Shango is the the god of thunder, lightning, and the heavy storms which bring seasonal rains. He is also linked to warfare -- probably because thunder and lightning recall the booming sounds of rifles. Stone axs made in neolithic times are kept in covered vessels on the altars of Shango shrines. These ancient man-made objects are believed to be meteorites that have fallen to earth. Shango followers believe that these stones fall to earth when lightning strikes and that they contain the power of Shango's fire. They are found lying around the ground in fields and picked up to be placed in Shango shrines.

Followers of Shango carry dance staffs called oshe shango during celebrations and rituals. The oshe shango on the right depicts a female devotee kneeling in respect to address the god. On her head the devotee balances a double axe. This refers to the act in Shango initiation in which the initiate balances a vessel of fire in top of her head to demonstrate Shango calmness in the face of danger. The ax shape also symbolizes the stone axes kept in Shango shrines.

Shango dance staffs are often decorated with dark blue indigo pigment, like the example on the left. The blue pigment is used for two purposes -- it beautifies the piece and it is believed to provide protection. Notice the ax-shaped decoration on this piece, too.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University,
Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester and Dallas Museum of Art
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