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THE NEW ORLEANS VOODOO LOAS

Those who follow the voodoo religion in New Orleans make offerings to the appropriate loas in order to gain success in the area in which they’re seeking favor. Voodooism openly embraces people of all races, genders and ages. Practioners also seek the guidance and protection of their ancestors, who they believe return from the dead in spirit form, An estimated 17 percent of the city's residents are Voodoo practitioners!

By Dawn Theard, Staff Writer

Voodoo New Orleans today is a blend of French, Spanish and Indian cultures. The majority of the practitioners you will meet in New Orleans are white, which goes to show the enormous impact that Afro-creole folk religion has had on New Orleans. Lots of neigberhood bars, businesses and restaurants have actual voodoo shrines to the Loas for good luck.

Voodooism is also a major draw for visitors to New Orleans. Just about every tourist shop in the French Quarter sells Voodoo candles, potions and dolls "guaranteed" to bring health, money or success.

The purpose of rituals is to make contact with a spirit, to gain their favor by offering them animal sacrifices and gifts, to obtain help in the form of more abundant food, higher standard of living, and improved health. Human and Loa depend upon each other; humans provide food and other materials; the Loa provide health, protection from evil spirits and good fortune. Rituals are held to celebrate lucky events, to attempt to escape a run of bad fortune, to celebrate a seasonal day of celebration associated with a Loa, for healing, at birth, marriage and death.

Vodun priests can be male (houngan or hungan), or female (mambo). A Vodun temple is called a hounfour (or humfort). At its center is a poteau-mitan a pole where the God and spirits communicate with the people. An altar will be elaborately decorated with candles, pictures of Christian saints, symbolic items related to the Loa.

 

Adjassou-Linguetor

Loa of spring water. She has eyes that bulge out and a terrible temper.
Agoué Loa of the sea and patron of fishermen and sailors. His symbol is the drawing of a boat. Sacrifices to him are loaded onto small rafts and set adrift at sea. If the raft sinks, the sacrifice has been accepted. He is associated with Bayou st. John, Lake Ponchartrain, and The Misissippi river.


Agwe

New Orleans Loa of fish and sea plants, the patron of fishermen and sailors. Loa Agwe is the personification of the ocean, and the patron of sailors and fishermen. Rituals for Agoue are held near the sea, and offerings to him are floated on rafts or small boats. He is associated with St. Ulrich.


Aida Wedo Loa of fertility and new life, especially conception and childbirth. Wife of Damballa. Known as the Rainbow Snake, she takes a snake form. Her symbol is the rainbow, and her color is white. Sacrifices of white chickens and white eggs are often made to her.


Aizan

Loa of the French Market, marketplace and herbal healing. She is also the protector of the houngan (temple) and religious ceremonies, who never possesses anyone during ritual. Her symbol is the palm leaf and her colors are white and silver.


Azaca-Tonnerre

Loa of thunder and Loa of agriculture and protector of the crops. He is pictured as a peasant carrying a straw bag. His color is blue and cornmeal or corn cakes are sacrificed to him.

Babalu Ayé

Lord of Pestilence and rightful owner of the earth, Babalu is
the orisha who controls disease. He also is a special intercessor for the
poor. Babalu (Babaluaye, Babalawo)


Baron Cimetière

Loa of the cemetary in the family of Guédé, a group of loas associated with Guédé, the Loa of the Dead.


Baron Samedi

Most powerful of the Guédé, Papa Gede' he is the loa of death and controls the passageway between the world of the living and the world of the dead. He often has information about the dead. He is one of the Guédé family which associate with the Loa of the dead, Guédé. His color is black and he prefers a top hat and dark glasses. He likes cigarettes, food, and rum in which 21 hot peppers have been steeped. He is said to be most often summoned and found in St. Louis cemetery number 1.


Baron-La-Croix

Loa of the cross in the family of Guédé, a group of loas associated with Guédé, the Loa of the Dead.


