From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the Yoruba divinity. For other uses, see Shango (disambiguation).
Shango statuette
This depiction of Shango on horseback has been attributed to the workshop of the renowned Yoruba carver Toibo, of the town of Erin. It was probably carved in the 1920s or 1930s for the timi (king) of Ede (one of the historic Yoruba kingdoms), who kept it in a shrine dedicated to the orisha (god) Shango. Equestrian figures are potent symbols of power in many parts of Africa where ownership of horses was long restricted to warriors and political leaders. In Yoruba mythology, Shango was both a king and the orisha associated with thunder and lightning.
Figure of a Devotee of Shango Holding an Oshe Shango, Brooklyn Museum

In the Yorùbá religion, Ṣàngó (also spelled Sango, Shango; often known as Xangô or Changó in Latin America and the Caribbean; and also known as Jakuta[1]) (from '=shan, 'to strike') is perhaps one of the most popular Orisha; also known as the god of fire, lightning and thunder. Shango is historically a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third king of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification. In the Lukumí (Olokun mi = "my dear one") religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa, the symbolic ancestors of the adherents of the faith. All the major initiation ceremonies (as performed in Cuba, Trinidad, Puerto Rico and Venezuela for the last few hundred years) are based on the traditional Shango ceremony of Ancient Oyo. This ceremony survived the Middle Passage and is considered to be the most complete to have arrived on Western shores. This variation of the Yoruba initiation ceremony became the basis of all Orisha initiations in the West.

Historical Sango[edit]

Following Oduduwa, Oranyan and Ajaka, Sango (or Jakuta) was the third Alafin (king) of Oyo.[1][2] In Professor Mason's mythological account of heroes and kings, contrary to his peaceful brother Ajaka, he was a powerful and even violent ruler. Moreover, he is said to have had supernatural forces because he could produce thunder and lightning. He reigned for seven years, the whole of which period was marked by his continuous campaigns and his many battles. The end of his reign resulted from his own inadvertent destruction of his palace by lightning. During his lifetime, He was married to three wives namely Osun, Oba and Oya. Oya (who is his favorite) was a mystical creature who can transform into human form although is basically an animal.[3]

Veneration of Shango[edit]

The religious ritual of Shango was possibly designed in order to help the devotees of Shango gain self-control. Shango's beads tell the story of "his" essence, the logic of Obatala (white) alternating in balance with the fire of Aganju (red) in passion towards some goal. Historically, Shango brought prosperity to the Oyo Empire during his reign.[2] After his deification, the initiation ceremony of the cult of his memory dictates that this same prosperity be bestowed upon followers, on a personal level. According to Yoruba and Vodou belief systems, Shango hurls bolts of lightning at the people chosen to be his followers, leaving behind imprints of stone axe blades on the Earth's crust. These blades can be seen easily after heavy rains. Veneration of Shango enables—according to Yoruba belief—a great deal of power and self-control.

Shango altars often contain an often-seen carved figure of a woman holding her bosom as a gift to the god with a single double-blade axe sticking up from her head. The axe symbolizes that this devotee is possessed by Shango. The woman's expression is calm and cool, expressing the qualities she has gained through her faith.[4][5]

An oshe shango, or dance wand, is carried by devotees at the annual festival for Shango.

In the Americas[edit]

Shango is venerated in Trinidad Orisha religions; Haitian Vodou, as a god of thunder and weather; in Brazilian Candomblé Ketu (under the name Xangô).[1]

In art, Sango is depicted with a double-axe[5][6] on his three heads. He is associated with the holy animal, the ram, and the holy colors of red and white.

Jakuta distinct from Shango[edit]

"Shango usurped the duties of an older deity, Jakuta, who hurled fire stones to punish people when they acted against the wishes of Olodumare, the Supreme God".[7] The name "Jakuta, "Hurler of stones", or "Fighter with stones" (Ja to hurl from aloft, ... and okuta, stone)" is an allusion to "stone implements ... believed to be his thunderbolts." Jakuta was "associated with a fellowship of meteorites".[8]

Implements of Shango[edit]

Shango, like other Orishas have many implements. His colours are red and white, his numbers are three (3) and six (6) and he wields a double-headed axe.[9] Thunderstones, are often found at the site where lightning from Shango has struck earth, most usually a tree. It is said that Shango creates thunder and lightning by casting these stones to the ground. Wherever lightning strikes, priests search the surrounding area for the thrown stone which usually has a double-headed axe shape, like his weapon. These "thunderstones" are believed to have mystical power based on Shango and are often placed in his temples and shrines. [10]

See also[edit]

  • Santería, Caribbean-originating belief system that combines Catholicism with Yoruba religion
  • Saint Barbara, Catholic saint used as a representation of Shango in Santería
  • Shango Baptist, Trinidad and Tobago originating belief system that combines Orisha worship with Christianity
  • Shango, A member of the Orisha Pantheon published by DC Comics


  1. ^ a b c Bascom, William Russell (1980). Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World. Indiana University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-253-20847-5. 
  2. ^ a b Lum, Kenneth Anthony (2000). Praising His Name in the Dance. Routledge. p. 231. ISBN 90-5702-610-4. 
  3. ^ Johnson, History of the Yorubas, 149-152.
  4. ^ Charles Spencer King.,"Nature's Ancient Religion" ISBN 978-1-4404-1733-7
  5. ^ a b Visona, Monica B., Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, Michael D. Harris, Suzanne Blier, and Rowland Abiodun. A History of Art in Africa. New York: Prentice Hall, Inc. and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001. p. 253
  6. ^ Drewal, Henry John & Pemberton, John III. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. The Center for African Arts in association with Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1989. p. 13
  7. ^ Norma H. Wolff and W. Michael Warren : "The Agbeni Shango Shrine in Ibadan", p. 36b. In :- AFRICAN ARTS, vol. 31, no. 3 (Summer 1998), pp. 36-49
  8. ^ Luis Nicolau Parés : "Shango in Afro-Brazilian Religion", p. 21, fn. 3. In :- RELIGIONI E SOCIETÀ, vol. 54 (2006), pp. 20-39
  9. ^ Tribe of the Sun
  10. ^ Mami Wata West African Diaspora Vodoun


  • Johnson, Samuel, History of the Yorubas, London 1921 (pp. 149–152).
  • Lange, Dierk: "Yoruba origins and the 'Lost Tribes of Israel'", Anthropos 106 (2011), 579-595.
  • Law, Robin: The Oyo Empire c. 1600 – c. 1836, Oxford 1977.
  • Seux, M.-J., Épithètes royales akkadiennes et sumériennes, Paris 1967.
  • Tishken,Joel E., Tóyìn Fálọlá, and Akíntúndéí Akínyẹmí (eds), Sàngó in Africa and the African Diaspora, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]