Deities Lwa + Orisha : 401, 1001, As Many As You Can Imagine + Add One More

Baron Samedi Veve at Krewe De Vieux, New Orleans. Photo by Lilith Dorsey, all rights reserved.
Baron Samedi Veve at Krewe De Vieux, New Orleans. Photo by Lilith Dorsey, all rights reserved.

Monotheism is an accepted fact in popular culture. Many of the World’s major religions have one main God. Religions that are polytheistic are often discriminated against. I remember when my Father went to the Million Man March on D.C. he told me that he found it really interesting that there was an effort made to include Christians, Muslims, Jews, almost any religion really as long as you only worshiped one God.

Very often I get questions from people who want me to identify a spirit they have seen in dreams, visions, or journey work. The problem that they are mostly unaware of is that the number of divinities in ATRs, or African Traditional Religions, can be infinite. In Haitian Vodou there is Bon Dye , the one main God, the highest, literally the Good God. But then the pantheon of Lwa are numerous, almost too numerous to list. The same is true for the Orisha in the Lucumi faith. These energies are based on heritage, faith, and history. In my post Legba is Different than the Barons: We All Look Alike to You ? I wrote “There are a lot of divinities, or Lwa, in the Voodoo pantheon — some say 101, some say 401, some say as many as you can imagine and then add one more. There are legions of spirits, each one unique and sacred in its own blessed way. Everyone has the potential to become divine, and that is one of the most beautiful things about the religion. ” Because of these facts it is hard, almost impossible actually, to find out what is trying to contact someone. If you are uninitiated you are open to a whole range of energies, some of which may not be helpful. This is just one of the reasons why initiation is so important. Even the first levels of initiation will help to provide you with clarity and connection. Getting initiated will also mean that you connect with a spiritual house. The elders there will be able to give you guidance and instruction. They will also help introduce you to the Lwa and Orisha and provide knowledge that is invaluable.

Many Paths, Many Faces

Eleggua image by Tomas Gonzales Perez. Courtesy of Wikimedia, licensed under CC 2.0
Eleggua image by Tomas Gonzales Perez. Courtesy of Wikimedia, licensed under CC 2.0

There are many different varieties of African Traditional Religion. La Regla Lucumi (Santeria,) Haitian Vodou, New Orleans Voodoo, Candomble, Macumba, and Ifa, are all separate paths to a sacred religion. There has been an unfortunate trend of late in which people tend to mix and match from these traditions. While there may be similarities, the serious study of these traditions is not like a menu at a fusion restaurant – you can’t pick one from column A and one from column B. Yes, finding a spiritual house you trust maybe a difficult task, but it isn’t one that can be skipped. A spiritual house, and the teachers you find there will help you navigate the powerful but often treacherous path to your destiny. I’m reminded of a Pataki, or sacred story, about the Orisha Eleggua. Eleggua is a trickster, a guardian, and sometimes he chooses to make things more complicated in order to illustrate the lessons he has to teach. Jeanne Schmartz in the essay Eleggua, Who Is He ? writes ” Eleggua was walking between two old friends, wearing a tall hat, which was white on one side and red on the other. Later the friends talked about that mysterious man with the hat, and a fight about the colour of the hat began. At that point Eleggua appeared and showed them his two-coloured hat. He was delighted to see that two best friends could fight about something as ridiculous as the colour of a hat and ruining their friendship like that.”

Please take the time and effort to respectfully practice these traditions.

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