The Seven African Powers, or as they are known in Spanish, "Las Siete Potencias Africanas", are made up of seven Orishas, revered figures in Santeria, Candomble, Vodou, and Umbanda religions. These came to the United States and elsewhere through the African diaspora, as enslaved people tried to maintain ties to their ancestral religion. Modern descendants of the African diaspora continue to turn to these powers today.
Who are the Orishas?
The Orishas are more than human, but not quite gods themselves. They originated with the Yoruba people, who have a primary creator God: Olodumare. The Orishas act as demi-deities, or in a capacity similar to Archangels. There's no real equivalent to this in English, so they are simply called "Orishas," or, occasionally, "deities." It should be noted that while these seven Orishas are particularly important, they do not represent the entirety of the Orisha pantheon. There are hundreds of Orishas, each governing various aspects of nature, human endeavors, and life events. While some Orishas are well-known and widely worshipped, other Orishas are more regional or have a more specialized focus. The prominence of specific Orishas can also vary between different Yoruba-derived religions and regions.
Who are the Seven African Powers?
The Seven African Powers are the seven most powerful and popular Orishas. These are Elegua, Yemaya, Oshun, Shango, Obatala, Oya (sometimes Orunmila or Ochossi), and Ogun. They are found in several different religions and traditions that descend from the African diaspora, including Santeria, Candomble, Hoodoo, and Arara. The Orishas who together are the Seven African Powers are:
Elegua: Orisha of the Crossroads
Elegua is the Orisha of the Crossroads, ruling over the juncture where two or more roads meet. In this way, he is also seen as the deity of opportunities and new beginnings.
Elegua is believed to have the power to open and close roads for humanity, both in the physical and spiritual sense. He guides the spirits of the dead, protecting them on their journey to the afterlife, but he also looks after the living, watching over travelers and those who are lost.
Because he is the messenger between the human and spiritual realms, all prayers and offerings must pass through him before reaching any other Orisha.
Elegua is sometimes syncretized with Catholic saints like Saint Anthony, Saint Lazarus, and Saint Peter. Like Elegua, Saint Anthony is considered a patron of lost or stolen items, and Saint Lazarus is associated with healing and resurrection. Saint Peter is seen as the guardian of the gates of heaven, a role that mirrors Elegua's role as the opener of the paths.
Elegua is honored with offerings of tobacco, rum, candy, toys, and spicy foods, which are believed to please him.
Yemaya: Orisha of Motherhood
Yemaya is a significant Orisha associated with the sea, motherhood, and new beginnings. Because of her associations with birth and new beginnings, she is also known as the Goddess of the New Year. She is revered as a nurturing figure who provides guidance and support during times of need.
Her energies are often invoked for those seeking fertility, emotional and spiritual growth, and feminine sexuality. Yemaya is also known to offer protection to women and children, particularly those who have been mistreated or abused.
She is sometimes associated with the Black Madonna of Regia - a dark-skinned Cuban representation of the Virgin Mary - and Stella Maris (”Star of the Sea”) - a representation of the Virgin Mary that protects sailors and those who travel by sea.
Yemaya’s favorite offerings include perfume, shells, jewelry, fish, watermelon, coconut cake, molasses, and pomegranate. Her symbolism is often depicted with water, which represents her vast, nurturing essence as the mother of all living things.
Oshun: Orisha of Love
Oshun is one of the most popular and beloved Orishas in the Yoruba religion, known for her beauty, grace, and sensuality. She is associated with rivers and streams, which are considered to be her domain, and is often depicted as a mermaid or a beautiful young woman wearing flowing yellow or gold robes.
As the goddess of love and desire, Oshun is often called upon for help with matters of the heart, including finding love, enhancing relationships, and even increasing fertility. She is also associated with divination, and it is said that she can reveal secrets and offer guidance through dreams and other forms of divination.
Oshun is sometimes syncretized with other religious figures, including Catherine of Alexandria and Our Lady of Charity, reflecting the ways in which African and Catholic traditions have blended in the Americas.
Catherine of Alexandria was a Christian saint who was known for her wisdom and beauty and was often depicted with a wheel, which is a symbol of fortune and change. Similarly, Oshun is associated with beauty, wisdom, and change, and is often depicted with a mirror, which represents self-reflection and the ability to see beyond the surface.
Our Lady of Charity is a Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary, who is also associated with the sea and is revered by many Afro-Cuban religions. The syncretism between Oshun and Our Lady of Charity may have arisen due to the similarities in their attributes and roles as protectors and providers, as well as their associations with the sea and feminine energy.
Her favorite offerings include items that reflect her beauty and sensuality, such as perfume, oils, and fans, as well as river stones and other natural objects associated with her watery realm.
