Orisha Legends, Folklore, Types and Beliefs

Orisha spelt as orichá or orixá in Latin America and òrìṣà in the Yoruba language are the gods of Santeria for the guidance of humanity and all the creation.

Orishas are the spirits sent by higher gods like Olofi, Ọlọrun and Olodumare for guiding humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). These are the beings that relate to the disciples regularly.

They are believed to have existed in the òrun (spirit world) as Irumole and then became incarnated as mortal beings on Earth (Ayé).

Each of them has diverse nature and has a wide range of gifts, flaws, and interests.

Others are humans but they tend to become deities after their death due to astonishing achievements in their life.

In various other religions, it is believed that understanding it is like knowing another human being well.

Types of Orichá

Types of Orisha
Types of Orisha

Many ancient books and texts have suggested that Orisha has been categorized into 3 types;

  1. Primordial divinities
  2. Deified ancestors
  3. Personified natural forces and phenomena

What are primordial divinities?

The primordial divinities, according to the African traditions and beliefs are those that existed much before the existence of the cosmos.

Primordial divinities
Primordial divinities

Few of the orichá is primaeval as they have been existing before the human beings have been created on the earth.

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They originated right from God lacking any mortal aid. They are orun, folks of bliss. They arose from paradise, and they still exist in there.

Other orichá are Irumole, the world’s 1st residents that are now holy beings living on and in the earth.

What are deified ancestors?

After the creation of the world, the deified ancestors lived here and there impact was so profound that their progenies sill promote their memory nonstop.

Deified ancestors
Deified ancestors

They had a great influence on Yoruba society as well on the lives of people via their efforts in the field of social life and cultural developments. They existed as:

  • Founders of cities and towns
  • Kings and Queens
  • Heroes and Heroines
  • Warriors

The Yoruba belief says that these beings were successful to establish control over the natural forces.

They created an independence bond with it, enticing its generous act toward themselves and their folks while guiding its critical aspects onto rivals.

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The traditional texts say that these creatures diapered in a completely remarkable manner such as by rising to heaven via chains, sinking into the soil, turning the stone and committing suicide rather than dying naturally.

Such a vanishing was not true demise; fairly, it was the time of the antecedent’s alteration into an orichá.

Several primaeval religions have oral societies affirming that they were once the rulers or royals of still present Yoruba towns.

What are personified natural forces and phenomena?

The Yoruba traditional belief system says that any natural element in the world that has useful and manifold functions for human beings has a spirit residing in it.

Personified natural forces and phenomena
Personified natural forces and phenomena

Many such spirits exist in the universe, however, some are so noticeable that they replace all others; they too are orichá. Some of them are;

  • Mountains and Rivers
  • Trees and Wind
  • Earth and Lakes
  • Lagoons

Love is focused on the orichá that resides within the regular wonder, often at the site where the natural phenomenon reveals itself.

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Orichá celebrants see the tamed usual force and the sacred forebear as intimately related.

This unity is signified by a seeing object that acts as the physical care of an orishas control to grasp and cause kinds of stuff to occur.

A group of this stuff, even if it is not eternal, creates an altar where the orichá is present and can be called over devotions and presents.

Relationship with Olodumare

The Yoruba phrase Olodumare is composed of 3 words: Odu, mare and Oni which translates to “owner of” and signifies a godly entity in the religious textbooks.

Relationship with Olodumare
Relationship with Olodumare

It is a well-known spiritual being that has created the orichá but later withdrew from his creations. Orishas are the Gods of Santeria and Olodumare is their creator.

It is the source of Ase or ashe or àṣẹ, which all living being’s must-have for the survival and success, including the orichá.

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Ase derived from the Yoruba phrase àṣẹ is a West African ethical idea through which the Yoruba of Nigeria apprehend the control to make things occur and yield change.

It does not need ash or ashe to be provided by a different source and therefore it is completely self-sustaining.

Orishas and Humans often exchange ashe with one another by performing a variety of rites.

Some of the common sources of ashe are sacrificial blood, which is the reason by animal sacrifice is given so importantly in the Santeria.

By performing ritual actions and using blood, humans provide ashe to orichá.

Humans provide ashe through blood or other ritual actions, and the orichá becomes a duct of ashe from Olodumare to the asker to help in the requester’s needs.

The Yoruba trust Olodumare is invincible and is also liable for the design of life. The followers believe it partakes in a quiet, relaxing, rather lazy life.

He is not involved or tangled when it comes to Mortal stuff and lets other orichá, who are defined as his sons and daughters, reply human fears through insight, control, ransom and more.

Yoruba custom says all is in the fingers of God (Olodumare) when they are going to sleep at night.

Legends of the African Belief System

Legends say that there is no fixed number of orichá that exits. If you refer to the African belief system that gives birth to Santeria, then it says that there exist hundreds of Orishas.

Legends of the African Belief System
Legends of the African Belief System

However, the New World Santeria believers, suggest that there exists only a handful of them in reality.