Brigitte

Loa of money, who has special influence over black magic and ill-gotten fortune. Similar to the Catholic St. Brigid. Her color is purple and black chickens are sacrificed to her.


Damballah Wedo

Father of the loa, he represents the ancestral knowledge that forms the foundation of Vodou. He is the loa of new life and fertility. A snake Loa who lives in trees near springs. On Haiti he is called Bon Dieu ("good Loa"). His symbols are the snake and the asson, and his color is white. White chickens and eggs are sacrificed to him. Serpent spirit. This was the loa or spirit god of the snake, popular in New Orleans Voodoo.

Damballah is the eldest and chief of the Loas, a primordial serpent deity who created the world and the Gods. He, along with his wife Ayida, is sometimes likened to the Kundalini serpent of Hindu mysticism. Damballah has many aspects, including his Petro manifestation, Damballa la Flambeau (Damballah torch).

Damballah is of such great age and antiquity that he does not speak; when possessing a follower during a ritual, he prefers to slither on the ground or sit in the basson.

Alternate Spellings: Da, Dambala, Dambalah, Damballa Wedo, Damballa la Flambeau, Bon Dieu Bondye


Dan Petro

The New Orleans loa of farmers. He originated from the African Loa Danh.


Diable Tonnere

Loa of thunder in New Orleans.

Eleggua

The great trickster who owns the crossroads. He enables mankind to
communicate with the other orisha and is always honored first. Some say thatthere are 256 distinct paths of Eleggua, and these correspond to the 256 oduin the Ifa Corpus. (Interestingly, the human eye can distinguish between 256 shades of grey.) Eleggua (Legba, Eleggua)


Erzulie Loadess

of Love. Loa of love, beauty, purity and romance, elemental forces, dancing, flowers, jewels, and pretty clothes. On her fingers she wears three wedding rings, her three husbands being Damballa, the serpent Loa, Agwe, Loa of the sea and Ogoun the warrior hero. She is the most-loved of the loa, and can influence romance, marriage, good fortune and artistic endeavors. Her symbol is the heart and her colors are pink and blue. Sweets, perfumes, desserts and white doves are sacrificed to her.


Erzulie Dantor

The dark aspect of Erzuile. She is the loa of jealousy and vengance, and is often cruel. Her symbol is the heart pierced by a dagger and her colors are red and black.


Grand Bois

Loa of the forest. Represents the forces of nature in New Orleans religion.


Grand Maître

The original supreme being of Haitian religion. Some New Orleans practitioners of Vodou consider him too remote for personal worship.


Guédé (Gede or Ghede)

The Loa of the Dead. Also refers to a Group of loa that associate with Guédé and are considered members of his family. He is a very wise man for his knowledge is an accumulation of the knowledge of all the deceased. He stands on the center of all the roads that lead to Guinee, the afterworld. Guédé is represented as an undertaker, dressed completely in black wearing dark glasses.

The family of spirits that embody the powers of death and fertility. They are closely associated with the loa Baron (whose aspects are Baron Samedi, Baron La Croix and Baron Cimetière). Depending on the tradition followed, Baron is:

one of the Guédé
their spiritual father who has raised them from the dead, along with Baron Samedi's wife Maman Brigitte who is their spiritual mother
an aspect of the Guédé
In any of these configurations, Baron, his wife Maman Brigitte, and the Guédé rule death, the cemetery and the grave.

Well known Guédé spirits include Guédé Nibo, Guédé Plumaj, Guédé Ti Malis, Guédé Zaranye, and many others. They are known for the drum rhythm and the dance called the "banda" and in possession will drink or rub themselves with a mixture of raw rum or clairin and twenty-one habanero or goat peppers.

Gede Nibo is a psychopomp and acts as an intermediary between the living and the dead, who gives voice to the dead spirits that have not been reclaimed from "below the waters".

