Thursday, May 7, 2009


Obatalá is one of the many Orixás in Canbomble, a sacred religious practice that takes place in Brazil. Of the many Orixás thought to exist, Obatalá is recognized as only one of the Seven African Powers. His name means “King of the White Cloth” and he represents peace, sober decision making, creativity,purity,and divination. The social role associated with him is that of an Elder or Sage and his elements or natural stages are the mountains, clouds, and palm trees. Some of the most distinctive features of Obatalá are the myth of creation that has been linked to him, the traditional offerings presented to him and the location of his supposed home, his “claim over individuals”, and the many associations with others saints and gods that he has received through time.

Obatalá’s Myth

According to one of the myths associated with Obatalá, Olorun gave Obatalá the responsibility of creating Earth in addition to giving him materials and instructions in order to accomplish this endeavor. However, instead of working and doing what he was commanded, Obatalá grew intoxicated with palm wine in the company of another deity. Oddudua, another one of the Orixás, took advantage of this situation and sought to create the world without the help of anybody. When the world was finally created by Odduda, Olorun was satisfied with what he beheld and was so delighted with it that he made Oddudua the God/Godess of the Earth. However, in return for his negligence, Obatalá was punished and was given the job of creating humans. Although Olorun is known for “breathing life into Obatalá’s creations”, Obatalá is considered “the father of humankind” because he actually creates them.

Another story associated with Obatalá is the one concerned with the manner in which he reached earth. The myth says that Obatalá used a chain constructed out of gold to climb down from the sky. His climb lasted a full week and when he reached earth, he created land from the sand he had brought with him. Obatalá called this land Ife, which means “land that divides waters”. As this new land surrounded by water had expanded, Obatalá walked around in order to get better acquainted with it. As he walked further, Obatalá grew thirsty and eventually stopped to rest in order to get a drink. As he stopped, he noticed clay near him and so began to create bodies made in his likeness.
This story also mentions that the deity Olorun sent a fireball to earth in order to warm the clay shapes Obatalá created. This fireball is also seen as the force that made the world begin to spin in the universe.

Obatalá’s "Children"

As the myth points out, Obatalá enjoyed drinking palm wine and continued to do so although it had previously led to his shame and humiliation. Due to his weakness for alcohol, he would even drink while carrying out his duties of molding and creating human bodies. Due to his carelessness, some of the beings he created were born with deformities and malformations so he was ordered by Olofi, another diety, to abstain from drinking while creating humans. Therefore, people born with birthmarks, albinos,the handicapped, or other children born with deformities are recognized as “Obatalá’s children”. This originates from the belief among people that “Obatalá always marks his children”. As creations of the Orixá Obatalá, this deity becomes their protector and patron so it is forbidden to mock or ostracize these individuals.

Offerings and Home

Traditionally, offerings to “King of the White Cloth” are comprised of coconut, cotton, cocoa butter, cornstarch, and bitter kola. This home of this deity is said to be the mountains, and for this reason gifts and food are carried to these specific regions. The metal of Obatalá is silver and his color is white, hence his name which means “King of the White Cloth”. His priests and priestesses always wear only white in his honor, and the vast majority of the offerings taken to Obatalá are white, such as white food, white clothes, white beads, and white flowers. Obatalá also tends to receive silver jewelry and coins. However, it is a tradition and well-known fact that Obatalá should never be offered palm wine or pine oil.

Obatalá, Owner of all Ori

Obatalá is said to be the owner of all ori, which means heads. All Orixás have the ability of acquiring or possesing a person, but it is believed that until that person is instructed and taken into the priesthood of another specific Orixá, Obatalá remains the owner of the “head”. This is an important concept because it is believed that the souls of people are located in their heads.

Obatalá’s Associations and Names

Due to his many qualities, this deity has also been associated with the crucified Jesus Christ, the Egyptian god Osiris, Krishna, and has been combined with Our Lady of Mercy in Santeria and with Our Lord of Bonfim in Bahia. In addition, he has been referred to in many ways, such as "Alamo Re Re (One Who Turns Blood Into Children); Alabalashe (Wielder of the Scepter of Life),; and O Ho Ho (Father of Laughter)".

The "King of Kings"

It has been claimed that Obatalá is one of the oldest Orixás and that he is the “King of Kings”. For this reason, he is also recognized as the father of all Orixás. He is known to have three wives, Yemoo, Yemaya, and Igbin. Obatalá is also believed to have sixteen paths, 8 female and 8 male. In addition, this deity is believed to be the only Orixá with male and female paths. For this reason, the actual gender of Obatalá is the cause of some debate. Some of his paths include Ayagunna, Oba Moro, Oba Lofun, Baba Acho, Obanla, Osanla, Ochanla, Yeku Yeku, Alaguema, and Osalufon. Although Obatalá’s traditional color is white, it is in occasion used with other colors such as red and purple, depending on his different paths. Despite the fact that the Orixá Obatalá is known to be patient and to posses good judgment, he is also believed to cause earthquakes when he becomes infuriated.

Works Cited;wap2

This blog has been posted by Sharon Velasquez

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! great clips, good enumeration of Obatalá's complexity and nice images. Thank you!