Sunday, October 23, 2011

Orishas (of Ifa & it's branches)

OLODUMARE (Olofin, Olorun)

Saint: Jesus Christ or the dove of the Holy Spirit.

Day of the Week: Thursday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): All and none.

Sacrificial Animal: None. No animal sacrifices of any type.

Sacrificial Food: None.

Herbs: None.

Ornaments: None.

Apataki: Olodumare, even though he was king of the other
gods, had a mortal fear of mice. The other gods thought that a king, especially their king, should not be afraid of anything as unimportant and weak as a mouse.

"Olodumare has turned into a weak old woman," they said, for they believed it shameful to fear mice. "It's time that we took away his power and named another king." Besides, they wanted total dominion of the world.

Things continued as they were until the principal Orishas got
together again. "We must take away Olodumare's power," they said. "He is getting old and weak. "Everyone agreed, again. There was a problem, though. Olodumare was old, but he certainly was not weak. He was fierce and terrible
and not one of the other Orishas would dare to challenge him in combat.

The Orishas thought and talked and thought some more until one, no one knows who came up with an idea. "Let's scare Olodumare to death," said the unknown Orisha. "How do you propose to do that?" asked the other Orishas, since they themselves were deathly afraid of Olodumare. "Olodumare is afraid of mice," said the Orisha. "Everyone knows that," exclaimed the disappointed Orishas. "We thought that you had an idea." "If he is afraid of one mouse," continued the Orisha, "what would happen if we invite him over to our house and fill it with mice?" "Tell us," said the other Orishas.
"If Olodumare finds himself in a house full of mice, he will be so afraid that he will run away from here or die. We'll take over his house and we will be the masters of the world." "That's a wonderful plan," they all exclaimed.

Putting their heads together, the Orishas began to plot how they were going to lure Olodumare to their house and scare him to death with mice. They forgot that Elegua was by the door. He lived by the door, since he is the Orisha that rules roads, routes and entrances. They had forgotten all about him. He heard all their plans.

What did Elegua do? What did the trickster Orisha do? He knew the day that Olodumare was coming. He had listened to the other Orishas' plans. He waited and hid behind the door. Olodumare arrived, happy to have been invited to a party. He knew that he was not as popular among the Orishas as he used to be. Little did he know that the other Orishas were hidden, waiting to release hundreds of mice. 

The moment he stepped inside, the door was slammed shut at Olodumare's back. The mice were released.
Olodumare was terrified and ran around the house screaming, "The mice are attacking. The mice are attacking!" He tried to find a place to hide, but every box he opened and every closet he ran into just had more and more mice.

Olodumare ran head first at the door, ready to demolish it, just so
that he could escape the tormenting rodents. Just as head and door
were going to meet, Elegua stepped out and stopped his panicked
"Stop, Olodumare," said Elegua, putting his arms around the
terrified old Orisha. "No mouse will harm you."
"Yes they will. Yes they will," cried Olodumare.
"Watch," said Elegua. He started eating the mice.
Elegua ate and ate and ate until he had eaten all the mice.
Olodumare, whose fear had turned to fury, demanded, "Who
dared do this to me?"
Elegua said nothing. Smiling like a happy cat, he pointed out the
hiding places of all the plotting Orishas.
Olodumare immediately punished them in a very terrible and
painful manner. After he grew tired of watching them hop and
scream, he turned to Elegua and said, "Now, what can I do for
Elegua scuffed the floor and shook his head. "Oh, nothing," he
"Nothing!" roared Olodumare. "You saved me and you saved my
crown and you want nothing?"
"Well," said Elegua, "maybe just a little thing."
"You can have whatever you want," said Olodumare firmly.
"I want the right to do what I want," said Elegua. He went on with
more conviction, ignoring Olodumare's raised eyebrows. "I want
the right to do what I will. I want the right to do what I want,
whatever that may be."
Olodumare wished it so, and so it was. From that moment on,
Elegua is the only god that does as he wills without restraints or

Olodumare is unique within the Yoruba pantheon. He never
comes down to earth. Few Santeros speak of Olodumare because
there are no Babalawos "asentados" in him. No one is "asentado"
in Olodumare. He never possesses anyone at a "bembe" or a
"golpe de Santo".

He is the ruler of all the other gods, except Elegua, as the Apataki
shows. More than the Orishas' ruler, he was their creator as well
as the source and origin of men, animals, plants, rivers, oceans
and the heavens. He also created the earth, the sun, the moon and
the stars.
Before going to bed, a Santero will ask Olodumare to give him the
strength to get up the following day by chanting, "olofin ewa wo",
"May Olofin help us get up". At dawn, when he awakens and
ascertains that he is still among the living, he says, "olodumare e
egbeo", "May Olodumare grant us a good day".
Olodumare is old. He is very tired and has been working long and
hard on the universe, which is a very large job. He should not be
bothered with small things. Santeros ask favors of the Orishas that
can directly solve their problems and do not bother Olodumare.
A series of commandments are attributed to Olodumare:
You will not steal.
You will not kill except in self defense or to survive.
You will not eat human flesh.
You will live in peace with your neighbor.
You will not covet your neighbor's possessions.
You will not use my name in vain.
You will honor your mother and your father.
You will not ask for more than I am able to give you and you will
be satisfied with your destiny.
You will not fear death or take your own life.
You will respect and obey my laws.
You will teach these commandments to your son.


bogwo ikú oluwo embesesé olodumare ayuba igbaé bayé tonú.


Saint: Our Lady of Mercy (La Virgen de las Mercedes).

Day of the Week: Sunday. Thursday is also popular.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
His color is the purest white. The collar is made up of all white beads. A variation on the collar is 21 white beads followed by a coral bead repeated to make up the desired length.

Sacrificial Animals: Female goats, white chickens, white canaries. In cases of grave illness, he will accept a white female calf.

Sacrificial Foods: Yam, rice flour paste, corn meal dumplings
and black eyed peas. He hates alcoholic beverages. The only spice that Obatala likes is cocoa butter. He drinks chequete. His water comes from the rain. His favorite fruit is the sweet soursop (guanabana).

Herbs: Amansa Guapo, Chamise (wild cane), madonna lilies,
calla lilies, cotton, purslane, almonds, white hamelia, white
elderberry, white peonies, sweet basil, sweet soursop, wild mint, marjoram, jimson weed, blite, goosefoot, African bayonet, yucca, witch hazel and sweet balm among others. eguere egun, san diego blanco

Ornaments: Obatala's image must be made of white metal or silver. In one hand, he holds a crown. A sun, a moon, four wristlets, a walking stick with a clenched fist, a half moon and a coiled snake; all made out of silver. Two ivory eggs.


Obatala was the only Orisha that knew where Olodumare lived.
This gave him a very important position among the other Orishas.
At that time, the Orishas had no power of their own. They had to
beg all their power from Olodumare..
"Obatala!" the Orishas would call out. "Please have Olodumare
straighten out the fight between Oshun and Chango."
And, Obatala would make the long journey to Olodumare's house
and relay the message.

"Obatala, a person needs healing and love," said Yemaya. "Please
have Olodumare give me the power to heal them."
Back and forth travelled Obatala. He gave messages. He granted
favors. He ran himself ragged. He became unhappy. He was not
ambitious and he knew that the other Orishas were talking behind
his back.
"Obatala thinks he is our leader," the Orishas grumbled. "He gives
himself airs just because he knows where Olodumare lives."
"Do you see how he listens to us?" complained another Orisha.
"It's as if we were his spoiled children. Who does he think he is?"
So, Obatala took all the Orishas to Olodumare's home.
"Good morning, Obatala," said Olodumare. "What can I do for
your friends?"
"I'm tired of running back and forth, with all due respect," said
Obatala. "I would like for you to give each of my friends some of
your power."
"I don't know," Olodumare hemmed and hawed. "Do you think it's
the right thing to do?"
"Just think, great Lord," said Obatala. "If you give them a bit of
your power, I would not have to come here and bother you about
this and that every day."
"You have a point there, Obatala," said Olodumare. "I'll do it."
So, Olodumare gave each of the Orishas a bit of his power, hoping
to get a little peace and quiet. Finally, he got to Obatala.
"To you, Obatala," he said, "I give the right to control the heads of
all the human beings."
Since it is the head that makes a human being good or evil, a good
son or a bad son, Obatala became the Orisha with the most
authority over human beings. More than any of the other Orishas.
"Did you see that?" said the other Orishas. "He brought us here
just so that he could maintain his power."
Which just goes to prove that you can't please anyone.

Obatala is the supreme divinity on the terrestrial plane. He
represents such a refined purity, that it cannot be described
through words or songs. He is reason and justice and all that is moral. Controlling the head, he is considered the father of all human beings. He gives the best advice and is the one to turn to in times of great difficulties.

The relationship between the Santeros and the Orishas is much more intimate and direct than in other religions. The Orishas have human passions and desires. They can be cruel and unjust just like human beings. When the Orishas manifest their cruelty, Obatala is called upon to mediate in the situation and to calm and soothe the furious Orisha.


obatalá obataisa obatayanu obirigwalano katioke okuni ayé
kofiedenu babámi ayaguná leyibó jekun babá odumila oduaremu
asabi olodo babámi ayuba.

ORUNMILA (Ifa, Orula)

Saint: St. Francis.

Day of the Week: Thursday. Sunday is also popular.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): His colors are green and yellow. The collar is made up of alternating green and yellow beads strung to the desired length.

Sacrificial Animals: A goat who has not given birth. Dark

Sacrificial Foods: Red snapper and yam puree. Plums are his favorite fruit. He drinks white wine and his water is to come from a spring. His favorite condiment is corojo butter.

Herbs: Guava, sage, night shade, ginger, dog bane, guanine, myrtle, corn, honeysuckle, night jasmine, pitch apple, guasima, (guazuma guazuma) tree native to Cuba, parami, and corojo among others. san francisco (palo o hierba), don carlos, uvancillo, parami, chinchita

Ornaments: A hardwood board having various shapes according to the Babalawos's tradition (Ifa's Board). As well as serving as a surface upon which the cowrie shell oracle is table upon which many rites are performed. Cowrie shells and oracular collars also belong to Orunmila.


