An Orisha (also spelled Orisa or Orixa) is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system. (Olodumare is also known by various other names including Olorun, Eledumare, Eleda and Olofin-Orun). This religion has found its way throughout the world and is now expressed in practices as varied as Candomblé, Lucumí/Santería, Shango in Trinidad, Anago and Oyotunji, as well as in some aspects of Umbanda, Winti, Obeah, Vodun and a host of others. These varieties or spiritual lineages as they are called are practiced throughout areas of Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Togo, Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela among others. As interest in African indigenous religions (spiritual systems) grows, Orisha communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While this may vary, some scholars estimate there could be more than 100 million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.
An entity that possesses the capability of reflecting some of the manifestations of Olódùmarè. Yòrùbá Oriṣas (translated "owners of heads") are often described as intermediaries between man and the supernatural. The term is often translated as "deities" or "divinities".
Oriṣa(s) are more like "animistic entities" and have control over specific elements in nature and are better known as the divinities, and yet there are also the Oriṣa that are more like ancient heroes and or sages and are best addressed as dema deities. Even though in the basics of things, the term Oriṣa is often used to describe either of these entities it is mainly reserved for the former.
The Yoruba belief in Orisha is meant to consolidate not contradict the terms of Olódùmarè. Adherents of the religion appeal to specific manifestations of Olódùmarè in the form of those whose fame will last for all time. Ancestors and culture-heroes held in reverence can also be enlisted for help with day-to-day problems. Some believers will also consult a geomantic divination specialist, known as a babalawo (Ifa Priest) or Iyanifa (Ifa's lady), to mediate in their problems. Ifa divination, an important part of Yoruba life, is the process through which an adept (or even a lay person skilled in oracular affairs) attempts to determine the wishes of God and His Servants. The cultural and scientific education arm of the United Nations, declared Ifa a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005.
migrationists believe Oduduwa was a local emissary from an all too earthly place, said to recount the coming of Oduduwa from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" of Mecca, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria.
Whatever the case may be, all of the Yoruba traditionally believe that daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's Ori. Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters it is taken to mean an inner portion of the soul which determines personal destiny and success. Ase, which is also spelled “Axe,” “Axé,” “Ashe,” or “Ache,” is the life-force which runs though all things, living and inanimate. Ashe is the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation which is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept about spiritual growth. Orisha devotees strive to obtain Ashe through Iwa-Pele or gentle and good character, and in turn they experience alignment with the Ori, or what others might call inner peace or satisfaction with life.
The Yoruba theogony enjoys a Pantheon of Orishas, this includes: Aganju, Obalu Aye, Erinle, Eshu/Elegba, Yemaya, Nana Buluku, Obà, Obatala, Oxossi/Ochosi/Osoosi, Oshumare, Ogun/Ogoun/Ogunda, Oko, Olofi, Olokun, Olorun, Orunmila, Oshun, Osun, Oya, Ozain, and Shango, among countless others. In the Lucumi tradition, Osun and Oshun are different Orishas. Oshun is the beautiful and benevolent Orisha of love, life, marriage, sex and money while Osun is the protector of the Ori, or our heads and inner Orisha. The Yoruba also venerate their ancestral spirits through Egungun masquerades, Orò, Irumole, Gelede and Ibeji, the orisha of Twins (which is no wonder since the Yoruba are officially known to have the world's highest rate of twin births of any group). In fact, the world capital of twins is the Yoruba town of Igboora, with an average of 150 twins per 1 000 birth.
Partial list of Orishas
- Olokun - guardian of the deep ocean, the abyss, and signifies unfathomable wisdom,
- Obatala (Obatalá, Oxalá, Orixalá, Orisainlá) - arch-divinity, father of humankind, divinity of light, spiritual purity, and moral uprightness
- Orunmila (Orunla, Ifá) - divinity of wisdom, divination, destiny, and foresight
- Eshu (Eleggua, Exú, Esu, Elegba, Legbara, Papa Legba) - Eshu is the messenger between the human and divine worlds, Undergod of duality, crossroads and beginnings, and also a phallic and fertility Undergod (an Embodiment of Life) and the deliverer of souls to the underworld (an Embodiment of Death). Eshu is recognized as a trickster and is child-like, while Eleggua is Eshu under the influence of Obatala.
- Ochumare (Oshumare, Oxumare) - rainbow deity, divinity of movement and activity, guardian of children and associated with the umbilical cord
- Nana Buluku as Yemaja, the female thought of the male creator Ashe and the effective cause of all further creation. Sometimes considered to be the same as the Fon Mawu-Lisa who is, however, most usually depicted as her child or children. 
