Study the Teachings of Ifa

through the power of God, the Supreme Being, (called by various names in the Yoruba language such as Olodumare, Eledumare, Olofin-Orun, Eleda, and Olorun), made human bodies, and Olorun (God) breathed life into them. Obàtálá is also the owner of all ori or heads. Any orisha may lay claim to an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that orisha, Obàtálá still owns that head. This stems from the belief that the soul resides in the head.

According to legend Obatala created “defective” (handicapped) individuals while drunk on palm wine, making him the patron deity of such people. People born with congenital defects are called ‘eni orisa’: literally, “people of Obatala”. He is also referred to as the orisha of the north. He is always dressed in white, hence the meaning of his name, Obatala (King or ruler of the white cloth). His worshippers strive to practice moral correctness as unblemished as his robe.

In Candomblé, Obatalá (Oxalá) is the oldest “Orixa funfun” (“white deity”), referring to spiritual purity and pure light, both physically and symbolically as in the “light” of consciousness). In the Bahia State (Brazil), Obatala has been syncretized with Our Lord of Bonfim and is the subject of a large syncretic religious celebration, the Festa do Bonfim, which takes place in January in the city of Salvador.

In Santería Obàtálá has been syncretized with Our Lady of Mercy.

According to mythical stories Obatala is the eldest of all orisha and was granted authority to create the earth. Before he could return to heaven and report to Olodumare however, his rival Oduduwa (also called Oduwa, Oodua, Odudua or Eleduwa), often described as his younger brother, usurped his position by taking the satchel and returning to heaven. A great feud ensued between the two that is re-enacted every year in Ile Ife, Nigeria. Ultimately, Oduduwa and his sons were able to rule without Obatala’s consent.

In Yoruba theology, Obatala must never be worshipped with palm wine, palm oil or salt. His worshippers may eat palm oil and salt, but never taste palm wine.

Oluwa Aiye or Oluwa Aye – Lord of the Earth

Alabalase – He who has divine authority

Baba Arugbo – Old Master or Father

Baba Araye – Master or Father of all human beings (lit. citizens of the earth)

Orisanla (also spelt Orisainla, Orishanla or Orishainla) or Oshanla – The arch divinity