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The Orishas – The Ibeyi, Inle, Obatala


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

The Ibeyi

The Ibeyi are the orisha of children and the innocence, as well as good luck. Most orisha have various paths, or aspects of themselves representing different facets of themselves. For the Ibeyi there are seven paths. For three of the paths, they are twin boys. For two, they are twin girls, and in the other two they are a boy and a girl, also twins.

The Ibeyi are most commonly equated to Cosmas and Damian, who were twin adult brother martyrs in the 3rd century. The pairs of St. Crispin and Crispinian, as well as St. Justa and Rufina, are also sometimes equated to the Ibeyi.

Red and white are the color for boys, and blue and white are for girls. A pair of drums, bells or maracas are all used to represent them.


Inle, or Erinle, represents the fertility of freshwater and its ability to provide sustenance from fishing and irrigation. He rules the rivers but not the oceans, which are the realm of Yemaya. He is embraced as the patron of fishermen.

Inle has always had a very androgynous appearance. As such, recently he has been adopted as a protector of homosexuals.

Inle is also a studious figure and puts that knowledge to use in healing. For this reason, he is associated with the Archangel Raphael, a healing figure whose name literally means "God heals."

A silver fish hook with net (to represent his fishing aspect), or two entwined snakes on a staff (to represent healing), is used to represent Inle. His colors are blue, yellow and aqua.


Obatala is the orisha of fatherhood and the sculptor of the human form, with particular association with the head, which is the center of the human soul and personality. He rules thoughts and dreams and can bring clarity and serenity. Lawyers, writers and physicians commonly approach him seeking such clarity of thought.

He is the first and the most powerful of the orishas and, as such, is recognized as the orishas' leader. Although generally peaceful, those who offend him tend to be paralyzed or blinded. In depictions he is generally an older man in white clothes with a white beard and having a regal and wise bearing.

As a figure of purity, objects of pure white most commonly represent Obatala. A horsetail flywhisk is also representative of him.

Obatala is associated with a form of the Virgin Mary known as "Our Lady of Ransom," referencing a vision had in Spain in 1218 by Peter Nolasco. This vision drove him and later others to assist in the ransoming of Christian slaves from Islamic slavery.

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