There are likely plenty of interesting things you didn't know about Santeria - despite having a bad reputation, Santeria rituals are fascinating, somewhat mystical, and often misunderstood. Practitioners of Santeria often adorn their mantles and altars with many items familiar to Catholic worshippers, such as candles, incense, prayer beads, and statues of saints.

However, amidst these items, and depending upon the practitioner in question, one might also find animal remains and fresh blood, as well as human skulls and bones.

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He said. Having human bones is a little disconcerting. We respect everyone's religious right to practice. Our focus is on the bones.


These instances of stolen bones may be extreme fringe cases that in no way represent the average practitioner of Santeria. Santeria communities are loosely organized around a priest babalocha or priestess iyalochawho is responsible for bringing initiates into the community or "house. During the first phase, called asientothe godparent shaves the initiate's head and makes small cuts in their scalp.

Then, sacred substances are planted in the cuts to invite or "seat" a demigod into the initiate and bond them with that demigod forever. It is also as a symbol of birth into a new life as a Santero or Santera. Santeria worshippers have a constitutional right to use animal sacrifice in their ceremonies, and the animals are usually well cared for prior to sacrifice. They are consumed by the community afterward.

Chickens are the most commonly used animal, but practitioners often use other types of birds, goats, sheep, and even turtles. Practitioners of Santeria believe in one supreme god named Olodumarewho created the natural world, as well as a variety of ancestral spirits or divinities called orishas through the power of life-energy or ache. In Cuba, these West African spirits or demigods became paired with Catholic saints because they were not allowed to openly worship their pagan gods without persecution.

Lazarus, and so on. An altar of a Santero or Santera, therefore, might include pictures or idols of both the Yoruba demigods or Catholic saints, depending upon what sort of assistance the devotee requires. He said, Having human bones is a little disconcerting. Video: YouTube.Latin American and Caribbean countries are often recognized for their food, their beaches, their historical heritage, and the energy and charisma of their people. However, there is a whole different angle that outsiders rarely associate with the Latinx culture.

Two particular rituals set the foundations of what we know today as santiguos healing blessingsdespojos spiritual cleansingsspells, offerings, divination, charms, amulets, and brebajes concoctions. Brujos and Brujas are independent and tend to use spontaneous rituals that speak to them without traditional doctrines. Building sacred altars, the practitioners use white magic to evil black magic to cast spells and use objects to summon ancient demons. Brujos and brujas use elements from nature, as well as oils and other elements to condition the health, beauty, family, love relations, fortune, and career of an individual.

People in need have become a profitable market, wanting to accelerate or change the course of their lives, and allowing scammers to use this millenarian ritual to trick desperate, naive, and hopeless believers.

In the United States and Canada, the percentage of witchcraft swindles that come to light is higher compared to other countries in Latin America or the Caribbean, where people are afraid to reveal that they were extorted or scammed by a sorcerer.

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In situations like this, always remember that sometimes no amount of brebajes can change what destiny has in store for you. The rituals, known as ceremonias ceremoniesfocus on solving the problems of everyday life and are very elaborated. Each ceremony incorporates song, dance, spirit possession, and animal sacrifice. Considered an exclusively Cuban tradition, this religion has spread to Venezuela, Mexico, and the United States.

Almost every ceremony starts by requesting his permission to continue.

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The religion also has a lot of prominent female orishas. One of them is the very well-known Yemaja, a goddess associated with maternity, fertility, and the sea. Practitioners ask protection from their orichas by making offerings, sponsoring ceremonies, and by communicating with them through divination, prayers, dreams, music, and dance. Once they receive messages through these activities the santeros and santeras use the information to make decisions about their job, residence, or behavior.

Although each term is different, these houses are usually the personal home of a santero or santera. Each room of the house is dedicated to a different rite; some areas are private, while others like the patio can be used for public occasions, including animal sacrifices. The resguardo protective charms is created using herbs and blood, as well as sacred stones.

Similarly, swindlers abound in this religion, and many santeros and santeras have been accused of exploiting other people financially. Sign in.


Log into your account. Forgot your password? Password recovery. Recover your password. Get help. Podcast All Curated Sponsored. All Activism Global. All Beauty Style Wellness. All Authors Poetry. All Education Empowerment Money Matter. October 8, July 31, Load more.British Broadcasting Corporation Home. Santeria religion focuses on building relationships between human beings and powerful, but mortal, spirits, called Orishas.

The religion focuses on building relationships between human beings and powerful, but mortal, spirits, called Orishas. An Orisha is a manifestation of Olodumare God. Followers believe that these spirits will give them help in life, if they carry out the appropriate rituals, and enable them to achieve the destiny that God planned for them before they were born.

