top of page


The Sky Father

In the Orisha faiths, Obatalá is the sky father, son/daughter of the one God (Olodumare), and creator of Earth and humans. Yoruba culture of modern Nigeria, Benin and Togo is considered the mother culture of the Orisha faiths, but there are related traditions up and down the West Coast of Africa. If you strip away the religious concepts, the Orishas are forces of nature which are universal and exist everywhere. The old Greek traditions were similar in venerating forces of nature and giving them human characteristics. The similarity is really striking.

Obatala is the orisha of purity, but he is also associated with:

  • Compassion

  • Wisdom

  • Honesty

  • Ethics

  • Purpose

  • Redemption

  • Peace

  • Forgiveness

  • The New Year

  • Resurrection

Obatalá has a wife, but is gender-fluid with both female and male aspects. This is true of all of us, if you think about it. The creative part of a woman is her Animus or male aspect. The creative part of a man is his Anima or female aspect. The spark of consciousness in us is Obatalá. She/He looks after everyone, unless another Orisha takes your head. Obatalá wears white because it has all the colors in it and she/he takes care of all of us. She/He accepts offerings of white foods without spices. White clothes, coconut milk, white pumpkin, silver and ivory are associated with Obatalá. Obatalá is the godmother/father of the Orishas so she/he looks after them and settles their arguments.

Characterized by his clear judgment, Obatala is often the divine authority consulted by the other orishas whenever they need to settle a conflict. Many orishas helped to build the world, but it was Obatala’s responsibility to give form to the Earth. Obatala was also assigned by Oludumare with the task of creating humans. In some versions of the myth, in his human personification, Obatala was one the first kings of Ile-Ife, the city where the Yoruba people believed all life originated. However, in other versions of the story, he tried to dethrone Oduduwa, the very first king of the legendary city, in an attempt to regain full control over humanity, but failed. The explanations for the power struggle that existed between Obatala and Oduduwa vary from one myth to another. We’ll come back to these mythical stories later.

Obatala and Oduduwa

Despite being a peaceful deity most of the time, Obatala held a conflicting relation with Oduduwa, who is said to have been his brother. In an alternative creation story, after Obatala’s drunkenness made him fall asleep, Oduduwa took on the job of creating humans where Obatala had left it. Other myths even claim that, during his brother’s absence, Oduduwa also improved some aspects of the original Earth. The supreme god recognized the merit of these actions, thus granting special honors to Oduduwa. Taking advantage of his recently won prestige, Oduduwa became the king of Ile-Ife, the legendary city where the Yoruba people think the first humans lived.

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page