At the Orisha Online Altar, I’ve made a list of Orishas and Lwa. In this article, I will focus on Allies of Obeah and Hoodoo. Even though Hoodoo was in the past considered more “Baptist” and less deity dependent, lately there has been more of a merging between Hoodoo and Obeah in North America. So I don’t think it wise to view them as so far apart. Another thing to note about this list is that some of these are Spirits from Native American belief systems who have been brought in by people of mixed culture or ancestry.
Ancestors – In diaspora systems, one may venerate their own ancestors as well as others’ and notable people they admire. Marie Laveau is a common appearance on many Hoodoo, Voudou, and even some Obeah practitioners’ altars. If they were very powerful in their earthly life, some of their identity may be retained aside of the collective Ancestors (Egungun). So they can be called upon for help or advice.
Animal Spirits – Every animal including man, has a Spirit who is in charge of them. This being represents the both the ideal and the baser side of a particular creature. One of the key features of Obeah is that it addresses evolutionary chains, the connection between animals. For instance, humans and chimpanzees share connection to the Papa Ape, and all vertebrates share a connection to the Papa Snake. This is one reason for keeping various animal parts around. A rippling in a jar or twitch of a preserved paw can give us information about what is going on around us and even tell us whether or not someone is telling the truth.
Sometimes animal Spirits will take on a human or semi human form or speak with a human voice in order to relate to mankind, give a person a message, or perhaps for general mischief. There are stories of these encounters in just about every culture.
Archangels – The Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Refael among others, are often called upon in root work. This is a “Baptist” tradition because non Catholics did not generally name Orishas after the Saints, but also comes from the influence of works such as the Key of Solomon and the Book of Abramelin.
Black Angels, Blood Angels, Jumpers – The restless Spirits of children who were killed due to the horrors of slavery. They can be angry and take out their anger on people for many generations because they are frustrated and afraid to go back to the Ancestors because it would mean being reborn into this world. Sometimes they will be almost convinced, and then as a trial or to be purposefully cruel, inhabit the body of a child when a woman is pregnant, and then leave, causing her to miscarry repeatedly. Because they did not go to the Ancestors, they are still angry and carry that pain. To stop the repeated miscarriages and stillbirths, the ghost child must be convinced to go to the Ancestors or that the parents will make sure nothing happens to them that happened before. Often when they do finally settle down, the child is born extremely intelligent, but with some disability to mark them as a special child of Obatala. Related to Abiku in Africa, the souls of children who died before the age of 12.
Bone Spirits – Closely related to the main animal Spirits, these are the spirits of individual animals whose bones or other parts one is using for divination or other mystical purposes. Though many are uncareful about this, it is important to gain the consent of the animal as an individual or to appease its Papa and/or Mama Spirit before using its parts. Someone at the priestly level doing their own harvesting would be expected to gain consent from the individual and appease the Parent Spirit. A layperson would just need to be sure to appease the Parent Spirit since they are less sensitive and probably not actually using the parts except as clothing, food, ornamentation, or good luck charms. If one has not appeased the Parent Spirit, a good luck charm can be a bad luck charm. Another important thing to note is that at some point, the bones or other parts may wish to be lain to rest. They should be given a proper burial or cremation and dispersal.
Brigitte, Miss Brigid, Mama Brigitte – Basically Maman Brigitte. She is the nice older White lady in stories who helps slaves escape or brings food to the poor or teaches Black people to read and otherwise support themselves and then magically disappears. She looks very frail, but has super strength and the power to make glamours to hide people. When nothing else can be done, she waves her hand and attackers die from the draft it creates. She is very benevolent but very powerful.
Death or Mr. Bones – Everyone who walks the “path of bones” in earnest has met Death. All that lives has an appointment with him. Although some may view dealing with Death as the creepy side of Obeah, they should remember that many of the good things in life are because of Death.
If you have clean water it is because the germs in it were killed. Plants and many other living creatures died to make the soil fertile for your food to grow. If you eat meat then obviously some animals died for that. If you’re a vegetarian, your vegetables were grown on Death. Petroleum is long dead animals and plants. So your computer on which you are reading this right now is made of Death and metal. Death is necessary for there to be life.
Devil – Basically how Eshu the Trickster combined with Eshu of Tragedy is perceived in the west. Depending on who you ask, it could instead refer to Balzvuv (Beelzebub) who is a negative entity that every mystic should beware because he convinces people to do harm for “good” reasons that are not really good. A misanthropic or greedy person could enlist his aid in getting people to follow him to their destruction.
Diggers – These are beings said to live in the first foot or so of the ground. In some ways they resemble Gnomes, but may be a bit more cruel in their mischief. There are stories of them braiding or tangling people and animals’ hair in the night. They may do this to protect them from harmful Spirits or humans who cannot resist a knot, and must untie it before they can continue with whatever bad deeds they had planned. So even though they may cause some mischief, only bad people hate the Diggers.
John, Jonny – A name for Eshu. Stories are often told of a clever slave (Eshu the Trickster in disguise) who always outwits his master.
Jumbie or Duppy - A Carribean term for ghosts or spirits of ancestors, or for demons, depending who you ask.
King Snake, Grand Snake, Li Grand Zombi – A name for Damballah, especially as the King of Snakes. He is able to strike enemies from a long distance because he is in all of the sky. He is often called upon to grant wishes or to gain justice when someone flees from punishment.
Mama Raccoon – Similar to Oba, she is the guardian of marriage, female fidelity, and protective motherhood. Some symbols used for her are alternating stripes of black, pink, and gray, or a diagonal grid to symbolize a secure net or nest.