Orunmila does not fear death. One day, a woman came running up
to Orunmila. These were the days that the Orishas still walked on
the earth. She clutched at his shoulders and cried out, "Iku is
going around and around my house."
This was very serious because Iku is the name of death. When Iku
wants someone, she walks outside the house looking for a small
hole or opening through which she can get in and take away the
person inside.
"Iku is at my house," she cried again. "She wants to take my only
son, my little boy. Iku sent in a fever and it's going to kill him if I
don't do something." She started to drag Orunmila back to her
house. "We have to hurry," she said, sobbing. "I have turned my
back. Iku may be getting into my house right now to take away
my child."
Orunmila smiled down at her and said, "Don't cry, good woman."
"But, what should I do? You have to help me," she said.
Orunmila patted her head to calm her down. "Don't worry," he
said. "Go to the market and buy four baskets full of okra and take
them back to your house."
"What about my child?" sobbed the frightened woman. "I will go
to your house and make sure that Iku does not go in," said
Orunmila. "Go to the market in peace."
The woman followed Orunmila's advice. She went to the market
and bought three heaping baskets of okra.
When she got home, breathless from having run with the three
baskets, she found Orunmila waiting for her.
"Here are the baskets," she said. "What are you going to do with
"Hush," said Orunmila. "I don't have time for explanations."
He took the baskets from the woman, went inside the house and
spread the contents of the baskets all over the floors until they
were covered by a thick carpet of okra.
He handed the baskets back to the anxious mother. "Don't worry,
mother," he said. "Iku won't be able to do your son any harm."
Exhausted by the run from the market and a fear and anxiety that
had not let her sleep for days, the mother collapsed on a cot and
went to sleep.
As she slept, the child's fever rose. Iku was thinking that it was
time to take the child away, so she made the sickness worse. Iku
went up to the door and found that it was unlatched and had not
closed all the way. Death slipped in through the crack, hurrying to
get to the child before the mother awoke.
Iku strode across the room with her usual firm and silent steps.
But, when her hard and bony heels stepped on the okra, the fruit
burst open. Iku slipped and slid. All the okra on the floor oozed its
sap as Iku slipped from one side of the room to the other. The sap
was as slippery as soap. Both of death's feet slipped out from
under her. Her long arm bones windmilled trying to regain her
"Oh, crap," she cried. And, before she could say anything else, her
bony hips hit the floor, shaking loose all her joints.
Iku had to slip and dig through the mess of okra to find one or two
little bones that had come off. She made her way very carefully to
the door. Outside, Orunmila waited for her.
"How are you this afternoon, Iku?" he asked very politely.
"Curse you, Orunmila," she spat. "I know that this is all your fault.
Curse you and that cursed woman in there for getting you to help
"Are you coming again?" Orunmila called out as Iku hobbled off
down the path.
She turned and gave him an evil look.
"Are you crazy?" she said. "I'm going to wait a long time and
make sure that okra is gone."

Orunmila is highly regarded within the Santeria pantheon. He is the Orisha that predicts the future. He is in charge of destiny, both human and Orisha.

He is an invisible presence at every birth, since he also oversees pregnancies and the care and raising of children.
He knows how to use the ceremonial and healing herbs and
instructs human beings in their uses. Orunmila is the intermediary between humans and Olodumare.

The Santeros and the Babalawos are familiar with the problems and tragedies that afflict human beings. Thanks to Orunmila, who communicates with them through the oracles, the Babalawo or the Santero can come up with the solution to a person's problems. Their advice must be followed to the letter.

Orunmila never possesses a human being. It is felt that he is too important and close to Olodumare for that. In a Santeria
ceremony, the Iyalochas of Oshun dance for him since he does not have a physical body that can enjoy the drumming and dancing.


orunmila egwadoni en agwaluri ñakiedé ifá omá ifá ogwó ifá
arikú babagwá agó.


Saint: The Holy Child of Atocha.

Day of the Week: Mondays and the third day of each month.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Red and black. His collar is made up of three red beads followed by three black beads. After the three black beads, a red bead alternates with a black bead three times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.

Sacrificial Animals: Small goats, roosters. On rare occasions, monkeys, sheep, bulls, ox and deer. Chickens should not be offered. Elegua is a glutton and will bother and torment the participants at a ceremony until he has had his fill of blood.

Sacrificial Foods: Smoked fish and smoked jutia. He loves yams. His favorite fruit is sugar cane. Everything should be well spiced with corojo butter. He loves to drink aguardiente and he favors standing water.

Herbs: Abre camino, (Bunchosia media), Cuban spurge, sargasso, wild convulvulus, foxtail, nettles, manyroot, crowfoot, neat's tongue, white pine nuts, jack bean, spiny blite, nightshade, black eyed peas, ateje, (cordia collocea), heliotrope, pigeon peas, mastic tree, camphor leaves, chili peppers, corn stalks, corn leaves, and corn silk, avocado leaves, avocado roots, coconut husk, coconut palm
stem, corojo, guava, wild croton, coffee, cowhage, peppergrass, dried rose buds, senna, soapberry tree, bitter bush, and mint among others.

Ornaments: Elegua is never without his "garabato", the shepherd's hook (sometimes only a crooked stick or club) with which he metes out punishment. He protects temples, cities and houses. He does this by residing in a helmet-shaped construction made out of stone or cement with
cowrie shells for eyes. The small statue is placed next to an
entrance way. From this abode, Elegua protects all the residents. Since he is as playful as a child, tops, marbles and kites hold a special fascination for him.


Orunmila had returned to earth to see how all the Babalawos he
had trained in the arts of divination were getting along. He
decided to travel from town to town and greet his old students.
"Orunmila, how nice to see you," said one. "I don't have time to
talk with you now, I have an appointment."
"Orunmila, how are you?" said another. "If you come back on
Wednesday, I'll be able to see you."
"Orunmila, I'm very busy with my clients right now," said a third.
"Could you come back in a day or so?"
Orunmila was furious. All his old students were ignoring him.
They were too concerned with making money and having a big reputation to honor their old teacher. Orunmila decided to teach
them a lesson.
He sent out notice that he would challenge all the Babalawos to a
contest to see who cast the most accurate oracles. Orunmila
figured that, after they had been shamed by his incomparable skill,
all the Babalawos would respect him again.
After the notices had been sent, he went to the nearest town and
challenged the Babalawo. Orunmila proved to be a far better
reader of the oracles, of course. But, the Babalawo refused to pay
Orunmila the agreed upon amount.
Elegua, who is never far away and always likes to play tricks,
walked up to Orunmila and the Babalawo.
"Hello, Orunmila, how are you today?" said Elegua.
"I am angry, Elegua." fumed Orunmila.
"And, why is that, dear Orunmila?" Elegua tried to stifle his
giggles, since he knew perfectly well what had been going on.
"This cheat of a Babalawo has lost a wager with me," answered
Orunmila. "And now, he refuses to pay."
Elegua looked up and down the nervous Babalawo. "Is that right?
Are you trying to cheat Orunmila?"
"Well, Lord Elegua..." stammered the Babalawo.
Before he could say another word, Elegua reached out and put his
powerful warrior's hand around the Babalawo's neck. He looked at
the man straight in the eye.
"Tell me," he said softly, "are you looking for trouble?"
"No," squeaked the Babalawo.
Elegua raised his garabato stick over the Babalawo's head.
"You'd never do anything to make me angry, would you?"
growled Elegua.
Another squeak, "No."
"And what are you going to do?" asked Elegua, tapping the
unhappy Babalawo on the nose with his garabato stick.
"I'm going to pay Orunmila?" asked the Babalawo.
"What was that?" shouted Elegua, shaking the Babalawo back and
"I'm going to pay Orunmila. I'm going to pay Orunmila." stuttered
the Babalawo.
He took his money pouch out of his clothes and handed the whole
thing over to Orunmila.
"I thought you wanted to cheat Orunmila, but I see that you are a
man who pays his debts when he loses." said Elegua and gave the
Babalawo a resounding slap on the back. "I'll leave you alone."
Orunmila and Elegua turned and walked away arm in arm. The
Babalawo picked himself up from the road and began dusting off
his clothes.
"One more thing," said Elegua turning back to the Babalawo.
"Yes?" The Babalawo cringed.
"Since you have forgotten that the oracles are meant to
communicate with the Orishas and not to increase the Babalawo's
wealth, I'm prohibiting you from using the Dilogun ever again."
Orunmila and Elegua left the Babalawo wailing after them.
In the next town, the Babalawo saw Elegua and his tick standing
next to Orunmila. There was no trouble there.


Elegua is the guardian of entrances, roads and paths. He is the first Orisha to be invoked in a ceremony and the last one to be bid farewell. He has to be first in anything, just like a spoiled child.

The first rhythms of the drums belong to him. He must be
petitioned before all the oracles. Orunmila is the one who
communicates, but Elegua guards the paths of communication. It is he who acts as an intermediary between human beings and the other Orishas.

He is the trickster, and is feared because, with so much power controlled only by his whim, great harm may result from his practical jokes. Like a very large and powerful child, he is ruthless with those that cross his path when he is in the midst of a tantrum. If his precedence is not carefully maintained, and the proper ceremonies are not followed, Elegua becomes indignant and rushes to open the paths to Iku, death.

All beings have their destiny, but through Elegua's influence,
destiny and luck may be changed. However, when petitioning Elegua, the Santero must always remember that he is a trickster and word the request very carefully. He can just as easily block the path to happiness and luck as open it.

Elegua appears to travellers as a small child with the face of an old man, wearing a Panama hat and smoking a good cigar. He takes on other guises in order to play his tricks and to measure the level of charity and compassion among human beings. When Elegua possesses a Santero, he immediately heads to the door and stands guard. There, he carries out his pranks and childish mischiefs, dancing and threatening the other participants with a smack from his garabato stick.

Elegua is one of the fiercest warriors in the Yoruba pantheon. When joined with Ogun and Oshosi in battle, nothing can stand in their way.

How to Make an Elegua

No matter which branch of the Santeria tradition is followed,
Elegua always inhabits a stone. It could be a natural stone or a cement form. These are the instructions for constructing an Elegua out of natural stone.

Find a medium size stone, one about the size and shape of a large potato is ideal. The stone should be collected next to a railroad track, at a crossroads, or under a coconut palm.
Find the natural base of the stone, the surface where it will come to rest upright by itself. Bore a perfectly round hole into the base of the stone about two inches deep by an inch in diameter.

Cut the head off a white chicken and let the blood drip onto the stone. Make an Omiero with May rainwater, coconut milk and the herbs that belong to Elegua. Wash the stone thoroughly in the Omiero and leave it to soak for 24 hours.

Select three small precious stones. All gems belong to Elegua. Place the three gems in the hole in the stone along with three small pieces of silver, three small nuggets of gold, three small pieces of coconut, some feathers from the sacrificed chicken and a small personal piece of gold jewelry. Seal the hole with cement made with sand from a crossroads, Guinea pepper and cemetery dust.

