Friday, April 17, 2009


Santería, also known as Lukumí or Regla de Ocha, is a set of related religious systems that fuse Catholic/Christian beliefs with traditional Yoruba beliefs. In the Yoruba language, Lukumí means "friends" and also applies to descendants of Yorùbá slaves in Cuba, their music and dance, and the cubanized dialect of the Yorùbá language.


The term "Lukumi" is an authentic ancient designation still in use by present day Yoruba peoples of West Africa and their descendents in Cuba and the diaspora. The term Lukumi also refers to a vastly large number of religious followers or adherents who practice authentic Lukumi traditions as well as the most common syncretic form of the religion known as "Santeria", which was established in Cuba dating back to around the mid-18th century. The term Lukumi derives from the word "Olukumi", meaning my friend. The term Yoruba as a cultural designation only dates back to the mid-19th century colonialism. The Yoruba consists of several ethnic groups, including but not limited to: Egba, Egbado, Ijebu, Oyo, all who arrived in great numbers in Cuba. The Lukumi derive from a region known as Ulcumi/Ulcami, which was contained within the vast Oyo Empire dating back as early as the 16th century, located just north north-east of Lagos. Cuban lukumi also refer to their ancient African Kingdon as Ulkuman, another variation of Ulcumi.(Law,1977,p.5)(Mason,1992,p.2)(La Enciclopedia de IFA)

The YorubaYorubas were more likely called Lukumí in Cuba and their religion was historically practised by descendants of West African slaves, slaves were not purposely divided by slave families but as a means of maintaining tribal and ethnic animosities on the Island during enslavement (see Midlo Hall's 1992,2005). It is in this manner that Cuban Enslavement and the means of maintaining control evolved. Later, in the early 18th century, the Spanish Catholic church allowed for the creation of societies called cabildos which were primarily for African ethnicities which also provided means for entertainment and reconstruction of many aspects of ethnic heritage but were intended to institutionalize the interethnic animosities. For some unknown historical reason, still under investigation, the Yoruba deities, became paramount in Santeria and this occurred even though the Yorubas themselves were a minority among the enslaved. The slaves practised Yorùbá religious ceremonies in these cabildos, along with religious and secular traditions from other parts of Africa, combining and amalgamating their masters' pantheon of Catholic saints with their own pantheon of Orisha. This combination would come to be known as Santería (the worship of Saints). (Perez y Mena, SSSR Journal, 1997)

The survival of Santeria in Cuba was primarily due to the hiding of Yorùbá religiosity behind the guise of Catholicism. When slave owners observed Africans celebrating a Saint's Day, they were generally unaware that the slaves were actually worshiping the Orisha. Today, the terms saint and Orisha are sometimes used interchangeably. The term Santería (also known as, Way of the Saints), a derisive term applied by the Spanish to mock followers' seeming overdevotion to the saints and their perceived neglect of God, was later applied to the religion by racist whites. The slaves' Christian masters did not allow them to practise their various west African religions. The slaves found a way around this by masking the Yorùbá Orishas as Christian saints while maintaining their original identities. Often this combining is called by Eurocentric anthropologists and other social scientists as syncretism, even though the practices are not actually combined and thus, are not actually a true example of syncretism. Nevertheless, the masters thought their slaves had become "good Christians" and were praising the saints, when in actuality they were continuing their traditional practices. [1]

Forms of the Lukumí religion is practised throughout the Caribbean, and has a following in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela and the United States and other areas with large Latin American populations. A very similar religion called Candomblé is also practiced in Brazil, which is home to a rich array of other Afro-Latino American religions. This is now being referred to as "parallel religiosity" (Perez y Mena, SSSR paper 2005) since some believers worship the African variant that has no "devil fetish" and no baptism or marriage and at the same time they belong to either Catholic Churches or Mainline Protestant Churches, where there is a devil fetish. Yoruba religiosity works toward a balance here on earth (androcentric) while the European religions work toward the here after. Some in Cuban Santeria, Haitian Vodun or Puerto Rican Spiritualism (Afro-Latin Religions) do not view a difference between the Saints and the Orishas, the ancestor deities of the Yoruba people's Ifa religion.

