Òrìṣà (original spelling in the Yoruba language), known as orichá or orixá in Latin America, are the human form of the spirits (Irunmọlẹ) sent by Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi in Yoruba traditional identity. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). Most Òrìṣà are said to be deities previously existing in the spirit world (Òrun) as Irunmọlẹ, while others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.
Many Òrìṣà have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of orisha is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.
Yoruba tradition often says that there are 400 + 1 Òrìṣà, which is associated with a sacred number. Other sources suggest that the number is "as many as you can think of, plus one more – an innumerable number." Different oral traditions refer to 400, 700, or 1,440 orisha.
Practitioners traditionally believe that daily life depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's ori. Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters, it is taken to mean a portion of the soul that determines personal destiny.
Some òrìṣà are rooted in ancestor worship; warriors, kings, and founders of cities were celebrated after death and joined the pantheon of Yoruba deities. The ancestors did not die, but were seen to have "disappeared" and become òrìṣà. Some orishas based on historical figures are confined to worship in their families or towns of origin; others are venerated across wider geographic areas.
Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate. It is described as the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation that is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept of spiritual growth. òrìṣà devotees strive to obtain Ashe through iwa-pele, gentle and good character, and in turn they experience alignment with the ori, what others might call inner peace and satisfaction with life. Ashe is divine energy that comes from Olodumare, the creator deity, and is manifested through Olorun, who rules the heavens and is associated with the sun. Without the sun, no life could exist, just as life cannot exist without some degree of ashe. Ashe is sometimes associated with Eshu, the messenger òrìṣà. For practitioners, ashe represents a link to the eternal presence of the supreme deity, the Orishas, and the ancestors.
The concept is regularly referenced in Brazilian capoeira. "Axé" in this context is used as a greeting or farewell, in songs and as a form of praise. Saying that someone 'has axé' in capoeira is complimenting their energy, fighting spirit, and attitude.
The òrìṣà are grouped as those represented by the color white, who are characterized as tutu "cool, calm, gentle, and temperate"; and those represented by the colors red or black, who are characterized as gbigbona "harsh, aggressive, demanding, and quick tempered". As humans do, orisha may have a preferred color, foods, and objects. The traits of the orisha are documented through oral tradition.
- Ayra (Ara in the Yoruba language)
- Babalu Aye (Obaluaye in the Yoruba language)
- Iroco (Iroko in the Yoruba language)
- Iya Nla
- Logun Ode (Logunede in the Yoruba language)
- Olumo (The patron deity of Abeokuta)
- Oronsen (The patron deity of Owo).
- Oshun (The patron deity of Osogbo)
- Oshunmare (Osumare in the Yoruba language)
- Oyansa (Iyansan or Oya in Yoruba language)
- Kevin Baxter (on De La Torre), Ozzie Guillen secure in his faith, Los Angeles Times, 2007
- "Orisha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Chicago, Ill.: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Clark, Mary Ann (2002). "Children of Oduduwa". Then We'll Sing a New Song: African Influences on America's Religious Landscape. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 93. ISBN 9781442208810.
- Falola, Toyin (2016). Encyclopedia of the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 84–85. ISBN 9780253021441.
- "African Religions". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions. Merriam-Webster. 1999. p. 20. ISBN 9780877790440.
- Robert D. Pelton (1989). The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06791-2.
- Cynthia Duncan, Ph.D., About santeria
- J. Omosade Awolalu, Yoruba Beliefs & Sacrificial Rites. ISBN 0-9638787-3-5
- William Bascom, Sixteen Cowries.
- Lydia Cabrera, El Monte: Igbo-Nfinda, Ewe Orisha/Vititi Nfinda. ISBN 0-89729-009-7
- Raul Canizares, Cuban Santeria.
- Chief Priest Ifayemi Elebuibon, Apetebii: The Wife of Orunmila. ISBN 0-9638787-1-9
- Fakayode Fayemi Fatunde (2004) Osun, The Manly Woman. New York: Athelia Henrietta Press.
- James T. Houk, Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad. 1995. Temple University Press.
- Jo Anna Hunter, "Oro Pataki Aganju: A Cross Cultural Approach Towards the Understanding of the Fundamentos of the Orisa Aganju in Nigeria and Cuba". In Orisa Yoruba God and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora, edited by Toyin Falola, Ann Genova. New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc. 2006.
- Baba Ifa Karade, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, Weiser Books, York Beach, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-87728-789-9
- Gary Edwards (Author), John Mason (Author), Black Gods – Orisa Studies in the New World, 1998. ISBN 1-881244-08-3
- John Mason, Olokun: Owner of Rivers and Seas. ISBN 1-881244-05-9
- John Mason, Orin Orisa: Songs for selected Heads. ISBN 1-881244-06-7
- David M. O'Brien, Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah.
- S. Solagbade Popoola, Ikunle Abiyamo: It is on Bent Knees that I gave Birth. 2007. Asefin Media Publication
- Robert Farris Thompson, Flash of the Spirit.
- Robert D Pelton, The Trickster in West Africa chapters on Eshu and Legba. 1989. University of California Press
- J Lorand Matory, Black Atlantic Religion. 2009. Princeton University Press