Santería, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla de Ifá,[1][2] or Lucumí, is an Afro-American religion of Yoruba origin that developed in Cuba among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the "worship of saints". Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language is the Lucumí language, a remnant of Yoruba language that is used in rituals but no longer spoken as a vernacular and mostly not understood by practitioners.

Havana - Cuba - 0616
A Santería ceremony known as Cajón de Muertos. Havana, Cuba, 2011.
TheologyRevised Yoruba religion
AssociationsChurch of Lukumi Babalu Aye
Other Casa de Santos
OriginSlave era
Members22,000 (United States)


Santería is a system of beliefs that merges aspects of Yoruba religion brought to the New World by enslaved Yoruba people along with Christianity and the religions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in addition to Cuban Spiritism which developed from Allen Kardec Spiritism.[2] The Yoruba people carried with them various religious customs, including a trance and divination system for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice, and sacred drumming and dance.[3][4] The need to preserve their traditions and belief systems in a hostile cultural environment prompted enslaved africans of various ethnic groups in Cuba, starting from as early as 1515, to merge their customs with aspects of Roman Catholicism.[4]

This religious tradition evolved into what is now recognized as Santería.

The colonial period from the standpoint of enslaved African people can be defined as a time of perseverance. Their world quickly changed. Tribal kings and their families, politicians, business and community leaders all were enslaved and taken to a foreign region of the world. Religious leaders, their relatives and their followers were no longer free people to worship as they saw fit. Colonial laws criminalized their religion. They were forced to become baptized and worship a god their ancestors had not known who was surrounded by a pantheon of saints. The early concerns during this period seem to have necessitated a need for individual survival under harsh plantation conditions. A sense of hope was sustaining the internal essence of what today is called Santería, a misnomer (and former pejorative) for the Cuban expression of the Orisa faith. In the heart of their homeland, the Yoruba people had (and still have) a complex political and social order. They were a sedentary hoe farming cultural group with specialized labor. Their religion, based on the worship of nature, was renamed and documented by their slave owners. Santería, a pejorative term that characterizes deviant Catholic forms of worshiping saints, has become a common name for the religion. The term santero(a) is used to describe a priest or priestess replacing the traditional term Olorisha as an extension of the deities. The orishas became known as the saints in image of the Catholic pantheon.

— Ernesto Pichardo, CLBA, Santería in Contemporary Cuba: The individual life and condition of the priesthood

In order to preserve and shield (mask) their traditional beliefs, the Lucumí people syncretized their Orichás with Catholic saints.[4] (As a consequence, the terms "saint" and "orichá" are commonly used interchangeably among practitioners.) Spanish colonial planters who saw the enslaved African people celebrating on saints' days did not know that they were actually performing rituals related to Orichás, and assumed that they were showing more interest in Catholic saints than in the Christian God—hence the origin of the term Santería.[4]

The historical veiling of the relationship between Catholic saints and Orichás is compounded by the fact that the vast majority of santeros in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, are also Roman Catholics, have been baptized, and often require initiates to be baptized in Roman Catholicism as well.

The spread of Santería beyond the Spanish-speaking parts of the Caribbean, including to the United States, was catalyzed by the Cuban Revolution of 1959.[4] In 1974, the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye became the first Santería church in the United States to become officially incorporated.[5]

Rituals and ceremonies

Santería does not use a central creed for its religious practices; though it is understood in terms of its rituals and ceremonies.[6]:102 These rituals and ceremonies take place in what is known as a house-temple or casa de santos (house of saints), also known as an ilé. Most ilés are in the homes of the initiated priests and priestesses. Ilé shrines are built, by the priests and priestess, to the different orichás, which creates a space for worship, called an igbodu (altar).[6]:102 In an igbodu there is a display of three distinct thrones (draped with royal blue, white, and red satin) that represent the seats of the queens, kings, and the deified warriors.[7]:168

Each ilé is composed of those who occasionally seek guidance from the orishas, as well as those who are in the process of becoming priests.[8]:6

The many cabildos and casas that bridged the 19th and 20th centuries are fondly remembered by contemporary priests as the origins and strongholds of Cuban Lucumí culture and religion.[8]:57

