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Regarding Axé


Ronilda Iyakemi Ribeiro

Translation by Shayna McHugh


To spread respect of nature and human destiny it is interesting to begin clarifying the meaning of axé, the name given by the Yoruba people to the life force. According to Maupoil (cited by E. dos Santos, 1986), axé is the invisible force, the magic-holy force of all divinities, of all living beings, of all things. It doesn’t appear spontaneously, it must be transmitted.

Any chance of fulfillment in existence depends on the axé that, as a force, obeys some laws:

1.      It is absorbable, expendable, and can be elaborated and accumulated;

2.      It is transmissible through certain material elements, of certain substances;

3.      Once transferred through these substances to beings and objects, it maintains and renews the power of fulfillment in them;

4.      It can be applied to various ends;

5.      Its quality varies according to the combination of elements that constitute it and that are, in their turn, carriers of a determined cargo, of a particular energy and of a particular power of fulfillment. The axé of the orixás, for example, is renewed by means of offerings and ritual action, transmitted by an intermediary of initiation, and activated by individual and ritual conduct;

6.      It can diminish or grow.

Axé is found in a great variety of elements of the animal, vegetable, and mineral realms.

It is found in elements of water, sweet and salty and of the earth.

It is thought to be contained in the essential substances of beings, living or not.

Elbein dos Santos (1986) introduces a classification of axé in categories: red blood, white blood, and black blood. The red blood, in the animal realm, comprises blood itself, animal and human, including the menstrual flow; in the vegetable realm it includes the epo, dendê oil; the osun, red powder extracted from pterocarpus erinacesses; and honey, the blood of flowers. The white blood includes: in the animal realm, breath, plasma, semen, saliva, sweat and other secretions; in the vegetable realm, the sap, the juice, the alcohol, and the white drinks extracted from palm trees and from some vegetables, ori (vegetable butter) and oiyerosun, whitened powder extracted from the irosun; in the mineral realm, salts, chalk, silver, lead, etc. The black blood comprises, in the animal realm, the ashes of animals; in the vegetable, the dark juice of certain plants, ilu, indigo extracted from different types of trees, dark blue powder called waji; in the mineral realm coal, iron, etc.


To be able to act, axé must be transmitted by means of a particular combination that contains material and symbolic representations of the white, of the red, and of the black, of the aiye and of the orun. The definition of the necessary composition of the axé to be implanted or returned is up to the oracle.

The blood – animal, vegetable, or mineral – is the essential substance for the restoration of strength.

Every ritual, be it an offering, a process of initiation, or a consecration, carries out implantation or revitalization of force.

That which lives,
 to be able to fulfill or be fulfilled,
needs axé and,
the source not being inexhaustible,
reposition is made necessary
and is obtained through a ritual practice
 that re-updates the force of the primordial time,
the time of creation!

The importance of the regularity of the rites resides in the fact that the presence of the supernatural entities is favored by ritual activity, on the privileged occasion of the transfer and redistribution of axé. This, originating from the hands and from the breath of the oldest, in interpersonal relations, is received through the body and reaches deep levels, including those of personality, by means of the mineral, vegetable, and animal blood of the offerings.