Who Is Obatala

Obatala, also known as Orisaala, is an Orisha. His name is derived from the words, Oba Ti O Ni Ala, which has several meanings from King in White Clothe to the King that Brought Humans into Being. He has a third name, Orisanla, which means “great divinity” or “most grandeur”. 

He is believed to have been created by Olodamure. He is considered to be the sky god of the Orishas. It is believed that Olorun, the head of the Orishas gave Orisaala permission to descend from the heavens to add life to earth, including human bodies from mud and clay. He is believed to be the founder of the Yoruba city, Ile-Lfe. He is believed to be the godfather of other Orishas such as Oshun. His wife is Yemaya who rules the oceans and is godmother to the other Orishas.

There is even an oral legend that Obatala served as King of Ile-Lfe as a mortal. Though his throne lineage was lost to Odudwa in the 12th century. This is re-enacted an annual basis during the Itapa Festival. He is believed to have died and then risen again. He is believed to have descended into the netherworld for three days upon his death and then resurrected after the third day. Still, he was deified after his death and was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon-or Orisha lineage-as a deity of the same name. 

His color is white because he is associated with white light. He is even believed by some to be the god of white clothes and to accept only white offerings without the spices and other works. The most common are coconut milk and white pumpkin. Worshippers often dance in white costumes, light sandalwood incense and wear silver and ivory charms. 

His most common foods are goats, doves, white hens, milk, and rice pudding. Some of his most common herbs are Blanco, alogon, and tamaridin. He is believed to rule all white things, including bones and skeletons. In Africa, the Latin Americas, and the Caribbean, September is Obatala’s month. They have parades with devotees in white costumes on drums and chanting. However, at this time, all Orishas are venerated and offerings are made as well as food being shared in their names. In Lle-lfe, however, the devotees simply wear the white costumes and jewelry described above. They enter into shrines to chant in unison, play bells and other instruments. 

He is also considered to be a god of compassion and personal needs. Those people are believed to be the result of Obatala’s drunkenness. So he is believed to be moved by compassion due to sharing the blame. He is also believed to be the god of dreams, thoughts, and purity.

One thing that is worthy of quick note here is that the Orishas are to African spiritual tradition what angels are to the three major patriarchal religions. Like angels, Orishas govern various aspects of physical life. Like angels, they are also genderless and androgynous. As a result, it is believed that they don’t involve themselves in the gender conflicts of the world. Spirit beings tend to be genderless. Gender, as we know it in the physical world, is not thought of as generally being a God concept and the Orishas are no exception. However, like the eastern and ancient European gods, they are believed to be married, which really represents their masculine and feminine qualities joined together as one.