To become a Santero or Santera (Priest or Priestess of Santería), the initiator must go through an intensive week-long initiation process[7]:165 in which the teaching of the ritual skills and moral behavior occurs informally and nonverbally. To begin with, the initiator goes through what is called a cleansing ritual. The initiator's Padrino (godfather) cleanses the head with special herbs and water. The Padrino rubs the herbs and water in a specific pattern of movements into the scalp of the head. However, if a person is entering Santería for the need of healing, they will undergo the rogación de la cabeza (blessing of the head), in which coconut water and cotton are applied on the head to feed it.[9]:26–28 Once cleansed, there are four major initiation rituals that the initiator will have to undergo: obtaining the elekes (beaded necklace), receiving Los Guerreros (the Warriors), making Ocha (Saint), and Asiento (ascending the throne).[6]:107

Obtaining the ilekes

The first ritual is known as the acquisition of the beaded necklaces (known as ilekes); according to De La Torre, "the colors and patterns of the beads on the ilekes will be those of the orichá that serves as the iyawo's (bride) ruling head and guardian angel and so the first thing that must be done is to determine who the orichá is. The ilekes necklace is bathed in a mixture of herbs, sacrificial blood, and other potent substances and given to the initiated.[6]:107

The initiate most often receives the necklace of the five most powerful and popular oricha, as the multicolored beads of the ilekes are each patterned for the primary Orishás (Eleguá, Obatalá, Yemayá, Changó, and Ochún), and they serve as a sacred point of contact with these Orishás. When the necklace is received, the initiated must bow over a bathtub and have his/her head washed by the olo orichá. The elekes[9]:28 serves as the sacred banners for the Orishás and act as a sign of the Orichá's presence and protection; however, it must never be worn during a woman's menstruation period, nor during sex, nor when bathing.[6]:107

Medio Asiento

The second important ritual is known as medio asiento, the creation of an image of the orichá Eleguá. The individual will go through a consultation with a Santero, where all the recipients' life, past, present, and future, will be reviewed. During the consultation, the Santero determines which path of Eleguá the recipient will receive. Then, based on his findings, he chooses materials that will be used to construct the image of the Eleguá, a sculpture that is used to keep evil spirits away from the initiator's home. This ritual is only prepared by men as the orichás take some of the Santero's "manly" spirit in the process.[10]:xi

Los Guerreros

The third ritual, known as "receiving the warriors", is a ritual where the initiated receives objects from their padrino that represents the warriors; Iron tools to represent Ogún; an iron bow and arrow to represent Ochosi; and an iron or silver chalice surmounted by a rooster to represent Osún.[6]:112 This ritual begins a formal and lifelong relationship that the initiate will have with these Orichás, as the orichás devote their energies to protecting and providing for the initiate on their path.


The last ritual of the initiation process is known as Asiento (ascending the throne), and is the most important and the most secretive ritual in Santería, as it is the ceremony where the iyawo (bride of the oricha) becomes "born again" into the faith. This ritual is a culmination of the previous rituals, and cannot be made unless the others have been completed. Asiento is a process of purification and divination whereby the initiated becomes like a newborn baby and begins a new life of deeper growth within the faith.[6]:112


Once the initiation is completed, depending on the individuals "house", there is a year-long waiting period, known as iyaboraje, in which the newly appointed Priest and Priestess can not perform cleansings and other remedies.[11] It is a time where the Iyawo or Bride of the Orichá must follow a strict regimen of wearing all white and must avoid physical contact with those who have not been initiated. Once the ebo del año has been completed there will be an end of year ceremony, which will enable the Priest or Priestess to consult clients, perform cleansings, provide remedies and perform initiations. And according to Gonzalez: "they are also regarded as royalty in the religion, as they are considered representatives of the Orichás and are vested with the power to work with the forces of those Orichás in full."[10]:xi

With Santería rituals there are musical ceremonies and prayers that are referred to as bembé, toque de santo, or tambor. It is a celebration dedicated to an Orichá, where the batá drums (set of three drums known as the iya (the largest drum), itoltele, and okonkolo) are played in the Orichá's honor.[12]:11 Through these sacred drums, messages of worshippers reach the orichás and the orichás respond to their devotees. These drums are used only by men and must always be treated with respect; for example, dancers must never turn their backs towards the drums while dancing, as it is considered disrespectful.[6]:118


Priests are commonly known as Santeros or Olorichas. Once those priests have initiated other priests, they become known as babalorichás, "fathers of orichá" (for men), and as iyalorichás, "mothers of orichá" (for women). Priests can commonly be referred to as Santeros (male) and Santeras (female), and if they function as diviners (using cowrie-shell divination known as Dilogun) of the Orichás they can be considered Italeros, or if they go through training to become leaders of initiations, Obas or Oriates.

