The Yoruba Orishas

An Orisha is a spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of God (Eledumare, Olorun, Olofi) in Yoruba religion of Nigeria. There are a total of 401 Orishas, Many Orishas have found their way throughout the New World via the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, and Oyotunji, among others.

Practitioners traditionally believe that daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one’s ori (a portion of the soul that determines personal destiny and success). Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate. Ashe is the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation which is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept of spiritual growth. Orisha devotees strive to obtain Ashe through iwa-pele (good character), and in turn they experience alignment with the ori, what others might call inner peace and satisfaction with life. Ashe is divine energy that comes from Olodumare, the Creator and is manifested through Olorun, who rules the heavens and is associated with the sun. Without the sun, no life could exist, just as life cannot exist without some degree of ashe. Ashe is sometimes associated with Eshu, the messenger Orisha.

Photographer: James C. Lewis

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