The Seven African Powers for Beginners (African Spirituality & Magic)
More and more people are being drawn to their pre-Christian ancestral ways. Modern African American, Afro-Caribbean, South American and many other magical people feel called to work with the Orishas, including the Seven African Powers. Learn about the Seven African Powers and how you can begin working with them in African spirituality and folk magic.
Who Are the Orishas?
The Orishas are a group of spirits originating from Yorubaland, which is a region in Africa spanning Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Some people liken the Orishas to gods and goddesses. They are similar but not quite the same. In the Yoruba religion, there is one main creator god known as Olodumare. Moreover, the Orishas are spirits (more similar to demi-gods or angels) that work under the watchful eye of Olodumare. Olodumare created the Orishas and therefore has domain over them, including over the Seven African Powers. However, the Seven African Powers are invoked in many different religions and magical systems including Lucumi, Vodou, Santeria, Candomble, folk Catholicism and many more!
Who Are the Seven African Powers?
The Seven African Powers are seven of the most potent and venerated Orishas. When the Seven are brought together in invocation and prayer, they will do amazing things for their people. The Seven African Powers are these seven Orishas: Eshu Elegbara, Ogun, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun, Shango and Oya. Now, depending on who you ask, the 7th (Oya) is sometimes substituted with Orunmila or Ochossi.
A note on online sources: I’ve done considerable research on the Seven African Powers, and I find it interesting that because of the forced syncretization of the Seven African Powers with seven Catholic saints, some sources claim the original 7 were never Orishas. That they’ve always been saints. But I disagree and believe this is a dogmatic and patriarchal way to shut out indigenous original religion. Ultimately, it’s up to you what you believe about the Seven African Powers.
The Seven African Powers and Saints
Now for the fun stuff. Let’s take a look at each of the Seven African Powers, their qualities, and the saints they were syncretized with. You may choose to work with individual Orishas OR learn how to invoke the Seven African Powers together at the end of this article!
1. Eshu Elegbara
Eshu Elegbara is also known as Elegua, Exu, Eshu and Legba (or Papa Legba), depending on the tradition. This powerful orisha is the messenger between worlds and is guardian of the crossroads. Nearly every spirit associated with the crossroads is a trickster, and Eshu Elegbara is no exception. He is one of the Seven African Powers who’s a psychopomp (a guide for the dead) and also a guardian of travelers. He is the Orisha to call upon when you need a road opened and to open communication with all other Orishas and spirits.
Eshu Elegbara’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: crossroads, all roads, paths, thresholds and doors, psychopomp, messenger, traveling, fertility, comedy, mischief, healing
- Saints: Saint Anthony, Saint Lazarus and Saint Peter
- Manifestations: over 200 manifestations depending on the tradition, as a virile young man with a phallus, a concrete head with cowrie shell eyes and mouth, old limping man with a cane and hat, etc.
- Colors: Black, Red
- Offerings: tobacco, rum, candy, toys, spicy food (hot sauce and peppers)
- Animals: mouse and rooster
The 2nd of the Seven African Powers is Ogun, iron-working healing Orisha. They say Ogun isn’t just a spirit of iron, that he is iron. Therefore he rules over metal working and alchemy of any kind. Ogun’s polarity is present in his healing abilities and his ability to destroy. A patriarchal spirit, he watches over children and families and is one of the most venerated Orishas in the African diaspora. Known as the spirit who never rests, Ogun is a shaman and healer and has close ties to blood. Judika Iles warns in her Encyclopedia of Spirits, that if you’re bleeding in any form to NEVER approach Ogun.
Ogun’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: iron and metalworking, alchemy, healing, weapons, oath-taking, orphans and the homeless, cutting through obstacles, technology, vehicles/transportation, railroad tracks, shapeshifting (werewolves – lou garoux)
- Saints: Saint James the Great, Saint Peter, John the Baptist, Saint Martin and Andrew, Archangel Michael
- Manifestations: virile, strong man with fiery eyes, manifests as metal itself; there are MANY manifestations and personas of Ogun including Ogun Blandjo and Ogun La Flambo
- Colors: green, red and white, black, blue
- Offerings: leave offerings by railroad tracks, red palm oil, red candles, cigar, rum, wine, liquor, dragon’s blood, metal, chains, railroad spikes, metal tools, weapons, toy planes and cars, meat, red beans, grains of paradise, spicy foods, etc.