The Guédé often dress as an undertaker dressed in black with black sunglasses. Some Guédés will only have one lens, seeing as they do in two worlds. The chief of the Guédés is still Guédé Nibo. He has no wife, and goes around flirting with the lady Loas, except Ezili who apparently does not like him.

The colors of the Guédé are generally purple and black, and they enjoy unfiltered cigarettes like Pall Malls, rum steeped with chile peppers, dancing the suggestive "banda" dance with the ladies, and they are very protective of children, as many of the loa are.

TOO DREAD TO BE DEAD
GEDÉ
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La Sirène

An aspect of Erzuile who represents the sea. She is seen as a mermaid.


Legba ( Papa Legba )

The most powerful of all the loa and the guardian of the gate between the material world and the world of the loas. He also has great wisdom and knowledge of the past and future. Every ritual begins with a sacrifice to Legba. He is the guardian of the sun and his color is black. (Papa Legba, Papa Lebas, Eleggu , Legba, Eleggua, Echu)

"Papa Legba, ouvrez barriere pou moin passe."

"Father Legba, open the way for me to go through." Thus begins the prayers to Legba in the Haitian tradition. Eleggua is known here as Legba. Above you see the veve of Legba Atibon. Just as in the Regla Lucumi, in the Haitian tradition, Legba is the first Loa or Orisha to be propitiated in any ceremony.

If Eleggua or Legba is not happy, being the trickster god, he can cause problems in the ceremony and it will not go well. Legba is often seen in the New Orleans voodoo tradition as an old man, carrying a sack on his back, often smoking a pipe.

He also has other "caminos" or roads in the Haitian tradition such as Met Kalfou, or the Lord of the Crossroads (Maitre Carrefour). Legba or Eleggua is everywhere, seeing and hearing everything. He knows what is going on with everyone. This is one of the reasons that it is recommended in the Lucumi tradition that everyone receive Eleggua and the Warriors, because without them, you cannot progress in the religion.


Lemba

A deity, of Congo religion, worshipped in the African cults of Haiti, Brazi, and New Orleans.

 

Li Grand Zombi


Li Grand Zombi was the name of Marie Laveau's snake, a huge boa constrictor or royal python ( Ball python) who was worshipped at her Nw Orleans Voodoo rituals.

Maison Blanche was the name of Marie Laveau's cottage near Lake Pontchartrain this is where she kept Zombi.

Bayou St. John was the site of the natural waterway in New Orleans where Marie held her spectacular Voodoo rituals. St. John's Eve, June 23, was the day the biggest Voodoo gatherings were held where even members of "polite society" were invited including reporters, prominent citizens, and the police. It is also the day that some believers claim the ghost of Marie Laveau rises from the dead.

Marie Laveaus Headwashing Ritual

"Call upon Marie Laveau for empowerment in the Vodou arts, and for help in healing. Marie Laveau provides assistance in all workings."

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Snakes are not seen as harbingers of evil -- as in the story of Adam and Eve -- but as a symbol of man. Women often dance with serpents to represent the spiritual balance between the genders. Crosses, meanwhile, symbolize the crossroads where heaven and Earth meet.


Limba

One of the New Orleans loa, believed to live among the rocks. He has an insatiable appetite and persecutes and kills people. He then eats them. Even his own devotees are not safe from his hunger.


L'inglesou A Haitian loa who lives among rocks and ravines. He is said to kill those who offend him.


Loco

A tree Loa, and patron of plants and healers. He is one of the loa in the Caribbean voodoo-religion. An aspect of Legba, he is the master of the hounfort (temple) and loa of medicine and the healing arts.


Mait' Carrefour Loa of magicians. The New Orleans voodoo lord of crossroads. Loa who stands in balance to Legba. He is the loa of night and misfortune, who brings bad luck and illness to the world. His symbol is the crossroads and his color is black.


Maman Brigitte

The New Orleans voodoo Loadess who protects the graves in cemeteries that are marked with the cross. Her masculine counterpart is Ghede (Baron Samedi).


