Black Spirituality Religion : Santeria Religion

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by karmashines, May 23, 2005.

  1. karmashines

    karmashines Banned MEMBER

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    Cloaked in Secrecy, Santeria Spreads

    http://bv.channel.aol.com/lifemain/...anvas/feature_article?id=20050428112709990001

    By Yanick Rice Lamb, Special to AOL BlackVoices

    When Africans were shipped to the new world, slave owners literally tried to beat their culture out of them to maximize control. Still, many slaves were able to preserve some of their traditions in creative ways, passing them down to their descendants through word of mouth.


    Today, Yoruba-based religions like Santeria -- and its cousins Candomble, Palo Mayombe and Voudon -- are on the rise in the United States and throughout the Americas, according to scholars and practitioners.


    In Santeria, which means “saints” in Spanish, Olodumare, the owner of Heaven, creation and all destinies, is akin to the Christian version of God. Under Olodumare are the Orishas, powerful spiritual beings representing the forces of nature. Humans use prayer, music, rituals and Ebo, offerings that can be as simple as herbs, to feed the Orishas, worship them and call upon them when in need. Also powerful are the Egun, or ancestral spirits, in whom family ties remain strong.


    Africans who practiced Yoruba-based religions in what is now Nigeria or Benin led their captors in the Caribbean and South America to believe that they had successfully imposed Catholicism upon them. Since their Orishas had much in common with Catholic saints, they could openly appeal to Shango and not St. Barbara, both of whom were associated with lightning, thunder and fire, while secretly passing on the teachings of religions like Santeria.

    The Origins of Santeria

    “These traditions are global,” explains Marta Moreno Vega, a Santeria priestess who is founder and president of the Caribbean Cultural Center in New York. “Why would people fight to keep these traditions alive in spite of being penalized and having the possibility of being beaten or killed?”


    Although Santeria is on the rise, it remains cloaked in secrecy, experts say, partly because of misconceptions and negative portrayals in news stories as well as on television and film.


    “Sensational accounts portray Santeria as paganistic at best and satanic at worst,” explains Ian Straker, Ph.D., assistant professor and historian at the Howard University School of Divinity.


    A disciple of Santeria holds a Catholic statue during a 1997 ceremony. Santeria was created by African slaves who used attributes of Catholicism to disguise the deities of their traditional faiths. They did so to fool their captors, who forbade them to practice their own religions.

    Sonike Holly of Chicago is bothered by such images, whether in films like ‘Angel Heart,’ past TV episodes of the now-canceled dramatic series ‘New York Undercover’ and reports of wanna-be priests who prey on those in need. The single mother of two says she is happier and more at peace since she began practicing Santeria and Palo, a Bantu tradition, three years ago in addition to Catholicism. But some of her friends and co-workers have raised eyebrows.


    No one knows exactly how many people in the United States practice Santeria, also known as Lukumi, which means “friend” in Yoruba. Estimates range from 22,000 based on the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) to a few million, which includes devoted followers, many of whom also practice Christianity like Holly; the casual believer who may seek out a santera or santeros (priestess or priest) from time to time; and members of the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, S.C.


    ARIS researchers at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York acknowledge possible undercounting in their phone interviews, because of language barriers and the refusal of some people of color -- particularly African Americans and recent immigrants -- to answer questions about religion.


    Experts attribute the reluctance to fear of being discriminated by those who don’t understand Santeria. Growing up in a Cuban family, Manuel De La Torre, Ph.D., knows this firsthand. “I went to Catholic school during the day, but at night we worshipped the orishas,” he says


    “Santeria is secretive for its own survival; it has been persecuted for centuries.” says De La Torre, associate professor of social ethics at the Ilift School of Theology in Denver and author of ‘Santeria: The Beliefs and Rituals of a Growing Religion in America.’


    He and others attribute lingering stigmas to news accounts that dwell on the use of mercury as a folk medicine in some areas and especially tales of animal sacrifice, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as a religious freedom in 1993. “It’s not the major aspect of the faith, but it’s a part of it and that’s what gets the most attention,” says De La Torre.


