Sango (Shango / Chango) Orisa – History Of “God Of Thunder”

There are several versions of Shango history but two of these versions are most popular in yorubaland. Namely the secular Shango history and priestly Shango history


About two centuries ago, there reigned a King in the old town of Oyo (known to early explorers as Eyeo of atunga) which was situated near the south bank of the river Niger to the north of the Yoruba country.

Shango was a powerful and wise monarch. He was a great medicine man (witch-doctor) and was able to kill people by ejecting fire from his mouth. His reign was tyrannical and cruel.

He had two chief ministers of whom he was jealous and set these to fight against each other, hoping both might be slain but he was himself deposed by the one who came off victor in the fight.

Shango fled, accompanied by his three wives, Oya, Oshun and Oba and some of his most loyal followers. He wandered in the bush, being gradually deserted by all until only his favorite wife, Oya, remained.

Then in despair, Shango hung himself from a tree. Oya fled north and became presiding goddess of the river Niger.

Travelers who had seen the body of Shango hanging from a tree entered the town and reported “0ba so” i.e. “the King has hanged himself.” This report spread throughout the town.

The friends of Shango were so incensed that they determined to avenge their deceased monarch. They took a number of small calabashes or hollow gourds and filled them with gunpowder.

They then covered them with coconut fiber and put slow matches to them and waited for the next tornado. When hurricane came, they ignited the bombs and threw them into the thatched roofs of many houses.

The resultant explosions and fires caused the panic-stricken people to cry out, “Why are all our houses burning?” The friends of Shango then came forward, saying, “Oh, you said Oba so” “the King has hanged himself”

“0ba ko so!” “the King has not hanged himself”. i.e “he is angry with you for this.” He has became a god and has gone up into heaven and sent down the lightning to punish you.

You must bring out oxen, sheep, fowls, palm oil……… etc and offer sacrifices to him and henceforth worship him and then he will forgive you.”

Thus they established the worship due him as an orisha.


But the Shango story as above will not be acceptable to the priestly house of Koso in Oyo. There the orthodox story is mainly as follows:

Two of Shango wives were very quarrelsome; and there were also a few complaints from the subjects of Shango concerning his tyranny. Shango became angry with everybody, mounted his horse and went into the forest.

For a long time he was expected back but in vain. When he did not return, people feared that he had gone in a fit of temper to hang himself. So they went in search of him; he was not found but his horse was.

The searchers therefore called out; “Where are you, O king? Have you hanged yourself?” To which he replied from a long distance; “NO, I have not hanged myself!” Then come back to us, we want you” they called back.

But he replied; “NO, since there has been so much trouble in the land and so many complaints against me from you all, I will not come back to you; I will now rule you unseen.”

So he ascended to heaven by a chain which sprang from a tree. From heaven he have since then manifested his kingship by lightning and thunder.

One can understand why the priestly house of Koso stick to this “orthodox” version of the account of the apotheosis of Shango!

Whatever version of the story is told, the important thing is that people became convinced that Shango ascended to heaven and that he became the god of thunder, lightning and brimstone.

NOTE ~ Now that you have read the secular and priestly version of Shango history, so which of these versions do you believe?