Marassa

The sacred twins, considered to have balance and be two parts of the same whole. Saluted at every ritual.


Marinette

Powerful and violent loa of the Petro family.


Mombu Mombu

This New Orleans Loa is a stammering loa who causes storms of torrential rain.


Nago Shango

Nago Shango is one of the more powerful loa in the New Orleans voodoo religion. Sacrifices of red roosters, tobacco, and rum poured on the ground and set afire are made to him. He is the patron Loa of smiths' fire. The machete or sable is his attribute. Sango (or Shango, Xango, Chango) spirit of storms.

Obatala

Obatala is the greatest orisha. His name means “Lord of the White Cloth.” It is from him that most of the other orisha take their forms. Obatala has many roads or caminos. These can be thought of the archetypes akin to the Platonic notion of perfect forms. It is from these primordial essences the other orisha take their shapes. For instance, Obatla-Ajaguna provides the elemental spark which becomes Shango. Obatala Oshanla can be thought of as the source for Oshun. And so forth. (The orisha who do not come from Obatala are elemental orishas, such as Babalu Aye and Olokun.) Obatla embodies wisdom, creativity, and judgment.


Ogoun

In New Orleans voodoo religion, a powerful warrior and the loa of all things male, including warfare, politics, fire, lightning, thunder, iron and metalworking. His symbol is the sword and his color is red. (Ogun)


Ogoun Badagris

Aspect of Ogoun who represents the phallus.


Ogoun Fer

Aspect of Ogoun who represents stability and order.


Ogoun Shango

Aspect of Ogoun who represents lightning. He is decended from the Nigerian Loa Shango, Loa of fire and lightning.

 

Oshun (Ochun)

Goddess of love, of money and indeed of happiness. She brings to us all the good things of life. She is the goddess of sweet water and can be found where there is fresh water, at rivers, ponds and especially waterfalls. Many offerings are sometimes left for her at the waterfalls. Many ceremonies are done at the river bank.

Ochun is known as Erzile. She has the same caracteristics as Ochun, but her colors are slightly different. Ochun's color is yellow and gold, due to the association with money. Ochun is associated with Our Lady of the Caridad del Cobre. Cobre means copper in spanish, and the first money slaves saw in Cuba when they arrived was made of copper. So they identified Ochun with Our Lady of the Caridad del Cobre. Whatever you call the african goddess of love and money, she is the same energy. Her help is often sought when there are problems in a marriage, or when a woman wishes to get married. Her function as an Orisha is very important. Our Lady of the Caridad del Cobre is the patron Saint of Cuba and the people love her dearly.

Oya

The great woman warrior. She watches over both the New Orleans many cemeteries and the French Market marketplace.


Papa Legba

The New Orleans voodoo Loa who acts as an intermediary between the loa and humans. He is also the Loa of the crossroads; he opens the road to the spirit world. He taught mankind the use of oracles and how to interpret them.

Papa Legba ( Papa LaBas) is commonly depicted as an old man sprinkling water or an old man with a crutch, and is also known as Legba or Legba Ati-Bon. In any vodoun ceremony, Legba is the first loa invoked, so that he may "open the gate" for communication between the worlds.The dog is his symbolic animal. Ogun (or Ogu Bodagris): spirit of war


Petro

The Petro are a group of spirits which are easily annoyed. They are symbolized by a whip. Family of loa who represent the dark, agressive side of life. Many of the loa have an aspect in both the Petro and the Ranga family. These loa are often violent or angry, and can ask a high price for their services. They originated in Hati during the times of slavery.


Pie

A loa which is held responsible for making floods. Pie, a grave soldier, lies at the bottom of ponds and rivers.
Rada The benevolent and gentle loa who originated in Africa. They are the protectors of the people and their worship follows the traditional African ries of the loa.


