawo can perform Orunlas ebbos and only a babalawo can perform marriage ceremonies in the religion. The term babalawo means `father of the mysteries` One does not need to become a santero to receive Orunla as Orunla requires that all other orishas be given up before receiving his mysteries.

The first step in becoming a babalawo is to undergo the initiation known as the hand of Orunla.The highest a woman can go in Orunla’s mysteries is to receive what is called Icofa of Orunla but they may not become babalawos. It was Orunla who originally possessed the gift of dance but gladly traded it to Chango in exchange for the gift of divination.

Yemaya-Catholic saint is Our Lady of Regla whose feast day is on Sept. 7th. Her colors are blue and white and her number is 7 while Saturday is assigned to her. Yemaya has 7 paths which are the most popular. Her eleke consist of blue and crystalline beads. Her favorite fruit is watermelon but she is also partial to pineapples,papayas,apples,grapes,bananas and pears. Probably her favorite offering is sugar cane syrup. Her sacred animals are ducks,rams,roosters,parrots and many types of fish. Those herbs assigned to her are: verbena,lechuga,yerba buena,mejorana,helecho and berro to name a few. Yemaya could arguably be called the greatest of all the orishas because she is the great mother, the giver of life. She rules all the seas and oceans and naturally is the patron of sailors and fishermen. Being the great mother Yemaya also rules women and pregnancies.

Oshun-Catholic saint is Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre whose feast day is Sept. 8th. Her colors are coral,aquamarine and yellow while her number is 5 and Saturday is sacred to her.
Her eleke is made up of white and yellow beads among other color combinations. Animals sacred to Oshun are roosters, turtles, ducks,canaries and peacocks. Her favorite offering is ochinchin as well as honey,pumpkins,oranges, all yellow fruits,lettuce, spinach and sweet potatoes. Her herbs are: anis, anil, canela, boton de oro, manzanilla, yerba buena , verbena and pomarrosa. She has 5 main paths that she walks. Oshun is the youngest of the orishas and one of the most popular.
She controls the river waters as well as love, sexuality and money matters, the arts and human pleasures. She also rules over marriage. Oshun is the happiest of the orishas who enjoys an affair with Chango. She is always eager to help her followers and is slow to anger. However once angered she is the hardest orisha to appease and the most dangerous. When she cries that is a sure sign she will grant whatever request is asked of her. She could be equated with the Venus of the Yoruba pantheon.

It was Oshun who using her womanly wiles lured Oggun out of the forest. She has also been the lover of all the male orishas with the exception of Obatala and Eleggua. Because of her many gifts and appealing attributes she is one of the most popular orishas and also one of the most spoiled.
by David Gimenez
Article ID 108
First Article 109 of 710 Last
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