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The Orishas: Obatala

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The Orishas: Obatala

Obatala, meaning king of the white cloth, is the eldest of all Orishas. Seen as the quintessential father figure, Obatala watches over all younger Orishas. He is revered as the king of kings and the creator of all mankind. Under the power of his father Olorun, Obatala created the Earth and all of the living things that inhabit it. He is the Orisha of leadership, knowledge, justice, those who are handicapped and the military.

Once a strong warrior who witnessed terrible acts of violence, this patient and compassionate deity provides kindness to those who pray to him. Obatala presides over the other Orishas and intervenes with their arguments and disagreements. He is widely respected as a fair and patient judge. Obatala is married to Yemana, the goddess of the ocean, and is father to many Orishas.

The Image of Obatala

Always dressed in white, Obatala represents purity and calmness. White is considered the most sacred of all of the colors in Santeria, as it symbolizes Obatala. His unwavering dedication to truth and clarity are symbolized by his all white attire. He is portrayed as an older man in white robes holding a staff or torch. Mountains, hills and other high places are favorites of this Orisha. He finds clarity and pureness of thought by connecting to nature high above the distractions of everyday life.

Obatala is the only Orisha who has both masculine and feminine qualities. There are, therefore, some female depictions of Obatala. The Christian image of Our Lady of Mercy is linked to and associated with the female form of the Orisha Obatala.

Praying to Obatala

Offerings made to Obatala should follow the rules of purity that this Orisha embodies. He favors 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.

Present the offerings on a white cloth and cover with pure cotton. Obatala prefers his offerings be made on Sunday. Decorate his altar with a sacred crown or dove-handled bell, representing his status as a king and his belief in purity and justice. A white peace and wisdom candle or 7 Day Obatala Orisha candle can also be placed on his shrine. Anoint the candle with good luck oil or justice oil and recite the following prayer:

King of kings, I call you
Your kingdom is heaven
Your glory hope
Your faith and charity bonanza
Father of All Saints
Father of all the good, all in white
Your peace, an emblem of trust
Always Give me wisdom to understand what I cannot
Give me the right words for those who will listen
Patience and resignation, in order to cope
The peace of mind
When anger wants to be my counselor and friend
Your blessing I will bear
By day and in my sleep
I trust your wing, your protective mantle
Trust your power, sovereign redeemer.

Obatala is often prayed to by those dealing with court cases and legal matters. Wear an Obatala bracelet or Obatala necklace when heading to court to keep his protection and guidance close to you. Carry his prayer card in your wallet or pocketbook and read it to reaffirm and focus your dedication.

Always remember that Obatala aids the innocent and punishes the guilty. Be sure that your intentions are pure when praying to this powerful Orisha, as you will suffer the consequences of your guilt if you are not being truthful. Call upon Obatala to guide you through your difficulties and strengthen your resolve in times of hardship or uncertainty.