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This article is about the Yoruba spirit. For other uses, see Shango (disambiguation).
Shango statuette
Figure of Shango on horseback (c. 1920s or 1930s) carved for the timi (king) of Ede, who kept it in a shrine dedicated to the orisha Shango.
Figure of a Devotee of Shango Holding an Oshe Shango, Brooklyn Museum

Shango (known as Changó or Xangô in Latin America; and also known as Jakuta)[1] (from '=shan, 'to strike') is perhaps one of the most popular Orisha; also known as the orisha 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 Santería, Changó 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 Latin America 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 Americas.

Historical Shango[edit]

Following Oduduwa, Oranyan, and Ajaka, 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, Jakuta 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 Oshun, Oba, and Oya.[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, Fon, and Ewe belief, 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.

Shango altars often contain a carved figure of a woman holding her bosom as a gift to the god with a single double-blade axe sticking out of 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 the Spanish Santería and Palo (known as Changó); the Portuguese Candomblé and Umbanda (known as Xangô); the Trinidad Orisha; and the Haitian Vodou.[1]

Shango is syncretized with either Saint Barbara or Saint Jerome.

In art, Shango is depicted with a double-axe.[5][6] 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, most often a tree. 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]


  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]

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