When the cement is dry, paint the rock black. Crown it with a fighting cock's spur, with the curve towards the back. Give it cowrie shell eyes. Take a white rooster and the rock to a palm tree growing by a crossroads. Sacrifice the rooster and let the blood drip on the stone. Bury the rooster three inches deep at the base of the palm.

After three days, dig up the rooster and wash it in a flowing river, first asking Oshun's permission by tossing a live white chicken into the river along with a little honey. Elegua is ready to be stationed by the door.

How to Place an Elegua

Monday is the most auspicious day to position the Elegua, but it can be done on any day of the week. Place the Elegua inside a large clay pot heavily smeared on the outside with corojo butter. Place it next to the door. Smear the lintel and the door with corojo butter. Sacrifice a young white
rooster. Allow the blood to drip upon the stone.

Make three balls of uncooked corn meal and honey. Place them next to the stone along with a gourd of aguardiente, cigars. pieces of coconut, a small plate of sweets, smoked jutia, and as many of the things that are pleasing to Elegua as the Santero is able to afford. Arrange all the offerings around the pot.

Kiss the neck of the sacrificed rooster. Consult the coconut oracle and see if Elegua is happy with all his offerings. If Elegua responds favorably, this is the best time to consult the oracle about anything else that may be worrying you at the time.

Elegua's food should be changed every Monday. A candle should be lit in his honor every time he is fed.

Elegua's presence is felt in the house as a noise that runs from one side of the door to the other. He is often seen by small children, who can touch him and exchange toys.

Only those persons who have been initiated and have been possessed by an Orisha have the power to grant an Elegua.

How to Salute an Elegua

Stand before the Elegua. Lift your right arm and move your right foot out the side and say:

"A elegua ako pashu eshu toru le fi ya yomare ako eshu tori toru tere mafun elegua laroye locua e elegua atande naro elegua maferefun elegua."

Or, you may speak your own language. The Orisha will
understand the greeting.

Repeat the same process with the left arm and foot. When you are finished, turn your back on the Elegua and wipe your feet backwards as if you were cleaning them. Never kneel to or lay down in front of an Elegua.

An Ebo to Elegua

Three pieces of yellow paper or three small paper grocery bags.
Corojo butter.
Three pieces of smoked fish.
Smoked jutia. Dried corn.
Cinnamon sticks. 
Three small pieces of coconut.
Three cigars.
Nine pennies.

Divide the offering evenly among the three small bags or the
pieces of paper. Wrap each small package tightly with red and black thread.
Pass each packet over you head three times, turning around threetimes after each pass. Repeat the procedure over your feet, hands and, finally all over your body.
Throw away one package at a crossroads. Throw the second away in a lot or field full of tall weeds. Throw the last one away near a cemetery.

Mayubo to Elegua:

laroye akiloye aguro tente onú apagurá akama sesé areletuse
abamula omubatá okóloofofó okoloñiñi toni kan ofó omoró agun
oyona alayiki agó.

CHANGO (Jakuta, Obakoso, Shango)

Saint: St. Barbara.

Day of the Week: Saturday. Friday is also popular. Huge parties are held in Chango's honor on December 4th, St. Barbara's day according to the Catholic calendar.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): His colors are red and white. The collar is made up of six red beads followed by six white beads. Then, a red bead alternates with a white bead six times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.

Sacrificial Animals: Roosters. Complicated Ebos may require sheep, small bulls, pigs, goats, deer, rabbits, and oxen. A horse is required to remove a very strong curse or to change an oracle predicting death.

Sacrificial Foods: Chango is a glutton. He loves huge portions of corn meal and okra. Apples are his favorite fruit, and he likes pitahaya (cactus fruit). All his food should be heavily loaded with corojo butter. Chango drinks red wine in large quantities. His water should come from a pond.

Herbs: arabo rojo, cordoban, vacabuey, siguaraya Banyan tree, kapok tree, poplar, sorghum, clematis, hog plum, Cuban spurge, cashews, ironwood, mugwort, bran, climbing vines, bull's testicles, American spurge, leeks, pitahaya, plantains and bananas, red hamelias, Bermuda grass, royal palm, pine, lignum vitae, amansa guapo, pine nuts and apple trees among others. 

A sword, a knife, a machete, an ax, a dagger and a spear, almost always made out of cedar. Chango is also represented by the image of a warrior holding a large double edged hatchet in one hand and a sword in the other. Both images, the warrior and St. Barbara can be found on the same altar.


Obakoso, in Yoruba, means "the king that did not hang himself."
This is the story of how Chango came by that name.
Chango has always been a womanizer. Back in the days when he
was a king in Africa, he had two wives. He ruled his women hard
and he ruled his kingdom hard, for his temper had not mellowed
yet with age.
"You are always yelling and stomping in this house," said Wife
Number One.
"That's right," said Wife Number Two, "You never have a kind
word for anyone."
"All you care about is your stomach," said Wife Number One.
"And you don't care about us, " said Wife Number Two.
"You never buy us presents," said Wife Number One.
"You never take us anywhere," said Wife Number Two.
"You don't love us," wailed both wives in unison.
"I don't stomp around the house," shouted Chango, stomping
around the house. "I was having a pleasant morning, thinking
about how nice it would be to have a little wild duck and you two
have ruined it."
"Do you hear that?" said Wife Number One to Wife Number Two.
"I told you all he cared about was his stomach."
"That's it!" shouted Chango. "I'm getting on my horse and riding
into the forest. At least no one will nag me there."
"How long are you going to be gone?" asked Wife Number One.
"I'll be back when I'm good and ready. Don't bother looking for
me or coming after me," snarled Chango.
"As if we would," sniffed Wife Number Two.
Chango stormed off through the palace, slamming doors and
kicking cats. No one paid him any attention, since this was his
normal way of walking through the castle. All his subjects were
used to Chango's tantrums.
No one waved as Chango rode off into the forest.
"He's in one of his moods," said the groom to a kitchen maid.
"He'll be back in a little while." He rubbed the top of his head. "I
hope he comes back in a better mood and does not hit me again."
A week passed and Chango had not come back.
"He's with a new woman," some said.
"He is on adventure," said others.
"He's drunk somewhere," said Wife Number One.
A month passed. Chango's wives would burst out crying without
reason. His subjects missed the noise of the slamming doors and
the screeching cats.
"Where can he be?" They asked.
"he's been gone way too long," said others.
"We have to go and look for him," said Wife Number Two. "I
can't stand this any longer."
A well organized search party was sent out into the forest. It
returned a week later.
"Well?" asked Wife Number One.
"Nothing," said the captain of the search party.
Rumors began to fly in the palace.
"Chango went into the forest and hung himself because he was
ashamed of what a bad king he was," said some people.
"He tied a rope around his neck and jumped off the top of a large
Banyan tree because his mistress abandoned him," said others.
The rumors and the search parties kept coming and going. Chango
was not to be found. It had been six months since he had ridden
off into the forest.
A new massive search was organized. Everyone in the palace,
from the youngest child to the oldest woman, set out into the
forest. They looked under every stone. They climbed every tree.
Slowly, they made their way into the center of the forest.
Hundreds of voices cried out, "Chango! Where are you Chango?"
And the echo came back, "Chango."
Women beat their breasts and smeared their bodies with ashes.
"Where are you, Chango?" they shouted. "Tell us if you have
hung yourself."
Deep in the deepest part of the forest, up on top of the tallest and
oldest banyan tree, Chango woke up from a nap. He heard the
hundreds of voices that had awakened him. "Chango, Chango.
Where are you, Chango?"
Chango was furious. He hated noise and he specially hated it
when it woke him up from a nap.
"What is that racket?" he shouted. "Who are all you people?"
Then, he saw that it was hundreds of his warriors and thousands
of his subjects beating the bushes, scaring the animals and
destroying the peace and quiet of the forest.
Chango's got angrier, as most people do when they are rudely
awakened from a nap. He stood up on the topmost branch of the
banyan tree and roared, "I am here! I did not hang myself and I
will never hang myself."
The forest was silent. A thousand heads looked up to Chango,
standing proudly on top of the banyan tree.
"Come down, Chango, come down!" shouted his subjects.
"Quiet," yelled Chango. He waited for all the murmuring and
muttering and crying to die out. "I'm not coming down," he said.
"If I come down, if I go back to the palace, my wives," he pointed
a stiff and slightly dirty finger at them, " Who are now friends,
crying over my loss, will start fighting with each other again.
What's worse, they'll start fighting with me again."
"No, we won't," shouted Wife Number One.
"You get yourself right down here," said Wife Number Two.
"Come down, Chango. Come down." shouted all his subjects.
Chango sat on the branch and thought about what he should do.
He thought and thought until all the shouting had died down
"Are you coming down now?" asked Wife Number One. "It's
almost time for dinner," said Wife Number Two.
Chango came to a decision. He stood on the branch atop the
banyan tree. He raised his arms and shouted, "My people!"
"Come down, Chango." they all cried.
"Quiet!" shouted Chango. I've come to the conclusion that it is
just too much of a bother and a problem and a headache to try to
govern all of you."
"Are you calling us a problem?" shrieked Wife Number One.
"Are you saying we're a headache?" screamed Wife Number Two.
"From now on," said Chango, as he dodged a couple of well
aimed rocks thrown by his wives, "I will still rule you, but I will
rule you from far away." Another rock whizzed by his head.
"From very far away. I'm going to rule you from the sky."
Ignoring the shouts and tears of his subjects and the curses and
stones from his wives, Chango grabbed a thick chain that led from
the top of the banyan tree to the sky. He pulled himself up link by
link. When he paused for breath and looked down, his subjects
were tiny. He could not distinguish his wives. He looked up. The
chain disappeared into the blue sky.
He climbed and he climbed and he climbed until he reached the
sky. There, he stayed.
He is now an Orisha among the Orishas. Chango looks at the
actions of his people down here on earth and is swift in his
punishment of the unjust and of those that do not follow the
religion or make the sacrifices.
He hurls down deadly thunderbolts on those people. He makes
whole cities explode, or he blows them away in terrible tropical
storms. His angry words make whole trees go up in flames and his
annoyed snorts create wind storms that sweep all that displeases
him away forever.


Chango is the most popular and the most widely known Orisha. He rules violent storms and thunder. He also reconciles these forces into peace and understanding. Like a tropical storm, Chango's attacks are sudden and devastating, but are soon over.

