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The 7 main Yoruba Orishas and the syncretized Catholic Saints

Patronage of the Orishas

The orishas are divinities of the Yoruba religion, originally from Nigeria, and although there are many different orishas, ​​seven are considered the most important.

Did you know that these 7 Yoruba deities "orishas" are considered the most powerful? These seven orishas are known as the «Seven African Powers».

  1. Obatala: God of science and wisdom. Creator of the human being.
  2. Elegua: King of the roads and generator of good luck.
  3. orula: The diviner and interpreter of the word of Ifá.
  4. Monkey: God of thunder and war, conqueror of obstacles.
  5. Oshún: Goddess of love and fresh water from rivers.
  6. Yemaya: Goddess of the sea and fertility, mother of all.
  7. Ogún: God of war and technology, provider of work.

Each orisha has its own characteristics and attributes, and they are invoked and venerated in different ways during religious ceremonies and rituals.

Did you know that these deities are currently venerated in Santeria or Regla de Osha along with Catholic saints? To understand it we must know the concept of "syncretism."

7 African Powers and their syncretism with Catholic Saints

Syncretism is the process of combining beliefs and practices from different religions or cultural traditions.

In the case of the Yoruba religion and Catholicism, there are many cases of syncretism in which the orishas of the Yoruba religion have been syncretized with Catholic saints. This has occurred mainly in Latin American countries, where many people of African origin were brought as slaves and adopted Catholicism, but kept some of their traditional beliefs and practices.

Here is a list of the 7 most important orishas of the Yoruba Pantheon and its syncretic correspondences with Catholic saints, together with the date of celebration, related to the festivities of the church and its saints.

Orishacatholic saintCelebration day
ObatalaVirgin of the MercedesSeptember 24
EleguaSanto Niño de Atocha and San Antonio de PaduaJanuary 6 and June 13
orulaSt. Francis of AssisiOctober 4
MonkeySanta BarbaraDecember 4
OshunVirgin of Charity of CopperSeptember 8
YemayaVirgin of ReglaSeptember 7
OgúnSan Pedro 29 June

Recall that syncretism is a complex phenomenon and that there are many nuances in the correspondences between orishas and Catholic saints, for this reason many times we will find variations depending on the country, the above table refers mainly to Santeria practiced in Cuba.

Learn more about «Seven African Powers»

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