The Yoruba Model for Practical Spiritual Interaction
Other powers: your Magic Allies
The Yoruba people of West Africa use the word orisha to name these spirit powers. Anyone wishing to do extensive spirit work would do well to contemplate the structure of traditional Yoruba religion. The Yoruba are a monotheistic people; they have one supreme creator, Olodumare, who encompasses both male and female. Although Olodumare loves humans, we are not the center of the universe. Among Olodumare's other creations was the concept of delegating. Olodumare created assorted spirit beings, the orisha, each possessing its own department of interest, to assist in Earth's harmonious operation. Just as there are orishas whose function it is to encourage agriculture or wilderness, so there are orishas who facilitate every aspect of human existence. Any area or interest that can be envisioned possesses an orisha who serves in a supervisory capacity.
Whatever you perceive these spirits to be, it is crucial, if you intend to work with them, to see them as something alive and independent from you. The goddess within is fine for raising consciousness, self-esteem or a sense of the personal sacred but if you plan on actually asking for assistance, seeing them as part of you or a projection of yourself limits interaction and potentially causes problems. It becomes too easy to dismiss your experiences as not real.
· Ogun, for instance, is the patron of metal. He takes care of those who are in close contact with that material: soldiers, jewelers, taxicab drivers. If you were worried about your son the soldier, you might direct your petition toward Ogun.
· Yemaya is matron of women. If your personal obstacles fall under the general heading of “women's troubles,” you'd petition Yemaya instead.
The most conservative count of orishas is 401, although only about forty are actively involved with humans on any sort of consistent, regular basis. Each orisha has various forms that they consistently assume. Each also possesses various preferences in food, fragrance, colors and gifts. These preferences are used as vehicles of two-way communication. Yemaya's color is blue. To attract her notice, you might somehow prominently feature that color. She, in turn, might use the color to send a signal to you. It's an eminently practical system and in the case of the Yoruba, still a living, vital one. The Yoruba remain as living testimony to human/spirit interaction. There is no culture that didn't at one time possess some similar system. You can use Yoruba methods as a model for spirit interaction, regardless of your own ethnic origins or that of your spirit ally.