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  1. #1
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    Default An interesting article on santeria

    I take no position on this. Just wanted to share this for others who might be interested.

    http://www.migente.com/Members/index.html

    Catching the Spirit
    By Jessica Rodriguez
    03/10/2005


    Some might say that Angel Falcón was born to serve a higher power. He grew up a dutiful Catholic who attended weekly mass and attended Catholic schools his entire life. Falcón's personal interest in religion was so strong he decided to become a priest. "Every person you meet, I was taught to look for God in them...it stuck with me."

    While attending a Catholic seminary high school, something changed. "I wanted to marry and have a family," Falcón says. "I found the theology a little too rigid and not fitting with the vagaries of life." Falcón's interest in religion, however, did not waiver. He majored in religious studies in college and earned a masters' degree in theology. But Falcón's original purpose was fulfilled three and a half years ago when he became a priest of Obatala, an orisha of the African
    based religion Santería.

    Regla de Ocha or Santería ("way of the saints") is a Yoruba-based religion brought to Cuba from present-day Nigeria during the slave trade. To maintain their own beliefs after their forced conversion to Christianity, the slaves disguised their orishas (spiritual entities) in the images of Catholic saints. Each orisha is believed to have various caminos (representations) and the saints symbolized those paths. The synchronization of the Catholic images, rituals and practices became the foundation of the religion today.

    The religion's cosmology includes an only God (Olodumare) who is represented on earth by orishas that represent different aspects of nature from love to lightning and thunder. Humans are to honor these orishas through sacrifice and offerings and will see their lives improve.

    With the mixing of African, Indigenous and Spanish throughout Latin America came the blending of all things cultural--religion included. What might be viewed as cultural superstitions originates from these traditions. The need to maintain secrecy came from fear of retribution by Spanish slave masters. This secrecy has left Santería and other African based religions, shrouded in stereotypes and myth instead of fact.

    It was this lack of information that drew Dr.Mary Ann Clark, an assistant professor of religious studies and anthropology at the University of Houston, to investigate Santería. "It hasn't been widely studied...it deserves to be," Dr. Clark says. Her own studies lead her to write the book Where Men are Wives and Mothers Rule: Santería Ritual Practices and their Gender Implications as well as receive a doctorate in religious studies with a focus on Santería. "Santería just spoke to me," Dr. Clark says. "The orishas find you if they want you." In 1996 she began discussing the topic as a practitioner; Dr. Clark, who has no cultural or familial ties to the religion, became a priestess of the orisha Yemaya.

    Mary Pat Fisher, who wrote about African based practices in Living Religions, estimates practitioners of African based faiths across the U.S. and Latin America to be in the millions. With the dispersion of the slave trade, Cuban migration after Castro's rise to power and the Mariel Boat lift, it is no shock practitioners are everywhere. This is also why Santería is the most popular and widespread of these various religions.

    Dr. Clark personally understands why the faith has survived. "They provide blessings and comfort for people," who have recently migrated or "it invokes cultural images and it blends in with culture that they already know," Dr. Clark says. "To me it's surprising that it's crossing communities. They're becoming world religions."

    Palo is another religion that flourished in the New World. Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe, was brought to Cuba by the Bantu of Central Africa's Kongo region. It is a nature religion whose worship centers around the spirits housed in a nkisi or prenda (iron or clay cauldron) which includes consecrated earth, bones, wood and other sacred natural elements, to improve the Paleros (stick men of stick women) lives. "Our spirits live there, sacred medicines that were given to us by God," says Falcón, who has also been actively involved in Palo for two years. "It is, in the strictest terms, manipulation. The point is to help yourself and to help your family."

    Espiritismo (Spiritism) is the practice of communicating with the dead via mediums. The spiritism commonly practiced by Latinos is Kardecian Spiritism or Misa Blanca (white table), where a medium leads a mass of devotees in prayers and spirits communicate with the living. Spiritism has no formal structure, only recommended guidelines for practicing. The religion has many similarities to ancestor veneration in African societies and its openness allowed it to fit the needs of the Latin American populations who practiced it. Espiritismo is often practiced alongside Palo and Santeria.

    Los Misterios (the mysteries) also known as Los 21 Divisiones (21 Divisions) or Arará are other religions that have similar roots thanks to the Fan-Dahomey peoples of Guinea who transported the religion to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba. Sometimes called Dominican Voodun, the religion's deities, los loas were also disguised in Catholic imagery to maintain their survival. Here, people communicated with black, white and Indian spirits through mediums called servidores de los misterios (ministers of the spirits) or caballos (horses) for they are mounted by spirits who use them as a mouthpiece.

