Do you know
what it is?
Santeria has been around for 400 years and is growing rapidly. Membership is estimated to be about 100,000,000, but that count was made ten years ago. The numbers have been bulking up due to the Mexican drug cartels being drawn into it. Under the name of La Santa Muerte or The Holy Dead, this offshoot of Santeria is used to prevent one from being caught when committing crimes, to avoid prison, and to be protected from bullets and knives.
In many ways, Santeria is jungle magic dressed up for urban life and is growing rapidly in some of America's big cities like New York, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles. During the third week of January 2012, there were twelve "botanicas" (botánicas) open for business in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. There is even a botanica in Marin County, one of America's most prestigious and wealthy counties. A botanica is a store where products necessary to the carrying out of the complex curses, spells, rituals, and divining ceremonies are purchased.
Santeria desires to stay under the radar; it is an extremely secretive religion. Considering the sacrifices of chickens, goats, and other animals, and sometimes drinking the blood of those animals, practitioners of the religion try to keep away from media scrutiny.
Youth are particularly attracted to Santeria for its cool edginess. It is very spiritual and highly religious, and the goals of those attracted to it are attaining of wealth, health, and prosperity—the very themes that drive many of the world's religions, even in some corners of evangelical Christianity.
Fans of Santeria will say that their religion is not about power or money, rather it is a way to improve one's life. Such a defense is understandable, but the evidence simply does not support that. This will be made plain as we go along.
The origins of the magical and fortune-telling rites go back to Yoruba-speaking West African tribes, mainly those found along the banks of the Niger River in Nigeria. The 18th and 19th century slave traders, in bringing West Africans to the New World, also brought what was to become known as Santeria to the Americas, mainly to the Caribbean Islands from where it spread, both north into other parts of the Caribbean and the U.S.A. and south into Mexico, Central America and South America. In Cuba it is known as Lucumi, in Brazil either Macumba or Candomble (or Condonble), and in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, and Mexico it became known as Santeria. In different places the names for the rites also changed, and in Haiti the magical rites are called Voodoo or Voudun. Voodoo and Santeria developed differences over time, but the focus is the same--the placating of gods, spirits, demons, even the devil, to do the bidding of the worshipper. Some observers maintain that Voodoo and Santeria are basically now two different religious systems.
There are significant differences between the Yoruba religion and Santeria. When the slaves reached the New World things changed, as for example, in the number of gods worshipped. When the African religion reached Brazil it morphed into what is now called either Candomble or Macumba. In Trinidad it became known as Shango. The religion was called Santeria in Cuba, from which it migrated to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Panama, and other countries.
Santeria comes from the Spanish word for "saint." When the African slaves in the New World realized their masters did not understand or appreciate their magical religious rites, they simply folded their magical system into the prevailing worship of the Roman Catholic Church. The process is referred to as syncretism, which is blending of competing systems with a resultant creation of a new identity in both name and practice.
The Yoruba gods comprise an extremely complex structure not unlike the pantheon of the Greeks of ancient days. Their deities are known as orishas and were eventually given names borrowed from Roman Catholic saints. The character of the orishas reminds one of the Greek gods and goddesses who were divine but carried on like ill-behaved humans. In Africa the list of the orishas surpasses 600, while in Latin America that number was reduced to between twenty and twenty-five. These orishas have African names: Eleggua, Orunmila, Obatala, Oddudua, Chango, Oggun, Ochosi, Aganyu, Babalu-aye, Osain, Yemaya, Oshun, Oya, Orisha-Oko, Yewa, Dada, Ibeyi, Oba, Inle, and Osun. A key doctrine of Santeria is that every person has a ruling orisha, even if that person never learns the name of the orisha or even ever practices Santeria.
Some adherents of Santeria claim it is a monotheistic religion, because the orisha gods named above are only secondary to the ultimate, uncreated, eternal, all powerful, and totally transcendent god, Oloddumare. Oloddumare has the ashe or power, and the orishas dispense the ashe, if they are properly respected and worshipped. Ashe is the power that makes the curses, spells, and other rituals work.