- Iemanja (Yemaja, Imanja, Yemayá, Jemanja, Yemalla, Yemana, Yemanja, Yemaya, Yemayah, Yemoja, Ymoja, Nanã, La Sirène, LaSiren, Mami Wata) - divine mother, divinity of the sea and loving mother of mankind, daughter of Obatala and wife of Aganju.
- Aganju (Aganyu, Agayu) - Father of Shango, he is also said to be Shango's brother in other stories. Aganju is said to be the orisha of volcanoes, mountains, and the desert.
- Shango (Shangó, Xango, Changó, Chango, Nago Shango) - warrior deity ; divinity of thunder, fire, sky father, represents male power and sexuality
- Oba (Obba) - Shango's jealous wife, divinity of marriage and domesticity, daughter of Iemanja
- Oya (Oyá, Oiá, Iansã, Yansá, Iansan, Yansan) - warrior deity; divinity of the wind, sudden change, hurricanes, and underworld gates, a powerful sorceress and primary lover of Shango
- Ogoun (Ogun, Ogúm, Ogou) - warrior deity; divinity of iron, war, labour, sacrifice, politics, and technology (e.g. railroads)
- Oshun (Oshún, Ọṣun, Oxum, Ochun, Osun, Oschun) - divinity of rivers, love, feminine beauty, fertility, and art, also one of Shango's lovers and beloved of Ogoun
- Ibeji - the sacred twins, represent youth and vitality
- Ochosi (Oxósse, Ocshosi, Osoosi, Oxossi) - hunter and the scout of the orishas, deity of the accused and those seeking justice or searching for something
- Ozain (Osain, Osanyin) - Orisha of the forest, he owns the Omiero, a holy liquid consisting of many herbs, the liquid through which all saints and ceremonies have to proceed. Ozain is the keeper and guardian of the herbs, and is a natural healer. He sometimes appears as a beautiful wood sprite when in female form.
- Babalu Aye (Omolu, Soponna, Shonponno, Obaluaye, Sakpata, Shakpana) - divinity of disease and illness (particularly smallpox, leprosy, and now AIDS), also orisha of healing and the earth, son of Iemanja
- Erinle (Inle) - orisha of medicine, healing, and comfort, physician to the gods
- Oko (Okko) - orisha of agriculture and the harvest
- Ori (Yoruba) - Ruler of the head
- ↑ Kevin Baxter (on De La Torre), Ozzie Guillen secure in his faith, Los Angeles Times, 2007
- ↑ Cf.The Concept of God: The People of Yoruba for the acceptability of the translation
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 J. Olumide Lucas, The Religion of the Yorubas, Athelia Henrietta PR, 1996. ISBN 0-963-87878-6
- ↑ E. Bolaji Idowu Olódùmarè: God in Yoruba Belief (ed Hardcover) Wazobia, 1994 ISBN 1-886-83200-5
- ↑ Article: Oduduwa, The Ancestor Of The Crowned Yoruba Kings
- Awo Fa'Lokun Fatunmbi Orisas
- J. Omosade Awolalu, Yoruba Beliefs & Sacrificial Rites. ISBN 0-9638787-3-5
- William Bascom, Sixteen Cowries.
- Lydia Cabrera, El Monte: Igbo-Nfinda, Ewe Orisha/Vititi Nfinda. ISBN 0-89729-009-7
- Charles Spencer King, Nature's Ancient Religion: Orisha Worship & IFA. ISBN 1-44041-733-4
- Charles Spencer King, IFA Y Los Orishas: La Religion Antigua De LA Naturaleza. ISBN 1-46102-898-1
- Raul Canizares, Cuban Santeria.
- Chief Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon, Apetebii: The Wife of Orunmila. ISBN 0-9638787-1-9
- Fakayode Fayemi Fatunde (2004) Osun, The Manly Woman. New York: Athelia Henrietta Press.
- James T. Houk, Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad. 1995. Temple University Press.
- Jo Anna Hunter, “Oro Pataki Aganju: A Cross Cultural Approach Towards the Understanding of the Fundamentos of the Orisa Aganju in Nigeria and Cuba”. In Orisa Yoruba God and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora, edited by Toyin Falola, Ann Genova. New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc. 2006.
- Baba Ifa Karade, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, Weiser Books, York Beach, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-877-28789-9
- Gary Edwards (Author), John Mason (Author), Black Gods - Orisa Studies in the New World , 1998. ISBN 1-881-24408-3
- John Mason, Olokun: Owner of Rivers and Seas. ISBN 1-881244-05-9
- John Mason, Orin Orisa: Songs for selected Heads. ISBN 1-881244-06-7
- David M. O'Brien, Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah.
- S. Solagbade Popoola, Ikunle Abiyamo: It is on Bent Knees that I gave Birth. 2007. Asefin Media Publication
- Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit.
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