There are 401 Orishas in the Yoruba Pantheon. Orishas are deities that reflect the manifestations of Olodumare (God). They are emissaries of God, forces of nature. There are no images of any Orisha because they are aspects of nature, and are therefore energies. For easier understanding, because of limitation of the mind and because imagery projects reality, you will sometimes see pictorial depictions of the deities, but within their shrines in Africa, you will never find this. Each individual manifest an attribute of these forces within their consciousness, therefore displaying knowlingly or unknowingly which Orisha is their guardian. In other words, we are all children of Orishas. You could know which family of Orisha a Yoruba family worships, through their ancestors far back, by their surname. Not only the name, (for example: Oguntunde (which means Ogun has returned, and is indicative of the family being worshipers of Ogun), but also if the name is Agbede, which means Blacksmith, also indicating that the family, through bloodline, are also Ogun worshipers. Through the name, the Yorubas could tell who they were and who their ancestors worshipped, it all had to do with bloodline and where they came through, and thus they were named accordingly. The list below will give you a brief insight into some of the Orishas, more will be added as time goes by as there are many.
*Note: “Omo” is the Yoruba word for child.
Esu (Eh-Shu): Esu is also known as Elegbara. He is Osetura (Oh-sheh-tu-rah), which is Odu number 248. Osetura is also known as the messenger of the Odu’s. Esu is the Orisha of Justice and closest to God. He is the owner of the Earth and of the crossroads which represents the crossroads of life and the connection to God. Nothing can be done without his permission by order of God. His role is that of the “police man,” and so he is the police of Olodumare. No one can do without Esu, and nothing can happen without Esu. Esu is the one that makes people remember God, if people had life easy and without problems, would he have cause to remember God? People often remember God when they need a comforter. This is Esu’s role, to create the problems and chaos so as to create balance and to keep human beings on their path. However, Esu can also solve these problems as much as he can create them. He is the one who governs the actions of human beings as they journey along life’s way. He creates chaos in order to bring forth balance. He must be propitiated first on all occasions. He is very misunderstood, so much that Bishop Ajai Crawford who transcribed the Christian Bible into Yoruba, erroneously put Esu’s name as “The Devil,” which was one of the most appalling things anyone could have ever done. Esu is represented by earth, clay and yangi stone.
Archetypes of Esu: Children of Esu are usually book smart, almost to the point of genius. They are very easily misunderstood and they like it like that. They are tricky and are most often set in their ways. They are very bold and know their path in life from the moment they are able to stand on their own. They are strong willed and confident in almost everything that they set out to do. Esu’s colors are red, white, and black.
Orunmila: Orunmila, also known as Ifa, is second in command to Olodumare. He stands beside Obatala. Both are close generals to the Supreme Being, God. Orunmila is owner of the sacred Odus and is said to be witness of fate, therefore knowing the destinies of every human being. Orunmila is a very mysterious Orisha who advocates for righteousness and goodness always. He teaches Iwa Pele, which is good and gentle character. Babalawo’s (trained Ifa priests) who are his earthly representatives are taught never to seek anything of the material world that would lead them astray from their path of Ifa, and that which would sully them as representatives of Ifa. Babalawo’s are also Ifa’s earthly representatives, providing a very unique and highly respected service to humanity. Ifa’s colors are green and deep maroon which looks like brown.
Archetypes of Orunmila: Children of Orunmila loves to sleep on the floor. They are also very studious and love to study. They also tend to have a very engaging look with a piercing gaze that seems to stare right through you. They have a natural affinity for herbal medicines or alternative medicines. Children of Orunmila are also very contemplative and love to regress.
Obatala: This Orisha is also known by other titles, such as: Orisa Popo (Orisa who kneads clay), Obaba Arugbo (Father of Greybeard), Alaba-ni-Ase (He who proposes and also disposes), Orisanla (the Great Orisha). He is known as the Father of Creation. He represents peace and is the owner of all our heads (spiritual inner consciousness). This Orisha was given the task by Olodumare to mold man from clay. He is old and very wise. He is a very helpful Orisha and is highly respected by all. Obatala’s color is white.
Archetypes of Obatala: Regardless of one’s age, no matter how young, the person will seem to be old in all their wisdom. Children of Obatala exercise patience. For men, they tend to have deep booming voices, and most often you will find some of them are great singers. Obatala’s children are also very humble and calm in nature, but they do have the ability if pushed to erupt like a volcano, and this no one would want to witness.