The orishas are said to have raw power that is awe-inspiring and visually evident, but the worship of an orisha is not easily done, because they demand strict obedience and total surrender. Given enough time, the demands of the orisha dominate the life of the practitioner to the point of torture.
To Santerians, the gods are not really thought of as gods but are considered "children" or servants of Oloddumare. The orishas are not then worshipped as gods but as guardian angels, and it is here that the syncretism between the Yoruba teachings and Catholicism is dramatically apparent.
Santeria is typical of what occurred so often in the coming together of different peoples with differing belief systems--there was a combining of systems. With Santeria, all of the Yoruba deities became indentified with Catholic saints. Santeria became then a mixture of Yoruba religion with many of the traditions of the Catholic Church. Often practitioners so blend the two that they do not recognize where one stops and the other begins.
The impact of the Roman Catholic Church upon Santeria
The folding in of the religious beliefs of the Yoruba people into the Catholic Faith wrought far-reaching consequences. Primitive magic is at the heart of Santeria. In the New World, the Yoruba religion was practiced in the woods, away from prying eyes. It is for this reason, the need to hide the magical, witchcraft nature of the slaves’ religion, that led to the folding of Santeria into Catholic practices and observances.
The transition was fairly easily accomplished since the primary mechanisms for magical thinking were already in place in the Catholic system. Consider the following:
1. Catholic priests receive ordination from those previously ordained, supposedly going back to Peter. This is essentially a magical concept where certain powers of the priests, acquired through ordination, are exercised in religious rites. This is evident in the power of the priest to turn ordinary water into "holy water" and to turn bread into the actual flesh of Jesus and wine into the actual blood of Jesus. It was not a large step to embrace the Yoruba belief system. After all, Santeria is about obtaining power, or ashe, from the saints.
2. Catholic Saints, including the Virgin Mary, are prayed to in the Catholic Church and these are thought to be able to grant certain favors including protection from accidents and injury. The saints of the Church had power that could be tapped into. In Santeria, the rites of the Church were merely copied and modified, and the result was much the same.
3. The Church's concept of an immortal soul set the stage for Santeria's doctrine of reincarnation. With reincarnation the soul lives on, and there is no real consequence for bad behavior except perhaps having to experience a lesser existence the next time around. This possibility does not impact people much, as consequences are both hazy and far away, and there is no threat of actual judgment.
4. The Mass--this sacrificial rite, the continual reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, provided the back drop for the animal sacrifices ubiquitous to Santeria. If the church's rites focused on sacrifice, then Santeria's sacrificial system could legitimately fall right in line.
It must be noted that the Roman Catholic Church did not endorse Santeria and largely attempted to refute it, but Santeria became so influential that in some places, and to this day, there was a deliberate syncretization of the two systems. This is especially true in countries like Cuba and Brazil.
It is also characteristic that Santerians are baptized and faithful members of the Catholic Church, often very fervent worshippers. This has changed somewhat now as Jewish people have begun practicing Santeria, and they objected to a Christian baptism of any kind. It may be that Jews who practiced Judaism's esoteric Kabballah found a linkage between that and Santeria.
Essentially, Santeria is the worship of saints
Santeria is called a natural magico-religious system. In fact, each of the orishas (saints) are identified with a force of nature. Again, the orishas have power – ashe - and can be compelled to give it to a worshipper.
All the various forms of the religion, the rituals and spells, are conducted to get ashe from the orishas. With ashe all problems can be solved, enemies destroyed, love obtained, and wealth secured, even through illegal means.
Ebbo, or sacrifice, is the centerpiece of the worship of saints/orishas and is the way ashe/power is obtained. It is the proper sacrifice--maybe of fruit, flowers, candles, other favorite foods, or even the blood of an animal, that moves the orisha to give ashe. The ebbos are complex rituals and are the specialty of the santeros or santeras, the men and women (mostly men) who serve as the priests of Santeria and who perform the ebbos intended to placate or propitiate the saints or orishas.