Simbi

Loa of rainfall and fresh water, he oversees the making of charms. Simbi is one of the three cosmic serpents of New Orleans voodoo-religion, the water-snake loa. His color is green and his symbol is the water snake. Speckeled roosters are sacrificed to him.


Sobo

A New Orleans voodoo spirit, particularly of thunder, one of the a loa. Sobo looks like a handsome soldier.


Sousson Pannan

In New Orleans voodoo Sousson-Pannan is an evil and very ugly loa whose body is all covered with sores. He is known to drink liquor and blood.


Ti Jean Quinto

Ti Jean Quinto is an insolent spirit who lives under bridges. He usually assumes the form of a policeman.


Ti Jean Petro

A New Orleans Voodoo snake deity, the son of Dan Petro.

Yemaya (Yemoja, Yemanja)

The holy mother of the world. She rules over the ocean. She is a special intercessor for mothers and gay men. YEMAYA is called the GREAT MOTHER because she is the Mother of many of the ORISHAS. She is also called the great mother due to her great COMPASSION for mankind. We are creating this page to do just homage to this great ORISHA.

In the Santeria/Lukumi pantheon, Yemaya is the Orisha of the ocean. Her colors are blue and white. She is associated with the virgin Mary, and with La Siren, an aspect of Erzulie, a loa of Voudon. ( Yemanja, Jemanja, Yemoja, Imanja, Ymoja)

 

In Catholicism, these intermediaries are called Saints; in New Orleans Voodoo, they are Loas. So the slaves secretly paired off the Saints and Loas who shared similar attributes. St. Peter, for example, became the counterpart for Papa LaBas, the Loa who guards people's entrance to the spirit world. In this way, slaves could pretend to worship St. Peter while they were actually praying for Papa LaBas. This enabled Africans to maintain their own faith and please their masters at the same time. On Spanish islands, this melding of Catholicism and African religion became known as "Santeria," or "The way of the Saints," and is still widely practiced in Cuba, New Orleans and Miami today.

On French colonies it was named "Voodoo" and remains the primary popular religion in Haiti. Scholars are still uncertain when French-speaking Haitian immigrants brought Voodoo to Louisiana, but court records incorporate some of its lingo as early as 1773.

Vodun is sometimes called Voodoo, Vodoun, Vodou. Religions related to Vodun are: Candomble, Lucumi, Macumba, and Yoruba)

Evil sorcery: The houngan and mambos confine their activities to "white" magic which is used to bring good fortune and healing. However caplatas (also known as bokors) perform acts of evil sorcery or black magic, sometimes called "left-handed Vodun". Rarely, a houngan will engage in such sorcery; a few alternate between white and dark magic.

One belief unique to Vodun and New Orleans is that a dead person can be revived after having been buried. After resurrection, the zombie has no will of their own, but remains under the control of others. In reality, a zombie is a living person who has never died, but is under the influence of powerful drugs administered by an evil sorcerer. Although most Haitians believe in zombies, few have ever seen one. There are a few recorded instances of persons who have claimed to be zombies.

Sticking pins in "voodoo dolls" was once used as a method of cursing an individual by some followers of Vodun in New Orleans; this practice continues occasionally in South America. The practice became closely associated with Voodoo in the public mind through the vehicle of many horror movies.

In the Yoruban tradition that is parent to the Lukumi and Palo faiths, the Orishas are emissaries of God, ruling the forces of nature and the fortunes of mankind. Their aspects are generally determined by their elemental natures. Thus, the Orisha of lightning is also the Orisha of sudden inspiration, vengeance, and dance; the Orisha of the Ocean is the Orisha of motherhood, femininity, and creativity. In this way, they represent ancient archetypal forces, a concept reflected in the phrase "Siete Potencias," or seven potentencies, another way of referring to these powerful Orishas. In Vodou, they are called Loas- "laws."