During "golpe de Santos" (Santeria ceremonies), Chango
descends among the participants and dances with his followers holding his feared two edged sword. When he possesses someone, the "caballo" dances round and round like a top. The possessed Santero will take food to all the other participants in the ceremony. Chango will then demand a sacrifice from those who have eaten.

Chango loves good music, dancing and drumming. He likes to have fun, but is a braggart who provokes violent situations. He loves women and encourages clandestine sexual adventures among his "children".

Chango has three wives, Oba, Oya (who used to be Ogun's wife), and Oshun. Yemaya is his adoptive mother. When Chango becomes aroused, it's necessary to beg his three wives and his adoptive mother to intervene. The only Orishas respected by Chango are Elegua and Olodumare.

Chango's "children" are recognized at birth by the image of a cross on their tongues. These children cannot have their hair cut until they are twelve, or they will lose their power to see into the future. They are known as the Bamboche, the messengers of Chango.


eluwekon ashé osain cherere adashé kokoni jikoji omó la dufetini
cherebinu oluosó bogwó ayalu kosó agó.


Saint: Our Lady of Charity (La Caridad del Cobre), Cuba's patron Saint.

Day of the Week: Saturday. It is the day that lovers must act if they want their love returned.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Coral and amber. The collar is strung with yellow and red beads. Amber and coral are to be used if the Santero has the money. The collar is made up of five amber beads followed by five coral beads. Then, one amber bead alternates with one coral bead five times. The pattern is repeated to obtain the desired length.

Sacrificial Animals: Neutered or female goat, white chickens, sheep, female calf, female pig, female rabbit. Oshun does not like any other type of bird. Her sacrifices should be made next to rivers or other sources
of flowing sweet water.

Sacrificial Foods: Ochin-Ochin (spinach with shrimp) and pumpkins. Her fruit is the lucuma. All of her food should be liberally garnished with honey. Oshun drinks chamomille tea. The water for the tea, and all water
used in a ceremony for Oshun, should be river water. All offerings to Oshun must be extremely clean and well prepared. She will not enter a dirty house.

Herbs: Rose, sunflowers, Indian lotus, morasun, alambrilla, frescura, cucaracha, hierba nina, arabito, mazorquilla, paraguita morada, hierba fina, ale and female ferns, creeping crowfoot, purslane, oranges and orange leaves, papaya, amber, anise seed and flower, peppergrass, marigold, sow thistle, river weeds, seaweed, white hamelias, plantain, vervain, lantana, purple grapes, maidenhair fern, rosemary, wild lettuce.

Ornaments: Copper is Oshun's metal and she is sometimes represented by a gourd crowned by festive feathers and filled with copper pennies. She also loves gold and her chief ornaments consist of a golden
crown with five points. From the points, hang five rays, five spears or five arrows. Oshun also owns two oars, a bell, and five bracelets. She loves fans made of peacock feathers.


Oshun is now married to Chango. Her first husband was
Oshun was the most breathtaking, absolutely beautiful maiden in
the region when she was a young girl. Hundreds of suitors would
come seeking to marry her. But, the result would always be the
"marry me," gasped or shouted, or whispered the suitor.
And Oshun would turn her back and walk away from the young
man. Their last sight of Oshun would be her exquisite hips
swinging back and forth, disappearing into her mother's house.
More and more suitors showed up at Oshun's house. They brought
mountains of gifts. Their horses trampled the garden. Finally, after
seeing her rose bushes eaten by a camel, Oshun's mother rushed
out of the house shouting, "That's enough!"
The serenaders stopped playing in mid chord. The duelists
dropped their swords.
"You get out of my garden right now!" shouted Oshun's mother,
"and don't come this way again."
A brave suitor spoke up. "We're in love with your daughter."
"That's right," said another. "We're here to win her hand."
"You're here making my life miserable," grumbled Oshun's
mother. However, she realized that they were right in wooing her
daughter, since she was the greatest beauty in the region.
"You're in the right," she told the surprised suitor. "But," she
added, raising her voice to be heard by the crowd of suitors. "This
madness has got to stop."
"But, we want to marry your daughter," they wailed.
"Quiet!" shouted Oshun's mother. "I have determined a fair way
for all of you to compete for my daughter's hand without tearing
around in my flowers and vegetables."
The crowd settled down.
"My daughter's name is secret. Only I know it. The one who finds
out what her name is will have proven that he has the cunning to
win my daughter's hand in marriage. His skill will melt my
daughter's heart and will win my approval. He will be her
Orunmila was in the crowd of suitors. He is the god of oracles and
can see the future.
"This should be easy," he said to himself, concentrating.
But, no matter what he did or how many times he threw the
coconuts or rattled the cowrie shells, Orunmila was unable to find
out the name of the most beautiful girl in the region.
Orunmila's other attribute is wisdom. He knew when to call for
help. He went out in search of Elegua and found the trickster
Orisha. Even though he was only Orunmila's porter, Elegua had
taught him all the sciences and secrets of divination.
"Elegua, old friend, you must help me," cried Orunmila, seizing
Elegua by the shoulders.
"Do you need money?" asked Elegua.
"I'm in love and I need your help," said Orunmila.
"Even worse," said Elegua.
"Please help me find the name of the most beautiful girl in the
region," pleaded Orunmila. "She has won the hearts of all the
men, but I want her only for myself. I want her for my wife."
"And what do you need me for?" asked Elegua.
"Only you, Elegua, who is such a wily trickster can find out the
secret of her name."
Elegua smiled modestly. "I'll try," he said.
He went directly to Oshun's mother's house. He stayed there for
days. Some days, he disguised himself as an old man. Other days,
he maintained his surveillance in the aspect of a small child. He
spent days acting the fool in the local markets, hoping that a loose
word would reveal the secret. Or, he pretended to be asleep in
Oshun's doorway, the better to hear what went on inside.
Patience always has its rewards. After many days of patient
waiting, Elegua, dozing in the doorway, heard an argument inside.
Oshun's mother, who was always very careful never to say her
daughter's name aloud, was very angry. Oshun had knocked over
a fresh pot of Omiero while trying out a new and exciting dance
"Oshun, look what you've done!" shouted the mother.
Elegua heard. "Oshun, Oshun," he said to himself, "That Oshun is
going to cost you a daughter, dear lady. That Oshun will turn a
daughter into a wife."
Elegua didn't waste any time in getting back to Orunmila's house.
"Well?" asked Orunmila anxiously.
"This has not been easy," said Elegua.
"What have you found out?"
"I had to spend weeks in the most uncomfortable positions," said
"What is her name?"
"Weeks and weeks I spent wearing itchy beards and a small boy's
body," said Elegua. "I'm all cramped.
"Please?" pleaded Orunmila.
"Her name is Oshun."
Orunmila ran to Oshun's house. He knocked on the door. she
opened it.
"You are going to be my wife because now I know your name,"
he told her.
"What is this? What is this?" asked the mother, appearing behind
"Your name is Oshun," said Orunmila, pointing his finger at her.
"And now you are mine."
The two of them were married and were happy for some time
Men kept making offers and improper advances to Oshun, even
now that she was a married woman. She paid no attention to any
of them.
One day, at a party, she glanced at the drummer, who was able to
pull heavenly rhythms out of his instrument. Oshun was smitten.
She was transfixed by love. She kept looking at the handsome
drummer and saying to herself, "He will be mine."
The miraculous drummer was none other than Chango.
"Chango, do you see her?" asked the other Orishas at the party.
"Oshun, the most beautiful of all is trying to flirt with you."
"So?" asked Chango, concentrating on a specially difficult
"Make love to her," said the Orishas. "She is beautiful and wants
Chango smiled at his friends and replied, "I have more women
than I know what to do with. They throw themselves at me."
"Braggart," thought the other Orishas.
"Besides," said Chango, counterpointing his decision with the beat
of the drums. "I'm not ready for any more complications right
That was what Chango said, but, who can resist Oshun's
enchantments? Who can say no to her grace and her flirtatious
ways? Who can let her walk away after seeing her hips swaying?
Who can refuse the invitation of her moist fleshly lips?
Chango, the great womanizer, the great conqueror could not resist.
He became interested in her. Oshun, for her part, became colder as
Chango grew warmer. She wanted to teach him a lesson for
having slighted her on their first meeting.
It became too much for Chango. He waited for Orunmila to leave
his house one day, went to the door and knocked. When Oshun
answered, Chango burst in.
"If you don't give me your love," said Chango, grabbing her arms,
"I'll go off to war and never return."
Oshun's heart melted. "Don't go," she said. "I'll love you forever."
"Forever?" asked Chango, a little taken aback.
"I'll be with you all your life," said Chango. "I'll be your wife."
On that day, she left Orunmila's house and went to live with
Chango. Their love produced the Ibeyi.


Oshun is the most beautiful Orisha. She is sexy, flirtatious and happy. As goddess of rivers, she loves to bathe naked in natural springs.

As Chango's wife, she is understanding of the difficulties in love and marriage. She also helps those with money problems, since she controls the purse strings in Chango's household. But, the petitioner should beware, Oshun can take money away as easily as she bestows it.

Oshun loves parties and celebrations. No one has ever seen her cry. When Oshun takes over the body of a believer during a "golpe de Santo", she laughs continuously and puts on the airs of a distinguished society lady. Her arrival is always greeted with the words, "yeye dari yeyeo'.

OYA (Yansan)

Saint: Our Lady of the Presentation of Our Lord. (Santa Virgen de la Candelaria) and St. Theresa.

Day of the Week: Wednesday. Friday is also popular.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Black and white. The collar is made up of nine black beads followed by nine white beads. Then a black bead alternates with a white bead nine times. The pattern is repeated to the desired length. A variant is a collar made of brown beads striped in a variety of colors or lilac or maroon beads striped with colors.

Sacrificial Animals: Chickens and guinea hens. Some hold that Oya does not eat any four legged animals, but others say that she likes female goats.

Sacrificial Foods: Ekru-Aro (black-eyed peas unpeeled and cooked in a double boiler. Her favorite fruit is the star apple. Oya loves eggplant. All of her food should be liberally laced with corojo butter. She drinks chequete. Her water should be rain water.

Herbs: espanta muerto, bonita, varia, palo rayo, cabo de hacha, revienta caballo, Peppercress, marigold, plantain, Jamaican rosewood, mimosa, mugwort, aralia, camphor, breakax, cypress, flamboyan tree.

