Posts tagged ‘mothers’

February 8th, 2013

riverlovesme: Just Seven? The Seven African Powers are known…

Siete Potencias, Seven African Powers

Nina Perez Igbin Kolade (Iba'ye layen t'onu)

Francisco "Pancho" Mora (Iba'ye layen t'onu)


Just Seven?

The Seven African Powers are known and called upon throughout the Carribean, Latin America, and North America. The Seven African Powers are Chango, Orunla, Ogum, Elegua, Obatala, Yemalla, Ochun, and Olofi (that’s actually 8 if you count them..), represented by Saint chromolithographs popularly associated with these Orisha. You can find it printed on candles, magical oils, and incense, and also turned into statues and chromolithographs at just about every botanica and candle shop serving Latino communities throughout the Western world. The image has gained such dominance that some newcomers to Santeria are surprised to learn that there are, in fact, more than seven Orisha. It’s said that there are 401 Orisha in total (though one researcher in Nigeria counted over 630 Orisha, see the excellent book Hail Orisha!).

It’s a really interesting symbol that is used primarily within syncretized Espiritismo centros (Espiritismo cruzado or Santerismo) that mix the African Lukumi religion with European (by way of Puerto Rico and Cuba) Espiritismo. And as a symbol, it has a fascinating and kind of hilarious history that was explained to me by my Godfather Afolabí (iba’ye).

Santeria arrived in the United States in the 1940s, but didn’t really begin to take hold until the Cuban exiles fled the revolution at the end of the 1950s. One of the first priests to settle in the United States was an Ifá priest, Francisco Pancho Mora, in 1946. He was the most senior Lukumi Ifá priest in North America until his death in 1986. Another Cuban émigré was an Iyalorisha named Nina Perez Igbin Kolade (iba’ye).

Before her death, Nina Perez was my Godfather’s first Godmother (well, in a complicated sort of way), in the Las Vegas area, I believe. She was a powerful woman who is remember very fondly as a prolific Santera. When asked about the Seven African Powers, she explained how, sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s, she got a phonecall from a well-known candle company. They wanted to make candles to sell using Orisha imagery and asked her who the most worshipped Orisha were. Perhaps not wanting to deal with them, or perhaps in deference to his authority in the United States, she passed them on to Francisco Mora. He decided, somewhat arbitrarily, on Shango, Oshun, Obatala, Yemaya, Elegba, Ogun, Orunla, and Olofi as the most important Orisha (interesting given that Olofi isn’t an Orisha, but is one of three primary names of God).

His decision has gone on to skew the perception of thousands of practitioners of Santeria, and thousands more non-practitioners. I’ve seen people online try to claim that these Seven African Powers are somehow more elevated than the other Orisha, or that the concept of the Seven African Powers existed in West African — which it certainly never did (nothing even resembling such a collection of Orisha existed, much less this particular combination of Orisha). Hilarious and fascinating how much of an effect a company’s marketing decisions can be on religious cultures.

Mojuba Egun! Iba’ye layen t’onu!


June 24th, 2012

This is an amazing part of Caprica. Mother, the head of the…

This is an amazing part of Caprica. Mother, the head of the monotheistic terrorist religion, is played by Meg Tilly as in SISTER AGNES FROM AGNES OF GOD. I had totally forgotten. HOW DEEP IS THAT, IT IS A CHUNNEL’S WORTH OF MEANING.