There are now individuals who mix the Lukumí practices with traditional practices as they survived in Africa after the deleterious effects of colonialism. Although most of these mixes have not been at the hands of experienced or knowledgable practitioners of either system, they have gained a certain popularity.

In Lukumí beliefs, Olorun, from Oluwa Orun (owner of the heavens) (also rendered Oluwa, Olodumare, Eleda (the creator)) is the supreme deity. He is the creator both of the universe, and of the Orishas, including:

Aggayu Sola/Agayu/Aggayu/Angayu
Babalu Aye/Babaluaye/Babaluaiye/Shakpana/Oluwo Popo/Asojano/Azojuano
Esu/Elegbara/Eleggua/Elegua: Owner of Vital Force, Eshu: The Gatherer of a great multitude
Igbo Were/Igbowere - Mother of Osain
Nana Buruku
Obatala King of the White Cloth
Ochosi/Ochossi, Osoosi
Odu/Oddu - aka: Olofin
Oggue/Ogue/Oge - Campanion to Shango
Oke - Companion to Obatala
Olodumare - God Almighty
Olofin - aka: Odu/Oddu
Orisha Oko/Orisa Oko
Osun/Ozun - Represents the spirit of an individual.

Each Orisa has its specific nick name, symbols, offerings, music, archetype, etc..

Beliefs and rituals
The sacred belief system of the Lukumi prevent non-adherents from participating in ceremonial rites. Nearly all Lukumi ceremonies are reserved for priests and the newly initiated.

Santeria was traditionally transmitted orally, although in the last decade a number of books have been published on the tradition. Practices include animal offering, dance, and sung invocations to the Orishas. Of these the most controversial is animal sacrifice. Followers of Lukumí point out that the killings are conducted in a safe and humane manner. The priests charged with doing the sacrifice are trained in humane ways to kill the animals. Furthermore, the animal is cooked and eaten afterwards by the community. In fact chickens, a staple food of many African-descended and Creole cultures, are the most common sacrifice; the chicken's blood is offered to the Orisha, while the meat is consumed by all. Also of note is that the practice of animal sacrifice is historically common amongst many religions, most notably Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam. In Judaism for example, altar sacrifices are of three kinds: sin offerings, burnt offerings, and peace offerings. All in accordance with Mosiac Law.

Fruit is also offered to the Orisha. Drum music and dancing are a form of prayer and will sometimes induce a trance state in initiated priest, who become "possessed" and will channel the Orisha, giving the community and individuals information, perform healing etc. (see Yoruba music). One's ancestors, egun, are held in high esteem in Lukumí. All ceremonies and rituals in the Lukumi religion begin with paying homage to one’s ancestors.

The Lukumi believe in a creator who is called Olodumare(God). There is no specific belief in a Devil since the Yoruba belief system is not a dualistic philosophy - good versus evil, God versus a Devil. Instead the universe is seen as containing forces of expansion and forces of contraction. Theses forces interact in complex ways to create the universe. All things are seen to have positive aspects, or Iré, and negative aspects, or Ibi. Nothing is seen as completely “good” or completely “evil” but all things are seen as having different proportions of both. Similarly no action is seen as universally as “wrong” or “right” but rather can only be judged with the context and circumstances in which it takes place. This concept is sometime derided as “situational ethics.” In this context the individual is seen as made up of both positive/constructive impulses as well as negative/destructive impulses. Similarly, an individual's talents and facilities are seen as having a potential of both positive and negative expression. Therefore, there is a great deal of attention and focus on each individual striving to develop good character and doing good works. Good character, or Iwapele, is defined as doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not out of fear of retribution or as a way of seeking rewards, but simply because it is right. All humans are seen as having the potential of being good and blessed people (no original sin), although they have a potential to make evil choices, and the universe is seen as benevolent.


My Big TOE: I loved this seminar....please follow it all the way through!

Courses / Seminars