In the New World, these spiritual beings as more like Western pantheons just like the Romans and the Greeks. They follow the family cycle i.e. they marry each other, give birth to children and so on.

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Since the African followers were not strongly connected there is very less familiarity between orishas. Each African part has its deity.

The orichá was honoured above all, and each priest was assigned to a single Orisha of the province.

Many Africans that formed city-states in the New World, were given the task to do slavery. In that scenario, the practicality of the situation made the slave community focus on a single orichá.

As the societies developed and cultures got mixed, the orichá gained equal rights in society.

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With time, even the priests were instructed to preach multiple Orishas instead of having their focus on just one of them.

These all changes helped the society to survive through ages. Even if the orichá died, the particular priest of that clan was educated to work for multiple Orishas at a time.

Folklore or The Patakis

There are many stories of orichá and most of them are contradictory to one another.

Folklore of Orisha or The Patakis
Folklore of Orisha or The Patakis

The prime reason for this contradiction is that these folklores come from a variety of cities and towns in Africa.

Each of these cities had their own experience and ideas about their nature and habits.

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This drift is cheered by the point that each Santeria civic today remains free of other groups.

There is no hope that each group would work exactly alike or know the orishas in precisely the identical manner. Perse, these legends give manifold origin stories.

These are represented as 1-mortal beings that have been elevated to divinity by the supreme god Olodumare. Others consider them to be Spiritual Beings.

Thus, the 21st-century folklore presents more attention to the lessons rather than proving the truth of the historic legends.

Intrinsically, there is no worry about the exact fact of these stories or the point that surprises me is that they contradict one another.

As an alternative, one of the jobs of the pastors of Santeria is to apply valid patakis to the condition at hand.

Why are they related to the Catholic saints?

The orichá is often related to the Catholic Masks as it became a necessity when slave owners refused the Africans to practice their religious beliefs and activities.

Orishas related to the Catholic saints
Orishas related to the Catholic saints

It has been well-known that they wear Catholic masks for people to know them very well. The Santeria priests, Santeros do not trust the fact that the saints and the orishas are identical.

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The saint is a mask of the orichá, and it does no work the other way around.

Though many of their customers are also Catholic, and they realize that such regulars well recognize with these presences under the show of the holy colleagues.


The òrìṣà are categorized under several sections based on:

  1. Those who represented white colour who are characterized as temperate, cool, gentle or calm.
  2. Those who represented colours black or red who are characterized as demanding, quick-tempered, harsh and aggressive.

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These also preferred food, objects and a variety of colours, just like other human beings. Various oral traditions have documented such trains in its books.

  1. Aganju
  2. Ajaka
  3. Ayangalu (The patron deity of drummers)
  4. Ayra (Ara in the Yoruba language)
  5. Babalu Aye (Obaluaye in the Yoruba language)
  6. Egungun (The patron deity of the sainted dead)
  7. Erinle
  8. Eshu
  9. Ibeji (The patron deities of twins)
  10. Iroco (Iroko in the Yoruba language)
  11. Iya Nla
  12. Logun Ode (Logunede in the Yoruba language)
  13. Moremi
  14. Nana
  15. Oba
  16. Obatala
  17. Oduduwa
  18. Ogun (The patron deity of warriors and metalworkers)
  19. Oke
  20. Oko orichá(The patron deity of farmers)
  21. Olokun (The patron deity of the Sea)
  22. Olumo (The patron deity of Abeokuta)
  23. Oranyan
  24. Oronsen (The patron deity of Owo).
  25. Orunmila (The patron deity of the Ifa oracle)
  26. Ori (The personal patron of each Yoruba person)
  27. Osanyin (The patron deity of herbalists)
  28. Oshosi
  29. Oshun (The patron deity of Osogbo)
  30. Oshunmare (Osumare in the Yoruba language, the patron deity of the Rainbow)
  31. Otin (The patron deity of the Otin river)
  32. Oya (The patron deity of the River Niger)
  33. Shango (The patron deity of Oyo)
  34. Yemoja
  35. Yewa
  36. Agonmin YEWA (Shango) First Children Abeokuta)
  37. Houndekon

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How many Orishas are there in numbers?

Yoruba custom frequently says that there are 400 + 1 Òrìṣà, which is related to a holy number. Other bases propose that the number is “as many as you can think of, plus one more – a countless number.” Diverse oral societies state to 400, 700, or 1,440 orichá.

Who are the 7 orishas?

The 7 Orishas are the seven African powers namely: Eshu Elegbara, Ogun, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun, Shango and Oya. When the Seven are brought together in prayer and wish, they will do remarkable things for their folks. The Seven African Powers are seven of the supremely powerful and valued orichá.

Who is the most powerful Orisha?

Out of 400 + 1 Orishas, the most powerful one is the Ṣàngó or Shango that is viewed as the most dominant and dreaded of the Orisha pantheon.