The Seven African Powers
The “Seven African Powers” is a term used in various African diaspora traditions, including Hoodoo, Santeria, and Vodou. The Seven African Powers are seven powerful spirits or deities from the African pantheon who are believed to rule over various aspects of human life and protect their devotees.
The specific Identities of the Seven African Powers can vary depending on the tradition or region, but they commonly include:
- Eshu / Elegua: The trickster spirit and messenger between the human and spiritual worlds. Eshu, also known as Elegua, is a spirit or deity from the Yoruba religion of Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. In the Yoruba pantheon, Eshu is a trickster spirit and the messenger between the human and spiritual worlds.
Eshu is considered a complex and multifaceted deity, with many different aspects and manifestations. He is associated with communication, crossroads, and opportunities for change. Eshu is also known for his mischievous and unpredictable nature, and is said to test the character of those who seek his guidance or assistance.
In various African diaspora traditions, including Santeria, Vodou, and Hoodoo, Eshu is honored as one of the Seven African Powers, and his influence is believed to extend to many aspects of human life, including love, money, and protection. In these traditions, Eshu is often associated with the color red and is represented by various symbols, such as a key or a cowrie shell.
Overall, Eshu is a significant figure in African spirituality, and his influence has spread beyond Africa to various parts of the world where African diaspora traditions are practiced.
- Ogun: The warrior spirit associated with metalworking and technology. He is the god of iron, metalworking, hunting, and warfare. Ogun is considered a powerful and aggressive deity who is associated with strength, courage, and determination.
Ogun is often depicted as a fierce warrior with a machete or sword in hand, and he is known for his ability to clear paths and overcome obstacles. He is also associated with technology and innovation, and is said to have taught humans how to work with iron and other metals.
In various African diaspora traditions, including Santeria, Vodou, and Hoodoo, Ogun is honored as one of the seven African powers, and his influence is believed to extend to many aspects of human life, including work, money, and protection. In these traditions, Ogun is often associated with the color green and is represented by various symbols such as a machete or iron tool.
- Obatala: The creator spirit associated with purity and wisdom. He is the god of creation. He is believed to have created the human body and is said to have the power to heal diseases and restore balance to the world.
Obatala is often depicted as an old man with a white beard and white clothing, and is associated with the color white. His symbols are a staff or a fan.
- Yemaya: The motherly spirit associated with the ocean and childbirth. She is the goddess of the ocean, childbirth, and motherhood. Yemaya is associated with nurturing, protection and fertility.
Yemaya is often depicted as a beautiful woman with long hair flowing clothing. Her colors are blue and white. She is believed to have a special connection to women, especially those who are pregnant or have recently given birth. Yemaya is also associated with healing, and is said to have the power to cleanse both the body and the soul. Her symbols are that of a seashell or a fish. She is sometimes depicted as a mermaid.
- Oshun: The spirit of love, beauty, and fertility associated with fresh water. She is the goddess of the Osun River which is located in Nigeria. She is associated with sweetness, love fertility and beauty and sensuality. She is shown as a beautiful seductive woman. Her powers are that of healing and yellow is her color. Oshun is associated with water, gold, and honey. Oshun is the patron saint of artists and musicians. She is the equivalent of the the Virgin Mary in syncretic forms of Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latin religions.
- Chango / Shango: The spirit of thunder and lightning associated with justice and virility. He is the god of thunder, lightning, fire and virility. He is seen carrying a double headed axe.
In Yoruba mythology he was a powerful king who was deified after his death. He is said to have possessed great strength and courage, and was known for his temper and his love of music and dance. Chango is associated with justice and is sometimes called upon to intervene in disputes and bring about a fair resolution. His Catholic counterpart is St. Jerome.
- Orunmila / Ifa: The spirit of divination and wisdom associated with the Yoruba religion. He is said to have been the first to receive the gift of divination from the supreme deity, Olodumare. He is considered the father of Ifa, a divination system used to communicate with the Orishas and understand the forces of the universe. Orulmilla is also associated with the color green and is sometimes called upon for healing and protection.
His Catholic counterpart is St Francis of Assisi and Michael de Porres.
The Use of Altars in Worship
Altars dedicated to the Seven African Powers are commonly set up in African Diasporic religions such as Santeria, Candomble, and Vodou. The Seven African Powers are a group of deities that represent different aspects of the African diaspora and are usually identified as Eshu/Elegua, Yemaya, Oshun, Obatala, Oya, Ogun, and Chango/Shango.
The arrangement of the Seven African Powers varies depending on the tradition and the practitioner, but there are some common elements. Typically, the Seven African Powers are represented by seven or nine different items, such as candles, statues, or herbs, arranged on an altar. Each deity is associated with a specific color, number, and symbol, which may be used to represent them on the altar.
In some traditions, the Seven African Powers are arranged in a specific order, such as in a circle or in a line, with Eshu/Elegua at the center or at the beginning. Other traditions may arrange the Seven African Powers in a way that reflects their relationships to each other or to specific aspects of life, such as health, love, and prosperity.
The Seven African Powers altar is often used for prayer, offerings, and divination, and is considered a powerful tool for spiritual work and protection.
In Hoodoo and other African diaspora traditions, the Seven African Powers are often honored through the use of candles, herbs, oils, and other ritual objects. Devotees may light candles or make offerings to specific spirits to ask for their protection, guidance, or blessings. Each spirit is associated with specific colors, numbers, and symbols, which are used in various rituals and spells.
Yes, the Seven African Powers are sometimes associated with Catholicism in certain syncretic traditions, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. In these traditions, the Seven African Powers are often represented by Catholic saints or figures, and their worship is blended with Catholic practices and beliefs.
For example, Eshu / Elegua may be associated with Saint Anthony, Ogun with Saint Peter, Obatala with Our Lady of Mercy, Yemaya with the Virgin Mary, Oshun with Our Lady of Charity, Chango with Saint Barbara, and Orunmila / Ifa with Saint Francis of Assisi.
This practice of blending African diaspora traditions with Catholicism is often referred to as syncretism and is common in various parts of the world where Catholicism was introduced alongside African spiritual practices during the period of European colonization.
Overall, the Seven African Powers are an important part of African diaspora spiritual traditions, and are believed to provide guidance, protection, and blessings to their devotees.