Lucumí traditional healing practices

Lucumí traditional healing practices are rooted in the spiritual influences of America, Cuba, and West Africa. Having a strong spiritual component, these traditional healing practices also use the pathways of the herbalist, psychologist, ethicist, and that of a respected spiritual medium interceding between God and human beings. Du Toit refers to Cuban traditional healing practices as ethnomedicine, which taps on the biodynamic chemical properties of certain plants, from which some commercial drugs were derived, such as the cardiac medications, digitalis, quinine, and curare – chemicals causing neuromuscular paralysis.[13]:19 Du Toit categorizes Cuban ethnomedicine as having health specialists, which are el yerbero (the herbalist), el curandero (the curer), el santero (the religious healer), and el conocedor (the botanist). Du Toit continues, "Cuba is one of the regions in which a great deal of ethnographic and ethnobotanical research has been conducted."[13]:21

Du Toit cites the studies of Lydia Cabrera on the religious and healing role of indigenous medicinal plants, and Jose Gallo on the 900-page compilation of folk medicine, and also mentions that with the 31 herbs prescribed as bronchodilators, only Datura candida was effective, due to its contents of scopolamine and atropine in the leaves. Lemongrass or caña de limón is used for low blood pressure and anti-inflammatory effects. Thyme tea and castor oil are used to speed the delivery of babies and the broomweed (Corchorus siliquosus) induces the quick expulsion of the placenta.[13]:21 Herbs are also used to create a trance possession using the hallucinogenic properties of Datura metel and Datura stramonium (both have scopolamine and atropine, causing amnesia), the psychoactive ingredients from the cane toad (Bufo marinus).[13]:23

Aside from being herbalist, Santería traditional healing practice has a spiritual aspect. Santería has a holistic approach, acknowledging the connection with heart, mind, and body.[14]:50 In Santería, the world flows with the primal life energy called aché or growth, the force toward completeness and divinity. Aché is the current that Santería initiates channel so that it empowers them to fulfill their path in life, because aché is connected to all that has life or exhibits power; aché comprises blood, grace, and power.[6]:12 When a person is sick, the healer thinks, interprets and reacts, considering the illness not just a physical dysfunction but also an interface with suffering and bad luck in life, believed to be brought on by the activity of bad spirits.

Prevalent in Caribbean cultures, espiritismo is a part of the Latin American traditional healing practice. Du Tout reveals that Santería has a "strong element of spiritism."[13]:26 McNeill also concurs that some Santeros have the power to communicate with spirits asking for guidance to improve the situation of a person consulting.[15]:69 However, in general, the Santeros of the Regla de Ocha primarily turn to religion as their practice to address personal challenges and identify means to improve a situation.[15]:77 Many people may go and see espirititas who don't see a Santero. Also, espiritistas may work hand in hand with Santeros.

While psychotherapy tends to use mostly allopathic principles, spiritism uses homeopathic principles that aim to reduce the anxiety, or permit the patient to acknowledge pent-up emotions, unexpressed guilt, or repressed behavior through catharsis meant to release emotions the patient may not even be aware of.[13]:25 It is said that "healing can occur when the spirit medium assists the sufferer to come into harmony with the spirit world so as to change his or her physical condition, emotions, way of life, or destiny."[13]:25

The reputation of espiritistas was tinged with negativity, being accused of witchcraft because they deal with health through the unfamiliar paradigm of the spirit world, which was not understood by either the medical doctors or the Catholic priests. Consequently, espiritistas or traditional healers of Santería and other Latin American cultures working with healing through the spirit world are attacked as "works of the devil" from the pulpits of the Catholic Churches and labeled as "quackery" from the journals of the medical profession. This unique system of knowledge is appreciated as ethnopharmacology or ethnomedicine.[13]:25

