Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Worldview, the Orichas, and SanteríaAfrica to Cuba and Beyond$

Mercedes Cros Sandoval

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780813030203

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813030203.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2017. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use (for details see http://www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 26 February 2017

(p.359) Appendix A Paths of Obatalá

(p.359) Appendix A Paths of Obatalá

Worldview, the Orichas, and Santería
University Press of Florida

  • Alagguema is the name of an Obatalá manifested as an old female who owns the sacred tree, the iroko. In Cuba, the African native tree iroko does not grow, and the ceiba, or silk cotton tree, has taken its place. Alagguema is the word for lizards in Nigeria. In Cuba, lizards are considered messengers of Obatalá, and a chameleon is used to represent him.1

  • Ayágguna is an Obatalá manifested as a restless young warrior who loves wars and is prone to provoke them. It is said that when Olofin distributed power, he gave Ayágguna the power of causing quarrels. A toy horse is his symbol. An informant of Lydia Cabrera (1954: 310) claims that this oricha is responsible for bringing to Africa the white men who enslaved blacks. This informant reports that the Ararás (Dahomians), sold black-men to whites in exchange for powder and other goods. It is precisely in Ketou and Sabe (Yoruban territories bordering with Dahomey) that this warrior oricha, armed with a pestle and silver sword, is worshiped. There is little doubt that the slaves from this region, where the Dahomian influence was so strong, brought the cult of Ayágguna to Cuba, where he became associated with Obatalá. This warrior oricha has been associated with the Catholic Saint Joseph.

  • Babá Fururú, according to Lydia Cabrera (1954: 308), is an Obatalá who gives instructions to and teaches the young. In Cuba, he has been associated with the Catholic San Joaquín.

  • Elefuro is a female Obatalá sometimes associated with Saint Anne.

  • Iba Ibo is a very ancient Obatalá. No one is allowed to look at him. He is too powerful, and the person who dares to look at him will be instantly blinded. He represents the Eye of Providence and Divine Thought. Iba Ibo is the mystery of the talking gourd. He is known also by the names of Oba Ibo, and Igba Ibo.2 In many ilé ochas, Iba Ibo is considered God in person for his great power and his role in the creation of the world.

  • Ikalembo is an Obatalá accused by other Obatalás of being a drunkard. Later on, he gave the orichas alcoholic beverages from a small gourd, and when they got drunk, Olorún said, “The drunkards are you.” It is possible that this manifestation is related to the unfortunate experience when, according to the residents of Ile Ife, Obatalá became intoxicated.

  • (p.360) Naná Burukú is the oldest, most important and powerful of all female Obatalás. In Dahomey, Nana Buruku is a well-known goddess. She is also well known in some regions of Yorubaland, where she is not associated with Obatala. In Adele, Dahomey, Nana Buruku is the supreme divinity of creation. In some ilé or cult houses in Cuba, Naná Burukú is considered as two divinities in one: Naná and Burukú, the female and the male principles respectively.3 Possibly slaves from Dahomey, where this oricha has a dual character, brought the cult of Nana Buruku to Cuba. In some santeros’ houses in Cuba, Naná Burukú is considered the mother of Babalú Ayé, the god of skin diseases and, specifically, of smallpox.4It seems that the worship of Naná Burukú in Cuba comes from the former French Dahomey, where she is associated with the dual principle, and also from the area of the Yoruba, where she is considered the mother of the god of smallpox. These religious traditions of diverse origin were probably reformulated in Cuba in a Naná Burukú who appears as a powerful oricha who controls cancer or as very powerful manifestation of Obatalá. In some cult houses she has been associated with the Virgin of Carmen; in others with Saint Martha.

  • Obalabi is a female Obatalá sometimes represented by the lithograph of Saint Rita of Cassia.

  • Obalufón, Ochalufón, and Chalofón are considered to be manifestations of Obatalá by Afro-Cubans. In Nigeria, Obalufon is a deified ancestor, while Ochalufon, or Olufon, are names used for Obatala in the town of Ifon.5 Some priests claim that Obalufón, or Ochalufón, is an Obatalá manifested as a wrinkled little old lady who trembles with cold and covers herself with a white sheet. The orichas respect her very much. When any of them misbehave, she calms them down by placing her hand on the angry brow. However, other informants of Lydia Cabrera (1954: 308) say Ochalufón is an old warrior, dressed in white, who shakes with tremors when he possesses a believer. Some claim he trembles because he is cold; others think he trembles from anger. Lydia Cabrera's informants say that Obalufón is a male Obatalá and the first oricha who talked and gave mortals the gifts of language and copulation. He is also perceived as the most peaceful of all Obatalás. This view is rather confusing, since other informants of Lydia Cabrera believe that Ochalufón and Obalufón are the same Obatalá and no longer have him as a warrior who trembles with anger. In Cuba Obalufón is considered a peaceful Obatalá who taught men how to talk. It is possible that the Afro-Cuban identification of Obalufón as a manifestation of Obatalá was based on the similarities between the name Obalufón and one of the names for Obatalá: Ochalufón. Also, it could be based on the similarities in attributes between the oricha who gave men the gift of language and the one who sculpts the human body. Some informants claim that Obalufón, or Ochalufón, (p.361) was associated with San Manuel while others believe he has been associated with Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Obamoro is a manifestation of Obatalá as an old and powerful male oricha. When he possesses a believer, his whole face suers a complete change to disguise the fact that he is the Supreme Being.

