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By Donald T. Moore
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an ordinance that prohibited animal
sacrifices, the Court legalized the practice as a result. The sect known as
Santeria thus gained a victory for its bloody rites.
What is Santeria? It is an Afro-Caribbean religion that combines animism,
pantheism, ancestor worship, and Roman Catholicism. It is a syncretistic
religion that combines its belief in the Orishas - the gods of the
Yoruba and Bantu pantheons of southwest Nigerian origin-with the Catholic
Santeria consists of myths, stories, and legends (or patakí) that
provide a basis for its customs and ceremonies. Although more than 400 deities
exist, only 16 are actively worshipped. Those deities that form the foundation
of the religion are Obatalá, Oshún, Yemaya (or Yemalla), Oyá, and Changó (or
Shango). The four warriors are Elegguá, Oggún, Ochosi, and Osun. It is around
these foundational and warrior Orishas- or head guardians-that rites of
initiation, divination, and magic are celebrated.
In essence, Santeria offers its believers (known as santeros) the
means of acquiring predictive knowledge of the world, as well as access to the
principal sources of power. Its practice is supposedly limited to white magic
and excludes any black witchcraft. Those who observe Santeria worship Olofi
- also called Olodumare and Olorún - their almighty god and
supreme being. Santeros believe that it is in the forces of nature where the
Orishas manifest Olofi's will.
The santero's central goals are to worship the saints (Orishas), observe
feasts, obey orders, and carry out rites. In exchange for total submission,
believers are promised supernatural powers and protection from evil-including
health, influence, position, and the ability to see and modify the future.
How did Santeria arise? During the colonization of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, and
Trinidad-thousands of Yoruba natives were transported there as slaves. These
slaves remained attached to their religious practices and African traditions,
even though they were forced to adjust to the environment of the New World.
However, due to Catholic persecution in Cuba, they were unable to practice
their religion openly. So the slaves assimilated the symbols of the Roman
Catholic Church, the only legal religion in Cuba, with their own. Because of
the similarities between the Catholic saints and the Orishas, they gave their
deities Catholic names. Thus, when celebrating their rituals, the slaves
appeared to be believing Catholics. In reality, they were secretly worshiping
the Yoruba Orishas.
Over several centuries, this process of adaptation meant that the
Nigerianii Yoruba practices were modified to resemble other African
tribal customs and religions.With the mass exit from Cuba after the 1959
communist revolution, this faith in Orishas was exported to Puerto
Rico,iii Panama, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. It
was also introduced to different urban centers in the United States-including
Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New Jersey.
The Deities of Santeria
Santeros believe that Orishas are supernatural beings that emanate from
Olofi, the creator god of humankind and the saints. They have two noteworthy
characteristics. The first is their ability to control a variety of human
forces, enterprises, and interests. The second is their representation of the
different elements and forces of nature.
The following are some of the foundational and warrior deities which
were previously discussed:
• Obatalá: associated with the Catholic saint Our Lady of Mercy -
is the father of the Orishas and creation. He is also the patron of peace and
• Orúnla: also known as Ifá and Orúnmila - is the
patron of the high priests (known as babalawos) and the principal
magician of the Yoruba pantheon. He is equated with the Catholic saint Francis
• Yemaya: the patron of the seas and of motherhood - gave birth to 14
of the most important Orishas, including Changó. She is likened to the Virgin
• Oshún: the younger sister of Yemaya and the queen of love, marriage,
gold, and the rivers-is the favorite concubine of Changó, is associated with
Our Lady of Charity, and is the patron saint of Cuba.
• Oyá: the queen of the dead - is the ruler of fire, wind, and the
cemetery. This daughter of Yemaya is equated with Saint Theresa and the Virgin
of Candelaria. Puerto Rico is known as the land of Oyá.
• Changó: the Orisha of virility-is the patron of fire, drums, dance,
lightning, and thunder. A great warrior, he gives victory over one's enemies,
as well as every difficulty. This son of Yemaya, is likened to Saint
Four deities form the group identified as the warriors.
They are Elegguá, Oggún, Ochosi and Osun.
• Elegguá: also known as Elegba - is the guardian of the
doors, including the door of death. He acts as the messenger of Olofi and the
other Orishas to the human world.Without his permission nothing can be
accomplished. As the principal deity of divination for the santero, he is
associated with St. Anthony and the Holy Infant of Prague.