Aligning and harmonizing with the forces of nature, practitioners of the Regla de Ocha invoke on the guidance of Orichás. There are three foremost orichás that are predominantly concerned with folk-healing, however, other orichás may be invoked to help a person with a specific problem. These main orichás are: Osaín, the orichá of the herbs; Babalú-Ayé, the orichá of contagious and epidemic diseases; and Inle, the patron of physicians. Osaín is the patron of curanderos or traditional herbal healers, also called Osainistas.[6]:78 According to de la Torre, Osaín is believed to be embodied in the omiero, which is a combination of "blood from sacrifices offered during the ceremony and juices extracted from herbs that are sacred to the Orichás with water (from rain, rivers, or seas) honey, aguardiente, powdered eggshell, corojo, and cocoa butter."[6]:78 The forest has everything that would maintain a robust health and keep a person away from malevolence, thus, Santería practitioners would agree that no spell will be able to work without the sanction of Osaín, the master herbalist commanding the healing secrets of plant life.[6]:50 Osaín is syncretized with Saint Joseph, Saint Benito, or Saint Jerome. Babalú-Ayé is revered by its victims and survivors like smallpox, leprosy, and skin diseases. Babalú-Ayé has become the guardian of those with HIV/AIDS. He is syncretized with Saint Lazarus.[6]:78 Inle is the patron of physicians, known as a healer who favors scientific methods. Inle is ranked as one of the orichás that is approached for very specific health issues. Thus, Inle is also known as the protector of homosexuals and feminosexuals.[6]:82

People go to a consulta for many reasons, mainly for health-related issues. Divination is a means that traditional healers utilize to inquire further on the details of a problem. Divination may articulate the origin/cause of the problem; in addition, it may include prescriptions for solutions/suggestions to certain difficulties.[8]:96 Divination establishes an interpretative frame for the situation a person finds himself in.[8]:97 Hence, the Santeros offer cowrie-shell divination or other appropriate traditional practices. Rituals, or the reading of patakís may be done to clarify a problem, of which sometimes the person consulting may not even be aware. Passed orally from many generations, patakí are parables used by diviners to guide or give insights or moral lessons to a person who came for consultation.[11] The patakí recited by the Santero corresponds to the number that the cowrie shell divination brings.

Aside from the use of herbs and divination, the Santería traditional healing is achieved through rituals that include animal sacrifice, offerings, altar building, music, dance, and possession trance.[16]:108 When the patient is a child, the Santero uses the curative system known as santiguo, which means "to heal by blessing". Perceiving health problems, most Santeros recommend that the client seeks a medical doctor. Parallel to the medical treatment, the patient might be prescribed some herbal teas, cleansing baths, or a special diet from the traditional healing practice. Sometimes, a Santero might advise a client to receive omiero, whose efficacy is widely disputed by many in the medical community. An omiero is claimed by believers to be a sacred mixture that is made for specific Santería ceremonies and to embody the orichá ruler of herbs, Osaín.[6]:108 Most clients who see Santeros would never be told to drink it.[11]

Santería traditional healing is just one of the many traditional healing practices used in Caribbean and Latin American cultures. Traditional healing practices are practiced side by side with mainstream medical practices through the Cuban healthcare system. Traditional healers recognize but do not compete with Western medicine.

Current distribution

Santería is a religion found in Latin America. It is mainly practiced in but not limited to Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, and Colombia. There is also a population who practice it in the United States.

In 2001, there were an estimated 22,000 practitioners in the US alone,[17] but the number may be higher as some practitioners may be reluctant to disclose their religion on a government census or to an academic researcher. Of those living in the United States, some are fully committed priests and priestesses, others are godchildren or members of a particular house-tradition, and many are non-committal clients seeking help with their everyday problems.

A similar religion of Yoruba origin called Candomblé Queto is practiced in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. This is referred to as "parallel religiosity".[18]

United States court rulings

In 1993, the issue of animal sacrifice in Santería was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. The court ruled that animal cruelty laws targeted specifically at Santería were unconstitutional.[19]

In 2009, legal and religious issues that related to animal sacrifice, animal rights, and freedom of religion were taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of Jose Merced, President Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha Texas, Inc., v. City of Euless. The court ruled that the Merced case of the freedom of exercise of religion was meritorious and prevailing and that Merced was entitled under the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (TRFRA) to an injunction preventing the city of Euless, Texas, from enforcing its ordinances restricting his religious practices relating to the use of animals,[20] (see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 110.005(a)(2)) without the court having to reach his claims under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. After the court case was settled, a news article was published in the Dallas Observer documenting the volume and brutality of the animal sacrifices.[21]