This is very much a mutual relationship as the Orishas need to be worshipped by human beings if they are to continue to exist. The Santeria faith teaches that every individual has a destiny from God, a destiny fulfilled with the aid and energy of the orishas.

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The basis of the Santeria religion is the nurture of a personal relation with the orishas, and one of the principal forms of devotion is an animal sacrifice. According to Santeria teaching, the orishas are powerful but not immortal.

They depend for survival on the sacrifice. Orishas can be perceived in the physical universe by initiates, and the whole community can share in their presence when they possess a priest during some rituals. The Roman Catholic element in Santeria is most obvious in the way Orishas are associated with Catholic Saints such as:. Followers of Santeria are often nominal Roman Catholics as well. Catholic symbols are sometimes used in Santeria rituals. Search term:. Read more. This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets CSS enabled.

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Santeria deities Santeria shrine in an Old Havana backstreet. In a Supreme Court Case inJustice Kennedy in his decision said: The Santeria faith teaches that every individual has a destiny from God, a destiny fulfilled with the aid and energy of the orishas.


Justice Kennedy, See also. Religion and Ethics home Interfaith calendar Ethics guides. BBC News - a Yoruba festival.

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Settings Sign out.It is believed that access to the orisha s can be achieved through various types of divination. As a result of these ceremonial exchanges, the oracle often determines that one particular orisha has claimed the devotee as its child.

In the crowning ceremony, the symbols of the patron orisha are placed on the head of the devotee, and he or she may enter a ceremonial trance and become a medium for that orisha. Through the bodies of their mediums the orisha s are believed to interact with the congregation directly and heal and prophesy for those who approach them.

From the Cuban Revolution of to the early 21st century, nearly one million Cubans left the island, bringing Orisha religion to cities throughout the Americas, particularly Miami and New York. The tradition also spread to other Latino communitiesAfrican Americans, and white Americans. Although census data are lacking, it is likely that initiated devotees number in the tens of thousands and that those who consult an orisha at one time or another may be counted in the millions.

Devotees see the Orisha tradition as a world religion and have received public recognition of their spiritual achievements. In the U. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the right of devotees to practice the controversial rite of animal sacrifice in the case Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v.

The U. Army and Federal Bureau of Prisons have incorporated orisha ministries into their chaplaincies. Musicians, painters, sculptors, and writers have found in the Orisha tradition sources of African artistry and pride. It is likely that Orisha traditions will continue to grow and be recognized as one of the principal African contributions to world culture.

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Joseph M. Murphy Joseph M. Murphy Professor of Theology, Georgetown University. Author of Santeria: African Spirits in America. See Article History.

What is Santeria?

Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Its visual representations of the orisha take on the more popular form of images of saints, although they retain key traits of typical representations of Yoruba deities. Latin American dance: Importation of African cultures.

Dance was a mechanism for escape from emotional stress and one way to restore the emotional and physical well-being of the individual and community. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Dayevery day in your inbox! Email address. By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.

More About.Although Santeria is a religious path that is not rooted in Indo-European polytheism like many other contemporary Pagan religions, it's still a faith that is practiced by many thousands of people in the United States and other countries today. Santeria combines influences of Caribbean tradition, West Africa's Yoruba spirituality, and elements of Catholicism.

To become a Santero, or high priest, one must pass a series of tests and requirements prior to initiation. In a landmark case, the Church of Lakumi Babalu Aye successfully sued the city of Hialeah, Florida, for the right to practice animal sacrifice within a religious context; the Supreme Court determined that it was a protected activity.

Santeria is, in fact, not one set of beliefs, but a "syncretic" religion, which means it blends aspects of a variety of different faiths and cultures, despite the fact that some of these beliefs might be contradictory to one another. Santeria evolved when African slaves were stolen from their homelands during the Colonial period and forced to work in Caribbean sugar plantations.

Santeria is a fairly complex system, because it blends the Yoruba orishasor divine beings, with the Catholic saints. In some areas, African slaves learned that honoring their ancestral orishas was far safer if their Catholic owners believed they were worshiping saints instead - hence the tradition of overlap between the two.

The orishas serve as messengers between the human world and the divine. They are called upon by priests by a variety of methods, including trances and possession, divinationritual, and even sacrifice.

To some extent, Santeria includes magical practice, although this magical system is based upon interaction with and understanding of the orishas. Today, there are many Americans who practice Santeria. A Santero, or high priesttraditionally presides over rituals and ceremonies.

To become a Santero, one must pass a series of tests and requirements prior to initiation.

Santeria deities

Training includes divinatory work, herbalism, and counseling. It is up to the orishas to determine whether a candidate for priesthood has passed the tests or failed. Most Santeros have studied for a long time to become part of the priesthood, and it is rarely open to those who are not part of the society or culture. For many years, Santeria was kept secret, and limited to those of African ancestry.

