Monday, March 2, 2020

What The Yoruba Word "Àṣẹ" (Aché, Axé, Ashe) REALLY Means

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part pancocojams series about the Yoruba (Nigerian) word "Àṣẹ" (also given as "aché", "axé", or "ashe").

Part I presents several excerpts about the word "Àṣẹ".

Click for Part II of this pancocojams series. Part II presents several YouTube videos that include the Yoruba word "Àṣẹ".

The content of this post is provided for cultural and linguistic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.


(These excerpts are given in no particular order.)

Excerpt #1:
"Ashe is the life-force that runs through all things, living and inanimate. It is described as the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation that is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept of spiritual growth. Orìṣà devotees strive to obtain Ashe through iwa-pele, gentle and good character, and in turn they experience alignment with the ori, what others might call inner peace and satisfaction with life. Ashe is divine energy that comes from Olodumare, the creator deity, and is manifested through Olorun, who rules the heavens and is associated with the sun. Without the sun, no life could exist, just as life cannot exist without some degree of ashe. Ashe is sometimes associated with Eshu, the messenger òrìṣà.[6] For practitioners, ashe represents a link to the eternal presence of the supreme deity, the orishas, and the ancestors.[7]

The concept is regularly referenced in Brazilian capoeira. Axé in this context is used as a greeting or farewell, in songs and as a form of praise. Saying that someone "has axé" in capoeira is complimenting their energy, fighting spirit, and attitude.[1]"

Excerpt #2
" "Ashe" is a very central word and concept for Orisha-worship. On the one hand it is used often at the end of prayers. It means "may our prayers become reality, may we receive the blessing by the Orisha, short: may it manifest!"

On the other hand "Ashe" more generally also stands for the eternal energy that fills the cosmos. It is the abstract power and principle of Olodumare, God. Calling for "Ashe" is calling for what lies beyond our human reality, that God’s will manifests on earth, where we live at the moment, and that we can experience Olodumare’s power.

It is written in the four main languages of Orisha-worship worldwide, from Nigeria to the diaspora of slavery and from there to the rest of the world: Yoruba, Spanish/Lukumi, Portuguese/Nago and English."

Excerpt #3
African Diaspora Spiritual Assets: Ase And Konesans

Two central concepts in some African-derived religions are ase (or axe) and konesans (connaissance). Ase is the divine force, energy, and power incarnate in the world. Olodumare gives ase to everything, including inanimate objects. Ashe is the power behind all things in the universe. It enables people to find balance in life. The orishas are bearers of ashe. Santeros (Santerían priests) use ase to provide blessing and healing to devotees. "Ashe is a current or flow, a groove that initiates can channel so that it carries them along their road in life. The prayers, rhythms, offerings, taboos of Santería tune initiates into this flow" (Murphy, 1993, p. 131). In Santería, herbs are impregnated with ashe. The color of the Obatala conducts ashe. Part of the Vodun initiation ceremonies gives the priest intuitive knowledge, or konesans, enabling him to understand people, diagnose problems, and perform healing."...

Excerpt #4
"What is axé?


The term axé (also spelled aché or ashé – all pronounced ah-SHEH) comes from the Yoruba peoples of Western Africa. It is the name they gave to the life force; the concept is similar to the Eastern idea of qi.

In capoeira today, axé has come to mean something like “energy.” If a roda has a lot of axé, it means it has good vibes, powerful energy. Some groups use the word as a greeting.

Some references to axé in capoeira songs:
Axé, axé / Capoeira tem muito axé
Axé, axé / Capoeira has lots of axé

Dos velhos Mestres que viveram na Bahia,
Manda todo o seu axé e também sua magia
Bahia manda seu axé pra mim

From the old Mestres who lived in Bahia,
Send all your axé and also your magic
Bahia send your axé to me

Axé also refers to a style of popular music (not related to capoeira) that originated in Salvador, Bahia.

There is also a capoeira group called Axé Capoeira that was founded by Mestre Barrão."
Click for information about the genre of Brazilian music called "Axé".

Excerpt #5
Excerpts from the website CANDOMBLE - Uma Religião sem Mistérios a Serviço do Povo.

Translated by yours truly Guatambu (any improvements to the translation contact me)
"O Axé

A magical energy, the universal sacred of the orixá. A powerful energy that is always neutral. Manipulated and directed by men through the orixás and their symbols and/or elements. "

The most precious of Ilê*, axé is the force that ensures dynamic existence.It is transmitted, should be maintained and developed, as all forces may increase or decrease; and this variation is related to the activity and conduct of the ritual.The conduct is determined by the scrupulous observance of the duties and obligations of each holder of axé, yourself, orixá, and Ilê.The development of individual and group axé affects the axé of the Ilê.

* - Ilê requires its own definition here. Ilê is basically synonymous with terreiro. A terreiro is a temple or house of candomblê. Think of it like you would your local church, synagogue, mosque, or buddhist temple. Each of these types of houses of worship have their unique characteristics in terms of symbols, architecture, look, and feel, and the same is true for a terreiro. - Guatambu

"The axé is connected to the initiated, and directly proportional to its ritual conduct - the relationship with his deity, his community, his duties and his babalorixá (priest of candomblé)."

The strength of the axé is contained and transmitted by certain elements and material substances, is transmitted to humans and objects, maintaining and renewing the powers of accomplishment.The axé is contained in a variety of representative elements of the kingdoms: animal, vegetable and mineral, water (fresh and salt), earth, and forest (untamed vegetation or urban space).It is contained in the natural and essential substances of each being whether simple or complex, living or dead, that make up the universe.

There are places, sounds, objects and body parts (especially animal) impregnated with axé. For example, the heart, liver, lungs, gizzard, kidney, feet, hands, tail, bones, teeth, ivory, genitals, roots, leaves , river water, sea, rain, lake, pool, waterfall, orô (prayer), Adja (sort of bell), illus (drums) ...

Every ritual act and offering involves the transmission and revitalization of axé.To be truly active, these ritual acts and offerings must come from the combination of those elements that allow for a specific result or achievement. To receive axé means to incorporate the symbolic elements that represent the vital and essential principles of all that exists.

Xerife pointed out Mestre Acordeon's song "Pedir o Axé", and added the lyrics with translation below...

Vamos pedir o axé

(Lets ask Axé)

Pressa roda começar

(So this round can begin)

De conforme os fundamentos

(Within the fundations)

Capoeira e candomblé

(Capoeira and candomblé)

Axé Babá

(Axé Babá)

Oh ie viva Meu Deus! AXÉ BABÁ

(Oh yea viva my god! Axé Babá)

Oh Ie viva Seu Bimba! MEU CAMARÁ

(Oh yea viva my Bimba! My friend)

Oh ie é mestre meu! SEMPRE SERÁ

(Oh yea you are my master! ALWAYS WILL BE)

Oh ie volta do mundo! QUE O MUNDO DÁ

(Oh yeaa the world spins! That the world does)

Vamos pedir o axé, meu pai! MEU PAI XANGô

(Lets ask axé, my father! My father Xangô)

Vamos pedir o axé, minha mãe! IEMANJÁ

(Lets ask axé, my mother! IEMANJA)

Vamos pedir o axé, meu rei! REI OXALÁ

(Lets ask Axé, my king! KING OXALÁ)

Vamos pedir o axé, meu pai MEU PAI XANGÔ

(Lets ask Axé, my father MY FATHER XANGÔ)

Reparado added from Mestre Acordeon's book...

"Aché (Axé, Asé) is the magic force that moves all things in the universe according to the African religions in Brazil. It exists in all realms of nature and can be transmitted through specific rituals. Although Capoeira has no direct connection with religion, the capoeiristas, as the majority of Brazilians, are related one way or another with Afro-Brazilian rituals. Aché in Capoeira means the connection with the roots, a special energy to be developed by any capoeirista. To wish aché to someone means to wish good luck. For those who believe, some special people transmit aché through their wishes."

p.6 Almeida, Bira(Mestre Acordeon). Capoeira: A Brazilian Art Form. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1986. Print.

Espantalho added...

“At the heart of this Yoruba religion is the concept of àse, an individual’s personal spiritual power, which grows throughout life through a person’s diligent application to doing good deeds, coupled with appropriate and calm behavior and with service to the gods in the form of sacrifice. The reciprocity of service between gods and humans is essentially the giving of strength, the renewal of àse to the orisa through blood sacrifice of animals designated as belonging to a specific deity. Renewed and grateful deities in turn bless their supportive worshipers with added ase. The rules of this loving support between humans and gods are all known to that father-of-all-knowledge, the babalawo”

~The Way of the Orisa by Philip Neimark p. XII

Babalawo is a priest of Yoruba religion.

“The orisa are energy that, for the most part, represent aspects of nature. Osun (pronounced O-SHUN) represents sweet waters, love, money, conception; Sango (pronounced Zhan-GO) represents thunder and lightning, strategy, and he is the warrior; Esu (pronounced A-shew), messenger to Oludumare (the single God), owner of roads and opportunities, owner of ase (spiritual energy)"...

Excerpt #6
"Lucumí Vocabulary

Lucumí or Lacumí is the Yoruba language as it is spoken in Cuba and the United States. Yoruba is a tonal language like Chinese. The accents serve to approximate the tones for those of us who aren't familiar with tonal language. Also, some of the difficult sounds like the african "p" sound which is pronounced as kind of a "kp" sound is approximated using "kp" or "cu". This vocabulary follows the Spanish orthography with a few exceptions to help English speakers:

The "ch" in Spanish is used simply because there is no "sh" in Spanish. We use "sh" here.

The "y" in Spanish often has an edge to it that approximates the English (and Yoruba) "j" sound. I have taken the liberty of using "j" here where applicable.

The "ñ" sound is used very sparingly here and is usually substituted here with "y".

As in Spanish, the accent is on the second to last syllable unless there is an accent mark over another syllable.

I should note here that Lacumí is an oral tradition and that the written versions were meant to be more "cheat sheets" than anything else and should not be used as "proof" of the decomposition of the language. Lakumí speakers in Matanzas and other areas speak very much as any Yoruba speaker would. I have spoken with Nigerian born Yoruba speakers in Lacumí without any difficulty whatsoever. In fact, on one occasion I was greeted with a very surprised "you speak Yoruba!!!" from the astonished Yoruba man I was speaking with.

Here are a few words in Lucumí to get you started:


Ashé: So Be It, The Spiritual Power of the Universe, Talent”...

Excerpt #7
From Ritmo Con Aché


a) "Aché does not mean ache. Ache is dolor, or achaques. The letter H is hache in Spanish. According to the Diccionario de la lengua española, of the Real Academia Española, aché is not a word in the Spanish language. However, looking up the song, if found a page on the song stating that aché is an african word that means a divine life force (in the santeria religion). Aché is a word in the West African Yoruba language."

updated Apr 20, 2011
posted by manutd

b) "I suppose that you are talking about a brasilean music. It's pronounced "Aché" is Spanish but is written "Axé" in portuguese.

Please, look at this place*."
updated Dec 26, 2009
posted by Carlos-F
*That commenter gives the link to the Wikipedia page for Axe music that is given after Excerpt #4.

This concludes Part I of this two part pancocojams series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing!! I feel very related to this! I'm a Latina from Venezuela! And we Latinos from the Caribean and other Countries have a lot of African influence!! And we Love it! Most of our salsa songs have the word ache! We sing to chango, yemaya and so on! It is beautiful! It feels like home 🤗 Thank you 💖

    1. Your welcome,Keyla.

      I know so very little about Salsa. .

      I didn't know that the word "ache" was in most salsa songs.
      I also didn't know that people in Venezula sung to the orishas.

      There's so much that I don't know. :o(

      Best wishes. from your sister in the United States.