Orishas are African deities, usually worshipped in the Yoruba, Lucemi, Santeria and Voodoo religions. Isn’t this a wonderful photo series portraying them all?!?!? Well, the Orishas of Africa were transplanted to Cuba and the Southern States with the slaves, and many of them are now associated with Christian saints so they could be worshipped in mainstream America. But I prefer their original African roots, and don’t associate them at all with their Christian counterparts. Actually, here is a much better description of them. Go to the section where Iyanifa describes the Orishas…she also describes the main ones. She does talk about the spiritual appropriation issue, but that’s another post.
I felt people should come away with is that the Orisha are best understood and worked through the indigenous cultures and cosmology that birthed them….in West Africa. They are a part of an entire system of spiritual development. They are not considered gods in our culture.
Orisha that are known in the diaspora came to be understood that way through the transatlantic slave trade. It is an ancestral tradition. It’s what those Africans who were stolen from their home lands brought with them to the Americas. Orisha are who helped them survive the horrors of that experience for hundreds of years.
Because their open practice was forbidden, and it was against the law to practice their traditional spiritual systems, they hid them in the guise of Catholic Saints. So what came to be came out of necessity to survive. And often that is how they are presented… But they are not Catholic saints.
Although I’m agnostic and don’t follow any religious format, most information on the Orishas follow one of the religious formats. I have used the following links to find out more about them…
The Santeria Church – this link leads to a description of what Orishas are, and lists a few of the important ones
Orisha Online Altar – this is a Vodun and diaspora beliefs site
Tribe of the Sun – this site has information on a number of gods and goddesses, not just the Orishas
Original Botanica Products – not only do they have a nice blog about orishas, but you can buy corresponding Santeria products to go with them here. Note that the blog isn’t easy to navigate…I had better luck doing a google search for information first.