According to the Church of Santeria. There are a number of different orishasand most of them correspond to a Catholic saint. Some of the most popular orishas include:. It is estimated that about a million or so Americans currently practice Santeria, but it's hard to determine whether this count is accurate or not.

Because of the social stigma commonly associated with Santeria by followers of mainstream religions, it is possible that many adherents of Santeria keep their beliefs and practices secret from their neighbors. A number of adherents of Santeria have made the news lately, because the religion does incorporate animal sacrifice — typically chickens, but sometimes other animals such as goats. The end result was that the practice of animal sacrifice within a religious context was ruled, by the Supreme Court, to be a protected activity.

Ina federal court ruled that a Texas Santero, Jose Merced, could not be prevented by the city of Euless from sacrificing goats in his home. Merced filed a lawsuit with city officials said he could no longer perform animal sacrifices as part of his religious practice. The city claimed "animal sacrifices jeopardize public health and violate its slaughterhouse and animal cruelty ordinances. In Augustthe 5th U.Of all the New World societies, Cuba received captives from the greatest mix of African origins.

They came from all parts of the coast and interior of western Africa, their numbers dwarfing all reliable estimates of the number of captives brought to the entire United States.

Cuban Santeria Practices

BetweenandAfricans reached Cuba, the majority arriving in the 19th century. The size, diversity, and continual replenishment of this population allowed a rich array of African-inspired religions to flourish there, even beyond the end of the slave trade.

Ogun, the lord of iron and technology, is identified with St. George, Babalu Aye is identified with St. However the term is now being rejected by those who think it overemphasizes the Catholic and syncretistic elements. However there is no visible infrastructure, and most practitioners, if asked, would publicly identify themselves as Catholic.

The devotee, from the time of initiation, is committed to offering regular sacrifice to the god ruling his or her head. Some male priests are initiated not to undergo possession, but to conduct divination, or to discern hidden realities by means of an oracle. Though animal sacrifice is but one part of the ceremonies of healing and of devotional feasting, it is the aspect most noted by the general public.

Conflict over this issue became public in Hialeah, Florida, when the city passed legislation to ban animal sacrifice. Skip to main content. Main Menu Utility Menu Search. Download PDF.It arose through a process of syncretism between the traditional Yoruba religion of West Africa and the Roman Catholic form of Christianity.

There is no central authority in control of the movement, which comprises adherents known as creyente and initiates known as santeros males and santeras females. These are often identified both as Yoruba gods as well as Roman Catholic saints. Various myths are told about these oricha, which are regarded as subservient to a transcendent creator deity, Olodumare. Each individual is believed to have a specific oricha who has been connected to them since before birth and who informs their personality.

A central ritual is the toque de santoin which practitioners drum, sing, and dance to encourage an oricha to possess one of their members. They believe that through this possessed individual, they can communicate directly with an oricha. Offerings to the oricha include fruit and the blood of sacrificed animalsusually birds.

Offerings are also given to the spirits of the dead, especially those of ancestors, with some practitioners identifying as spirit mediums. Healing rituals and the preparation of herbal remedies, amulets, and charms, also play a prominent role.

It formed through the blending of the traditional religions brought to Cuba by enslaved West Africans, the majority of them Yorubaand Roman Catholicism, the only religion legally permitted on the island by the Spanish colonial government. After the Cuban War of Independence resulted in a newly independent Cuban state, the constitution enshrined freedom of religion.

Both in Cuba and abroad it has spread beyond its Afro-Cuban origins and is practiced by individuals of various ethnicities.

The Roman Catholic Church has often seen it as SatanicCuba's Marxist—Leninist government perceived it as primitive superstition, while animal welfare groups have criticised its use of animal sacrifice. There, these beliefs mixed with the Roman Catholicism introduced by Spanish colonialists. Within the religion there is a range of vocabulary to indicate the level of involvement someone has, [36] with the different terms sometimes reflecting different political and social agendas.

Santeria is a polytheistic religion. Another prominent oricha is Yemajathe deity associated with maternity, fertility, and the sea. The oricha are often conflated with particular Roman Catholic saints based on similar attributes between the two.

Practitioners argue that each person is "born to" a particular oricha, whether or not they decide to devote themselves to that deity. To ensure the protection of a particular oricha, practitioners are encouraged to make offerings to them, sponsor ceremonies in their honor, and live in accordance with their wishes, as determined through divination.

At that point the practitioner may turn to divination to determine the precise meaning of the encounter. This oricha will thenceforth be "the owner of the head" and will influence the individual's character after they are born. Adherents believe that each individual has a cuadro espiritual "spiritual portrait" or "spiritual picture" of various egun who protect and bless them. Practitioners often believe that individuals have a specific destiny[] usually referred to as destino destiny or camino road.

Most casa are established by a santero or santera who has attracted a following.

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