Ornaments: Oya wears a crown with nine points from which hang nine charms; a hoe, a pick, a gourd, a lightning bolt, a scythe, a shovel, a rake, an ax, and a mattock. A spear or a metal rendition of a lightning bolt. A red gourd. The dried seed pod of the flamboyan tree. She also wears nine copper


Many years ago, Chango was embroiled in one of his unending
wars. He had fought for many days and killed many of his
enemies, but, more came than he could kill. He found himself
surrounded by his enemies in the middle of the forest.
"Enchile," he shouted, but his famous magical horse had become
lost during the fighting. Chango was afraid to yell again. He might
be found. He heard his enemies beating the bushes and shaking
the trees to find him. If they did, they would kill him.
Without Echinle, Chango had to scurry through gullies and cover
himself in river mud to hide from his enemies. Days passed. His
implacable enemies did not rest. They did not eat. Chango, tired
and hurt, had to keep on running without sleep and without food.
He ran and he ran until he reached the place where Oya lived. It
was very deep in the woods. Very few people there knew that Oya
was Chango's wife.
Chango came to Oya's house and pounded on the door. She
opened it and saw Chango bruised, cut and panting.
"What has happened to you?" cried Oya.
"Oya, they have me surrounded," panted Chango. "They want to
hang me from a tree."
"Come in, quick." said Oya, hustling Chango into her house.
"My lightning is not effective against my enemies today," He told
"That's because you lack the courage to fight," she scolded. Oya
gave him water and a bite to eat.
"It's not courage I lack," said Chango. "I'm very tired."
"What do you want from me?" asked Oya.
"If I could escape my enemies' deadly circle, I could rest and
sleep." said Chango. "I would recover my strength and destroy my
"Why is it that you only come to see me when you need help?"
asked Oya.
In those ancient times, Chango was used to fighting by himself,
but he swallowed his pride.
"Help me, Oya."
Oya thought for a moment and then turned to her husband.
"When night falls," she said. "You will put on one of my dresses.
The disguise will let you escape."
"They will still recognize my face," said Chango.
"I will cut off my hair and put it on your head. That will complete
the disguise." said Oya. "I will cut off my hair to save my king's
They waited until night. Oya lit no fire. She was afraid that the
smoke from her chimney would be noticed by Chango's enemies
and draw them to the house. When the sun had gone down, but
before the moon had risen, Oya cut off her beautiful hair and
pinned it to Chango's head. Chango did not know what to do with
woman's hair. It fell across his eyes. It tangled in his ears. Oya
had him sit down and wove the hair into two long braids.
"Here's a dress," she said. "Put it on quickly, before the moon
comes up."
Chango managed to tangle himself up in Oya's dress. "Stand still,"
she said. "Just stand still and let me dress you."
Finally, Chango was dressed as a passable imitation of Oya. She
went to the door and peered out.
"Hurry," she said. "There's no one around."
Chango stepped outside, imitating Oya's dignified walk. He
walked until he reached the forest and came across the line of
searching men. He greeted his enemies with an imperious tilt of
his head and crossed their line. He did not speak to them because
his voice is very deep. It would have given him away.
This is the way Chango was able to escape his enemies' trap.
Once he was far away from the forest, he made camp. He rested
and slept and ate and regained his strength and his will to fight.
Echinle managed to find his way back to his master. Chango fed
him and groomed him.
A few days later, rested and healed, Chango mounted Echinle.
"It is time to kill," said Chango to his horse, and galloped off to
find his enemies.
it was dawn when he reached his enemies' camp. He came rushing
at them. His fury was terrible to behold. Lightning flashed from
his hands. He shouted wild warrior cries. He was still dressed as a
"Oya has turned into Chango," his enemies shouted when they
saw the screaming apparition bearing down upon them, long hair
flying and a gown flapping in the wind. They panicked.
Behind them, Oya came striding out of her house, fully armed,
and began hacking right and left with her ax. Her short hair
bristled and shot out electric sparks.
"If Oya helps Chango, there is victory," she shouted, cutting off
arms and legs.
Chango and Oya were victorious. Since that battle, Oya has been
Chango's inseparable companion in war. With Chango's thunder
and Oya's storms, they are invincible and remain so to this day.


Oya is the only Orisha that has power over the dead. Since she is a compassionate Orisha, she has allowed many dying children to live as a gift to their parents. Cemeteries are known as "ile yansan", Oya's house. Anyone who uses dead bodies or parts of dead bodies in their ceremonies, must render payment and homage to Oya.

Whenever there is a haunting, Oya is summoned to dismiss the spirit. Sacrifices must be made to ensure that she takes an interest in the matter. Oya is the Orisha of tornadoes and twisting storms, hurricanes and gales. The four winds are dominated by Elegua, Orunmila, Obatala and Oya.

Oya has such a terrible face that anyone looking on it will be
stricken mad or blind. In ceremonies where Oya descends, no one looks upon her. When she possesses someone, she puts on a red crepe dress or a flowered dress and weaves multicolored ribbons around her head. She only dances warrior dances. When her "children" enter trance, some of them can handle live coals with their bare hands.

YEMAYA (Olocum, Ocute)

Saint: Our Lady of Regla. (La Virgen de Regla) The patron Saint of Havana's port.

Day of the Week: Friday. Saturday is also popular.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): White or crystal and blue. The collar is made up of seven crystal beads followed by seven blue beads. Then, a crystal bead alternates with a blue bead seven times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.

Sacrificial Animals: Lamb, ducks, roosters, turtles goats. Fish and pigeons.

Sacrificial Foods: Banana chips and pork cracklings washed down with chequete. Black-eyed peas. All her food should be liberally spread with sugar cane molasses. Yemaya's favorite fruit is the watermelon. Her water is seawater.

Herbs: cucaracha, chinzosa, Yellow mombin, indigo, anamu (garlic herb native to Cuba), water hyacinth, seaweed, purple basil, green pepper, chayote fruit, Bermuda grass, Florida grass, sponges, coralline, majagua linden, salt water rushes.

Ornaments: Yemaya is summoned at the seashore with a gourd rattle. She always has a fan made of duck feathers.
She owns an anchor, a key, a sun, a half moon, a siren which she holds in her open arms. It holds in its hands a ray, the head of a shovel, a conch shell and a sea shell. All her ornaments are made of lead.


Chango first saw the light of day thanks to Obatala (in a female
aspect). However, Obatala soon became indignant with her son's
pranks and threw him out of her house. Yemaya took pity on the
young Orisha and raised Chango as if he were her own child.
Chango grew up and left home to find his fortune. Chango forgot
the details of his upbringing. He had no past. He wandered the
world without roots and without goals. Many years passed and
many women crossed his path. He had many amorous adventures.
So many, that he forgot, in time, Yemaya's face.
Time passed. Chango kept chasing women, fighting and going to
parties. It was at one of these parties where Chango met Yemaya
again. He was drumming and singing. The people were dancing.
When he looked up, he saw Yemaya.
He immediately felt a very strong attraction towards her. His heart
opened and he felt an intense tenderness wash over him. He did
not remember feeling like that before, so, he confused it with
passion and sexual attraction. He was wrong. What he felt was the
love of a son for his mother, his second mother, the woman who
had brought him up.
He stopped playing the drums, stood up and sidled up to Yemaya.
"Have I met you somewhere before?" he asked.
Yemaya turned her back on him for an answer.
"We could go off and be alone," said Chango. "Just you and I."
His lips brushed her shoulder. She shrugged him off.
Yemaya knew the dissolute life that Chango had been leading.
She knew he was a drinker, a brawler and a womanizer. When he
attempted to seduce her, his own mother, she decided to teach him
a lesson.
"I'm going to teach him respect for women," she said to herself.
"I'm also going to teach him a little humility." She turned to
Chango. "What did you have in mind?"
Chango jumped at the opening. "Let's go to your house and keep
this party going. But, more privately." He did not want to go to his
house, since his wives would not exactly approve of a conquest
under their own roof.
"Why, I think that's a wonderful idea," purred Yemaya, leading
him on. "Come with me."
She walked through the crowd. Chango was close behind.
"What an easy conquest," he said to himself. " What a virile man
am I."
They walked through the sleeping town until they came to the
seashore. Yemaya went to a small boat tied to a rock. She got in
the boat.
"Please undo the lines," she told Chango.
"But, where is your house?" asked Chango. "I thought that you
wanted to have a little party."
"My house is over there," said Yemaya, pointing towards the dark
line of the horizon. "Come with me."
She stretched out her hand to Chango, who gingerly climbed into
the boat. He was rapidly losing his enthusiasm for this romantic
adventure. He was afraid of boats and did not like the water
because he could not swim. But, it was too late to change his
mind. He would appear frightened. He was, but he would admit it
to any man, let alone a woman.
Chango tightened his grip on the gunwale as the little boat bobbed
over the breakers and headed out to sea. The farther out they went,
the more nervous Chango became. The little boat was out of sight
of land.
"That's enough," said Chango.
"Isn't the sky lovely?" said Yemaya.
"I said, that's enough," growled Chango, striking the oars from her
hands. "Who are you who has the strength to send this boat flying
over the waves?"
Yemaya did not answer. She sat in the boat calmly, her hands
crossed on her lap.
"Who are you who can live out in the middle of the ocean?"
demanded Chango.
Instead of answering him, Yemaya dove over the side and swam
straight down to the bottom of the sea.
Chango was petrified. He had no idea how to handle a boat. He
didn't know what to do. Clumsily, he picked up an oar, but got it
tangled in the lines coiled in the bottom of the boat.
While Chango struggled, Yemaya sent a gigantic wave towards
him. It was a wave taller than a mountain. When he saw the wave
coming, Chango dropped the oars and covered his head with his
"I can triumph over men," he muttered, curled up in the bottom of
the boat. "I can triumph over women. But I can't triumph over this
wave." He took a peek over the side. A blue wall of water was
bearing down upon him. He tried to make himself small. He tried
to make himself disappear.
The giant wave came crashing down on him. It washed him off
the boat and sent him tumbling and bubbling to the bottom of the
sea. It was quiet and blue. Chango was afraid.
He fought his way back to the surface and felt immensely grateful
to Olodumare when he was able to pull in a lung full of air. The
boat was floating right next to him. He scrambled into it. He did
not sink and drown.
Yemaya came gliding on the waves, her feet barely touching the
"I think you are going to have to save me," said Chango through
chattering teeth.
"I will save you upon one condition." said Yemaya. "Name your
"You must respect your mother," said Yemaya.
"My mother!" blustered Chango. "My mother abandoned me
when I was a baby."
At that instant, Obatala, Chango's mother, who had been
magically aware of the lesson being given to her son by Yemaya,
appeared in the boat.
"You have to respect Yemaya," said Obatala. "She is your
"You are my mother," he yelled. "You abandoned me when I was
a child. You kicked me out of your house."
"I brought you into the world," said Obatala. "But it was up to
another to bring you up."
"You forget women too easily, Chango," said Yemaya. "You have
hated your mother, but you have forgotten your second mother."
"You have forgotten that she is your mother, as well as I," said
Obatala. "I brought you into this world and she raised you."
"You have two mothers, Chango." said Yemaya. "you have two
mothers in a world where many people have none."
A stiff breeze sprang up and washed Chango clean of the hatred
he had carried for many years.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry I hated you, Obatala. I'm sorry I
forgot you, Yemaya." He sighed. "It is indeed wonderful to have
two mothers."
From that time on, he began to respect women more. But, he is
still a womanizer.