Mami, La Sirene, Mama Siren, Mommi - Basically Yemaya, but also residing in fresh water.
Manitou – The name some use for the Supreme God. It is an originally Native American Siouan term.
Moon Children – Semi-spirit beings who are children of the Moon and live for one lunar month. They die and are reborn every full moon.
Nadella – Also known as Needler or Neesa, or simply the Unquiet Spirit. She disturbs people until they do what a working was made for them to do. She is sometimes called upon in love spells to cause the person to not be able to rest until they go to the person on whose behalf the spell was done. More often, she is called to plague someone’s enemies so they cannot rest until they make amends or die.
Papa Raccoon – Similar to Shango, but more specific to sexual prowess and sexually motivated aggression. He is called to keep people away from one’s wife or girlfriend. Raccoon bacula (penis bones) are given as love gifts to keep a woman from messing around, and also as protection talismans for non romantic reasons.
Raster – An incubus similar to the Unquiet Spirit who takes the form of a man and brutally rapes women in their dreams. He is usually called on in cases of false rape accusations. If someone who has been falsely accused, they can have a work done in which Raster will take on their form and torture the woman. He is said by some to have been first summoned by the mother of a man who was lynched because of a false rape accusation.
Seven African Powers – The main or most important seven Orishas in human life vary somewhat from person to person. Most people who are more into Vodun have a top 10 or 20 actually. However, seven is a catchy number and so there are many products labelled “Seven African Powers…” for effect. Generally, when people use this term, they’re referring to Eshu, Obatala, Yemaya, Ogun, Shango, Oshun, and Oya.
Sun Children – Semi-spirit beings who are children of the Sun. They die and are reborn every solar year at the summer solstice.
Swamp Queen, Mama Gator – The Mother of all alligators, she takes the form of a giant alligator or a strange old swamp witch, and sometimes a beautiful young woman dressed in tattered, wet clothes. She must be appeased before one is allowed to hunt alligators with any luck. She can make someone get lost in the swamp or everglades or be bitten by a snake. She can also help someone to navigate and survive snakebites that would normally be fatal. Some believe that Mama Gator is Oshun Ibu Ana or Nana Buruku’s closer to Earth manifestation.
Tall Man (mainland) or Moko Jumbie (islands) – A Spirit who manifests as a giant or extremely tall man. In the U.S. mainland, he is said to live in the forest. In the islands, he can show up just about anywhere. He is generally thought to be malevolent towards humans, though some other Spirits who appear as giants may be wrongly thought to be him. Some view him as the protector of the forest whose permission must be gotten before chopping down any trees.
Vampires or Soucouyant – Unlike the undead popular in European folklore, these are Spirits who feed on blood. In many cases, the night time antics of rats, bats, and even thorn bushes have been called vampire attacks, the signs of an actual attack are clear. The person being attacked goes into a trance like state, marks appear on their body, and afterwards they feel very weak. There are many stories of vampires appearing as a ball of light or fire, but this is likely how they appear to some people being attacked. Those who have observed attacks not as the victim, report that it is more like a bubble of darkness and extreme cold. A shadow will pass over the person, they will begin to bleed often in multiple places on their body, and then when it is gone, the person falls from weakness.
Sometimes it is not blood they are after, but vitality, energy, or something else. They can exploit vulnerabilities caused by the evil eye, and often do this as a way of being undetected. Evil eye gets the blame for the person’s misfortunes, and the wrong protection methods will be used that allow the vampire to continue to feed.
Hierarchy of Spirits
This is a general hierarchy, but there is plenty of overlap except in the case of the Supreme God.
Supreme God – The Most High, Unfathomable Supreme Be-ing, Original Creator
Witness Deities – Those deities who were created before the physical Universe, or specifically to witness the creation of the physical Universe, and manage or embody various spiritual or metaphysical principles.
Angels – Attendants of the Supreme God sent when specifically divine intervention is required in any situation.
First Cosmic Deities – Those created at the creation of the physical Universe, and assigned to manage, create, and/or embody specific laws of Nature and existence, planets, or other celestial bodies.
Elemental Deities – Also created at the same time as creation of the physical Universe, they manage and embody elements and the interactions between them.
Earth Specific Forces
Planetary Forces – Those who manage and embody various natural forces on specific planets.
Life Guardians and Animal Spirits – Those who manage and embody the primary energy of specific categories of living things.
The Ancestors/The Dead - The force of spiritual energy to which souls return after death and from which new souls are formed. These may not be Earth specific for everyone.
Earth Specific Attendants
Spirits of Light (Earth Angels or Life Affirming Demons in some languages) and Spirits of Darkness (Demons) – Spirit beings who reside on Earth and may be working in the interest of affirming or sustaining life, or destroying it. Whether it is good or evil depends to some degree on perspective. They are like the day-to-day duty or “lesser” Angels.
Gardener Beings – Faeries, Gnomes, Diggers, etc. maintain various ecosystems and situations. They seldom have an interest in the lives of humans unless humans are messing something up or they like a particular person or family because they’re helpful.
Predatory Beings – Vampires and others who exploit living things to sustain themselves.
Persons – People at about the same general level that we are in 3 dimensions, who simply live at higher dimensions, who can move within our dimensional range. They are physical beings in their dimension, but appear to us as solid, ethereal, or wraith-like. Some may be mages or just very talented people where they are from. Some may be gardener or predatory beings from other worlds.