See also


  1. ^ "Santería". Religions of the World. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Lucumí Religion". New Orleans Mistic. Archived from the original on May 28, 2008. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  3. ^ Lois Ritter, Nancy Hoffman (April 18, 2011). Multicultural Health. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 268.
  4. ^ a b c d e Abiola Irele, Biodun Jeyifo, ed. (April 27, 2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 305.
  5. ^ Richard Fausset (August 10, 2008). "Santeria priest won't let Religious Freedom be sacrificed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 10, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Miguel A. De La Torre (2004). Santería: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0802-84973-1.
  7. ^ a b David H. Brown (2003). Santería Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion. University of Chicago. ISBN 978-0226-07610-2.
  8. ^ a b c d Michael Atwood Mason (2002). Living Santería: Rituals and Experiences in an Afro-Cuban Religion. Smithsonian. ISBN 978-1588-34052-8.
  9. ^ a b Michael Atwood Mason (Winter 1994). ""I Bow My Head to the Ground": The Creation of Bodily Experience in a Cuban American Santería Initiation". Journal of American Folklore. 107 (423): 23–39. JSTOR 541071.
  10. ^ a b Miguel Gonzalez-Wippler (2007). Rituals and Spells of Santería. Original Publications. ISBN 978-0942-27207-9.
  11. ^ a b c Dr Cynthia Duncan (2010). "About Santería". University of Washington, Tacoma.
  12. ^ Diane Elizabeth Caudillo (2007), Prayers to the Orishas: A look at Santería (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-14
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h Brian du Toit (2001). "Ethnomedical (Folk) Healing in the Caribbean". In Margarite Fernandez Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gerbert (eds.). Healing Cultures: Art and Religion as Curative Practices in the Caribbean and its Diaspora. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-21898-0.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  14. ^ Margarite Fernandez Olmos and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gerbert (2003). "The Orisha Tradition in Cuba". Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santeria, to Obeah and Espiritismo. New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-2719-5.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  15. ^ a b Brian McNeill, Eileen Esquivel et al. (2008). "Santeria and the Healing Process in Cuba and the United States". In Brian McNeill and Joseph Cervantes (eds.). Latina/o Healing Practices: Mestizos and Indigenous Perspectives. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 978-0-415-95420-4.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link) CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  16. ^ Johan Wedel (2004). Santeria Healing: A Journey into the Afro-Cuban World of Divinities, Spirits, and Sorcery. University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-2694-7.
  17. ^ "American Religious Identification Survey, 2001" (PDF). City University of New York.
  18. ^ Andrés I. Pérez y Mena (March 1998). "Cuban Santería, Haitian Vodun, Puerto Rican Spiritualism: A Multicultural Inquiry into Syncretism". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 37 (1): 15–27. JSTOR 1388026.
  19. ^ "Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520". June 11, 1993. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  20. ^ "Merced v. Kasson, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit". July 31, 2009. Retrieved October 25, 2012.
  21. ^ Kimberly Thorpe (October 22, 2009). "A court case forced a Santería priest to reveal some of his religion's secrets. Its ritual of animal sacrifice he revealed on his own". Dallas Observer.