Yemaya is the Orisha that controls all the seas and the oceans and all the creatures that live in them. She is considered the mother of all human beings. When Yemaya comes down and possess someone, she endows him or her with all her grace and very spicy personality. She will
immediately call for a long gown tightly belted at the waist and for her fan. She dances with movements that are like the movement of the waves. When the drums heat up, she dances like waves in a hurricane. She is full of love and tenderness, as befits the mother of all mankind.


yemayá aguayo a kere odun a limí karabio osa ñabio legu eyin tebié gwá sirueku yebwá obini duato okuba okana kwana keku yanza ori eré gwá mio agó.

BABALU-AYE (Chopono, Taita Cañeme)

Saint: St. Lazarus.

Day of the Week: Sunday. Wednesday is also popular.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): White with blue streaks. The collar is made up of white beads with blue streaks strung out to the desired length.

Sacrificial Animals: Gelded goat, spotted rooster. Also, chickens, guinea hens, snakes, quail and wild pigs.

Sacrificial Foods: Fermented corn meal. Babalu-Aye loves to drink aguardiente and to smoke good cigars. Coconut butter (ori) is his favorite condiment. His water should come from a pond. Babalu-Aye is an Orisha with simple tastes and will accept with a piece of stale bread and a glass of milk or water, dry wine and a few peanuts if the petitioner cannot afford anything better.

Herbs: jayabico, ateje, hierba vieja, hierba nina, tengue tengue, angariya, Guava, balsam apple, thistles, all types of beans and seeds, peanuts, guaguasi (Loetia Apelata) tree native to Cuba, Virginia creeper, pigeon peas, agave, heliotrope, caroba, bastard feverfew, basil, sage, pine nut, caisimon (Pothomorphe peltata L. Mig.) medicinal plant native to Cuba, yaya lancewood, cowhage, broom, rose of Jericho, datura, cocillana bark, sabicu, olive, sesame, cactus pear, and butterfly jasmine among others.

Ornaments: Babalu-Aye always has his crutches and his two faithful little dogs. On his altar there is always a charara, a broom made from the fruit clusters of the palmetto, used to sweep away evil influences. Jute sacks also belong to him. Devotees who have been cured due to his intervention wear clothing made from jute in gratitude.


A long time ago, Olodumare, the Supreme Being, the Creator of
all the Orishas, decided to give his children a gift. He called them
all together.
"My children," he told them. "It is time for you to take over your
responsibilities in this world."
There were a few polite coughs. There were also a few giggles.
"I have decided to share my powers with you," continued
Olodumare, after staring down the gigglers. "I will give you of my
ashe so that you may fulfill your destinies as best you are able."
All the Orishas got very excited. This was the big moment when
their influence among mankind was going to be determined. They
shuffled and sorted themselves out in a line.
"Oshun," said Olodumare. "To you I give the rivers."
"Thank you, Father," said Oshun.
"Chango, to you I give thunder."
"Thank you, Father," said Chango.
"Oya, to you I give the wind and the shooting stars," said
Olodumare. "To you, Ogun, I give all the metals of the earth.
Orunmila, I give you the power of divination so that you may
guide the destiny of mankind. Elegua, Elegua, quit talking and
listen to me! Elegua, to you I entrust all paths, ways and entrances
and, since you love to talk so much, I'll make you the messenger
of the Orishas."
Then, came Babalu-Aye's turn.
"Is there a particular boon you would like me to bestow upon you,
Babalu-Aye?' asked Olodumare.
Back the, Babalu-Aye was very good looking and very young. His
primary concern was his ability to make love to women; as many
of them as he could.
"I want you to give me the power to be every woman's lover," said
Babalu-Aye. "I want to dally with the ladies. I want them to love
Olodumare frowned at such a frivolous request. "It is granted," he
said. "But I want you to have one condition so that you may still
have to exercise some control over your desires. On every
Thursday of Easter Week, you are forbidden to have contact with
a woman."
"Thank you, Father," said Babalu-Aye. "I will do as you say."
For a long time, Babalu-Aye respected Olodumare's prohibition.
Every Easter Week, he would go into his house and stay away
from women. But, one day, on an Easter Week, he was working
on his garden. He looked up and saw the most beautiful woman he
had ever seen.
"Hello," he said. "Would you like to see my beautiful garden?"
Every day, he talked to her. Then, he held her hand. Then, on Ash
Wednesday, they kissed. She came by on Thursday and Baballu-
Aye touched her, kissed her, and took her to his bed.
The next morning, when he woke up, he found his whole body
covered with large, painful sores.
"What is wrong with you?" screamed the young lady, leaping out
of bed.
"It's Olodumare's punishment." Babalu-Aye was afraid. "It's his
punishment because I did not follow his law."
"You're disgusting," cried the young lady, and she ran out of the
For many days, Babalu-Aye stayed home and tried herbal baths,
prayers and sacrifices. Nothing worked. Leprosy was consuming
his body. Finally he dragged himself on his stumps to
Olodumare's house. He knocked at Olodumare's door.
"What is that smell?" said Olodumare as he opened the door.
"It is I, Babalu-Aye. I need your help."
"I seem to remember someone by that name," said Olodumare.
"But, he was young and handsome and knew how to keep his
"Please, Olodumare," begged Babalu-Aye. "Please help me. I'm
sorry I broke your commandment."
"I'm sorry," said Olodumare. "But I don't speak to people who do
not keep their word."
He slammed the door on Babalu-Aye's face. And, right there, on
the street in front of Olodumare's house, Babalu-Aye died with
horrible convulsions and sufferings. Babalu-Aye's death was
mourned by all the women in the world. They decided to send a
petition to Oshun, the Orisha of love. The women were graciously
received at Oshun's house.
"What may I do for you?" asked Oshun.
"Dearest Lady, we ask you to bring Babalu-Aye back to life." they
cried. "The women of the world are saddened at the horrible death
of one who loved them so."
Oshun was moved by their prayers.
"Ladies," she said. "I will go to Olodumare's house and try to
bring your lover back to you."
That evening, Oshun went to Olodumare's house. She found a side
door open and went in without anyone seeing her. She went from
room to room, sprinkling her oñi everywhere. Oshun's oñi is her
power to awaken uncontrollable passion in men.
Olodumare, sitting quietly and reading the paper, began to shift
and wiggle. He threw the paper down and ran to his wardrobe
closet. He felt great and he wanted to look great. He put on his
best clothes and put perfumed pomade on what was left of his
hair. He thought about old lovers who he had not seen in years
and wondered what had become of them. All the passions that had
lain dormant for ages of the world awoke. He looked at himself in
the mirror.
"I haven't felt this good in a very long time. I haven't thought
about sex in an even longer time." he said to himself.
Wise as he is, Olodumare knew that he was under the spell of
Oshun's oñi.
"Oshun," he laughed. "Are you in here?"
"Here I am, Olodumare."
"Thank you," he said. "Thank you for making me feel wonderful."
"You see," said Oshun. "It's not such a bad thing to feel good.
You punished Babalu-Aye for this very thing."
"Give me some more of your oñi," said Olodumare. "I feel young
"only if you forgive Babalu-Aye's indiscretion," said Oshun. "If
you bring him back to life, I will give you my oñi."
Olodumare had already decided to revive Babalu-Aye, since he
had considered his death as a temporary punishment anyway.
"Granted," said Olodumare. "Babalu-Aye will live again."
Oshun gave her oñi to Olodumare and Olodumare gave life to
Babalu-Aye. But, Babalu-Aye's sores never went away.


In his African guise of Chopono, he brought smallpox and leprosy to the tribes, but now, he cures. His cures are always miraculous, especially among persons who are unable to walk. Babalu-Aye is full of compassion towards human suffering and misery. He knows more about pain than any of the other Orishas.

When he takes over the body of a believer, the trance is
characterized by muscle cramps. The individual walks with
difficulty and, at times, rolls on the floor, feeling all of Babalu-Aye's sores burning into his skin. If the pain gets to be too much for the person possessed, the head and feet are sprinkled with water.


babalú ayé ogoro niga iba elobi agwa litala babá sinlao iba eloni
ogoro niga chapkuaná agó.


Saint: St. Peter. Sometimes Ogun is also represented as the
Archangel Michael.

Day of the Week: Tuesday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Green and black. Seven green beads followed by seven black beads. Then, a green bead alternates with a black bead seven times. The pattern is repeated until the desired length is obtained.

Sacrificial Animals: Young bulls, roosters (especially white and red roosters). All other quadrupeds.

Sacrificial Foods: Smoked fish and smoked jutia. Yam with blood. The sapodilla is his favorite fruit. All his food should be heavily smeared with corojo butter. Ogun drinks aguardiente. His water should come from a standing pond.

Herbs: palo vencedor, rabo de piedra, palo bomba, escandon, pincha de gato, Eucalyptus, sasparilla, boneset, blessed thistle, restharrow, senna, datura, carpenter ants, guao (comocladia dentada), tree native to Cuba, sweet soursop, guamao (Lonchocarpus sericeus), Cuban timber tree, red pepper, black pepper, mastic tree, castor oil plant, oak leaves, and indigo plant among others.

Ornaments: Ogun's clothing is a tiger skin. He own an iron pot on three stubby legs and nine or twenty-one pieces of iron that symbolize all the tools used in agriculture and blacksmithing. The most common tools are: an arrow, an anvil, a pickaxe, a hatchet, a machete, a hammer, and a key. Ogun's tools are always well greased with corojo butter.