- Altar: concealed in a cabinet or closet with 3-legged cauldron and offerings
Obatala is an Orisha of the Seven African Powers known as a “cool” spirit of healing and peace. He’s also credited with the job of creating human bodies – particularly with imperfections like blindness and other defects. Perhaps he knew variety is necessary for human evolution! Obatala is the gentlest of the Seven African Powers and very patient. His domain is over legal matters and he brings legitimate justice. Obatala prefers people who control their emotions and are level-headed.
Obatala’s Magical Associations
- Domain: justice and legal matters, peace and serenity, protection of the blind, mute, and those with various birth defects, easing tempers and rage, sobriety, creativity, healing
- Saints/Deity: Jesus Christ
- Manifestations: similar to Jesus, long hair and pure white clothing
- Colors: white
- Offerings: cascarilla powder, sugar, shea butter, water, milk, NO ALCOHOL, white rice, banana, white flowers
- Animals: white doves, white elephants, snails
One of the female Seven African Powers, Yemaya is a water Orisha presiding over the oceans. Depicted often as a mermaid, Yemaya’s domain is over all things related to the ocean. She is a sister of Oshun, Orisha of rivers. The Great Mother and protects motherhood as well as female sexuality. She gives abundant treasures and foods like the sea but can also be angered like the sea. Don’t venerate Oya and Yemaya in the same area, they don’t get along! Yemaya protects abused and neglected women and children and also travelers over the sea. Invoke her at the beach.
Yemaya’s Magical Associations
- Domain: female fertility issues, motherhood and children, abused women, over-seas travelers, beauty, the ocean, all ocean creatures, love, healing, abundance, people born under Water zodiac signs, anyone who’s ancestors survived the passage from West Africa to the New World are her people!, erotic dance
- Saints: Black Madonna of Regla and Stella Maris
- Manifestation: mermaid, beautiful woman wearing sea colors, sexually charged, hair and clothes decorated with shells, coral, crystals etc.
- Colors: blue, white, pearl
- Offerings: seashells, jewelry, perfume, coral, flowers, watermelon, pomegranate, duck, lamb, fish, plantain chips, coconut cake, molasses
Another of the female Seven African Powers, Oshun is the Orisha of the rivers. Baptism by water invokes her purifying essence. When Oshun calls to you, it’s like a gentle river enveloping you. But if she’s angered – watch out! Her domain is over all things that flow like water, love, milk, money, honey, etc. Invoke her for cleansing rituals with water, to heal reproductive problems (for fertility), for romance, divination, employment, magic and much more! Some believe Oshun and Yemaya are sisters and venerate them together. Oya and Oshun don’t get along!
Oshun’s Magical Associations:
- Domain: motherhood and babies, fertility, healing, cleansing, love and romance, self love, rivers and fresh water, divination, witchcraft, wealth
- Saints: Catherine of Alexandria and Our Lady of Charity
- Manifestations: beautiful woman wearing yellow or gold and five golden bracelets, with a mirror at her belt, as a mermaid, manifests in cinnamon and honey, as fresh running water, waterfalls
- Colors: Yellow, gold, orange
- Offerings: mirrors, rosemary, lantana, marigold, pumpkin, makeup, brushes, perfumes, oils, flowers, fans, sandalwood, honey (ALWAYS taste the honey before offering it to her – legend has it she was once almost poisoned by honey!), chamomile tea, shrimp and spinach, yellow and orange fruits and veggies, cinnamon, river stones, amber, coral
- Animals: all river fish, leopards, crocodiles, crickets, vultures, parrots and peacocks
Shango is one of the “hot” orishas and is known as the lord of thunder and fire. He’s the fertile male god who’s intimate with Oba, Oshun and Oya. Keep he and Ogun far away from each other! They are rivals. Shango will brings justice via lightning and he protects his followers from evil. He loves music, women, and fun.
