Ifa is a Religion which also includes individual divination using a body of allegorical Spiritual Texts called the Odu Ifa and it originates from the Yoruba people of Nigeria to which the Orisha Deities belong.
The Orisha Deities & Their Meaning
After the Supreme Being Oludumare, there are 7 Principal Orisha Deities in the Ifa Oracle who are also referred to as Gods and Goddesses:
Ogun– (likewise Ogoun) God of metallurgy, war, change, and also healing.
Shango– God of lightning, fire, potency and battl.
Obatala– Sky God of creation, protector of the weak as well as the handicapped and champion of purity.
Yemaya– Mother of All Water, the Divine Earth Mom, guard of females.
Esu– Messenger God that presides over crossroads, entrances, and transformation.
Oshun– Siren of wonderful water, fertility, love; second other half of Shango.
Oya– Goddess of change as well as rejuvenation, guardian of the dead; 3rd other half of Shango.
The Meaning & Importance Of The Orisha Deities
The true meaning of the Orisha Deities of the Ifa Oracle can be appreciated once it is understood that the Orisha Deities are not actual physical Gods but rather that they represent forces of nature or Human idiosyncrasies and concepts.
Oludumare, the Supreme Being of the Ifa Oracle symbolises the perfect state of being and is responsible for the manifestation we call Reality and all the Ifa Oracle Orishas are considered to be manifestations of the Supreme deity, Oludumare.
The understanding of the meaning of the Orisha Deities of the Ifa Oracle as embodying natural forces and concepts rather than existing as physical beings is important in order to comprehend the true meaning of the Ifa Oracle’s Deities.
Such an understanding of the meaning and purpose of the Ifa Oracle Orishas means we appreciate that the Orishas are Divinities whose purpose is to help Humans to come to the realisation of their own Divinity.
In this way, the meaning of the Ifa Oracle Orisha Deities functions in the same way as the Metu Neter Deities of Ancient Kemet who also do not exist as physical beings but represent aspects of Nature.
Just like the Deities of the Metu Neter, the Deities or Angels of the Ifa Oracle also represent the Natural aspects of Earth, Fire, Water and Air similar to the Ancient Egyptian Deities Shu, Geb, Nut and Tefnut who are the first 4 Children from the The Supreme Being that also represent the 4 Elements of Nature that are the determinants of the Reality we experience in our Universe.
The true meaning and power of the Orisha Deities of the Ifa Oracle in Ifa Religion lies in their symbolic power to communicate the forces of Nature and Divine Conscience to the Human Soul so that Humans can awaken to the Divine Spark within them.
As such, the Ifa Oracle Deities are different from Greek, Roman, Jewish or Christian Deities who interact with humans.
Ultimately, the most important concept to grasp in understanding the meaning of the Orisha Deities is that they are symbolic manifestations of the One Supreme Being Oludumare in the Ifa Oracle Religious system.