LA SANTERIA is one of the most important religions in Cuba. Its origins date back to ancient Africa. Santeria retains the basic characteristics and traditions of an ancient African religion practiced in Nigeria by the Yoruba people. When the Yoruba were sent as slaves to the Caribbean islands between 1770 and 1840, they took their religion with them. Once in the new world, they were forced to accept Catholicism, but they refused to abandon their customs altogether. So they created a new cult with elements of both religions, a phenomenon known as syncretism.
In order to preserve their old religious beliefs, slaves identified the saints of Catholicism with the African gods, granting each one of them special characteristics and powers. In this way, their gods and goddesses, called orisha, took the name and form of such saints. However, the rituals, customs and beliefs they brought from Africa did not change. A Cuban priest santero explains: "Syncretism allows us to worship the Catholic god on the altar, although we really see the African god."
Characteristics of Santeria
The santeros worship a supreme being and a group of deities or orisha, who form the Yoruba pantheon. Sanctified priests interpret the will of the orisha by means of divination. Altars play an important role in worship. The santeros have one in their home and offer flowers, rum, sweets and cigars to keep the deities happy and win their favor.
Each deity represents an aspect of nature, such as thunder, and a human characteristic, such as power. Sanitarium priests help people solve everyday problems by consulting the orisha. They are not Catholic priests, and usually carry out their rituals in a house, not in a temple. Believers belong to a specific community with a godfather (or godmother) who is both counselor and priest. It begins the new members in a ceremony with music, dance and animal sacrifices officiated by the priest.
Each Orisha has a necklace of a specific color and shape. The "child" of the Orisha should wear it around his neck. Necklaces should not be stored in your pocket or purse. When they are not using it, they should put it in the Orisha's tureen and if it does not have it, they should carefully put it in a white cloth. Necklaces will never be loaned to anyone. The colors of an Orisha are the same as those of the accounts that constitute its Ileke. The Orisha's tureen and instruments should also be of the appropriate color.
Syncretism of the orishas of the Yoruba Pantheon
Obbatalá (The Virgin of the Mercedes) / White: Obbatalá is the oldest of the Orichas and for this reason it is always placed in the highest place of the canastillero. It is the owner of purity and its white color reflects it. He was commanded by Olofin to complete his work, owner of all heads, justice and health is also the judge of this religion, since impartiality is one of its qualities. His mastery over thought and dreams make him peculiar. Celebration day: September 24th.
Elegguá (El Niño Santo de Atocha) / Red and black: Elegguá is the guardian of entrances and roads. It is the first Orisha to be invoked in a ceremony. The first rhythms of the drums belong to him. To him it must be requested before all the oracles. Orunmila is the one who communicates, but the guardian of the roads is Elegguá. It is he who acts as an intermediary between human beings and the other Orishas. Celebration day: January 6 and June 13.
Oshún (Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre) / Coral and Amber: Oshún possesses the virtues most appreciated in women, is flirtatious, beautiful, sensual, musical and hardworking. It is considered as an Aphrodite lucumi. She is the owner of the river, love, honey and gold. Oshún is sister of Yemayá and secretary of Orula therefore ally of Babalawos. Celebration day: September 8th.
Changó (Santa Barbara) / Red and White: Chango was in life one of the founders of the Yoruba kingdom in Nigeria, King in the city of Oyá. He was a very brave warrior, womanizer, daring, drinker, macho and of great manly attraction. When their name is mentioned, believers should bow in their seats in a sign of respect and reverence. He is the God of War, the owner of lightning, thunder and music. To him belong the sacred drums (robe). Celebration day: December 4th.
Oggún (San Pedro) / Verde y Negro: Oggún is one of the oldest Orishas, the is the brother of Elegguá and Chango. He is the warrior par excellence participating in all battles. Master the secrets of the mountain. It is symbol of the force and the terrestrial energy. He is as cunning and mischievous as Eleggua but more willful. God of minerals, weapons and tools of work, For this reason his pot can be iron, which is obligatory when you settle, There you put everything you may need for when you go to give a battle, that is , Weapons and tools. Celebration day: April 23.
Yemaya (The Virgin of Regla) / Crystal and Blue: Yemaya is the Orisha that controls all the seas and the oceans and all the creatures that live in them. She is considered the mother of all human beings. When Yemaya lowers and owns someone, she endows them with all their grace and very spicy personality. She will immediately require a long gown sticking at the waist. She dances with movements that are like the movement of the waves. When the drums heat up, she dances like waves in a hurricane. She is full of love and tenderness, as befits the mother of all mankind. Celebration day: 7 September.
Oyá (Santa Teresita of the infant Christ) / All but the Negro: Lady of the spark, the swirl, the rainbow and the dead. Its winds help sustain life after the waters of Oshún and Yemaya have given life and meaning or purpose. The winds of Oyá carry pollen from different plants from one place to another. Oya is also the air we breathe, it provides the air with the right amount of oxygen to keep us alive and functioning. Celebration day: October 1st.