When the people of Yoruba were brought to the Caribbean as slaves, they were forced to convert to Roman Catholicism. The followers of Santeria, in order to preserve their ancient traditions and magic, continued to worship their deities, called Orisha, by melding them with the many saints in their new religion.
The Orisha are spiritual emissaries; they are the bridge between this world and the source of all spiritual energy, Olorun. Olorun (sometimes called Olodumare) is the foundation of all things, the being from which the energy for all life and all things material is manifested.
Calling Upon the Orisha
There are a myriad of Orisha, each providing their guidance, power, and wisdom to the practitioners of Santeria magic. Each Orisha rules over a different aspect of humanity, and has his or her own personality, likes, dislikes, and rituals that must be performed to gain favor for the priest wishing to call upon the Orisha’s powers. Communication between the Orishas and humankind must be initiated through the proper rituals, prayers, divination and offerings. Care must be taken not to offend or disrespect the Orisha, as their power to cause harm or even death to the frivolous and disrespectful is just as great as their power to bless and reward those who follow faithfully.
Even though there are a myriad of Orishas, there are some Orishas that are most often considered to be the main ‘deities’, those who are most often called upon to assist the practitioners of Santeria. A few of these Orishas are listed below, along with the aspect they rule.
Obatala is the father of the Orisha and humanity. He is also the creator if this world and is the source of wisdom, purity, compassion and morality.
Elegba is the guardian of all doorways, in this world and in the spirit realm. He is always the first to be sought for favor, and the last spirit to leave any gathering, as he rules both going and coming.
Ogun is the guardian of war, iron and labor. He is the embodiment of both creativity and violence, and he clears the pathways that Elegba opens.
Ochosi is the guardian of all warriors, and is a spirit of the hunter, and the scout. He provides direction and helps to guide the laws of society.
Chango rules the storms, lightning and thunder. Yet another warrior orisha, he is well known for his virility and the ability to attract female lovers. This orisha also helps those who struggle with daily life.
Oya is the guardian over the dead and the gates of the cemeteries. She also rules winds and whirlwinds and is a fierce warrior. When one wishes to speak with those who have passed away, Oya must be consulted.
Oshun is the embodiment of love, beauty, and fertility. When a woman seeks a life partner, it is Oshun that grants her powers to the love charm. Culture, art, and music are also hers.
There are many other Orisha, each granting a portion of their power to those who call upon them for guidance in life, love, wealth, and wisdom. Knowing how to call upon these Orisha and how to effectively appease their varying natures is what makes a practitioner of Santeria magic so powerful. Without the knowledge of the deities these Orisha and what it takes to call upon them, the magic of Santeria will not work. The practitioners of Santeria are intensively trained in these secret rites and know how best to consult each Orisha during the spell casting to ensure that the person seeking favor will have the best outcome. They also know how to protect those who might be under the influence of dark powers or evil wishes brought about by others who wish to cause them harm. The ‘deities’ of Santeria magic are the link between this world and the spiritual realm, and must be venerated for the powers they share with those who know their secrets. Only a true practitioner of Santeria can hope to attain the powers and magic the Orishas offer.