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The Orishas – Aganyu, Babalu-Aye, Chango and Eleggua

Gods of Santeria


The orishas are the gods of Santeria, the beings that believers interact with on a regular basis. The number of orishas varies among believers. In the original African belief system from which Santeria originates, there are hundreds of orishas. New World Santeria believers, on the other hand, generally only work with a handful of them.

Read more: The Orishas and the Nature of the Stories


Aganyu is the orisha of the violence of the earth, of volcanos and earthquakes, and his fiery personality reflects these aspects. He is also called upon to cure fevers. His color is red.

Despite his fiery associations, Aganyu is also known for once having worked as a ferryman at a river. As such, he has become the patron orisha of travelers. He is most commonly associated with St. Christopher, who is the patron saint of travelers in Catholicism because of a story in which he carried a small child across a river. He is also sometimes associated with the Archangel Michael and St. Joseph.

A double-edged wooden axe covered with red, yellow and blue beads represents him. Two bull horns can also be used.


Babalu-Aye is the orisha of illness and is called upon by beggars, the sick and the disabled. He is viewed as compassionate and humble, although he can just as easily cause infections as cure them. Babalu-Aye is depicted as being covered in sores, and so skin infections are particularly the area of his influence.

Babalu-Aye is equated with Lazarus, a Biblical beggar man mentioned in one of Jesus's parables, and in whose name an order in the Middle Ages was established to care for those suffering from leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease.

Common symbols of Babalu-Aye are crutches, reeds, cowrie shells, and dogs. Light blue and royal purple are his colors.


Chango, or Shango, is the orisha of fire, thunder and lightning, and he can be invoked to bring revenge upon enemies. He is an arrogant, violent and risk-taking orisha. Those who cross him risk death by fire or electrocution. He can be a source of both vengeance and justice, of representing both raw rage and channeled strength.

He is also a passionate womanizer, and thus is also associated with male sexuality, fertility and virility.

Chango has a long-standing feud with Oggun, seen in the New World as his brother. As such, nothing made of iron can be associated with Chango, as Oggun rules that metal in particular.

Chango is most commonly associated with St. Barbara, the patron saint of lighting. He is also sometimes associated with St. Mark, St. Jerome, St. Elijah, St. Expeditus, and St. Bartholomew

Symbols of Chango include a double-edged wooden axe, cup, thunderbolt, castle (which is often depicted under St. Barbara's feet, representing the imprisonment before her martyrdom), and spear. His colors are red and white.

Eleggua, also known as Eshu, is the most powerful of the orishas after Obatala. He is a messenger, a trickster, a warrior and an opener of doorways, allowing for new experiences. Travelers often seek his protection. He is a keeper and seer of secrets and mysteries, and he rules the crossroads as well as fate, since he can see all of the past, present and future. His personality is playful, mischievous and childlike, but also clever. He is a causer of accidents and of conditions involving the blood.

All rituals start with making offerings to Eleggua in recognition of his position as intermediary between humans and orishas. As the orisha of communications and the opener of doorways, it is he who allows the petitions and sacrifices of humans to be known to the orishas.

As a trickster, he challenges people to consider alternative possibilities and possible outcomes, which may or may not lead to positive consequences. Thus, he is also a tempter, and Christians sometimes associate him with Satan (as they also tend to do with trickster deities of other cultures, such as the Norse Loki). However, Eleggua in no way represents evil.

Eleggua is particularly fond of children and often disguises himself as one. This has led to him being associated with Anthony of Padua (commonly depicted carrying a young Jesus), the Holy Child of Atocha (Jesus in the disguise of a child who fed starving Christians in Spain), and Benito, the Holy Infant of Prague. In addition, he is also associated with Martini of Porres.

A whistle or a hooked staff painted red and black represent Eleggua. His colors are red and black.

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