In Yoruban myths, the stories of the Orishas are as dramatic and full of intrigue as those of the Greek gods- and in fact bear many eerie parallels to the Greco-Roman myths. Unlike the distant deities of many modern faiths, however, the Orishas frequently interact with humanity- in Lukumi, through the Bembe, a ritual drumming party (Similar rituals in Vodoun are called Tambors). During a Bembe, an Orisha may choose to 'mount,' or possess, one of his or her priests, and each Orisha has his or her own songs, colors, and sacrifices that are used to entice them into appearing. Once an Orisha has mounted, he or she may dance and sing, converse, or dispense advice and counsel.

An initiate of Lukumi and most other sects is dedicated to one Orisha during a special ritual, and that Orisha will be his "Head," and determine his spiritual destiny. Once a person is accepted by an Orisha and becomes a candidate for initiation, he enters a long and complex initiation period, which culminates in a large, expensive party-like ritual called an Asiento, where he/she is permanently dedicated to the deity.

In the South American and Cuban traditions, each Orisha is associated with a Catholic saint. Although religious strictures no longer force believers to conceal their faith, this syncretism is still popular. In South America and the Caribbean, representations of Santos (Saints) are more often representations of Orishas than objects of Catholic devotion- although they are often both!

The Seven African powers

The Seven African powers are the most well-known and celebrated divinities of the Yoruban Pantheon, and are common to all Yoruban faiths, although they are not always considered to be the same deities. In Macumba traditions (Candomble, Umbanda), they are called Orixa; in Vodoun, they are called Lwas (Loas); in Palo, Nkisi. In all of these traditions, the Orishas have many aspects (Caminos), which are often quite diverse.

Eleggua (Legba, Exu, Eshu) is the Orisha of crossroads, doorways, and gates. He is the messenger of the gods- no Orisha can be contacted except through him, and his dress and conflicting mannerisms reflect this double-sided nature (he is sometimes depicted with two faces, especially in Yoruban art). Eleggua is also the guardian of the doorway between the earthly and divine realms. He has been compared to the Greek God Hermes, with whom he shares many attributes, and to the Hindu Ganesha. In Brazil, he is sometimes equated with Baphomet, and his symbol is a pitchfork. In Santeria, his colors are black and red, and he is associated with St. Martin de Porres.

Of all the Orishas, he has the most aspects (forms), including Pombagira (Candomble), a wantonly sexual prostitute, and Papa Legba (Vodoun) an elderly man. He is considered a trickster, a player of pranks; in some traditions he is malefic, bringing harm to those who neglect their obligations. In Lukumi, he is a guardian of doorways, and effigies of Eleggua are used to protect homes.

Ogun (Ogoun) is the chief of the warriors, the God of War, blood, and iron. He is the guardian of the forge, and the patron of civilization and technology. Not just a martial deity, Ogun is the archetypal force that drives technology. He is responsible for tools of progress like farming implements and surgeon's knives. He is movement, impetus, force. Because of this, Ogun is associated with locomotives, and offerings are often made to him at railroad tracks. In Candomble, he is associated with St. George, the dragon slayer; in Lukumi, he is syncretized with St. peter.

Because of his association with blood, Ogun is often petitioned for aid with blood diseases. However, because Ogun enjoys blood offerings, it is considered inadvisable to petition Ogun while menstruating or with a bleeding wound.

Chango (Xango, Shango) is a warrior, the Orisha of lightning, dance, and passion. He is the epitome of all things masculine, and the dispenser of vengeance on behalf of the wronged. Shango was likely once a Yoruban King.

He is associate St. Barbara. His colors are red and white, and his best known symbol is the oshe, a double bladed axe. He is sometimes associated with Vodoun's Petro Loa, Erzulie Dantor.

Obatala is the creator God, of whom all of the Orishas are but aspects. His color is white, containing all the colors of the rainbow. He rules the mind and intellect, cosmic equilibrium, male and female. His counterpart in Vodoun, Damballah, takes the form of the primeval serpent. Obatala is considered to be beyond the sphere of direct communication; however, Damballah does possess his followers in Vodou rites. Damballah and his wife Ayida-Wedo, the rainbow serpent, are often compared to alchemical and yogic concepts of kundalini.