  • Ochagriñán, or Osankiriyán, is the oldest of all Obatalás. He is a feeble little old man who walks with crutches. He is a very brave warrior, but at times he is seen as a very wise and peaceful old man. In Africa, Oshagiyan is the name given to Obatala in Ejigbo and Ogbomosho. There, he is considered a young warrior always on the go and armed with a silver sword. Ejigbo and Ogbomosho are close to Ijesha. Some santeros claim that Ochagriñan is a male Obatalá who manifests himself in the road of Osankiriyán, the road that goes to the residence of the Deity. According to many santeros, this manifestation of Obatalá is God himself. In the ilé ocha studied by Rómulo Lachateñeré (1938:38–59, 132–34, 145–51), a female Obatalá is the one who knows the road to Osankiriyán. In Cuba, Ochagriñán has been identified with Saint Joseph, the father of Jesus.

  • Ochanlá or Obanlá, in Cuba, is an Obatalá manifested as a little old lady covered with a white sheet and always trembling. Reputedly, she likes to eat cocoa lard because it clears the mind and the intellect. Obanla and Oshanla are names given by the Yoruban people to Obatalá. The image of our Lady of Mercy is sometimes used to represent this oricha.

  • Yegguá, or Yewá, a manifestation of Obatalá, is a chaste little old lady who trembles and drools. She does not tolerate fights and does not permit her followers to engage in sexual intercourse or undress in her presence. Most of her devotees are old ladies and virgins. She is claimed to own the cemetery as the goddess of death.6 Sometimes a doll is used to represent this goddess, although the otán, or consecrated stone, is where the god resides. This oricha likes to eat virgin, female goats. According to many investigators, the statue and images of the Virgin of the Abandoned have been used to represent her. Other authorities claim that Yegguá Yewá is the first Obatalá and the mother of all the others. However, in some cult houses this honor corresponds to Naná Burukú.

  • Yeku Yeku, according to some informants, is a manifestation of Obatalá as an old man. However in other cult houses, Yeku Yeku is an old lady who is so powerful that she cannot be looked at directly in the eyes because blindness would result. Every request made to this oricha has to be worded in the opposite. If you want health, you must ask for illness. The soup bowl that contains the otán of Yeku Yeku has to be opened with great care as noise and light bother this oricha tremendously. Many associate Yeku Yeku with Saint Clara.

  • (p.362) Yémmu is a manifestation of Obatalá that is considered by many santeros to be the mother of all other Obatalás. In other cult houses and patakíes, Yémmu, who is also called Yembo, is married to Obatalá and is the mother of several important orichas: Ogún, Elegguá, Dadá, Osun, Orúla, and Changó. In some Yoruba territories, the wife of Obatalá is called Yemowo. It is possible that the Yoruban name Iyemmu or Yemmu is derived from that name. Yémmu has been associated with the Immaculate Conception.


(1.) In Dahomey, chameleons are the symbols of Lisa, the masculine principle of the dual creator divinity Mawu-Lisa. The association of Obatalá with Mawu-Lisa is logical since both divinities are related to creation.

(2.) According to African oral traditions, Obatala was born in Igbo. Thus, it is possible that Igba Ibo was a name used for Obatalá by people coming to Cuba from the region of Igbo. Frequently Afro-Cubans dropped the letter “gb” from Yoruban words. The Yoruban language has two double-articulated consonants; one of them is “gb.” This linguistic trait may explain the origin of the name Iba Ibo, where the letter “g” was dropped both from Igba and Igbo. Moreover, Oba Ibo would mean king of Igbo.

(3.) In some areas of Dahomey, Nana Buruku is the mother of Mawu-Lisa, a dual divinity. Mawu signifies the feminine principle of fecundity, maternity, and forgiveness; Lisa represents the masculine principle of strength.

(4.) In Nago-Yoruba territory (Ketou and Abeokuta), Nana Buruku is the mother of Shapanan, a name by which the god of smallpox is also called.

(5.) This discrepancy is most significant since, in Africa, Obalufon is a di erent Oshalufon, or Olufon, names used for Obatala in the town of Ifon. According to E. Bolaji Idowu (1962:69), in Nigeria, Obalufon is a deified ancestor who possessed a powerful empire and to whom human sacrifices were frequently offered. He is known as “the god of the word” and “the god of the peace of the kingdom.”

(6.) In Togo there is a spiritualist cult group called Yehve, which might be related to this oricha of death and the cemetery. At the same time, a river by the same name flows in the territory of the Egbados. However, there are no data to support the notion that the Afro-Cuban oricha Yegguá, or Yewá, was originally a local fluvial divinity in Nigeria. (p.386)