Further reading

  • J. Omosade Awolalu (1979). Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0582642034.
  • Miguel R. Bances. "Santería: El Nuevo Manual del Oba u Oriaté" (in Spanish).
  • William Bascom (1980). Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0253-35280-4.
  • Lydia Cabrera (1968). El Monte, Igbo, Finda, Ewe Orisha, Vititi Nfinda. Rema Press. ISBN 978-0-89729-009-8. OCLC 644593798.
  • Baba Raul Canizares (1999). Cuban Santeria. Destiny Books. ISBN 978-0892-81762-7.
  • Miguel A. De La Torre (2004). Santería: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America. Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0802-84973-1.
  • Dr Cynthia Duncan (2010). "About Santería". University of Washington, Tacoma.
  • Gary Edwards (1985). Black Gods: Orisa Studies in the New World. Yoruba Theological Archministry. ISBN 978-1881-24402-8.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  • Ifayemi Elebuibon (1994). Apetebii: The Wife of Orunmila. Athelia Henrietta Press. ISBN 978-0963-87871-7.
  • James T. Houk (1995). Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad. Temple University Press. ISBN 978-1566-39349-2.
  • Baba Ifa Karade (1994). The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts. Red Wheel / Weiser. ISBN 978-0877-28789-6.
  • John Mason (1996). Olóòkun: Owner of Rivers and Seas. Yoruba Theological Archminstry. ISBN 978-1881-24405-9.
  • John Mason (1992). Orin Orisa: Songs for selected Heads. Yoruba Theological Archminstry. ISBN 978-1881-24400-4.
  • Mozella G Mitchell (2006). Crucial Issues in Caribbean Religions. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-0820-48191-3.
  • David M O'Brien (2004). Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0700-61302-1.
  • Baba Esù Onàrè. "Tratado Encilopedico de Ifa".
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (1982). Socialization by Stages of Development into a Centro Espiritista in the South Bronx of New York City. Teachers College, Columbia University. OCLC 10981378.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (1991). Speaking with the Dead: Development of Afro-Latin Religion Among Puerto Ricans in the United States. AMS Press. ISBN 978-0404-19485-7.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (1996). "Religious Syncretism". In Richard and Rafael Chabran (eds.). The Latino Encyclopedia. Salem Press. ISBN 978-0761-40125-4.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Andrés I. Pérez y Mena (March 1998). "Cuban Santería, Haitian Vodun, Puerto Rican Spiritualism: A Multicultural Inquiry into Syncretism". Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 37 (1): 15–27. JSTOR 1388026.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (1999). "Animal Sacrifice". In Wade Clark Roof (ed.). Contemporary American Religion. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-0028-64928-3.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (1999). "Santería". In Wade Clark Roof (ed.). Contemporary American Religion. Macmillan Publishers. ISBN 978-0028-64928-3.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (2000). "John Paul II Visits Cuba". Great Events of the Twentieth Century. Salem Press.
  • Andrés I Pérez y Mena (February 2000). "Understanding Religiosity in Cuba". Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology. 7 (3): 6–34.
  • Anthony M Stevens Arroyo and Andrés I Pérez y Mena, eds. (1995). Enigmatic Powers: Syncretism with African and Indigenous Peoples' Religions among Latinos. Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies. ISBN 0-929972-11-2.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  • Robert Farris Thompson (1983). Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. Random House. ISBN 978-0394-50515-2.
  • González-Wippler, Migene (1990). Santería: African Magic in Latin America (2nd ed.). Original Productions. p. 179. ISBN 0942272048.

External links


Aganju (known as Agayú or Aganyú in Latin America) is an Orisha. He is syncretized with Saint Christopher in the Cuban religion known as Santería.

Aganju is strongly associated with Shango, being either Shango's father or his brother or somehow having ties; both Orishas being members of the deified royal family of Oyo.

Cowrie-shell divination

Cowrie-shell divination refers to several distinct forms of divination using cowrie shells that are part of the rituals and religious beliefs of certain religions. Though best-documented in West Africa as well as in Afro-American religions, such as Santería, Candomblé, and Umbanda, cowrie-shell divination has also been recorded in other regions, notably East Africa and India.


Elegua (Yoruba: Èṣù-Ẹlẹ́gbára, also spelled Eleggua; known as Eleguá in Latin America) is an Orisha, a deity of roads in the religions of Santeria, Umbanda, Quimbanda, Candomblé and in Palo Mayombe. He is syncretized with either Saint Michael, Saint Anthony of Padua, or the Holy Child of Atocha.


Eshu (Yoruba: Èṣù, also known as Echú, Exu or Exú) is an Orisha in the Yoruba religion of the Yoruba people (originating from Yorubaland, an area in and around present-day Nigeria). As the religion has spread around the world, the name of this Orisha has varied in different locations, but the beliefs remain similar.


Ifá is a Yoruba religion and system of divination. Its literary corpus is the Odu Ifá. Orunmila is identified as the Grand Priest, as he is who revealed divinity and prophecy to the world. Babalawos or Iyanifas use either the divining chain known as Opele, or the sacred palm or kola nuts called Ikin, on the wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá.

Ifá is practiced throughout the Americas, West Africa, and the Canary Islands, in the form of a complex religious system, and plays a critical role in the traditions of Santería, Candomblé, Palo, Umbanda, Vodou, and other Afro-American faiths, as well as in some traditional African religions.