    “When you make a supplication to a deity, you offer them ashe (pronounced ah-SHAY),” explained De La Torre, who no longer practices Santeria, but acknowledges that it’s part of his culture and identity. “Ashe is the life force of everything. Ashe could be the fire that burns in a candle. It could be certain herbs. The most powerful ashe is blood.”


    Joseph Murphy, Ph.D., a “casual practitioner” and professor of theology at Georgetown University, says that Santeria has many attractive aspects from its ability to heal to the power of the music. “I find the aesthetics of it very beautiful,” said Murphy, author of ‘Osun Across the Waters’ and ‘Santeria and African Religions in America.’

    On the Pulse

    Many people are also drawn to the aesthetics and historical aspects of Santeria and other Yoruba-based religions, but remain firmly rooted in their Christian beliefs. They honor their ancestors and heritage in small ways, such as pouring libations or repeating “ashe” at cultural gatherings. A number of them, Straker said, have been influenced by people like Iyanla Vanzant, the popular author, motivational speaker and Yoruba priestess.


    Vega encourages people to study to learn more about Santeria. She is the author of ‘The Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria’ and has also produced a documentary, ‘When the Spirits Dance Mambo.’ She will participate in a screening and lecture at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., on May 10.


    One benefit of Santeria is that it “allows our communities to see themselves as healed and not having to be healed,” Vega says. “You’re living the sacred all of the time. It’s not something you go to on Sunday. It’s something you are continuously.”


    About the Author Yanick Rice Lamb, who teaches journalism at Howard University, is the co-author of ‘Born to Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson ‘(Wiley, 2004) and the forthcoming ‘Rise & Fly: Tall Tales and Mostly True Rules of Bid Whist’ (Crown, 2005).
     
  2. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Interesting....Thanx for sharing...
     
  3. Corvo

    Corvo navigator of live MEMBER

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    They are drawn to Santeria, sometimes called Lukumi, for a host of reasons. The religion emphasizes the here and now rather than the afterlife, and it focuses on natural forces. Each deity represents an aspect of nature, like thunder, and a human characteristic, like power.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/01/27/n...popular-and-public.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm


    Relating to Christianity
    Adherents of African-based religions are often not exclusive, perhaps combining them with a devout Catholicism with no discomfort.

    All of these religions differ from Christianity in several important ways. Although there is an overarching entity that created and permeates the universe, that “god” is completely unknowable and not involved in the day-to-to-day life of humans.
    In the African religions, prayers are addressed to spirits below the creator (she who was born before time). African deities are spirits that are not so much worshipped as venerated. People pray (make requests) to them for favors, guidance, as well as for the well-being of the spirit.
    Another important part of African religions is the veneration of ancestors. Ancestors are the law-givers for all society. This is in contrast with Christianity, where God is the lawgiver.
    The Deities
    Although African deities have come to be associated with Catholic saints, they are different in several important ways. The thousands of Catholic saints were people who lived and died and are honored in a special way. African deities are spirits. They sometimes possess people in sacred trance, during dance rituals, when they act and speak through the bodies of the people they “ride.” But their relationship with humans is unlike anything found in mainstream Christianity.
    The “match” between the spirits and the saints has always been problematic, as well. African deities are more complex than Catholic saints. The deities contain all potentials, for good and for evil. They are value neutral. When human beings call upon them for help, the humans are responsible for the consequences of their actions, not the deities.
    Vodoun deities come in families. Just as an illustration of how complex these deities are, here’s a very brief overview of two members of one of these families.

    Ezili Freda is a spirit roughly analogous to Aphrodite. She’s a water spirit – sweet water – and a champion of heterosexual love. She has a very light complexion, she’s flighty, and definitely not a mother.
    Ezili Danto, who shares a first name with Freda, a deity of motherhood. She is also a water spirit – salt water – and is a champion of lesbianism. She has a dark complexion, and takes care of babies (all babies, including those of Ezili Freda).

    The Afterlife
    Attitudes toward the afterlife in these religions have changed dramatically since they were imported to this hemisphere.
    Reincarnation is a liet motif in most African religions. After they migrated to the West, the belief in reincarnation has mostly disappeared. This could well be because of the influence of Christianity. Priests of the Westernized religions learn the “secrets” of reincarnation, but the day-to-day practice does not include the concept.
    Integration Into American Culture
    Despite our current trend toward more conservative Christianity, America has a long tradition of experimenting with religions from other cultures. Why have African based religions not been taken up the way, say, Buddhism has? Professor Bellegarde-Smith has an interesting opinion.
    In the ‘60s, he explained, spiritual seekers from America “discovered” India. In the ‘70s, they “discovered” Native American spirituality.

