Today is December 4th, the feast of Saint Barbara whom is syncretized with the orisha Changó. Changó (also spelled Shangó, Ṣango, or Xango) is the owner of fire, lightening, thunder, and war, but he is also the patron of music, drumming, and dancing. He represents male beauty and virility, passion and power. His colors are red and white, and his eleke (sacred necklace) is made of alternating red and white beads. His number is 6, and his day of the week is Friday and the 4th day of every month. He’s syncretized with Santa Barbara because she’s portrayed in Catholic lore as a fiercely independent and brave young woman, dressed usually in a red and white costume, holding a sword and wearing a crown like Changó. In a way, it’s surprising that such a powerful masculine Orisha is syncretized with a female saint, but there are underlying similarities between their stories. For example, Santa Barbara’s torturer was struck down by a lightening bolt, which is Changó’s favorite weapon. And according to a patakí (sacred story) about Changó, one time he had to dress in women’s clothes (lent to him by Oyá) in order to escape undetected from his enemies. Santa Bárbara’s association with Changó shows that females and males alike can wield Changó’s power. Both male and female initiates can be crowned with Changó, making him their father in the religion.
Changó likes bananas, okra, red palm oil, and amalá (corn meal dumplings). He usually wears red satin pants and a red shirt with white trim; on his head he wears a crown. He lives in a wooden batea (shallow bowl with lid), sometimes placed on a wooden pilón (pedestal). He protects against burns and death by fire.Changó’s symbol is the double headed ax, which represents swift justice. His followers call him by shaking a maraca as they pray to him at his altar. Those who have Changó on their head salute him by lying face down on the floor with arms extended to their sides.