Lucumí people

The Lucumí people (alternatively spelt as Lukumí) are an Afro-Cuban ethnic group of Yoruba ancestry that practice La Regla Lucumí, otherwise known as Regla de Ocha or the Santería religion. The Lucumi people are also found in Colombia.

Obi divination

Obi divination is a system of divination used in the traditional Yoruba religion and in Yoruba-derived Afro-American religions. In Yorubaland, it uses palm or kola nuts; in Latin America and the Caribbean it uses four pieces of coconut.

Oko (Orisha)

Òrìșà-Oko (known as Ocó in Latin America) is an Orisha. In Yorubaland of Nigeria and the Benin Republic, he is a strong hunter deity as well as a fighter against sorcery. He is associated with the annual new harvest of the white African yam. Among the deities he is considered a close friend of Oosa Ogiyan and Shango, as well as at one time husband of Oya and Yemoja.

Òrìșà-Oko is depicted with a phallic staff, called a opa orisa oko, a representation of his relationship with fertility; and a flute made of bone, a representation of sexuality and fertility. He is confused in Brazil’s Candomblé community with Oxalá, since both dress in white. Bees are considered the messengers Òrìșà-Oko.

She is syncretized with Saint Isidore among Cuban orisa practitioners of Santería/Lucumí/Regla de Ocha, et al.


Olodumare (Yoruba: O-lo-dù-ma-rè) also known as Olorun (Almighty) is the name given to one of the three manifestations of the Supreme God or Supreme Being in the Yoruba pantheon. Olodumare is the Supreme Creator.The Yoruba believe Olodumare is omnipotent and is also responsible for the creation of all life, Yoruba tradition says everything is in the hands of God (Olodumare) when they are going to bed at night.The name Olodumare symbolises a divine "Entity" following these characteristics: not having a father or mother; one that and is not bound by space.Historically, the Yoruba did not worship Olodumare, there is no specific shrine and no sacrifice is often made towards their way.

Yoruba consider Olodumare to be the origin of virtue and mortality. Is believed to bestow the knowledge of things upon all persons at the time of their birth. The Yoruba call on Olodumare when other deities are unwilling to help or seem incapable. Yoruba believe Olodumare created all other forces of the universe to help continue the evolution of the universe.


Olofi or Olofin is the name given to one of the three manifestations of the Supreme God in the Santería religion. Olofi is the ruler of the Earth.

The Supreme God has three manifestations: Olodumare, the Creator; Olorun, ruler of the heavens; and Olofi, who is the conduit between Orún (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth).


Olokun (Yoruba: Olókun, known as Olocún in Latin America) is an orisha. Olokun is believed to be the parent of Aje, the orisha of great wealth and of the bottom of the ocean. Olokun is revered as the ruler of all bodies of water and for the authority over other water deities. Olokun is highly praised for her or his ability to give great wealth, health and prosperity to her or his followers. Communities in both West Africa and the African diaspora view Olokun variously as female, male, or androgynous.


Òrìṣà (original spelling in the Yoruba language), known as orichá or orixá in Latin America, are the human form of the spirits (Irunmọlẹ) sent by Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi in Yoruba traditional identity. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). Most Òrìṣà are said to be deities previously existing in the spirit world (Òrun) as Irunmọlẹ, while others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.Many Òrìṣà have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of orisha is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.


Oshosi (Yoruba: Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀sì, Portuguese: Oxóssi, is an Orisha of the Yoruba religion in West Africa and subsequently in Brazil.

Religion in Cuba

Cuba's prevailing religion is Christianity, primarily Roman Catholicism, although in some instances it is profoundly modified and influenced through syncretism. A common syncretic religion is Santería, which combined the Yoruba religion of the African slaves with Catholicism and some Native American strands; it shows similarities to Brazilian Umbanda and has been receiving a degree of official support.

The Roman Catholic Church estimates that 60 percent of the population is Catholic, but only 5% of that 60% attends mass regularly, while independent sources estimate that as few 1.5% of the population does so.Membership in Protestant churches is estimated to be 5 percent and includes Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh-day Adventists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and Lutherans. In recent decades, Cuba has seen a rapid growth of Evangelical Protestants: "Cuba’s Christians have thrived despite the island’s politics and poverty. Their improbable, decades-long revival is often described as being rivaled only by China’s. “It’s incredible. People just come on their own, looking for God,” says a Western Baptist leader." Other Christian denominations include the Greek Orthodox Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

Non-Christian minority religions in Cuba include Hinduism and Chinese folk religion, which each account for 0.2% of the population, as well as the Bahá'í Faith, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Neoreligions, which all have non-negligible numbers of followers accounting for less than 0.1% of Cuba's population. In addition to the above, 18.0% of Cubans declared themselves to be agnostic and 5.1% claimed to be atheists.

