Orishas of the Santeria (Lucumi) Religion
Echu or Elegua
The Orisha who opens our doors and our roads, he is the messenger and is always honored first in any ceremony. Known as the Trickster, Elegua is like a mischievous child who delights in making trouble. His colors are most often represented as red and black. Sometimes spelled Elegba.
If Elegua is the messenger of the Orishas, telling them of the ceremonies we are performing in their honor, Ogun (or Oggun) is the worker. He is the owner of iron, and therefore of the knife. No Santeria initiation can be performed without his aid. Thus, in Matanzas, he has the honor of bringing the iyawo out of his throne and presenting him to the drums. Ogun's colors are most often represented as green and black, with a little red.
Ochosi is the hunter, and the Orisha of justice. In Matanzas his colors are a rich blue and forest green with a little amber.
The Orisha of personal stability, he is represented by a metal chalice topped with a rooster. "The Warriors" are Osun, Elegua, Ogun, and Ochosi.
Known as the "Doctor of Ocha," Inle is the owner of medicine as well as the patron of fisherman. He makes his home where the river meets the sea. In Matanzas, Inle's colors are a rich blue with some green and a little bit of yellow. Abata is Inle's companion, and always received with him. Abata's color is clear blue.
Known in Cuba as San Lázaro, Babaluaye (or Obaluaye) is the owner of infectious diseases, particularly of those transmitted sexually, and is invoked to protect us from illness. He is depicted as a leprous beggar on crutches accompanied by two dogs. In Matanzas province, particularly Perico, there are many priests of Babaluaye made in the Arara style. In the Egwado branch of the Lucumi religion, Babaluaye is generally received by a Santero from a priest of Babaluaye and the ceremonies are conducted in the Arara style. It is a very powerful experience.
Orishaoko's companion, Korinkoto breaks up the rocks that are unearthed as Orishaoko plows his furrows and uses them to build the walls that protect Orishaoko's seedlings from animals.
A pair of oxen pulling an old-fashioned plow is a common site in rural Cuba, and this is the image associated with Orishaoko. The owner of cultivated land and all its products, he is also at home beneath the shade of the sacred ceiba tree. Orishaoko's colors are a medium pink (the same color as Yewa) and green with a little blue.
Dada is the companion of Babaluaye, who helped him when he was so ill he could not walk. He is also the strong friend of Chango, and was present to witness Chango's gift of the divining table to Orula.
Agayu (or Aganyu) owns the volcano, the roots of the Earth. Known as the father of Chango, he shares many of Chango's characteristics, including fire and the double-headed hatchet. Agayu is pictured as carrying the Earth or Elegua on his shoulders. His colors are deep brown and milky white, with accents in orange. Agayu's necklace can also include accent beads in red, yellow, light and dark blue, green, and coral. There should be nine colors in all. In the Egwado branch of the Lucumi religion, Agayu is made directly; whereas in Havana and the US the child of Agayu is made to Chango with songs sung for Agayu ("oro Agayu").
Chango (or Shango) is arguably the most vibrant and forceful of the Orishas. He owns thunder and lightning, and is the owner of the sacred Aña (his is the smallest drum, okonkolo, which marks the rhythm for the other two drums). Chango also owns the Makagua Bembe drums. These drums, with their driving rhythms, exemplify Chango's power, virility and warlike character. His symbols are the double-headed hatchet, the sword, and the thunderstone. His colors are a balance of fiery red and cooling white.
Obatala was charged by Olodumare (God) with creating the Earth and humankind. For this reason he is considered to be the first among Orishas. He is sometimes known as "the owner of all heads," and he personifies peace and tranquility and humility. Obatala is generally depicted as an old man (or woman, Ochan-la), but he also has a warrior aspect, known as Ayaguna. There are many roads of Obatala, from the oldest, Ochan-la (the only female road), whose color is pure white; to the youngest, Ayaguna, whose colors are white with a little red.
As a young girl, Yewa was abandoned by her parents and went to live in a cave. When she was discovered, Olofi (another name for God) took her out of her cave and blessed her. When she grew old, she returned to the cave, and there met Death. She is the true owner of the cemtary, as she owns the bones in the ground. Yewa's color is a medium pink and she lives very quietly behind a many-colored curtain and mariwo (palm fronds strung together in a skirt).
Obba was the first wife of Chango. Oya, who was also in love with Chango, convinced her to cut off her ear and serve it to him in his favorite dish to keep his love. When Chango saw Obba's disfigurement he was so disgusted that he cast her away from him. She went to the feet of Olofi and became his secretary. She records the life story of each individual when he or she dies. In Matanzas, Obba's color is a deep brown, the same shade as Agayu and Oya, but without any of the accent colors that those two Orishas use.
Oya is the wind and the rain. She was the second wife of Chango and his equal as a warrior. She owns the gates to the cemetery and the marketplace, a paradigm for the world of commerce. When a new initiate leaves the throne, Oya's market is the first place he or she goes. Oya's color is a deep brown, like Agayu and Obba. The preferred brown bead has a thin red and black stripe in it, although these beads are very difficult to find in Cuba. Although she is the owner of nine colors, her necklaces only carry brown with a little red or maroon.
Ochun (or Oshun) personifies sweetness and love, but she can also be fierce and proud. She is the owner of the sweet water of lakes and rivers. The ultimate coquette, she has been romantically involved with almost all of the male Orishas. It was she who lured Ogun out of his forest to help mankind with his iron, by dancing seductively by the river and smearing his lips with honey. In Cuba, she is identified with the Virgin Caridad del Cobre, Cuba's patroness. Ochun's color is yellow (or amber, in the case of Ibu Kole).
Owner of the depths of the ocean, no one knows Olokun's secrets. Out of respect, in the Egwado branch of Fermina Gomez, Olokun's necklace is made of light blue and clear crystal beads.
Yemaya is the mother of us all. She owns the seas and the oceans, and in the beginning the entire Earth was hers. Her songs and her dances are reminiscent of the unceasing undulation of the sea, sometimes gentle and sometimes tempestuous but always powerful. There are seven roads of Yemaya which represent all of her aspects, from the gentle shoreline (Asesu, whose color is pale blue) to the raging depths (Okute, the warrior aspect of Yemaya, whose colors are deep blue with a little red and a touch of clear greenish-blue like the color of churning waves).
Orunmila, often called Orula in Cuba, is the Diviner. His priests are known as babalawos ("the father of the secrets") and are renowned for their knowledge of the sacred stories that serve as the foundation of the divination process.. Orula's colors are green and yellow.