It should be noted that in Africa the Yoruba placated both good and evil forces, the evil called ajogun, and the good called the orishas. But in Santeria only the good forces, so-called, are worshipped--the orishas.
One of Santeria's core beliefs is that one's destiny begins before birth. The soul, whose origin is in the house of God, or heaven, lives on and on in many reincarnations. In each birth a person has a specific destiny to fulfill. This, of course, runs counter to Catholic doctrine.
Santeria is also highly regimented and formalized, because magic depends on the precise carrying out of the ritual. And the santero is to be obeyed beyond question, as he knows all and has the answer for everything. It is said that the santero does nothing more than carry out the wishes of the orisha. The santeros are considered to be the actual living presence of the orishas, and it is said that the orishas "are loving friends but terrible enemies."
The high priest of Santeria
The Babalawo--the high priest of Santeria--is syncretized with St. Francis of Assisi.
Baba means father; awo means divination. This entity is said to be the judge of Santeria and is consulted when a case proves difficult.
The Babalawo, always male, uses three different forms of divination to determine what is to be done: the opele, the opon ifa, and the ikin. All three involve elaborate rites to ascertain the correct means of solving troublesome cases. All three will determine what ebbo, or worship, is to be offered to which orisha.
The diloggun is a system of divination, most often done with cowrie shells, known as "the seashells," which are thrown on the ground or a table, and their alignment determines what type of sacrifice is to be made by the worshipper who is seeking ashe for some purpose or another.
Also central to Santeria is ancestor worship. Deceased family members are known as "eggun" and these eggun must be placated or "fed" before any ceremony directed to the orishas can be performed. Here is observed a connection with La Santa Muerte, the worship of the "holy dead."
There are a number of initiations; one of these is called the Guerreros, which is Spanish for Warriors. In this initiation one receives several orishas who actually are said to live by the person's front door and need to be placated in some way at least every Monday, but maybe more often, depending on what is decreed by the seashells.
Another initiation is the Ilekes or Necklaces (Collares in Spanish). Actual necklaces are draped around the neck of the initiate. The Ilekes are sacred and are a sign of the orishas presence and protection. Santerians say the necklace ceremony is equivalent to the ceremony of baptism. Receiving the necklaces is a ceremonial entrance into the religion as a follower of the orishas.
Asiento is a word used to describe the basic nature of an initiation. The word means "seat" and reveals the reality of Santeria.
Santeros do the initiating, and the first task is to ascertain by means of the diloggun (seashells) who is the initiate's personal orisha. That orisha is said to watch over the initiated person throughout his (or her) life, guiding and protecting him. Thus, the orisha will be constantly petitioned by the new member. In the New World, the Hispanic world, the orisha is referred to by a saint's name, and each of the orishas have a saint's name. Appeals are then made to the orisha in order to secure healing and wealth, to cast spells, and to perform other forms of magic.
The outcome of the asiento is that the initiate is "mounted" by the orisha, like a rider mounts a horse. The initiate becomes the seat of the orisha which takes possession of him or her. Here is seen the real nature of Santeria. The orisha is no god, saint, or guardian angel; the orisha is an unclean or evil spirit. Here is where the façade of Santeria is broken and its true face is evident. The orisha is a demon, as are the eggun, the so-called holy dead.
The eggun are spirits of the dead, and associated with the eggun are all the spirits assigned to a person for protection and guidance. There is, therefore, a whole host of unclean or evil spirits that invade the life of the initiate who has been mounted in the asiento. After a while, there would be a considerable host of spirits involved--a legion of demons in fact.
Orishas are not hidden or remote forces; they are involved in the everyday life of the person. Orishas will talk "face to face," in that they can be talked to and will talk back. It is this real-time interaction with the orishas that account for the rapid growth of Santeria.
After completion of the asiento, the initiate is said to be born anew and is given a new name. It is clear that Santeria is a clever counterpart, or better, counterfeit, to biblical Christianity, wherein the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon conversion.