Cuba is home to a variety of syncretic religions of largely African cultural origin. According to a US State Department report, some sources estimate that as much as 80 percent of the population consults with practitioners of religions with West African roots, such as Santeria or Yoruba. Santería developed out of the traditions of the Yoruba, one of the African peoples who were imported to Cuba during the 16th through 19th centuries to work on the sugar plantations. Santería blends elements of Christianity and West African beliefs and as such made it possible for the slaves to retain their traditional beliefs while appearing to practice Catholicism. La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady Of Charity) is the Catholic patroness of Cuba, and is greatly revered by the Cuban people and seen as a symbol of Cuba. In Santería, she has been syncretized with the goddess Ochún. The important religious festival "La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre" is celebrated by Cubans annually on 8 September. Other religions practised are Palo Monte and Abakuá, which have large parts of their liturgy in African languages.

Although restrictions on religion in Cuba were minimal compared to other communist nations like the Soviet Union or China, the large atheist population was most likely caused by the communist atmosphere of Marxist-Leninist atheism.


Ṣàngó (Yoruba language: Ṣàngó, also known as Changó or Xangô in Latin America; and also known as Jakuta or Badé) (from shan, 'to strike') is an Orisha. He is syncretized with either Saint Barbara or Saint Jerome. Historically, Shango is a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third Alafin of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification. Ṣàngó has numerous manifestations including Airá, Agodo, Afonja, Lubé, and Obomin. He is considered to be one of the most powerful rulers that Yorubaland has ever produced, and is noted for his anger.

Ọba (orisha)

Ọba (known as Obá in Latin America) is the Orisha of the River Oba, whose source lays near Igbon, where her worship originates. During the wars of the 19th century, her centers of worship moved to the more secure town Ogbomosho. She is traditionally identified as the first wife of Shango (the third king of the Oyo Empire and an Orisha). Oba was tricked by Oya or Oshun into cutting off her ear and trying to feed it to Shango. She is syncretized with Saint Catherine of Siena.


Obatala (known as Obatalá in Latin America and Yoruba mythology) is an Orisha. He is believed to be the Sky Father and the creator of human bodies, which were brought to life by the smooth breath of Olodumare. Obatala is the father of all Orishas and the owner of all ori. Any Orisha may claim an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that Orisha, Obatala still owns that head. Obatala's principal wife is Yemoja (known as Yemú in Cuba).

Obatala is the second son of Olodumare and was authorized by Him to create land upon the water beneath the sky. Due to his efforts, the first Yoruba city, Ife, was founded. Obatala is Olodumare's representative on Earth and the shaper of human beings.According to the oral traditions of Ife, the mortal Obatala served as king of Ife during its classical period. His throne was lost to the lineage of his rival Oduduwa at some point during the 12th century CE.

Following Obatala's posthumous deification, he was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon as an aspect of a primordial divinity of the same name.


Olorun is the ruler of (or in) the Heavens. The Supreme God or Supreme Being in the Yoruba pantheon, Olorun, is also called Olodumare.

Humans do not worship Olorun directly, there are no sacred areas of worship or ordained person. Olorun is outlying, distant and does not partake in human rituals. There are no shrines or sacrifices dedicated directly to him, although followers can send prayers in his direction.Among the Yoruba Christians and Muslims, meanwhile, the word Ọlọrun is also commonly used to denote their faith in God as The Almighty Divine, The Absolute Sovereign."

For Yoruba traditions there is no centralized authority, because of this and the way the traditions were spread through the slave trade to other areas of the world, there are many different ways that Yoruban People and there descendents or Orisa-based faiths can understand the idea of Olorun.


Ọsanyin (Yoruba: Ọ̀sanyìn, rendered Osaín/Ossain/Ossaím in Latin America) is the one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged orisha of healing herbs. In America he is syncretized with Saint Joseph.

Diverse roots
Yoruba religion (Orisa-Ifá)
Countries of development
Sacred sites
Legendary figures

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