Ogun (Oh-gu-n (with a nasalized ‘n’): Ogun is the contraction of “Ogun-da,” and Ogun-da is one of the Odu – Ifa’s. This deity represents iron. In nature iron is found as a natural element beneath the earth. Ogun is a great warrior. He is God of Iron, which includes technology and anything metal. Ogun clears the way for human beings in life with his machete so that we are able to scale over obstacles that may come before us. He is in constant company with Esu, his close friend, and Ochosi, who is the hunter who carries a bow and arrow. Ogun is God of war, and no warrior goes into battle without the aid of Ogun, therefore the gun, the knife, the sword, and anything that draws blood including bottles and stones, are attributed to Ogun. Among Ogun’s favorite food is roasted yams, roasted corn, and dog.
Archetypes of Ogun: Omo Ogun’s are very strong. Sometimes quiet but when they get angry, please run. Ogun’s children often have a fascination with weapons, cookware, technology, or anything of metal. They do not like crowds and there are times when they like to be by themselves. If they have an opinion on something, they will keep silent unless asked, and when they do voice out, they will not take their words back, they stick to what they believe. They are not gossipers or betrayers. At times people may find them cold and unfeeling. They know how to hide their feelings very well, not wanting to encounter with too much emotions. Some Ogun children get angry very easily, but can calm down with no malice behind it. Ogun’s children can find interest in jobs such as: policeman, soldiers, mechanics, surgeons or doctors, barbers, anything involving technology, drivers, pilots, carpenters, jewelry makers, musicians, filmmakers, etc.
Osun (Oh-Shu-n): Osun is a name for the Yoruba Goddess who is owner of sweet waters, river, streams, brooks, and lakes. She is the Orisha who represents fertility and love. She is Goddess of prosperity and fortune. Everyone loves Osun, she is water, and who can survive without water? Osun puts families together. She gives barren women babies. She puts together a husband to his wife, and a wife to her husband. She is of beauty and all things beautiful. She loves honey, sweet smelling perfumes, powder, gold jewelry, honey, and bees are sacred to her. Osun’s children in Africa wear white and are always beautifully attired, nicely dressed in sequins and lace. Yellow is her true color, but should only be worn by her initiates. She is the Orisha with the comb. She brings good things. She is mysterious and sharp, loving and gentle, often times slightly hard to figure out. She is protective and strong and will never allow her children to be ashamed or disgraced. The African Grey Parrot is one of Osun’s favorite bird, and ferns are among some of her favorite plants. Osun is also the natural wife of Orunmila, her name being Osunfunmilayo. Osun is also the owner of sixteen cowrie shells (Mẹ́rìndílógún), which her husband Orunmila taught her how to divine with.
Archetypes of Osun: Children of Osun, women or men, are to be of calm nature. Children of Osun are at times very quiet and their speech is never loud. Her children are not easily annoyed and they lend an ear to all who needs it. An omo Osun is a good spouse who is supportive no matter what. Osun women are the backbone for their men, often times being the breadwinner for the family. You’ll hardly find an omo Osun who is not a good cook. Osun is also the the midwife, she is a healer, a comforter, she loves and protects her children unconditionally. Osun children loves anything which is of beauty or is beautiful. Osun is known as the Happy Orisha. Her children love to laugh and has a sense of humor. Her children are clean and like to wear nice things and perfume themselves. There has been many write ups of Osun being a prostitute or flirtatious – this is not so. To say this against Osun’s name is an abomination. Also, Osun is not the vulture. Osun’s children will be hairdressers (Orisa with the comb), midwife or healer, writer or any form of communication, dancer (she is for all areas of the arts), actors, singers, models, makeup artists and stylists, she is a natural spiritual diviner, and more. Oore Yeye Osun!! (Hail My Mother Osun).
Yemoja (Yeh-Moh-Jah): This deity represents the ocean throughout the diaspora, but in Africa Yemoja is a river deity. It is said that Yemoja accompanied her children through the Ocean to the diaspora during the African Holocaust known as slavery. Yemoja is protector of children and pregnant women. She is very compassionate and also strict. When she is crossed, her rage can be uncontrollable. She is known as “Big Mummy.” Her name Yemoja when broken down is Yeye (Mother) – Omo (Child) – Eja (Fishes) or “Mother whose children are fishes,” or “Mother of Fishes.” She is very powerful and is said to have had many children. Her color is white and her devotees wear white with white beads. Her shrine is also white. Yemoja loves onions, vegetables are among her favorite foods. Whenever food is prepared for her, onions must be plenty within. Even to speak to Yemoja, an onion can be cut into 4 pieces and cast to her, much like the Obi Kola Nut. She is the patron Orisa of Brasil, where they honor her yearly. Yemoja is also known as Mami Wata in other parts of Africa, and in Haiti she is known as La Siren. Like Osun, she is loved and known throughout all cultures. She is also prayed to for women who have fertility issues.
Archetypes of Yemoja: Children of Yemoja (the women) will have large breasts. She will be a strict mother who is a disciplinarian, or in the case of a man, he is also a strict parent. Yemoja is not one to spear the rod and spoil the child. She is the epitome of strength and will fight for those she loves.
