Santeria The Survival Of An Ancient African Religion

Santeria The Survival Of An Ancient African Religion

Many perceive Santeria as​ a​ bizarre an​ undesirable amalgamation of​ primitive, pagan beliefs and​ Roman Catholicism. Many believe the​ religion to​ be a​ dangerous, perhaps even Satanic, variation of​ Voodoo featuring zombies, indiscriminate animal sacrifices and​ other totems that make those from “first world” religious backgrounds uneasy.

The truth behind Santeria is​ far less ominous. Santeria is​ a​ legitimate religion with roots that trace deep back into history.

European colonization of​ the​ “new world” brought with it​ the​ importation of​ slavery. Many slaves were Yoruba’s (that territory lies in​ what is​ now a​ part of​ modern-day Nigeria). the​ Yorubans practiced a​ highly evolved religion that included multiple Orishas, which can be roughly understood as​ beneficial forces akin to​ saints in​ Christian religious practices or​ lesser deities in​ polytheistic religions. Yorubans understood the​ concept of​ “Ashe,” the​ life force of​ every person, and​ developed a​ number of​ worship and​ celebration rituals.

Slaveholders found the​ idea of​ Yoruban religious practices add odds with their own ostensibly Christian belief structure. Fearing the​ unique customs of​ the​ Yorubans and​ understanding the​ risk its unfettered practice could have upon the​ institution of​ slavery, European colonists in​ the​ Americas attempt to​ destroy the​ faith and​ while the​ Catholic Church worked to​ convert slaves to​ Christianity.

The religion we now call Santeria, however, did not die. it​ went undercover instead. Yoruban slaves worshipped the​ Orishas, but they disguised the​ figures as​ Catholic saints. While dancing to​ the​ sacred Yoruban drums would not have been tolerated, considerately praying before a​ representation of​ a​ Catholic saint was encouraged. in​ reality, those prayers were not directed to​ the​ Christian martyrs, but to​ the​ Orishas. This practice is​ the​ source of​ the​ name “Santeria,” a​ Spanish word referring to​ the​ worship of​ Saints.

Yorubans continued other rituals and​ practices of​ their faith covertly, as​ well. Due to​ the​ historical context, the​ traditions were necessarily cloaked in​ secrecy. This allowed the​ religion to​ survive, but gave it​ an​ air of​ mystery that survives today.

Santeria does involve a​ level of​ mysticism to​ which many from Judeo-Christian backgrounds are not accustomed and​ limited animal sacrifices under specific circumstances (primarily chickens) can be practiced by Santerians. However, those who perceive the​ faith as​ a​ dark and​ dangerous force are incorrect. Santeria represents the​ survival of​ peaceful and​ ancient traditional African religion against tremendous odds. it​ is​ still practiced today in​ many parts of​ the​ Caribbean and​ the​ United States.

Santeria The Survival Of An Ancient African Religion

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