Regla de Ocha (The Rule of the Orisha) is the proper name for this religion. Ocha is an abbreviation.
Santeria (The Way of the Saints) is the common, popular name.
Lukumi is also used; it is related to a Yoruba word meaning "friend". It is used to refer to both the religion and the practitioners of Afro-Cuban worship of the Orishas.
La Regla Lucumi is still another term used to refer to the religion.
Candomble Jege-Nago is its Brazilian name. The religion is dividedinto in various traditions, reflecting the different nations of origin: Angola, Efan, Fon, Ijesa, Ketu, etc.).
Macumba is sometimes used as a synonym for Santeria. In fact, Macumba is a derogatory word used to refer to a supposedly evil form of Witchcraft. We> will not use the term here.
Aborisha is a term that refers to both the worship of the Orisha, and to the individual worshiper.
Quoting an essay on "The Lukumi Tradition" by Afolabi: 2
The name by which the religion is now most commonly known, "Santeria," is a pejorative term first applied by the Spanish to the religious practices of the peasantry. It was used as a derogatory reference to the unusual amount of devotion and attention paid to the Catholic Saints, often in preference to Jesus Christ. This term was again used in Cuba to identify the "pagan" religion. The Yoruba devotion to theOrishas, who were often referred to as "santos" ("saints") by both slave and slave-owners, was mistakenly seen as the'fanatical' worship of demigods and the neglect of 'God.' Therefore, the opprobrious and demeaning term 'Santeria' was extended to the religious practices of the so-called 'savages.' Only in recent years, after having the label applied by outsiders for an extended period of time, has the term begun to be used by members of the religion. 2
Santeria is a syncretistic religion of Caribbean origin. It incorporates the worship of the Orisha (literally "head guardian")and beliefs of the Yoruba and Bantu people in Southern Nigeria, Senegal and Guinea Coast. These are combined with elements of worship from Roman Catholicism. Its origins date back to the slave trade when Yoruba natives were forcibly transported from Africa to the Caribbean. They were typically baptized by the Roman Catholic church upon arrival, and their native practices were suppressed. They developed a novel way of keeping their old beliefs alive by equating the each Orisha of their traditional religions with a corresponding Christian Saint. Many traditions within the religion recognize different equivalencies. One common example includes:
* Babalz Ayi became St. Lazarus (patron of the sick)
* Shangs became St. Barbara (controls thunder, lightning, fire...)
* Eleggua or Elegba became St. Anthony (controls roads, gates etc)
* Obatala became Our Lady of Las Mercedes, and the Resurrected Christ (father of creation; source of spirituality)
* Oggzn became St. Peter (patron of war)
* Oshzn became Our Lady of Charity (controls money, sensuality...)
The religion is currently concentrated in Cuba and other Caribbean islands, and among Hispanics in Florida, New York City and Los Angeles. It had been actively suppressed in Cuba since the communist revolution - particularly during the 1960's . However, oppression has now largely ended, and the popularity and practice of Santeria has exploded in Cuba during the 1990's. The religion is also rapidly growing elsewhere. There are believed to be 300,000 practitioners of Santeria in New York alone. It is active in Brazil, where it is believed to have over a million followers.
Many Santerian beliefs are not freely discussed outside of the faith. In addition there are many religious leaders whose beliefs and practices differ significantly. The following is a general outline of what is known:
Deities: God is referred to as Olorun, or OlÃ³dÃ¹marÃ¨, the "owner of heaven". He is the supreme deity, the creator of the universe, and of the lesser guardians, called Orisha. Each of the latter has an associated Christian Saint, a principle, important number, color, food, dance posture and emblem. The Orishas need food in the form of animal sacrifice, and prepared dishes, as well as human praise in order to remain effective.
Ritual Sacrifices: These form an integral part of many Santerian religious rituals. The animal's blood is collected and offered to the Orisha. Chickens are the most common animal used. Their sacrifice is believed to please the Saints, and to bring good luck, purification andforgiveness of sins.
Possession: Rhythmic sounds and feverish dancing during Santerian rituals are believed to lead to possession of the individual by the particular Orisha being invoked. The individual then speaks and acts as the Orisha.
Veneration of Ancestors: Ones ancestors, called Ara Orun (People of Heaven) are referred to for moral guidance and example. Their names are recited at family ceremonies.
The following Santerian practices are known:
Secrecy: Very little information about beliefs, ritual, symbolism, practice are released to the general public. One has to be initiated into the faith before information is freely released.
Tradition: Santeria is not a religion of a book, like Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Like most Aboriginal religions, it is preserved by an oral tradition.
Ritual: A ritual typically begins with the invocation of Olurun. Drums provide background African rhythms. The Oru or rhythm changes to that associated with a specific Orisha, who is then invoked as well. Animals, most commonly chickens, are sacrificed during many rituals. Dancing is another main component of the ritual.
Priesthood: Priests are called Santeros or Babalochas. Priestesses are called Santeras or Iyalochas. Olorisha can refer to a priest or a priestess. They are trained for many years in the oral tradition of the faith. This is followed by a period of solitude before being initiated. They learn dance, songs and healing methods.
Botanicas: These are stores that specialize in providing Santerian supplies. They sell charms, herbs, potions, musical instruments, and other materials used by the followers.
There are many national variations to this religion. This is particularly obvious in places like Los Angeles CA where the Spanish speaking population has many national origins. Mexican Santeria, for example, emphasizes its Roman Catholic roots; it often includes nationally-basedicons, like the Virgin of Guadeloupe. Cuban Santeria tends to emphasizes its African origins.
Conflicts over Santeria
There has been considerable friction between Santerians and groups promoting the care and treatment of animals. The source of the conflict is the animal sacrifices which form an integral part of some of their rituals. Chickens and other small animals are ritually sacrificed at times of serious sickness or misfortune, and at times of initiation. Santerians defend their practices by pointing out: the animals are killed in a humane manner and later eaten, just as the many of millions of animals slaughtered daily in North American commercial establishments. ritual sacrifice of animals was a extensively practiced in ancient Israel and was only discontinued after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in the eighth decade CE. they feel that the sacrifices must continue because their Orisha require the food. animal sacrifices have formed a part of their religion for over one millennium. the constitutions of the United States and Canada guarantee freedom of religious expression. They have won a number of court cases; one went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Sufficient precedence has now been established; there should not be any new legal problems in this area.
The Matamoros Incident:
In early 1989, the bodies of over a dozen murdered men were found in Matamoros, Mexico, close to the Texas border. A media frenzy resulted in which the killings were blamed on Satanists, Witches, Voodoo priests, or Santerians. Everybody seemed to have a different theory. After the lurid headlines died down and the police investigation concluded, the murderers were found to be orchestrated by an individual hired by a criminal gang of drug runners for protection from the police. The gang members happened to be followers of a variety of religious groups common to the area including Christianity, Palo Mayombe and Santeria. But no link was ever found between their faith and their drug running or murderous practices. The immediate cause was that the leader of the gang required the members to watch a Hollywood movie called The Believers a total of 14 times. That movie took elements of the Santerian faith, and added concepts foreign to the religion, including human sacrifice. If a single influencing cause needs to be assigned to the murder, it should be that movie.
Many individuals and groups who attempt to raise public awareness of Ritual Abuse or of Satanic Ritual Abuse often mistakenly use these killings as evidence of human sacrifice by religious minorities. Ritual abuse andmurder does exist, and there are many dead bodies to prove it. But instances to date have had no connection with Santeria or any other small faith group. Most of the deaths have been caused by unintentional murder during Christian exorcisms.
I'll post more, such as beginner rituals and prayers.