Santeria is based on what is called sympathetic, imitative, or homeopathic magic. This form of magic centers around the so-called laws of similarity and contact.
The similarity form of magic might be described as "like produces like." For example, when a spell or curse is to be cast on an enemy, then a figure is made to simulate or be similar to the enemy, usually made of wax. The simulated figure is tortured, stabbed, and so on. Whatever happens to the wax figure is expected to similarly happen to the victim of the spell or curse. Often a stone is named after an enemy, then that stone can is kicked around the house or down the road, and what punishment the stone receives the victim is intended to receive as well. This does remind one of voodoo.
Contact magic is a form in which physical contact is made with an object belonging to or associated with the subject of the spell. The effect remains long after the contact is ended. For example, if something that belongs to the subject, a piece of clothing or a shoe, is procured, then the owner can be influenced. This form of magic is thought to secure love, sex, or something else that belongs to the victim or subject.
Faith is required for the magic to work, faith in the power of the saints, the orishas.
Black magic is the term used when harm to a victim in intended; white magic is the term for when, for instance, love is sought. The difference is artificial; the demon's intent is to secure the worship of the Santeria people above all else and will seem to do good in order to receive it. Yes, demonic miracles do occur.
Santeros, then, will attempt to make a distinction between good and evil magic, but in reality such differences are not actual, because there are no good forms of magic at all (not to be confused with entertainers’ sleight-of-hand tricks or illusions). Indeed, all magic of the Santeria sort is evil and functions only by demonic power. The magical nature of Santeria is exposed in this way for someone who stands outside it, but for those committed to it, it seems natural and logical.
The séance is the spiritual mass of Santeria. Participants sit around a table, often enveloped in swirling cigar smoke, which is supposed to have a cleansing effect, similar to "holy" water. After the reading of certain cleansing prayers, often from a book written by Allen Kardec, a French spiritualist, the spirits of various eggun will begin to appear and actually interact with the participants. To a skeptic such revelation is overwhelming. The eggun will appear to physically walk around the room, eyes open, and talk to those seated around the table. They seem very much as living entities, not flesh and blood persons, but entities that are walking and talking.
Santerians have observed that the eggun at the séance will speak gutturally, often using African words with a Spanish accent, and treat the participants as though they were their slaves.
The Ebbo, or offering, and the sacrifices
The santero makes the offering (ebbo) to the orisha in order to obtain ashe, the raw cosmic power, to work in favor of his client. The santero charges a monetary fee for this, the derecho, and the bill for the santero’s work can be quite expensive.
There are basically three kinds of animal sacrifices. First is the ritual cleansing: the santero rubs an animal over the body of a distressed client, thus taking away the source of the trouble, after which he sacrifices the animal. He must dispose of the animal's body; it may not be eaten.
Second are offerings to the eggun or orishas. Some of these animals may be eaten, some not.
Third are asiento offerings, where the blood of a sacrificed animal is offered to the saints. This involves the pouring out of the animal's blood that was held in a cup or other vessel. The animal is always eaten afterward, because it is believed that the orisha's ashe was in that animal.
The Bataa and the Tambor
The bataa are drums that are used to sound unusual rhythms known as a "conversation." The drums are played at "fiestas de santo," which are parties in honor of the orishas. The party is known as a tambor, Spanish for drum. There are three different kinds of tambor drums, and each drum is thought to be alive or having a soul. The drum is thought to speak with a voice peculiar to itself and are believed to be the voices of spiritual entities of great power.
The drummers try to beat out a voice that insults the orishas into coming down to the tambor and possessing the initiates.
In the tambors, dancers or specially designated people become possessed, which is obvious to those in attendance. The possessed persons often do outrageous things, even perform acts requiring great strength that would be impossible without the possession. These possessions serve as direct evidence of contact with supernatural powers and are very convincing to onlookers.