Olokun: Olokun is said to be a masculine Orisha and others will argue that it is a feminine Orisha. I have been told that Olokun does not like to be referred to as feminine, so therefore we will say that he is an androgynous Orisha, sighting that he is mysterious, as mysterious as the deepest bottom of the Ocean, of which he rules. In Nigeria, Benin City, Edo State, Olokun is a river deity, but within the diaspora, he is venerated by the ocean. It is also said that the true mystery of the Egungun’s (ancestor spirits) lies with Olokun. Olokun is said to have a compulsive temper and according to some, this is evident when tsunami’s are risen up out of the depths of the ocean floor. His colors are blue and white and it is said that he wears a mask. Olokun is also known the owner of riches because all the wealth of the world sits at the bottom of the ocean. His sacrificial animals are roosters, ducks, pigeons. He also loves fruits of any kind.
Ṣàngó (Shango): This deity is also known as Jakuta (meaning The Stone Thrower). Sango represents lightning and thunder. He is one of the most popular Orishas. Shango is a very masculine Orisha who is said to love women very much. It is said that Sango was the fourth Alafin (King) of Oyo Kingdom. Sango was a warrior who was loved by all and everyone. His color is red and it is said that he loves to dance to the beat of batta drum. Sango is also God of Fire, having the command over fire. Sango has several wives with Orisa Oba (orisha of the river) being his first wife. But it is his wife Oya, deity of the wind, who walks with him. This is why the wind blows first before rainfall and before lightning and thunder strikes. In Africa, if someone has stolen something, it is Orisha Sango who is invoked to bring out the criminal and expose him. There is no escape for the criminal, if he is in bed sleeping, the whole village or town will hear Sango’s roar of thunder and clap of lightning, and the culprit will be seen dragged out of his house for all and sundry to see, exposed by the Unseen force who is the great Sango. Sango’s insigna are said to be thunderstones. These stones are black and shaped like the head of an axe with a flat front and a curved back. Priests of Sango are called “Oni-Sango” or “Odusu-Sango.” The chief priests of Sango are called ‘Magbas.’
Archetypes of Ṣàngó: Children of Sango love to have fun and dance, but can also get depressed at the drop of a hat, and when they get depressed, they sink really low. Most Omo Sango’s have either considered suicide or have attempted it when they are down. They have two sides to them. When they are happy, they are extremely happy, but when they are sad or depressed, they are really low and it is hard to bring them out.
Ọya: Oya, otherwise known as Miss Yansa, is also one of Sango’s wives. She is Orisha of the wind and she always walks before her husband. Oya represents tornadoes, hurricanes, storms, and strong winds. It must be noted that if strong winds are blown and a gust of dirt or sand follows, that is not Orisha Oya, but another great Orisha called Obaluaye, or Sopono. Oya stands at the gate of the cemetery. Being the Orisha who represents wind and tornado, this tells of change, so she is also the Orisha of change. Oya is a fierce warrior who brings swift changes, some good and some harsh that will make you take a deeper look into your lives and adjust it to allow you to grow. Her color is deep maroon and she is a very mysterious and hot Orisha.
Archetypes of Oya: Children of Oya can be more than slender, extremely thin. Some of the women tend to grow facial hair. Omo Oya, although thin in their appearance, are no joke and are very fierce and not to be played with. Oya’s children go swiftly in and out of moods. They are also easily misunderstood by people around them. While other feminine Orishas comforts and cares, Oya is about doing what has to be done swiftly and getting it over with. She is certainly no joke and is very much to be respected. From my observation, Bob Marley would have certainly been Omo Oya, from his character, his very thin and gaunt-like appearance, and the great change he sought to bring to the world.
Obaluaye (Oh-Ba-Loo-Ah-Yay) or Sopono (Shoh-poh-noh): His title “Obaluaye” means “King Lord of the World,” and his devotees call him “Baba” (father). He is God of Smallpox and diseases. Oba Luaye is otherwise called Sopono (Sh-oh-poh-no). He is a great Orisha who can cure any disease or illnesses and also create them. For this, he is widely feared. He represented by the gust of wind, that with it brings sand. As opposed to Oya, Orisha of the wind. He is the only God whose worship was forbidden by the British Government when Nigeria was colonized.
Aje Shaluga: This deity is said to be daughter of Olokun who gives wealth in abundance. It is said that Aje Shaluga is extremely generous, and if petitioned well, will take the petitioner out of any financial bind they may find themselves in.
Osayin (Oh-sa-yin): Orisha who lives in the forest and has the knowledge of all herbs and plants.
Orisa Oko: This is the God of farm and agriculture. He is very popular in Yorubaland. He is represented by the iron staff which symbolizes strength and honey bees are said to be his messengers. Orisha Oko is worshipped annually by women by the new moon.