For as long as anyone can remember, for as long as there is
memory, Ogun and Chango have been enemies. The way it is told
by some, their hatred goes back to their childhood.
It is said that Ogun had sex with his mother. The incestuous
relationship took the mother's affections away from the father.
Chango, Ogun's younger brother, grew up and found out about his
brother's illicit love. He decided to take vengeance.
Ogun and Oya were lovers. Chango waited and watched Ogun's
house until he saw that he left Oya alone. He went to the door,
and, being a strong and fierce warrior, had no difficulty knocking
it down.
He went in, grabbed Oya and ignored her protests.
"You are coming with me now," he told her. "You are going to be
my woman."
When Ogun returned, he searched the house for Oya. The
neighbors told him what had happened. Furious, Ogun ran to
Chango's house.
Chango had made love to Oya. His sexual prowess had made her
fall madly in love with him.
Ogun hammered on Chango's door. Chango stuck his head out a
"What do you want?" shouted Chango.
"I want my woman back," yelled Ogun.
"Well, let's see if she wants to go back with you," said Chango.
Oya leaned out the window.
"What do you want, little man?" she shouted. "Go back home, I'm
quite happy here."
Ogun's face got very red. His throat swelled like a bull's.
"He has put a spell on you," he shouted. "I don't care if he is the
god of thunder. I'm going to make you mine again and destroy
Oya's and Chango's laughter was his answer.
Ogun and Chango have been mortal enemies ever since.
That's one version, but, another story tells of the time when Ogun
and Chango met each other in the forest.
When he saw Chango, Ogun pounded his chest.
"Chango, I challenge you." He drove his huge spear into the earth
between Chango's legs. "We haven't fought each other in a long
time. It's time to show you that I'm the better warrior," bragged
"When do you want to fight?" asked Chango without raising his
"I want to fight right now!" roared Ogun.
"I agree with you," said Chango. "I want to fight you right now
With a yell, Ogun grabbed his spear and rushed at Chango.
"Wait, wait," said Chango. "Let's not rush matters. We have the
rest of our lives in which to fight each other. Let's do this right."
"What do you mean?" growled Ogun.
"Let's have a drink first," said Chango. "Aren't you thirsty?" And,
he took a large gulp from his gourd full of aguardiente.
"Let me have some," said Ogun. "Watching you drink makes me
Chango handed him the gourd. "Have a good drink of
aguardiente. I'll wait. We have all day to fight."
Chango knew that Ogun loved strong drink. He also knew that
Ogun had no capacity for alcohol. After just a couple of gulps
from the gourd, Ogun was weaving and laughing at nothing.
Ogun had two or three more slugs from the gourd. They went
right to his head. His eyes got very red, so did his nose and ears.
"I'm ready to fight now." he yelled at Chango. "Get ready, I'm
going to destroy you."
Of course, Ogun could do nothing of the kind, since he was now
blind drunk. He whirled his arms, trying to hit Chango. Chango
picked him up and threw him on the ground. Ogun tried to get up,
but Chango jumped up and down on his chest, picked him up by
his feet and swung his head against a tree. Ogun's head made a
very unpleasant sound as it hit the tree trunk.
Chango left Ogun lying on the ground. The ants went into Ogun's
nose and into his ears.
An hour later, Ogun came to. His head hurt terribly. His whole
body was covered with insect bites and, what's worse, he felt like
a complete fool for allowing Chango to play a dirty trick on him.
He go to his feet slowly, blowing the ants out of his nose. He held
on to the tree trunk for support.
"I will never forgive you," he croaked, shaking his fist in the
direction of Chango's house. "I will never forgive this."
And, he didn't. Ogun never forgave Chango. They have been
enemies ever since.


Ogun rules all the metals. He is the only Orisha who can handle iron. All the trades that use metal tools, from the butcher to the steel worker to the surgeon, are protected by Ogun. He protects all warriors. Anyone wanting to work with a knife, a sword or an ax has to sacrifice to Ogun.

Ogun disguises himself in order to observe his "children". He can appear as a laborer, a hunter or a warrior. He also likes to dress up as a butcher or a smith. His wrath is terrible and usually takes the form of a bloody accident.

When Ogun comes down and possesses a Santero, Santera ,Babalawo or Iyalochas, he dances vigorous warrior dances and pretends to be clearing a path through the forest so that his warriors can follow him. Chango and Ogun should never be summoned in the same ceremony. If they gain possession of bodies at the same time, the two "caballos" will try to fight to the death, no matter how holy the occasion.


Ogun ñakobié kobú kobú alaguere ogúo ogun yumu su ogun
finamalú egueleyein andaloro ekum feyú tana guaraguru osibirikí
alalúo agó.


Saint: St. John (San Jose) in the city and with St. Ambrose in the countryside.

Day of the Week: Sunday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): White, red and yellow. The collar is made up of one white bead followed by nine red beads and eight yellow beads. The pattern is repeated until the desired length is obtained.

Sacrificial Animals: Goats and red roosters, turtles, turkeys, guinea hens, quail, black male doves, owls, monkeys. All reptiles, especially the crocodile. Osain will receive the feathers and the blood of pheasants, the heart of mockingbirds and the feathers and blood of hummingbirds. He also likes peacock feathers.

Sacrificial Foods: The sap of trees and herbs. seeds, flowers and grains. Tobacco. He often appears to people with insomnia and asks them for a light. He drinks aguardiente.

Herbs: All medicinal and magical herbs belong to Osain.
Ornaments: Osain is never without his pipe. His Otanes and
cowrie shells are kept in a gourd. The drums used in ceremonies are consecrated to him.


As his knowledge of herbal magic grew, Osain thought himself to
be Orunmila's superior. Envy made his thoughts black.
"If I get rid of Orunmila," he muttered to himself. "I will have his
powers and gifts as well as my own. I will be the most powerful
Osain began to cast powerful spells against Orunmila.
All Orunmila knew was that spells and evil influences were
weaving a black web around his person. He began to have slight
accidents and his health began to suffer. He attempted to use his
oracular powers to find out who wished him harm, but Osain had
been very careful to hide the source of his attack. Finally,
Orunmila went to Chango's house.
"You must help me, Chango," said Orunmila. "My powers are not
enough to see who is trying to harm me." "I will join my vision to
yours and we're sure to discover who your enemy is." said
Chango is a great diviner in his own right. He is not as gifted as
Orunmila, but, when he added his sight to Orunmila's, a wall
opened and they both saw Osain's face. Not only that, they saw
Osain busily brewing his spells against Orunmila.
Chango was furious. He gathered his warrior aspects around
"Don't worry any more. I will rid you of that evil Orisha that is
out to harm you." said Chango.
He stalked off to find Osain. First, he stopped off at Oya's house,
since he brought her along whenever he prepared for war. He
explained the situation to her.
"I not only want to punish him" he told her. "I want to take all his
powers and knowledge away."
"I agree. We have to make him harmless." said Oya.
"Not only that," said Chango. "We will then have all his
knowledge to ourselves."
Oya walks faster than Chango. She arrived at Osain's house first.
She knocked at his door.
"What do you want?" asked Osain. A great cloud of herbal vapors
swirled around him.
"I was just passing by and I saw all the smoke," said Oya. "I want
to offer you a little aguardiente, since you seem to be working so
Osain took the gourd from her hands and took a good long drink.
"Thank you, Oya," he said. "But now, I have to keep working."
"Have another little drink," she said, offering her gourd again. "It's
not good to work all day."
"That's true. It affects the health." Osain took another drink.
The aguardiente was already having an effect on him, so he didn't
say anything when Oya walked into his house.
"I think I'll have another little drink." said Osain.
"Drink up. I have plenty. " said Oya.
Osain drank and drank until he had to lay down. He fell asleep.
Oya put her hands on his head and began to take his secrets. But,
she had underestimated Osain's capacity for drink. He woke up
and grabbed her wrists.
"So, that's why you came," he shouted. "You wanted to steal my
Oya broke away and ran out into the garden with Osain close
behind her.
"You can't get away. I'm going to kill you," he shouted.
He leaped and landed on Oya's back. Oya bit and clawed him.
They rolled over and over among the herbs. "Chango! Chango,
help me!" screamed Oya.
Chango heard her screams. He ran around the house and jumped
over the garden wall.
"You are brave enough to fight a woman," yelled Chango. "Let's
see if you are brave enough to fight a warrior."
He threw a thunderbolt that tore off Osain's left arm. Holding the
spurting stump, Osain ran back to his cauldrons and grabbed a
gourd that held his most potent and dangerous magical herbs.
Before he could throw it, Chango let loose with another
thunderbolt meant to strike Osain blind. Osain ducked his head
just in time. It only tore off his ear, leaving a little nub. The pain
made him drop the gourd. It shattered on the ground.
"I'm going to take chunks off you until there is nothing left."
growled Chango.
He would have whittled Osain down to nothing but, he only go to
strike him a couple of times. As Chango was winding up more
thunderbolts, Ogun, that terrible warrior and Chango's sworn
enemy, appeared. Ogun changed himself into a lightning rod and
prevented any more thunderbolts from reaching Osain.
Since that fight, Osain has been a small shrivelled Orisha. He only
has one arm and one leg and a very small nub of an ear. He gets
around by giving little hops, like a bird.


Each plant has its own ashe, its magical power, which can be either harmful or beneficial. Osain knows them all. Cultivated food plants hold no interest for him. The Babalawos and Iyalochas that serve Osain are great herbalists. They follow an oral traditions which describes the
properties of thousands of plants. 

The Babalawo or Iyalocha must refrain from sex the night before going out to gather herbs. Once deep in the woods, an offering of aguardiente and a little package with tobacco and a few coins is left as payment to Osain.

When a plant is going to be used, the necessary offerings must be made to Osain to ensure the effectiveness of the herb's ashe. Osain never possesses anyone at a "golpe de santo".


osain ake meyi oshe kure kere meyi bero eki dibi agwanakero ama
te le iku mori chase le berike a yaya agó.

OSHOSI (Ochosi)

Saint: St. Norbert.

Day of the Week: Tuesday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Green. The collar is made up of green beads. Brown and green are also popular.

Sacrificial Animals: Deer, red roosters. Sheep, goat, pigs.

Sacrificial Foods: Smoked fish and smoked jutia. Yams. Mango is his favorite fruit. All his food should be liberally covered with corojo butter. He drinks aguardiente. Oshosi's water should come from a well.

Herbs: espinilla, cercelera, jia blanca, chincha, Leadwort, esparto grass, fulminate, incense, tobacco, vine arbor, Jamaican rosewood, castor oil plant, and basil among others.

Ornaments: A bow and arrow. A model of a jail.


