The religion of the West African Yoruba people was forced underground by centuries of slavery in the Americas. Several hybrid forms of worship, of which the best known is Santeria, were created by deliberate conflation of Yoruba spiritual entities with Catholic ones.
The Yoruba people of West Africa recognize three levels of spiritual force: one creator god called Olodumare; numerous nature or messenger spirits (similar to Christian angels) called the orishas, and the revered spirits of the dead, called the eggun. Under the yoke of Catholicism, Olodumare was identified with Jehovah, and the orishas were identified with various Catholic saints or angels. In the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, seven of the many orishas were combined into a commonly seen image called "The Seven African Powers;" however, there are more than seven orishas, and most of them are identified with more than one saint.
Wherever people of African descent were converted to Catholicism, different patron saints were spontaneously identified with their own African deities and spirits. However, even though there was no central hierarchy to make the ascriptions, as far as the Yoruba orisha were conserned, the hagiography and iconic symbols associated with each deity and each saint produced a variable set of flexible lists of correspondences between nine of the orishas and more than a dozen Catholic saints: