03 Sep 2012
What is Santeria?
Santeria is an Afro-Cuban religion based on the mixture between some of the magic religious beliefs and practices of the Yoruba people and those of the Catholic Church. Santeria is a Spanish term that means a confluence of Saints and their worship or way of the Saints. These Saints are in reality disguises for some of the Yoruba deities, known as Orishas.
During the slave trade the Yoruba’s who were brought to Cuba were forbidden from practicing their religion by Spanish masters. In order to continue their magical and religious observances safely, the slaves identified and disguised the Orishas with some of the Catholic Saints worshipped by the Spanish. With this they were able to worship their deities under the very noses of the Spanish without being in danger of punishment.
The same thing took place in Brazil, where the new religion became known as Candomle and Macumba. In Cuba where the Yoruba people mainly stayed they became known as Lucumi a word that means friendship. Most of the words or terms that are used in Santeria would not be known as Yoruba. The Yoruba people are originally from Nigeria.
The Practice became very popular and the creoles, who were descendants of the Spanish, began to practice the new religion. They were known as Santeros and Santeras, who are the priest and priestesses of Santeria. The Saints are identified with natural forces, as well as human interests. They also have human characteristics. This makes them very real to the practitioners and easy to identify with. In most cases the Orishas have many aspects or paths.
In each of the aspects the Orishas have different qualities and traits. Although they remain true to his/her identity, this makes it easier to find a connection between the Orisha and their children. Central beliefs of Santeria state that “every human being is ruled by one of the Orishas/Saints in a specific aspect of that Orisha”. It does not matter whether or not that person believes in Santeria. One major myth of Santeria is that we are followers of a cult or sect, which is not at all true! It is a religion where God is seen as the creator of the universe and humanity.
The Orishas who were disguised as Catholic Saints are senders of God’s powers and are the mediators between humanity and the Supreme Being. God in Santeria is known as Olodumare. The power of God is a cosmic energy, from which the universe was created. The power is known as Ashe. Even though there is only one kind of Ashe, it can be expressed or manifested in many different ways. Each Saint can manipulate this energy and use it in his or her own special influence.
The main purpose of the practitioners of Santeria is to acquire this Ashe in order to achieve their desires. In order to receive an Ashe you must give an ebbo (an offering) to the Orisha who controls the objects of one’s desire. An offering may be a cleansing, fruits or the Orishas favorite food. And in some unusual cases an animal sacrifice. These practices have given Santeria much undeserved negative publicity. Most of the animals sacrificed are chicken and roosters and are eaten by the Santeros after their rituals, unless a ritual is done to cleanse an individual of illness or what are considered dangerous situations.
At no time do the Santeros or Santeras in engage in sinister acts and do not believe in making animal sacrifices routinely. According to the beliefs of Santeria Orishas become upset and displeased when animals are given often and indiscriminately. That is why the most common offerings are fruits and favorite foods. Animal sacrifice is only done when an Orisha demands it or accepts it. This usually happens when a person’s life is believed to be in jeopardy. But the Orisha must approve of the sacrifice before it can be offered.
Although there is much to be learned about Santeria, we hope that this information has enlightened you and changed your view about our religion. And leads you to read and learn all there is to know about Santeria.