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Ranks and functions performed by practitioners in the Yoruba Religion

ranks in Yoruba religion

As in many other religions, within the Yoruba religion there is also a kind of hierarchy among the practitioners. According to the level or ranks that the religious occupies, a level of knowledge, preparation, wisdom and skills is required.

Even for the Yoruba there are certain prohibitions and limitations to practice and knowledge depending on the sex of the practitioner. In the "Priestly Hierarchy" in the Rule of Osha-Ifá (Santeria), in most cases both men and women will have separate functions and ranks.

Therefore, participation in the Yoruba religion implies a hierarchical structure and ranks that must be carefully organized and respected. This organization provides different faculties, powers and attributions to the initiates and consecrated within the religion.

As a person moves up this hierarchy he will begin to transform himself and understand religion in different ways or points of view, perhaps changing his perspective, vision and understanding of the world.

The hierarchy: "Ear does not pass head"

This, like so many others, is one of those norms with high ethical and moral values ​​that we must respect and comply with as religious, always remembering that our elders are sacred and that "ear does not pass head."

In this post we wanted to share a Glossary of the terms and functions that are received and assigned to practitioners within the Yoruba religion, since many times we are not familiar with the names that are mentioned within the religion, much less know the religious function that they perform within ceremonies or other activities.

However, we must remember that we are all equal in the eyes of Olodumare the Supreme God, the religious must respect each other whatever their place in the hierarchy, power should never be harnessed to use it in their favor.

It is important to mention that, although the hierarchy is organized in an ordered scale from greater to lesser importance, in this post we begin by explaining by the initiates (aleyos) and the newly consecrated (Iyawó).

Ranks and functions in the Yoruba Religion:

This hierarchical category applies to both sexes: female and male.

RangeFunctions within religion:
AleiusHe is the uninitiated believer in the Yoruba religion.
You can attend certain celebrations and events held by your sponsors, including holidays.
These will not be able (until they begin) to know, nor to exercise the secrets of the consecrations.
Iyawo He is the believer who has just been born, because he is born to religious life and dies to profane life.
It is the person who has just "become a Saint" and must fulfill
The “Iyaworaje” purification stage lasts 1 year and 7 days, in which it must be governed by strict regulations. Read more about the Iyawó Click here
olosha (Santeros)The person who already has a crowned saint, has already completed his Iyawó year and can perform important functions within the religion such as working in ceremonies, making his godchildren saints, giving necklaces, delivering Orishas.
They also work consulting with coconuts or snails.
IworoThis term is used in the same range as Olosha, the difference is that the Olosha has not consecrated any religious, while the Iworo has.
When an Iworo consecrates Osha to a godson, if he is a woman he is called Iyalosha and if he is a man Babalosha.

The term "Santero" refers to any person who "becomes a saint", that is, who is consecrated in the Yoruba religion and who has completed his Iyawó stage.

Religious ranks of the male sex:

babalosha (Godfather)It means "father of Osha." He is the already consecrated person and interpreter of the oracle of Dilogún (snails). Not only has he completed his Iyawó stage, but he has consecrated another person in Osha, that is, he already has consecrated godchildren. If he is a woman he is called “Iyalosha”.
Oriate (Obatero or Oba)Babalosha who possesses great knowledge, who directs the rituals, ceremonies and the whole process of crowning a saint. Bearer of great wisdom about consecrations and all the prayers, songs and herbs in Osha ceremonies.
OyubbonHe works as an assistant in all the Osha-Ifá consecration ceremonies. He is the second person after the godfather or godmother with great responsibility in the initiate ceremony (Iyawó), since he performs essential religious functions. If it is a woman it is called: Oyugbona.


Babalawó, Babalao or Awo, means "father of the Secrets", is the title in the Yoruba religion that corresponds to the Priests of orula "the greatest fortune teller."

His title designates him as the highest Priest of the Yoruba religion initiated into the mysteries of Orunmila, representative of this deity on earth.

Orula (Orunmila) is the Orisha of wisdom, the only one who has the power to know the past, the present and the future, who operates through the divinatory system of Ifá.

Between the Orishas and men, the Babalawó is the mediator, a fortune teller to whom people go to consult when they have some kind of problem or inconvenience since he has a great knowledge and handling of Ifá.

  • In the Rule of Osha-Ifá Afrocubana this title is exclusively for men.

Ranks of the female sex in the Yoruba religion:

It means "mother of a saint." She is a santera who already has consecrated godchildren and has all the privileges in the initiation ceremony. If she is a man she is called “Babalosha”. That is, they are "the godmothers and godfathers" of those initiated into the religion.
HaloSantera wise and old, important within the religion for her great experience.
Iyare:An older Iyalosha, a godmother.


She is the main assistant to the godmother and godfather at consecrations.

He has a great responsibility within the consecration ceremony, assists, educates and guides the Iyawó in its initiation. It is like a second mother.

If for any reason the godmother or godfather is absent, the Oyubbona will be in front and must guide and represent the godson (Iyawó).


The word "Oyugbona" ​​is translated from the Lucumí language as: "he who watches the road with his eyes", it is originally classified as a word without gender, that is, it is applied to both women and men, but in Cuba it is common call the male people who perform this function as Oyubbon and the Oyugbona women.

You may be interested: La Oyugbona: The one who watches the road Read more…

I wanted:

This term translates from the Yoruba "wife" and is used to refer to the "wives of Orula" Orisha of divination and the supreme oracle. 

In the Rule of Ifá it is the highest hierarchy that a woman can reach.

It is generally said that a woman becomes "apetebi of Orula" when she has received her Ikofá (orula cofá in women), that is, the popularly called "hand of Orula."

I recommend a interesting post about the Orisha Orula Read more…

The ranks and functions within the Yoruba religion must be respected, but without ever forgetting that we are all children of God Olodumare and that we are all brothers at heart.

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