An orisha (spelled òrìṣà in the Yoruba language, orichá or orixá in Latin America) is a deity that reflects one of the manifestations of the Supreme Divinity (Eledumare, Olorun, Olofi) in Yoruba religion. Orisha are said to have existed in the invisible world (òrun) and lived as humans beings in the planetary world (ayé). Others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities due to extraordinary feats. Many orishas have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others.
Yoruba tradition often says that there are 401 orishas, which is associated with a sacred number. Other sources suggest that the number is "as many as you can think of, plus one more - an innumerable number". Different oral traditions refer to 400, 700, or 1,440 orisha.
Practitioners traditionally believe that daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's ori. Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters it is taken to mean 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 or gentle and 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. For practitioners, ashe represents a link to the eternal presence of the Supreme God, the Orishas, and the ancestors.
The concept is regularly referenced in Brazilian capoeira. "Axé" in this context is used as a greeting or farewell, in songs and as a form of praise. Saying that someone 'has axé' in capoeira is complimenting their energy, fighting spirit, and attitude.
The orisha are grouped as those represented by the color white, who are characterized as "cool, calm, gentle, and temperate"; and those represented by the colors red or black, who are characterized as "harsh, aggressive, demanding, and quick tempered". Like humans, orisha may have a preferred color, foods, and objects. The traits of the orisha are documented through oral tradition.
- Babalu Aye
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