researchers studying angels sometimes mention orishas, spiritual
beings found in traditional Yoruba (African) religion as well as in several
Yoruba-influenced religions in the Americas, such as Santeria.
Like Hinduism, the basic Yoruba worldview is ultimately monistic,
postulating a single divine energy behind the apparent diversity of
the perceived world. However, also like the Hindus, the Yoruba are
simultaneously polytheistic, postulating a pantheon of some four hundred
or so gods, the orisha. The Yoruba believe that the orisha were
once human beings who led notable lives and became gods at death.
Orisha also refers to one’s individual destiny or “soul” (specifically,
one’s spiritual double in the other world).
In the syncretistic religious systems of the Western Hemisphere—
systems such as Santeria (Cuba) and Candomblé (Brazil), which mix
the Yoruba tradition with Catholicism and other religious elements—
orishas are retained as important demigods. Particularly in these later
religions, the comparison between orishas and angels is particularly
appropriate, given that Catholic
saints and angelssupplied important
models for the role orishas played in these new religions. For example,
among the Candomblé it is believed that each person receives two
orishas (one male, one female) at birth, and that these Orishas play the
role of guardian angels (Parisen, p. 243) for the newborn. This is clearly
a reformulation of the Yoruba tradition in terms of Western religion.