Thanks to Hollywood, a couple of alternative rock bands, and a few episodes of Law and Order, Santeria has been misconstrued and portrayed as being a satanic cult. We have all seen the movies about the mindless zombies, or the savages who collect and worship human body parts. Just remember, Hollywood’s job is to sell movies, and portraying Santeria in a positive light is not going to generate a lot of ticket sales. That is why it is our responsibility to change our perceptions about Santeria ourselves. There is a great amount of knowledge and history that is shrouded in these African and native religions, knowledge that may very well be the missing link to a lost history. Now is the time to bring light to darkness and show the greatness of our past.
Santeria is a compilation of beliefs.
Like its followers, it is an eclectic mix of Yoruba, Catholicism, and Native American folklore. This mixture of African tribal religion, animism, ancestor worship, and more has shaped the lives of many people throughout history. The Yoruba religion itself came to the New World via slaves who were captured by the Europeans with the help of rival tribes in Africa. Many were spiritual leaders. They were high priests and priestesses who brought their knowledge to the new world. Healing rituals were rudimentary, because of the lack of supplies and the need for secrecy. However, these rituals often involved the practice of trance dancing and drumming, often used to communicate with their gods and ancestors. Santeria is mainly practiced in Cuba.
However, with the influx of Cubans, it is now a growing religion in the United States and the Caribbean. Santeria in many parts of the Caribbean has been heavily influenced by the Native American culture. Both practices believed in spirit worship and the need for balance between man and nature. This is perhaps why terminologies throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world are different. For instance, a priest or priestess, once called a babalorisha can also be known as a Santera or a Santero.
It is unfortunate that that Santeria has been caste in the shadows.
It is a taboo to merely mention the name. Very few people understand that our ancestors, as slaves survived both the middle passage and slavery by calling on the Gods and deities that we now disown. Not everyone has to become a priest, or denounce all association with Christianity or Islam. However, we all must embrace our past, because it is truly who we are. Once we understand our ancestors’ religion, we can begin to realize that they are all the same thing. All religions speak the same language and work as a vehicle to guide us closer to God.