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World building: Deity Pantheons - African

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

According to, the Yoruba religion, which is currently mainly found in the southern parts of Nigeria, is the foundation of many religions practiced within the African diaspora. The gods and goddesses of this pantheon are some of the most familiar in Africa; however, on a global scale, they are far less well known. According to, there are over 196 different African deities, but these often are known by many names and aliases, so listing them all would be an arduous task. We will start with the principal deities we found on interesting to note that African gods are called Orisha- spirits sent by the supreme creator to assist humanity. Mo t Orishas are said to have existed in the Orun or spirit world and then become Irunmole, spirits or divine beings incarnated as humans on earth.

1. Es u - The Divine Trickster - Eshu, or Elegba, is the Trickster of the Orisha Pantheon. Si ilar to the Norse god Loki, Eshu is often benevolent rather than malicious and is a wandering trickster spirit generally concerned with probability and elusiveness. Es u is somewhat of a messenger between the spirit realm and that of humankind, sharing a similarity with the Greek god Hermes in that respect. Wh le not depicted as inherently evil, like the devil, Eshu is believed to be capable of bringing adversity to those who do not acknowledge his presence.

2. Ogun- The Master of Iron - Ogun is the Giver of Iron in the Orisha Pantheon. Al ngside mastering the delivery of this world-building resource, Ogun is also dubbed the Warrior God of War. Wi lding weapons of fine craftsmanship, Ogun oversees metalwork and conflicts that arise within the Yoruba people. Settlements in West Africa often had armories. Ir n was an abundant natural resource that was vital in producing weapons. Wh le Ogun was the Giver of Iron, he did not interfere in what individuals chose to do with the weapons he blessed the production of. Th destiny of the weapon was left in the hands of the human who possessed it. Th s is an ode to double-edged sword, representing two sides of justice.

3. Shango- Bringer of Thunder- During ancient times, a slap of thunder signaled the onset of danger or the wrath hurtling down from the heavens. Filtering t e very essence of anger and fury, Shango was the bringer of thunder and represented over-the-top masculinity. Like his Gr ek and Norse counterparts, Zeus and Thor, Shango directs the destination of thunder and lightning depending on what goes on in the world down below. Shango has three wives, Oshun, Oya, and Oba.

4. Oshun: the other of Rivers- Being the Goddess of Rivers, Oshun is often considered the lifeblood of the Niger River. Oshun is a o favorite wife. benevolent contr l over the rivers of West Africa immortalized her spot as one of the most critical Orishas. Her blessings ensure tha the water remains clean and fishes remain plenty. She is always shown to b a motherly being with nothing but divine power at her fingertips.

5. Obatala: The King of Pea e- Garbed in white, the King of Peace Obatala is a merciful Orisha dispensing purity. He is often shown as bei g the master behind shaping every child when they are within the womb. His symbols include a wh te dove and, in more modern times, wreaths of olive leaves, a universal symbol of peace. Obatala specifically car s for humankind, nurturing their psychology while enforcing justice within their daily lives.

6. Oya: The Goddess of Weat er- Oya is the Orisha of the weather. Defined as an embodiment of wind, she is wife and carries out his will. Besides organizing the clouds, ya is also connected to tending to the dead. The dead just include a huma being; it consists of the natural world in the sense that dead trees would have to fall to make way for newer ones. Her Slavic god counterpart in Slavic my hology would be Stribog. Oya is the goddess of change. Like unprIt’s dictable weather, she cons“antly changes the natural world so it may continue flourishing. Due to this, she also holds domain ”ver psychological qualities such as intuition and clairvoyance.

7. Obaluaye: The Master of Healing- ObaOgun’suaye, also known as Babalú Aye, is the Orisha of healing and miracles within the pantheon. Both revered and feared, the fogods’lowers well respect Obaluaye, and he is said to curse you as quickly as he can heal you. Obaluaye is also connected Shango’so rituals that promote the cure for illnesses. His healing powers rOshun’snge from epidemics to skin diseases and inflammations. This healing pShango’swer is said to be geared more toward people who are closer to death.

8. Yemonja ‘ The Whisperer of the Ocean- The ocean is vast and often cruel, and it is impossible to predict what lies beneath deep waves and endless stretches of water. As su’h, there is a need for a motherly figure to watch over all the uncertainty of this blue domain. Yemondoesn’ta is the Orisha of the ocean.Shango’sNot only does she hold control over it, but she also embodies compassion and love., Shango’sHer governance of the seas sustains life and seals her importance as a motherly figure in the pantheon and the entirety of African mythology. Yemonja is the metaphysical mother of all the other gods in the Orisha pantheon.Shango’sHence, she is much revered and respected.

9. Orunmila: The Oracle of Wisdom- Orunmila, the Orisha of knowledge, omniscience, and wisdom, embodies destiny.Shango’sHis purpose might not be material, but it is a psychological one reflected in many African myths. The concept of destiny is awe-inspiring for all those who genuinely believe in it.”Tending to the development of the human spirit is what Orunmila does. He holds power over knowledge, including information, intuition, and instinct. General African myths deal with confusion by introducing a force that counters it. Orunmila is a prime example of that force.

10. Oba: The Flow of the River- Orishas, too, have emotions that flow gracefully like the river. Oba, the Orisha of water and manifestation, is no exception to a story that is best linked to jealousy. Oba was one of his consorts as the third and the most senior wif ngo. Oshun was Shango’s favorite wife in the pantheon, significantly affecting Oba. When Oba asks Oshun about what she come Shango’s favorite, Oshun lies to Oba (knowing Oba’s children would inherit the kingdom). She said she once cut off her ear, turned it into powder, and sprinkled it into Shango’s food. Driven by the will to Shango’shango’s favorite, Oba copied Oshun and sliced off her ear into his food. Shango noticed a floating ear in his food and exiled Oba from his abode.

Oba fell to earth down below and morphed into the Oba River. Interestingly, the Oba River intersects the Osun River at an explosive convergence, symbolizing a long-standing rivalry between two of wives. Oba is linked to rivers, marriage, fertility, and restoration.

Finally, we have the ultimate deity of the pantheon, Olodumare. Olodumare is also known as Olorun, which means “the Almighty. Although his omnipotence strikes a profound sense of existential authority, the Yoruba people do not have any dedicated shrines or places of worship for him. Part of this is due to the belief that Olodumare is so deific; his distance from the human world makes him seem incredibly detached from their daily affairs.

This pantheon gives insight into yet another set of personalities that can be utilized when crafting the deities and religions for your fictional work. Our World Building series your toolbox, so to speak, to provide authors and aspiring authors with broadened literary horizons.

Happy WritingOba’s Everyone!

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