Sunday, 24 November 2013

Santeria religion in Cuba

Santeria also known as La Religión, Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumí or Lukumi, is a religion of West Africa and Caribbean origin influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism

Santería is a system of beliefs that merges the Yorùbá religion (which was brought to the New World by West Africans) with Roman Catholicism, and may include Amerindian traditions

These Africans carried with them various religious customs, including a trance for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice and sacred drumming and dance

According to various patakís regarding the origin of the Yorùbá, the beliefs were passed down from generation to generation by their ancestors who were, at the time, a nomadic people

Yorùbá retained their traditional religious beliefs but lost their native language, either due to isolation or intermixing with surrounding languages, in an effort to build and expand their kingdoms and empires

Upon its arrival in Cuba, this religious tradition evolved into what we now recognize as Santería

The colonial period from the standpoint of African slaves may 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

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 indigenous religion of the Lukumi people of Nigeria

In the heart of their homeland, they had a complex political and social order

Their religion, based on the worship of nature, was renamed and documented by their masters

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

Santería does not use a central creed for its religious practices; though it is understood in terms of its rituals and ceremonies

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)

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

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

To become a full-fledged Santero or Santera (Priest or Priestess of Santería), the initiator must go through an intensive week-long initiation process 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 Pqadrino (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

Once cleansed, there are four major initiation rituals that the initiator will have to undergo, which are: obtaining the elekes (beaded necklace), receiving Eleguá, receiving Los Guerreros (the Warriors), and making Ocha (Saint)

Sacrifices are thrown into the sea

With Santería rituals there are musical ceremonies and prayers which are referred to as bembé, toque de santo, or tamborIt is a celebration dedicated to an Orichá, where the batá drums (set of three drums known as the iya (the largest drum), itoltele, and oconcolo) are played in the Orichá's honor

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

Priests are commonly known as olorichas or owner of Orichá

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 of the Orichás they can be considered Italeros, or if they go through training to become leaders of initiations, Obas or Oriates

Cuban traditional healing practices are rooted in the spiritual and ethnic religious influences of West Africa, East Africa, and North Africa

Cuban traditional healing practices also use the pathways of the herbalist, psychologist, ethicicst or a respected spiritual medium interceding between God and human being

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

In Santería, the world flows with the primal life energy called the aché or growth, the force toward completeness and divinity

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 spirits

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