Oya (Yansa) is the Goddess of Storms, Lightning, and cemeteries. She is a warrior, the wife of Chango. Her color is maroon, and her saint is Theresa. She epitomizes female power and righteous anger.

In Vodou, Oya is called Manman Brigitte, the swaggering, rum dringing wife of Baron. She may be directly related to the Greek warrior goddess Minerva, through her Irish counterpart Brighid.

Yemaya (Yemoja, Iemanja) is associated with the Virgin Mary and Isis, and the most beloved Orisha. She is the Goddess of the Ocean and the moon, guardian of women, childbirth, fertility, and witchcraft. She rules the subconscious and creative endeavors. Yemaya's counterpart in Vodoun is called Lasiren, the mermaid. She is related to Mamiwata (Mamma Water), the African water-spirit. Lasiren's symbols are a mirror and comb, giving her an odd connection to the Pictish sea goddess.

There is a common legend about Yemaya choosing her own students; occasionally someone will disappear, sometimes for seven years, and return with tales of having learned the ways of magick and healing in her undersea abode. In Lukumi, Yemaya's colors are blue and white; in Vodou, blue and green. Her offerings are often doves, but never fish.

Oshun (known as Oxum in Brazil) rules the 'sweet' waters- rivers, brooks, and streams. Oshun is closely related to Yemaya, and their aspects sometimes overlap. She is the goddess of love, passion, and sensuality, as well as money and prosperity. Her preferred offerings are honey, copper jewelry or coins (usually in multiples of five). She is most often associated with St. Cecilia, and in Lukumi, she is Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre, the protectress of Cuba. Her colors are yellow and gold.

In Vodoun, Oshun is known as Erzulie. Erzulie's colors are shades of pink. While Erzulie and Ochun are very much alike, Erzulie has a vengeful, implacable aspect when angered. Her aspect Erzulie Dantor is a fierce protector of women, an avenger of domestic violence, and a patron of lesbians.

 

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The Seven African powers

The Seven African powers are the most well-known and celebrated divinities of the Yoruba Pantheon, and are common to all Yoruba faiths, although they are not always considered to be the same deities. In Macumba traditions (Candomble, Umbanda), they are called Orixa; in Vodoun, they are called Lwas (Lwas); in Palo, Nkisi. In all of these traditions, the Orishas have many aspects (Caminos), which are often quite diverse.

Obatala is the creator God, of whom all of the Orishas are but aspects. His color is white, containing all the colors of the rainbow. He rules the mind and intellect, cosmic equilibrium, male and female. His counterpart in Vodoun, Damballah, takes the form of the primeval serpent. Obatala is considered to be beyond the sphere of direct communication; however, Damballah does possess his followers in Vodou rites. Damballah and his wife Ayida-Wedo, the rainbow serpent, are often compared to alchemical and yogic concepts of kundalini.


Eleggua (Legba, Exu, Eshu) is the Orisha of crossroads, doorways, and gates. He is the messenger of the gods- no Orisha can be contacted except through him, and his dress and conflicting mannerisms reflect this double-sided nature (he is sometimes depicted with two faces, especially in Yoruba art). Eleggua is also the guardian of the doorway between the earthly and divine realms. He has been compared to the Greek God Hermes, with whom he shares many attributes, and to the Hindu Ganesha. In Brazil, he is sometimes equated with Baphomet, and his symbol is a pitchfork. In Santeria, his colors are black and red, and he is associated with St. Martin de Porres.

Of all the Orishas, he has the most aspects (forms), including Pombagira (Candomble), a wantonly sexual prostitute, and Papa Legba (Vodoun) an elderly man. He is considered a trickster, a player of pranks; in some traditions he is malefic, bringing harm to those who neglect their obligations. In Lukumi, he is a guardian of doorways, and effigies of Eleggua are used to protect homes.