    But, he believes, they will never “discover” African religions. There is a feeling that nothing good can come from Africa. There’s the feeling that African religions are somehow dark, sinister, evil.

    Instead of benign curiosity, Westerners have responded to African religions with fear and ignorance, and the need to have power over them.

    What the Bible Says
    Santeria is closely connected with spiritism, a form of worship condemned in the Bible. (Leviticus 19:31) God's Word lists the "practice of spiritism" among "the works of the flesh," which bar a person from inheriting God's Kingdom. (Galatians 5:19-21) The Scriptures also command those desiring God's approval to "flee from idolatry" and to "worship the Father with spirit and truth."—1 Corinthians 10:14; John 4:23, 24.
    Christians should be alert to the fact that Santeria practices and music are becoming more secular in nature. Various forms of entertainment and some aspects of Latin-American culture are laced with elements of Santeria. These are becoming more popular and are widely regarded as harmless. Nevertheless, Christians do well to avoid anything that is in direct conflict with Bible principles regardless of how popular it is or how harmless it seems to be.—2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

    http://www.watchtower.org/e/20000708a/article_01.htm
     
  4. Corvo

    Corvo navigator of live MEMBER

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    Paraphernalia and other Representational Aspects of the Cult: Among the first things that are readily observable in the cult of Puerto Rican Santería is the paraphernalia found in both the centros and the domestic altars. The centros are gathering places for the community, where important ritual places take place. Please note that domestic altars are a tradition in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their existence as a separate quarter depends on the economic welfare of the household. Among the poorer, the domestic altar may exist within the space of a bedroom.
    In the domestic altar we can observe some of the integral aspects of the cult's teleology. These include animism and totemism. The altars usually contain talismans, saint images, candles, flowers and vases of water. Talismans, can be found objects which are believed to have been "sanctified by nature itself." (Cabrera, 1974: 266) They can also be assigned by a Babalawo, or high priest of the cult. This means that the talisman must undergo certain rituals. Through these rituals it is verified that it is indeed "animated by a supernatural force of an Oricha" (Cabrera, 1974: 266) It is not unusual for a talisman to be bestowed in connection with rituals of initiation to the cult.
    Saint images of all sizes and appearances are maintained in the altars, as are the so-called attributes of the saints. These attributes are assemblages of objects that are part of the narrative through which the symbolic representation of the saint occurs. For example,Yemayá, the goddess of the sea, has attributes usually made of silver that include a full moon, the sun, an anchor, a life saver, a boat, seven oars, seven rings of silver, a key and a star. (Cabrera, 1974: 268) These saint images are described as representing "the saints who are the protectors of the mediunidad." (Harwood, 1976: 62) but in the home they are the protectors of the family. Candles and flowers, as objects that denote devotion and worship, are routinely lit and kept by the saint images. The candles come in all colors, and they may vary according to the saint or Oricha in question. In the case of Saint Barbara, whose representation as an Oricha would that of Changó, the candles utilized are red.
    The presence of water receptacles is also a consistent element in these altars. It is explained in terms of the strong belief in the spiritual strength of water. Therefore, the recommendation is made of "keeping a small receptacle full of water under the bed to cleanse away all evil influences." (Gonzalez-Wippler, 1971: 19) Water is also used as part of the ritual in both the African modality of Santería and in Mesa Blanca. In the latter it is always used at the beginning of the ritual and in connection with the invocation of Eleggua, the Guardian Spirit of roads and doorways, so that he "will not obstruct what we do." (Cabrera, 1974: 144). In Mesa Blanca, water is used in the seances "as a receptacle for the evil spirits and influences that the mediums remove from clients." (Harwood, 1976: 62) In the ritual, candles can also be used to "dispel an intranquil spirit from the house, as part of the rite of sorcery, and in request to a saint for help."

    http://www.t0.or.at/0ntext/ldsanter.htm
     
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