Shango’s Magical Associations
- Domain: thunder and lightning, justice, protection, male fertility and virility, the sky, music and musical instruments, love, dancing, fighting
- Saints: Saint Jerome, John the Baptist, Saint Barbara
- Manifestations: powerful handsome man with a red coat and cowrie shells, on lightning with a double-axe
- Colors: red and white
- Offerings: copper, mugwort, high john the conqueror root, lots of spicy food, red foods and red palm oil, liquor like red wine and rum, sugar and cascarilla
- Animals: horse, ram, leopard, crocodile, turtle, lizard
Oya is the last of the Seven African Powers, though sometimes she’s substituted with Ochossi or Orunmila. She manifests as a horned water buffalo or a beautiful woman. Her domain is the Niger River, fertility, secrets, shapeshifting, spirits, cemeteries, etc. Never invoke her and Yemaya or Oshun together (the only exception is when invoking the 7 African Powers!)
Oya’s Magical Associations
- Domain: Niger River, female fertility, magic, divination, women’s secrets, female warriors, cemeteries, spirits of the dead, horse farms, libraries, healing of ancestral lines, winds (hurricanes too!), marketplaces
- Saints: Saint Barbara, Teresa of Avila
- Manifestations: beautiful woman, water buffalo, wears 9 copper bracelets, antelope
- Colors: maroon and purple shades
- Offerings: flowers, starfruit, plums, purple grapes, nine eggplants as traditional offering, bean fritters, red wine, set up an altar at home or set offerings at cemetery gates
- Animals: antelope, water buffalo, locust, sheep, horse
Respect and Reverence for the Culture and Seven African Powers
It should go without saying that if you plan to invoke and work with the Seven African Powers for healing, abundance, fertility, etc. that you should approach them with respect and reverence. Understand the culture and people from whence the Seven African Powers came. These spirits, the Orishas, were brought to the Americas on the backs of the enslaved Africans. They’ve survived because of the culture. Have a respect and understanding of what the Orishas’ people endured and henceforth survived. If you don’t have respect for the African diaspora and culture, the Seven African Powers will not have respect for you!
Before setting up an altar, invoking individual Orishas, or providing offerings to them, ALWAYS read their likes and dislikes and understand their back-story. Some Orishas don’t get along with one another and should never be venerated in the same space. To haphazardly throw Shango and Ogun on the same altar without doing research may anger them! Be smart and respectful.
Ways to Invoke the Magic of the Seven African Powers
In addition to working with and venerating these Orishas individually, you can call upon them as the Seven African Powers in times of great need OR to cover ALL of your bases! Even though some of these Orishas don’t get along on a normal basis, when invoked as the Seven African Powers their animosity towards one another may be calmed. Moreover, there are different ways to invoke the Seven African Powers including dance, chanting, prayer, candles, oils, and more. All of which will be detailed below.
Seven African Powers Candle and Prayer
Find Seven African Powers candles online, at local botanicas or conjure shops or at your local Walmart or grocery store! I’ve found a few 7 African Powers candles at Walmart in the candle aisle for a dollar a piece. They typically depict the 7 saints the Orishas are syncretized with but the power is the same. Burn it every day for 7 days along with the prayer on the label. When you burn the candle and pray over it, you’re invoking ALL the Orishas’ powers and covering all of your bases for prosperity and protection. If you can’t find a 7 African Powers candle, use what you have. A white candle works for just about any invocation and for any deity. Carve or write the names of the 7 African Powers on the candle and dress it in an oil of your choice.
Seven African Powers Oils, Incense and Soaps
Using oils, incense and soaps specifically created with the energy of the 7 African Powers will bless any ritual or spell you do. Use the oil to anoint doorways, wallets, candles, your car, and your body to invoke their blessings and protection. Burn the incense during prayer as offering to them. Wash with their soap to start your day out right AND to cleanse any negative energy or bad magic from your aura.
Call on the 7 African Powers When…
You need to cover all of your magical bases or you have a great need. They aid in self-empowerment, strength, prosperity, opportunities, protection of family and home, healing, career, motherhood and fatherhood, fertility, peace, justice and legal matters and much more! If you find working with one spirit or god isn’t enough, invoking the 7 African Powers will pack the spiritual punch you need!
A Few Sources Used:
- Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes
- Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells by Judika Illes