Before becoming an Orisha, Oshosi earned his livelihood and
supported his mother by his skills as a hunter. He knew every
nook and cranny of the forest. He knew all the habits of the
animals. One day, as Oshosi was walking along a forest path,
Orunmila appeared to him.
"Oshosi, hear me." said Orunmila.
"I am yours to command." said Oshosi, bowing low. "Please stand
up," said Orunmila. "I am here to ask for your help."
"It is not for me to help an Orisha." said Oshosi.
"But, I will do what I can."
"I have need of your skills as a hunter. Olodumare wants one of
the fat delicious quail found in this area. I promised I would get
him one, but I have been here for three days and haven't had any
luck," confessed Orunmila. "I just don't know how to hunt them."
"Why, that would be no trouble at all," said Oshosi.
"If you get one of those quail for me, you will have my and
Olodumare's blessing for the rest of your life," said Orunmila.
"Meet me at my house tomorrow," said Oshosi. "I will have a
quail for you."
Orunmila disappeared. Oshosi immediately set about hunting
quail. With his skill and knowledge, it wasn't very long before he
had a beautiful hen struggling inside his sack. Whistling, he made
his way back home.
Oshosi put the quail hen in a little cage and went back into the
woods to hunt. He travelled a long ways and, as was his custom,
spent the night under a tree.
The following morning, he hurried home to meet Orunmila.
Visions of all the wonderful things he would ask Olodumare made
his head spin. His mother would be so happy!
Orunmila was already waiting when Oshosi arrived home.
"Good morning, Oshosi. Were you able to trap a quail?" Orunmila
asked him.
"I trapped the fattest and most beautiful quail in all the forest,"
said Oshosi.
He went in the house. He came out with an empty cage.
"Where is it?" asked Orunmila.
"I don't understand it," said Oshosi. "I left it in this cage yesterday
afternoon, and now, it is gone."
"Are you playing with me?" Orunmila was becoming angry.
"Of course not, sir. I would not dare." said Oshosi. "Mother!"
Oshosi's little mother came out of the house, drying her wrinkled
"Yes, my son?"
"Mother, do you know anything about the quail I left in this cage
yesterday afternoon?"
"No, dear," she said. "I don't know anything."
Oshosi's mother was lying. She had seen the quail in its cage the
day before. She had been happy that her thoughtful son had
brought her such a tasty bird to eat. She had killed it, plucked it,
and eaten it, but she was afraid of admitting it to Orunmila.
"Don't worry, Orunmila. I will go out right now and I will have
another beautiful bird for you by this afternoon," said Oshosi.
It was not hard to keep his promise. In just one hour, he had
another beautiful quail hen struggling inside his sack. He returned
to his house. Orunmila was waiting for him.
"You see," said Oshosi, proudly taking the fluttering quail out of
the sack. "I have brought you another beautiful quail."
"You have done me such a great favor that I will take you directly
to Olodumare so you can present him with this quail yourself,"
said Orunmila. "It is not just that I should receive the credit when
it was your skill that made Olodumare's gift possible."
They went to Olodumare's house. He was delighted with the quail.
"You have made my heart glad today." said Olodumare.
"It is my pleasure to honor you, great sir," responded Oshosi.
"I thank you too, Orunmila, for having had the wisdom to turn
over your task to this great hunter," said Olodumare. "I have
decided to make you an Orisha, Oshosi. You will be a king among
Praise and treasures were heaped on Oshosi. He did not let it go to
his head. He kept a pleasing humility before Olodumare. After all
the ceremonies were over, Oshosi approached Olodumare.
"Sir, I would ask that you grant me one more boon," said Oshosi.
"And what might that be?" asked Olodumare.
"I have not forgiven the one that stole the first quail that I trapped
for you," said Oshosi. "I want vengeance. Please allow that, when
I release my arrow, it will find the thief's heart."
"I cannot deny you what you wish," said Olodumare sadly. "But
you will not forgive yourself for asking such a boon."
Oshosi released his arrow and, guided by Olodumare's will, it
went straight into Oshosi's mother's breast. Horrified, Oshosi
watched his mother die by his own hand
After the funeral, Oshosi stood before Olodumare, tears streaming
down his cheeks.
"I will no longer be a hunter. I will fulfill my duty and help all
hunters, but I will never forget that it was my need for vengeance
and my lack of foresight that caused my mother's death."


Oshosi lives in the forests and is a close friend of Osain. Osain has revealed many herbal secrets to him. Oshosi often battles alongside Elegua and Ogun. Together, they form an invincible combination.

When Oshosi comes down during a "golpe de santo" and
possesses a believer, the person always pretends to be shooting with a bow and arrow.


oshosi odematá onibebé ede kuresé olebure atamasile eobeki agó.


Saint: St. Ysidro (St. Isidro).

Day of the Week: Sunday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): Lilac. His collar is made up of lilac beads.

Sacrificial Animals: Red roosters, monkeys.

Sacrificial Foods: Yams and all produce from the garden.

Herbs: bejuco guarana, bejuco lechero, jiba, Yam, Sweet potato, Datura, bejuco colorado, (serjania diversifolia), and everything that grows in a garden and is cultivated.

Ornaments: A hoe and all the tools of the gardener.


Orishaoco is in charge of crops and agriculture. He settles fights among the Orishas, and always acts as a judge in delicate cases. He spends a lot of time resolving the arguments between Chango and his wives.

During full moon, the women whose task it is to do the gardening, make offerings to him. The majority of his followers are women and it is mostly Iyalochas who serve at his ceremonies.


orishaoko ikú afefé orogodó gailotigwaro agó.

THE IBEYI (Taebo & Kainde)

Saint: St. Cosme and St. Damian.

Day of the Week: Sunday.

Colors and Collars (Ilekes): The colors and collars are the same as Oshun's and Chango's, the Ibeyi's parents.

Sacrificial Animals: Pigs, sheep, goats, bull calves and donkeys. Men who suffer from impotency or other sexual problems only offer the testicles of these animals.

Sacrificial Foods: Candies and sweets.

Herbs: Palm, gourds, coco plum, corn, gemip, sago palm,
sapodilla, tomato.

Ornaments: The Ibeyi should always be dressed identically. Their figurines should be tied or chained together to insure that they won't separate.


Obatala was known among the other Orishas for his generosity.
His thrifty habits assured him of having enough money to help
anyone who needed help. Unfortunately, word spread that he kept
money in his house.
He was robbed many times. He tried putting his money under the
bed. He tried putting his money on the roof. He buried his money
in the yard. No luck. Every time he found a new hiding place for
his money, thieves would break in while he was taking a message
to Olodumare. Obatala always came home to an empty house. He
could not stand it anymore. Olodumare was too noble to resent the
robberies, but he was tired of having his floors dug up and his
walls caved in by industrious thieves. He went to Oshosi.
"Make me the longest ladder in the world and a big strong sack,"
he told Oshosi.
When Oshosi had finished working and brought him the ladder
and the sack, Obatala went to his house and filled the big sack
with money. He then went to the middle of the forest. He found
the tallest tree in the world and used his ladder to climb to the top.
There, Obatala hung his money bag.
The Ibeyi had seen everything. They ran to find Chango.
"Chango, Chango! We know where Obatala's money is," they
shouted. "We saw him hide it at the top of a tree!"
This news made Chango very happy. His drunken parties had
been financed many times by Obatala's money. He now had the
chance to get the month's drinking money. Chango was proud of
his boys.
"Show me where it is," he told them. And, they set off for the
Chango and the Ibeyi found the tree, but Obatala had surrounded
it with fierce wild animals that attacked anyone that came close.
Chango thought and thought and came up with an idea.
"Give me your candy," he told the Ibeyi. "When we get the
money, I will buy you twice as much."
"Make it three times as much," said the greedy twins, "and it's a
deal." Chango agreed and the Ibeyi gave him all their candies and
Chango spread the food around the tree and, while the wild
animals were busy eating it, climbed to the top and dropped the
bag with Obatala's money down to the twins.
Chango was not seen for a month. The Ibeyi had a feast.


The Ibeyi are identical twins who represent fortune, good luck and prosperity. In all the ceremonies, their images are always tied together to prevent their separation. If they do separate, all of their power to bring good luck disappears.

They are practical jokers like Elegua, but, unlike him, they never injure anyone. They do not come down during ceremonies to possess anyone but, dancers dance for their pleasure and honor by imitating the little hops and skips that very small children make while playing.


beyi oro araba aina kainde ideu agó.

Ilekes (Elekes) & Collars

Pronounced: Eh-Leh-kes

These are the beaded bracelets and necklaces that is worn out of respect for your Orisha/s. The colors and orders of the beads are representative of your Orisha/s. They are to be worn at all times after you have received them.

According to Santeria:

"These are beaded necklaces and the colors of the beads relate to your ruling orisha. For example, if Shango is your ruling orisha, the beads will be red and white, Shangos’ colors. The pattern of the beads, like 3 red alternating with 3 white, is decided by the santero who prepares the eleke. The santero uses divination to determine what each initiate needs in the eleke. The pattern of the eleke represents which path of the orisha the initiate is on, as each orisha has many different paths or aspects. There are generic beaded necklaces you can wear to represent your orisha that are not prepared by a santero, worn just as a token of respect for the orisha, but when the eleke is prepared by a santero it activates the power of the orisha and the initiate gains the protection of that orisha. Depending on which House you are initiated into, you may receive anywhere from 1 to 9 elekes based on what the santero determines you need. You will always get the eleke related to your ruling orisha, but the initiate may also need other orisha. Once you have your eleke you are expected to take care of it. You must try not to get it wet and you can’t wear it during sex or your menstrual period because the energy generated by these things disrupts the energy of the eleke, sort of stains it. Getting your elekes is a basic introductory rite similar to confirmation in Christianity. It means you have acknowledged and follow Santeria.

When the initiate receives the elekes they are protected by the orisha. An eleke is a flag or banner for the orisha and acts as a shield. When the initiate receives Eshu and the other Warriors they are able to not only defend themselves with the grace of the orisha, but also to attack if need be. The combination of elekes and the Warriors offers great strength, both passively and aggressively. Also, there is the symbolism of the pursuit of the spiritual path. The elekes mean that you walk with the orisha. Eshu opens the necessary doors on your path, Ogun removes the obstacles, Ochosi guides you on the path, and Osun protects you. All of these things help expediate your spiritual transformation into an enlightened being."
~Author Unknown~

Acknowledgement~ Most of the Orishas:  
A Practical Guide to Santeria:
Afro-Caribbean Magic, translated by
Luis M. Nuñez

Artists of images, Unknown

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