    But as widespread as the religions may be, there is still speculation about their validity. "There's still a prejudice about these traditions; that they are somehow not really religions -- they're cults, they're superstitions, they're magic with all the negative connotations that those words have," Dr. Clark says. "Because they don't appear in Western traditions, there's a tendency to say it isn't right."

    Each systems' practices and cosmologies vary but share more commonalities than differences. "They come from the same general cultural areas of Africa," Dr. Clark says. "They all use drumming and dancing as ritual. All use animal sacrifice. All have possession trance."

    "When the people were brought to the Americas they intermixed and they cross-initiated each other and participated in each other's religious traditions, so there has been some cross fertilization that didn't happen in Africa that happened in the New World," Dr. Clark says.

    Other commonalities include the lack of a written religious text and openness to other belief systems, for none of them claim to be an absolute religion or mutually exclusive of others. They are complimentary and often practiced in conjunction. It was likely this adaptability is what allowed them to survive.

    "I don't think spirituality fits in a box," says Ana Polanco, a law student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Polanco, a Latina who was raised in New York City. "Why can't my spirituality be a combination of elements?" Polanco who was raised Catholic has been involved in Santeria and spiritism since childhood "by default" due to her family's own spiritual practices. Polanco plans to convert to the Episcopalian Church in the next few months because of her own discontent with the faith she was raised in. "I started departing from church because of its rigidity and lack of acceptance of other religions." But she does not consider the two faiths as conflicting or an 'either, or' choice. "It's a natural cultural extension that allows me to...maintain my spiritual cultural roots."

    "It was our little African secret," says Falcón of his spiritual roots. "I was taught it was part of my existence and something I was told to cherish and not forget."

  2. #2
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    Default A Santeria Community

    Just wanted to share a link from a web community thats made up of Thousands of Santeria practicioners, and followers around the world...but its not exclusive to Santeros, this place ahs plenty of 21 Division servants, dominican vodou serers, palo, etc..so feel free to check it out..



    and the main portal of SANTERIA


  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by MySanteria View Post
    Just wanted to share a link from a web community thats made up of Thousands of Santeria practicioners, and followers around the world...but its not exclusive to Santeros, this place ahs plenty of 21 Division servants, dominican vodou serers, palo, etc..so feel free to check it out..



    and the main portal of SANTERIA


    Thanks for the article, I will read it, however I noticed the line that says "21 Divisions Practitioners". Actually, there are no 21 "Divisions". La 21 División is one, indivisible, a totality. And both "21" and "Division" are used emblematically. The name has no mathematical significante. Also, what is referred to as "practitioners" is not an accurate translation for "Servidores de los Misterios".

  4. #4
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    You are correct, but the bottom line is that its understood..... im not sure what you mean about 21 division being two separate things..... my understanding of it is that there are a total of 21 divisions in which each division is made up of an unknown number of spirits that have their own path, ogun balenyo, ogun fegayo...ogun belie... ogun batala..etc.... so I see what you're saying but at the same time im im not sure I understand you.

  5. #5
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    You are correct, but the bottom line is that its understood..... im not sure what you mean about 21 division being two separate things..... my understanding of it is that there are a total of 21 divisions in which each division is made up of an unknown number of spirits that have their own path, ogun balenyo, ogun fegayo...ogun belie... ogun batala..etc.... so I see what you're saying but at the same time im im not sure I understand you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mirador View Post
    Thanks for the article, I will read it, however I noticed the line that says "21 Divisions Practitioners". Actually, there are no 21 "Divisions". La 21 División is one, indivisible, a totality. And both "21" and "Division" are used emblematically. The name has no mathematical significante. Also, what is referred to as "practitioners" is not an accurate translation for "Servidores de los Misterios".

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by MySanteria View Post
    You are correct, but the bottom line is that its understood..... im not sure what you mean about 21 division being two separate things..... my understanding of it is that there are a total of 21 divisions in which each division is made up of an unknown number of spirits that have their own path, ogun balenyo, ogun fegayo...ogun belie... ogun batala..etc.... so I see what you're saying but at the same time im im not sure I understand you.

    All I'm saying is that there are no twenty-one divisions (or spiritual entities). If you disagree with me, I challenge you to name them. the name La 21 Division is emblematic and does not refer to numbers or separate entities.

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