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The 5 Most Influential Orishas

Shango. Photo Yoruba Library

The gods of the land keep the peace and the people in check. They were here long before we came. In many Nigerian mythologies, it is believed that the gods once walked this earth and even lived here. They took in wives, had children and when the world got too filthy for them, they moved to a supernatural place, somewhere that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves is up in the sky. But that doesn’t mean that their supernatural presence left the earth. It stayed back and believers call upon them from time to time to give guidance and maybe grant their heart desires, in times of trouble. But not all these gods are the same or operates the same way. They are unique, have different mannerism, likes and dislikes. Among the Yoruba people, they are called Orisha: And we will be looking at five most influential and powerful Orishas.

Sango– He is the Yoruba mythological “god of Thunder and Lightning.” He is also called Jakuta and is one of the most worshipped gods in the world today. He was the third king of Old Oyo Kingdom. His statues usually capture him wielding a two-edged axe. He is also one of the greatest warriors in mythologies. He is worshipped on the fifth day of the week. The Bata dance is performed during his festivals and people who worship him do so in red attires which is believed to be what he wears.

Ogun is the Yoruba “god of war and iron.” Yes, he is also a warrior. The first Orisha to descend on earth, he took the form of a hunter named Tobe Ode. He is also the first king of Ife, which in the Yoruba cosmology is where life started. He is usually worshipped by warriors, hunters, blacksmiths, technologists and drivers who believe in the old gods. His symbols are metal, dog and palm frond.

Orunmila is another influential Orisha. He is the “god of wisdom, knowledge and divination.” It is said that he was there during the creation of the universe. The Yorubas’ say he once used to take human forms and visit the earth as a priest and teach priests a very highly spiritual religion called Ifa. The Ifa has 256 books as part of the core of worship called Odu. The Odu Ifa is an oral book exclusive to the priest of the religion and is passed down from generation to generation. It is the encyclopaedia of life and the human race. Orunmila gives an insight into the future to his worshippers as visions to guide their actions.

Obatala in the Yoruba cosmology is the creator of the human race. He is the father of all Orishas. Until one is initiated into the worship of the Orishas’, it is believed that obatala is their god. He also walked the face of the earth in a mortal body and served as the king of Ife. He was usurped from the throne by his brother on a drunken night.

Finally, we have Olodumare, who is also the most powerful god according to Yoruba mythology. He is the “supreme God.” He is omnipotent and is the one who breathes life into the creations of Obatala. He is the creator also of the other gods and powers in the universe. Historically, the Yorubas do not worship him directly: He is called on if the other Orishas do not hear the calls of their worshippers. Many times he is interchanged as the god referred to by Christians but he isn’t. He is a different entity.

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