Finding a Higher Power in Vodou or Santeria (Lucumi)

Obatala statue at riverside shrine and sacred grove of Osun. Image courtesy of wikimedia. Licensed under CC 2.0

Obatala statue at riverside shrine and sacred grove of Osun. Image courtesy of wikimedia. Licensed under CC 4.0

The concept of a Higher Power in African Traditional Religions, like Vodou or Lucumi (Santeria,) is different than many people are used to. While many different branches of these religions believe in a supreme deity, they also believe in ruling energies that help to guide and shape their lives.

What is a Higher Power?

Many people associate the concept of higher power with alcoholics anonymous. For those familiar with the program and the “rooms” as they say, we know that the concept of higher power and their importance comes even in the description of the first step. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says ” Who cares anything about a higher power, let alone meditation and prayer?” The reason that I mention this here, even though this isn’t a blog about recovery, is that this is a normal question that many people struggle with, especially in times of difficulty. A Higher Power fortunately, can help us to better understand ourselves, and the wider world around us.

Higher Power in Vodou

In the religion of Haitian Vodou there is a supreme being referred to as Bon Dye. However there are also ruling forces that help to guide and shape your life. Most commonly these are called Gros Bon Ange and Ti Bon Ange. These loa, or sacred energies, are the big and little angels that help and direct you. There are many ways to discover which Loa these are : some hounfor (temples) use divination; while others say that it is determined by which energies come to dance in your skin during possession and trance. All however agree that these things must be decided and interpreted by a Mambo and/or Houngan, the priestesses and priests of the tradition. While Bon Dye, the supreme being, is prayed to, it is the Loa that are much more interactive with a person’s daily life. This religion features many higher powers (well, higher than human anyway) embodying the forces of nature and the universe to help shape your destiny.

Higher Power in Lucumi (Santeria)

Yoruba Divination board, photo by Cliff1066TM

Yoruba Divination board, photo by Cliff1066TM Licensed under CC 2.0

La Regla Lucumi (Santeria) is another African Traditional Religion where the concept of higher power is multi-faceted and complex. Each Ile or spritual house has it’s own slight variations of cosmology. Obatala is the king of the white cloth. He is the ashe or energy of the clouds, and is said to be the father of all the Orisha. Despite what you may read in the misinformation on the internet, there is a complex system of determining one’s ruling Orisha if you are involved in the religion. In some spiritual houses they refer to these ruling Orisha as one’s mother and father, or head and feet. Traditionally the ceremony to determine your ruling Orisha involves divination readings by three different Babalawos or Priests. It must be done in person. Finding out who your ruling Orisha are is one of the first and most important things you can do in Santeria (Lucumi.) This information will help to guide your choices and direction down your proper path in life.

Obviously these concepts are much more involved than I can cover completely here (whole volumes have been written on this topic.) For more information and recommended reading I suggest you check out my post Valuable Voodoo Books for your Spiritual Library. And, as always, if you have enjoyed what you read here please remember to share, share, share !

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About Lilith Dorsey

Lilith Dorsey M.A. , hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I, New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo. Lilith Dorsey is a Voodoo Priestess and in that capacity has been doing successful magick since 1991 for patrons, is editor/publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly , filmmaker of the experimental documentary Bodies of Water :Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation, author of Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism and The African-American Ritual Cookbook, and choreographer for jazz legend Dr. John's "Night Tripper" Voodoo Show. She believes good ritual should be fun and innovative, and to that end she led the first ever Voodoo Zombie Silent Rave Ritual in July 2013, complete with confused Thriller flash mob.