In the tambor, when animals are sacrificed, santeros will drink the blood of a sacrificial animal as it comes spurting out. It is said that the santero is not drinking the blood but that the orisha who possesses the santero is actually being fed by the blood.
A note on drumming: men's drumming groups are a means of attracting new members into Santeria and can be found on many American college campuses.
In Santeria the devil is known as Olosi.
Witchcraft or black magic is not commonly practiced in Santeria, but this often depends on the santero. Those who practice Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe are the ones who directly engage in witchcraft and black magic, even the direct worship of Satan.
There is said to be good Palo or Christian Mayome, and bad, or Jewish or unbaptized Mayombe. In the good form, holy water is used, and in the bad, this is where people are involved who have not been baptized into the Catholic Church--who might be Jewish or some other religion that does not recognize the Church.
Four-fold structure of Santeria
According to Migene Gonzalez-Wippler's book Santeria The Religion, there is a four-fold structure to Santeria: communication, possession, divine contact, and transformation.
Communication takes place through possession, which is contact with the divine, and that contact brings transformation.
Possession takes place during trance-like or altered states of consciousness that result from the drummed rhythms. The possession brings communication, actual contact with spirits, after which one will never be the same. When the possession happens, the initiated person is said to be possessed by his guardian angel or ruling orisha. This is known as montarse or subirse el santo. The possessed individual acts and functions as if he were the personification of the orisha.
This structure is accurate to a degree. The possessing spirit, which is in fact a demon, contacts the individual, communicates with him or her, and transforms that individual. It is demonic possession institutionalized as an acceptable religion. The exposure of such is the reason for the writing of this essay.
The true Power greater than the god of Santeria
Santeria is a religion wherein the devil receives worship from people. The orishas are actual entities, demonic spirits, but those involved in Santeria do not always know this. For many of the members of Santeria, they believe their practices are merely an extension of their Catholic religion.
Many santeros and santeras know differently, however. They recognize, after a period of time, that they are in direct contact with the devil and his angels.
Oddly, they will even know that "Jesus Christ of Nazareth," as they put it, and only Jesus Christ, can drive the orishas and the eggun out of them.
Power, health, wealth, and prosperity are desirable indeed but are not the purpose nor goal of life, which is to know God and glorify him. To have all of the former would do nothing but deceive and distort the receiver. And even if the entire world were to be gained, there still stands a righteous judgment ahead. The orishas, the holy dead, and all the host of Satan will only be cast into hell forever.
This essay was written to warn those who are engaged in Santeria to flee it and the demonic powers that drive it. Santeria members will give testimonies about how they have been rewarded with good things. But at what a terrible cost!
This essay is also for those who innocently involved themselves with Santeria thinking it was somehow connected with the Catholic Church and was thus acceptable. The Catholic Church as historically understood rejects Santeria and its magical practices.
This paper is for those who have been initiated and have been possessed of spirits, spirits you had been told are spirits of ancestors or by orishas themselves. All of these are demons whose whole purpose is to take you to hell with them.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth can drive the demons out
Please study the following passages from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible:
Deuteronomy 18:10-12. "There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD."
There it is. Notice "necromancer"--communicator with the dead. Direct and to the point. Also, the dead do not contact the living. This is clear from a parable Jesus told, the story of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus.
The rich man died and went to hell. Lazarus, the rich man's servant, also died and went to heaven. The rich man wanted Lazarus to help him warn his brothers, but God told him that there was a deep chasm fixed so that no one could cross it either way (see Luke 16:19-31).
There is no communication from the dead to the living, and what seems to be the case is merely a deception of Satan.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John 3:8).
We are told to, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Jesus is victor over the devil. However possessed you might be, no matter what terrible acts you may have engaged in, you can be forgiven. No one is without hope.
It is Jesus Christ and Him alone who can free you from the power of the devil and his demons. You need not fear the evil spirits; those evil spirits fear the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
By the power of the Holy Spirit you can be set free.
See Kent's 9 Youtube videos on this subject of Santeria:
Last Update: 2015-05-01 12:30