Ogun (Ogoun) is the chief of the warriors, the God of War, blood, and iron. He is the guardian of the forge, and the patron of civilization and technology. Not just a martial deity, Ogun is the archetypal force that drives technology. He is responsible for tools of progress like farming implements and surgeon's knives. He is movement, impetus, force. Because of this, Ogun is associated with locomotives, and offerings are often made to him at railroad tracks. In Candomble, he is associated with St. George, the dragon slayer; in Lukumi, he is syncretized with St. Peter.

Because of his association with blood, Ogun is often petitioned for aid with blood diseases. However, because Ogun enjoys blood offerings, it is considered inadvisable to petition Ogun while menstruating or with a bleeding wound.

Chango (Xango, Shango) is a warrior, the Orisha of lightning, dance, and passion. He is the epitome of all things masculine, and the dispenser of vengeance on behalf of the wronged. Shango was likely once a Yoruba King. Like Ogun, his colors are red and white, and his best-known symbol is the oshe, a double bladed axe. He is sometimes associated with Vodoun's Petro Lwa, Erzulie Dantor and is often syncretized as the female St. Barbara.

Oya (Yansa) is the Goddess of Storms, Lightning, and cemeteries. She is a warrior, the wife of Chango. Her colors are orange and maroon, and her syncretized saint is Theresa. She epitomizes female power and righteous anger.

In Vodou, Oya is called Manman Brigitte, the swaggering, rum drinking wife of Baron Samedi and mother of the Guedde, lords of the dead. She may be directly related to the Greek warrior goddess Minerva but is also connected to Hecate, the goddess of witches and the underworld. She also possesses an Irish equivalent in Macha, the crone aspect of the Triple Goddess Morrigan who is often associated with battlefields and burial grounds.
Yemaya (Yemoja, Iemanja) is associated with manifestations of the Virgin Mary and also of Isis; she is the most beloved female Orisha. She is the Goddess of the Ocean and the moon, guardian of women, childbirth, fertility, and witchcraft. She rules the subconscious and creative endeavors. Yemaya's counterpart in Vodoun is called Lasiren, the Mermaid. She is related to Mami Wata (Mamma Water), the African water-spirit beloved by the Dahomey of Benin. Yemaya's symbols are a mirror and comb, powders and perfumes, and other items of female beauty.

There is a common legend about Yemaya choosing her own students; occasionally someone will disappear, sometimes for seven years, and return with tales of having learned the ways of magick and healing in her undersea abode. In Lukumi, Yemaya's colors are blue and white; in Vodou, blue and green. Her offerings are often doves, but never fish.

Oshun (known as Oxum in Brazil) rules the 'sweet' waters- rivers, brooks, and streams. Oshun is closely related to Yemaya, and their aspects sometimes overlap. She is the goddess of love, passion, and sensuality, as well as money and prosperity. Her preferred offerings are honey, copper jewelry or coins (usually in multiples of five). She is most often associated with St. Cecilia, and in Lukumi, she is Our Lady of La Caridad del Cobre, the protectress of Cuba. Her colors are yellow and gold.

In Vodoun, Oshun is known as Erzulie. Erzulie's colors are shades of pink. While Erzulie and Oshun are very much alike, Erzulie has a vengeful, implacable aspect when angered similar to that of her sister and rival Erzulie Dantor. In this dark, vengeful aspect, Dantor is a fierce protector of women, especially single mothers, and a powerful avenger of domestic violence. Dantor is associated with the Black Madonnas, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, and Mater Salvatoris, and she in most pantheons she is a goddess of storms, rain and floods, which she is often invoked as protection against. Her colors are royal blue, red and gold, and her offerings include spicy fried pork, cinnamon candies, and libations of rum mixed with storm water.

 

 

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