Santeria orginated in Cuba as a combination of the Western African Yoruba Religion and Iberian Catholicism. It is one of the religions created by Africans brought to the Caribbean islands as slaves. It was developed for the African slaves to continue practicing their native religion in the New World. As in all countries where the African slaves were taken, Cuban slave masters discouraged and sometimes prohibited the practice of their native religions.
Instead, the slaves in Cuba were forced to follow the practices of the Catholic Church, which went against the beliefs of their native religions. Noting the similarities between their native religion and Catholicism, they created a secret religion to please their slave-masters and fulfill their own religious needs. Santeria uses Catholic saints and personages as fronts for their own god and Orishas (spiritual emissaries). When a slave prayed to an Orisha, it looked as if they were praying to a saint.
After some slaves had been freed in Cuba, they created Santeria on the basis of old Yoruba beliefs and practices. African religious traditions were fused with the Spanish culture to form groups with distinctive identities. These had an influence on Santeria by incorporating the aspect of spirit enlightenment in its practices. This process of seeking light has been incorporated in worshiping the Orisha. Santeria spread quickly in the New World among the slaves who originated from Western Africa. When slave trade was outlawed, the practice of Santeria carried on.
The religion was practiced in secret, because people frowned on the bizarre traditions of the African natives. Today, the necessity for keeping the religion secret has mostly vanished; it is practiced today out of a strong sense of tradition. Santeria now lives on in small numbers in many countries around the world: the U.S. (New York, Florida), South American countries, and Europe. It is still mostly practiced in secret, but a few churches have emerged, giving the people a place to practice Santeria freely. There are several churches in the United States that practice Santeria.
Santeria has no written formal texts of their religion. It is passed on orally to the initiates. This is because of the thick tradition of stories being told to convey the beliefs and ways of worship of the religion.
Hello again. Our guides and the Orisha is a very important part of our daily rituals and our work. Here is a little information about them and what they represent. I hope you enjoy this article and find it informative.
Santerians have five different levels of power in the Yoruba cosmology:
and the lowest group, which includes plants, animals, natural entities, and manufactured items.
They believe in one supreme god, Olodumare (also known as Olorun ). He is the supreme source of ashe , the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life, and material objects.
Olurun interacts with the world through the Orisha. Orisha rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They can be approached through prayer, ritual offerings, and trance possession, and can be counted on to come to the aid of followers and guide them to a better life and spirituality.
Each Orisha is attributed a special number, color, and "favorite things," such as a food or day of the week. The colors are represented by making beaded necklaces according to which Orisha they wish to worship. These distinguish the Orisha from one another when someone wants to make an offering to a certain one.
Each Orisha is guardian over a certain part of human life. The significant Orisha are listed below, as there are literally thousands of Orisha The first three Orisha listed - Elegba, Ogun, and Oshosi - are guardians over battle affairs and are called the Guerreros or Warriors.
Elegba (Eleggua) - the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He stands at the crossroads of humanity and the divine, the intermediary between Olorun and the Orisha and humans. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. His colors are red and black and his number is 3.
Ogun - the god of iron, war, and labor. He clears the roads with his machette after Elegba opens them. He represents violence and creativity, yet also integrity. He controls life and death. His colors are green and black and his number is 7.
Ochosi - the hunter, scout, and protector of the warriors. He is in a close relationship with Obatala, and is the translator for him. He is the provider of direction to human life. His colors are blue and yellow and his numbers are 3 and 7.
Obatala - father of the Orisha and all humanity. He is the creator of the world and enforces justice in the world. He is the source of all that is pure, wise, peaceful, ethical, moral, and compassionate. His color is white, andhis number is 8.
Chango - ruler of lightning and thunder. He is also a warrior and demands involvement in life and living life to its fullest. He deals with the day to day challenges. His colors are red and white and his numbers are 4 and 6.
Oya - ruler of winds and whirlwinds. She rules over the dead and the gates of the cemeteries. She is a fierce warrior and was once the wife of Chango. Her colors are maroon and white, and her number is 9.
Oshun - rules over the water of the world -- rivers, streams, and brooks. She embodies love, beauty, and fertility. She represents the blood flowing through and creating human life. She is also associated with culture and the fine arts. She is the youngest of the Orishas and the messenger to the house of Olorun. Her colors are yellow and gold and her number is 5.
Yemaya - rules over seas and lakes. She is the Mother of all and the root of all riches. She is deep and unknowable, like the waters which she rules. She is also the queen of witches and of secrets. She is considered the Orisha of mercy, while she never turns her back on her children. Her colors are blue and white and her number is 7.
Babalu Aye - associated with disease (specifically smallpox). The sick pray to him in hope of recovery. He has simple tastes and does not expect much. His colors are white and light blue and his number is 17.
Orishaoco - rules over crops and agriculture. Thus, he is in charge of all the tools of the gardeners. He settles fights among the Orisha, especially those between Chango and his wives. His color is lilac.
Osain - the doctor of the Orishas. He controls all the medicinal and magical herbs. The drums used in ceremonies are consecrated to him. His colors are white, red, and yellow 31 .
The Ibeyi - children of Oshun and Chango. They are identical in many ways and are the so-called children of the Orishas. They are associated with material property. They have the same colors as their parents -- yellow and gold (Oshun), red and white (Chango).
Orunmila - encompasses wisdom and divination; makes our destinies. He is the Orisha of the priests (Babalawos), whom he manifests himself to only intellectually. They abide by the Table of Ifa, where the secrets of the universe and our lives are held. Oshun is knowledge while Orunmila is wisdom. These two must work together for "wisdom without knowledge is useless -- one who has knowledge without wisdom is a danger to themselves and others" His colors are green and yellow and his number is 16.
Communication with the Orisha is done several ways: prayer, ritual divination, and offerings (ebo - sacrifice). Offerings can be made to the Orisha, with items such as candy, candles, and fruits, to name a few. The individual characteristics of each Orisha are important, as they give the people a way to distinguish how they contact the Orisha they want to pray to. A person wears a beaded necklace with elaborate patterns of beads of the colors of the Orisha they wish to pray to. The numbers, colors, and also certain animals instruct the person on how to sacrifice to each Orisha. Because each Orisha represents a different aspect of life, a person can selectively pick an Orisha or several Orisha to pray to, depending on their needs. They can also heed advice given by the Orisha in this manner.
Ebo contains many categories of sacrifice and offering to the Orisha. "There are offerings such as addimú which can include candles, fruits, candy, or any number of items that may be appreciated by the deities or orishas in the religion. In divination, the orishas may ask for a favorite fruit or dish, or they may call for the person to heed advice given. At times they may ask that a person give up drinking or other practices that are unwise for that individual. They may request a person to wear certain jewelry, receive initiations or any number of other things.