Shangó is the Yoruba deity of fire, thunder and lightning. He was the fourth king of the ancient Oyo Empire, the West African center of culture and politics for the Yoruba people. Shangó was a feared and respected warrior; strong and powerful, dreadful and magnificent, he is the personification of masculinity. Notorious for his great sexual philandering, Shangó not only is passionate in love, but also is famous for his sudden changes in temper and potential for violent behavior.
When a subordinate chief challenged his rule, many townspeople were impressed by the chief’s feats of magic and deserted Shangó. Defeated in the eyes of the majority of his subjects, Shangó left Oyo and committed suicide by hanging himself in the forest. His faithful followers, however, claimed that he really ascended to the heavens on a chain. They claimed that his disappearance was not death but merely the occasion of his transformation into an orisha or “black saint”.