Creating an Orisha Altar
Each Orisha has particular requirements when it comes to setting their altars. Some items or offerings are sacred to one, but taboo to another. To connect with the Orishas, it is important to have their altars correctly set up and maintained. Here are some examples of the right ritual objects for each Orisha:
For Obatala, the eldest of all Orishas, use:
- A white cotton cloth or cover
- A metal crown
- A dove-handled bell
- An Obatala candle
- Tools for Obatala Ayaguna (the youngest avatar of Obatala)
- Tools for Aguidai-Obatala
- A sopera
- An Obatala doll, statue, or other image
- Offerings should include bland white foods such as meringue, rice, coconut, cocoa butter, white yams and eggs. Do not, under any circumstances, offer Obatala alcohol. Salty and spicy foods are also no-no’s for his altar.
For Yemaya, mother of the world, place:
- Shells, especially cowrie shells
- Silver objects
- Images of mermaids, waterfowl, fish, dolphins, or other creatures of the sea.
- Blue altar cloths
- Her blue or silver crown
- A statue or other image of Yemaya
- A sopera
- A Yemaya candle
- Yemaya incense
- Blue flowers, like irises. If blue flowers cannot be found, a bouquet of many colors is fine.
- Offerings include fruits, all seafood, lettuce, coffee and white wine.
Elegua, personification of destiny and the crossroads, enjoys:
- Toys, bells, marbles, and other objects suitable for children.
- Depictions of crossroads
- Statues of baby or adult Elegua
- A prayer card or other depiction of Elegua
- Red and black candles
- Elegua incense
- An Elegua head statue
- Red and black altar cloths
- Offerings like fish, yellow rice, toasted corn, tobacco, candies and liquor will be accepted by Elegua, as will nut oil and Chilean red pepper.
For Ogun, Orisha of creativity, iron, war, and hunting, set the altar with:
- His tools
- An iron rooster
- A cauldron (or use the complete set)
- Iron objects, like a cannonball, anvil, or iron
- Iron nails
- A candle
- A statue or other image of Ogun
- Offerings include plantains, grapes, pomegranates, red meat, gin, rum, and cigars.
Shango, the god of thunder, dancing, virility, and fire, enjoys:
- Single or double-headed axes.
- His crown.
- A covered wooden bowl, called a batea.
- A pedestal for the batea, called a pilon.
- Double-headed thunderstones.
- His wooden tools.
- A drum, especially a bata drum.
- A doll, statue, or other image of Shango.
- A Shango candle.
- Offerings include hot and spicy foods. He also likes red foods like apples and pomegranates.
For Ochosi, master hunter and fisherman, set the altar with:
- Ochosi's tools.
- Antlers, deer heads, animal pelts, ram's horns, or turtle shells, as symbols of his hunting prowess.
- His bow and arrows (these live in his and Ogun's soperas).
- A statue or other image of Ochosi.
- An Ochosi candle.
- Offerings include game animals and fowl. He also enjoys fruits such as plantains, pomegranates, bananas, grapes and pears.
Orula, the master of divination, enjoys:
- A statue or other image of Orula.
- A cedarwood polvera de Orula.
- Green and yellow altar cloth.
- A bouquet, especially one with lots of greens and bright yellow flowers.
- An Orula candle.
- Offerings include coconuts, wine, and sweet cakes.
For Oya, goddess of the Niger river and ruler of storms, set the altar with:
- Her crown.
- Fresh eggplants.
- Shea butter.
- An appropriate sopera.
- Osun de oya.
- An image of a lightning bolt.
- Red gourds.
- Copper jewelry.
- A rainbow-colored Oya candle.
- A statue or other image of Oya.
- Offerings include chocolate, eggplant, beets, purple grapes and wine. She also likes sesame seed candy, chickpeas and black beans and rice.
Altars do not necessarily need to be very fancy or expensive, but care and thought must be put into setting them up. Put them in a place of honor, and keep them clean and well-maintained. Be sure to provide regular offerings of the proper foods, drinks, plants, and other objects, and you will forge a powerful spiritual relationship.