Obatala: The Orisha of Creation
Obatala is a highly respected and revered Orisha in the Yoruba religion. As the eldest Orisha, he is seen as a father figure and is often called upon for guidance and protection. Obatala is also believed to be the creator of humanity and is therefore associated with fertility and creation.
His peaceful nature is also symbolic of his role as a peacemaker and mediator in conflicts. In addition to legal matters, he is also associated with healing and is believed to have the power to cure illnesses and diseases.
Obatala is sometimes syncretized with Jesus Christ due to his association with creation, purity, and compassion.
His favorite offerings are cascarilla (powdered eggshells), sugar, water, milk, shea butter, rice, and white flowers, which are seen as pure and cleansing. However, it is important to note that alcohol should never be offered to Obatala as he is believed to be a teetotaler.
Shango: Orisha of Justice and Protection
Shango, also known as Sango, Chango, or Xango, is a powerful Orisha who embodies strength, passion, and virility. He is often associated with lightning, and his presence is said to be felt in the rumbling thunder that follows a bolt of lightning.
As a symbol of justice and protection, Shango is often called upon for guidance in matters related to power and dignity. He is revered for his ability to bring about change and to stand up for what is right.
Shango is sometimes syncretized with Saint Jerome and John the Baptist, two Christian figures who also embody strength and power, as well as Saint Barbara because of her associations with thunder and lightning.
His favorite offerings include liquor, sugar, copper, red foods, and spicy foods, which are believed to help harness his power and energy. In addition to his association with lightning, Shango is also closely associated with drums and music, which are often used in his rituals and ceremonies.
Oya: The Orisha of the Winds
Oya is known as a powerful and independent Orisha who is often depicted as a fierce female warrior with a sword or a machete. She is associated with the winds, storms, and lightning, which represent her unpredictable nature. Oya is also seen as the guardian of cemeteries and a messenger between the living and the dead.
As the Orisha of communication and secrets, she is said to have the power to reveal hidden truths and bring about transformation.
Oya is sometimes syncretized with Saint Barbara, a Christian martyr who is also associated with thunder and lightning. Her favorite colors are red and purple, which symbolize passion, power, and mystery.
Oya's favorite offerings include flowers, fruits, and wine, but she is also known for her love of eggplants, which are said to represent her power to transform and shape-shift.
Ogun: The Orisha of War
Ogun is a highly revered and powerful Orisha, known for his protective and warrior-like qualities. As the god of iron and weaponry, he is often called upon to aid those who work with metal or need to defend themselves in battle. Ogun is also associated with tools, and his energy is believed to help with problem-solving and creativity.
His role as a healer comes from his ability to transform negative energy into positive, making him a valuable ally in spiritual and emotional growth. Ogun is often seen as a father figure and is revered for his sense of loyalty, determination, and strength.
Ogun is sometimes syncretized with several Christian figures, including Saint James the Great, Saint Peter, John the Baptist, and Archangel Michael due to the similarities in their symbolism and attributes. For example, Saint James the Great is often depicted as a warrior, and Ogun is a protective figure who can also be associated with war and battles. Saint Peter is often depicted with keys, and Ogun is associated with tools and iron, which are used to open doors and cut through obstacles. John the Baptist is associated with water, and Ogun is associated with rivers, which are seen as sources of life and purification in African spirituality. Archangel Michael is also seen as a protector and defender, which aligns with Ogun's role as a protective father figure.
His favorite offerings include cigars, rum, wine, red palm oil, red candles, metal tools, chains, weapons, and spicy foods. His symbols include the machete, the hammer, and the anvil, and his colors are black and green.
Calling Upon the Seven African Powers
Before you ask them for aid, it is important to understand and respect the culture and people that brought the Orishas to the rest of the world. Approach them with reverence. While you do not have to descend from the Yoruba people to ask the Seven African Powers for aid, if you do not respect them or their people, they will not respect you.
It is also important to understand each of the Orisha's likes, taboos, and rivalries. Some must never be called upon at the same time, except when calling on the Seven African Powers. Some have offerings that they hate. Know these things, so you can avoid mistakes.
You can call upon these powerful entities for help with spiritual growth, connecting to your inner strength and power, and removing obstacles in your life. There are many ways to do this:
- Wear a Seven African Powers collar/necklace or bracelet.
- Carry a 7 African Powers prayer card, or place it in an area of respect in your home.
- Take a spiritual bath with 7 African Powers bath and floor wash, and use 7 African Powers soap.
- Dress a 7 African Powers candle with a corresponding oil.
- Clean your home with 7 African powers floor wash, follow by sprinkling sachet powder.
The Seven African Powers rule over all things humans need -- including love, fertility, power, justice, healing, and opportunity. They are helpful when you have a great need or want to cover your bases and bring in all of the blessings you can.