• Oggún: a son of Yemaya - is equated with St. Peter. He is the patron
of metals, technology, and every working person.
• Ochosi: also a son of Yemaya - is likened to St. Norbert. He is the
patron of the hunters, and acts as a translator for Obatalá.
• Osun: or Osain - is the Orisha that always accompanies
Elegguá and is associated with St. John the Baptist. Osun warns santeros when
danger arises and is seen as the embodiment of joy.
In addition to the Catholic saints symbolizing these deities, the Orishas
are also represented by the fundamentos and secrets of the saints.
These fundamentos are one or more stones (otanes) grouped
together for someone's initiation (asiento). Also included are 16
cowrie shells (diloggun) and several atributos - or small
figures and objects - that represent the powers and characteristics of the
deity. The consecrated stones, kept in deep bowls colorfully decorated to
represent the Orisha, means to obtain benefits and protection for the believer.
They are full of ashé - which means they are made of cosmic energy.
The fundamentos are the most basic representation of the Orisha and
are treated like living beings. They are even bathed with sacred liquids made
from plants, cleaned, rubbed with oil, and fed with the blood of the deity's
favorite animal. After being converted into the abodes of the Orishas, the
stones acquire both the personality and power (ashé) of the god that
resides within them. Cowrie shells are used for divination. The initiate keeps
them in his house with the other religious objects, instead of in special
temples. Most rituals are conducted in the homes of believers.
The bead necklaces (eleke) are made of the characteristic color of
each Orisha, and are another important symbol. The colors of the Orishas
radiate ashé.When a santero wears an Orisha's colors, he is protected
because any magical spell directed toward him is deflected. Thus, the Orishas
are said to protect their children with their colors.
There are two courses for growth in the Santeria hierarchy of power and
prestige. These paths are ritualized, eleven-step progressions that guide the
person from non-believer to the elevated knowledge and protectioniv
of an omókoloba (one that has received Olofi). Different rituals help
the santero acquire power and knowledge. Non-believers do not have the power
that this religion promises and, therefore, lack adequate protection against
evil. Both paths require the person to receive the initiation of the warriors,
although other steps vary.v
Frequently, the initiation is referred to as asiento - which
signifies contract and obligation. The Orisha agrees to protect his child, who,
in turn, promises to serve the Orisha. Making the saint is another
expression used in reference to the initiation.
The process of initiation is long, complicated, and costlyvi. It
consists of several phases and varies according to the Orisha. First, it is
necessary to determine which of the deities corresponds to the person that is
seeking help. This is accomplished through a divinatory process done by a
santero or a high priest (bablawo).vii An initiation begins
with the reception of necklaces and ends with the asiento. The preparations for
the initiation include a special bath and dressing with white clothes as a
symbol of the new life. Sometimes the waters of the purification bath symbolize
the amniotic liquid of birth. During the ceremony, the initiate is formally
assigned an Orisha that will protect and watch over him. The ceremony includes
animal sacrifices, prediction of the initiate's future, and obedience to taboos
and restrictions for a year. During this time, the initiate must submit to
certain prohibitions concerning apparel, sexual relations, food, and daily
Animal sacrifices are essential for the initiation, because the blood is
necessary for birth. It is believed that during the asiento, one is born to a
new life as a child (omo) of the Orisha.
For many santeros, this initiation is the first of a series of ceremonies that
serve to dedicate them to more Orishas. Upon becoming a saint, two paths are
opened to the santero-that which is open to every man and woman, and that of
Orúnla (which is open to men who will become high priests).
During the ceremonies, drums and dances facilitate an altered state of
consciousness known as a trance. This is identified as when the
saint comes down, because the Orisha descends upon the head of the santero
and has control over the frenetic movements of the possessed person. These
frenzied gestures allow onlookers to identify the deity.
On other occasions, the blood of the sacrificed animal is either poured
directly over the sacred stones (otanes), or the initiate drinks it -
symbolizing its consumption be the Orisha.
Due to their concept of reincarnation, santeros believe that, prior to
birth, it is possible to choose one's own destiny. This implies that there are
predetermined aspects of life-such as one's character, work, economic status,
intelligence, fortune, and longevity. Although it is not possible to change
one's destiny, violating an Orisha's prohibition, disobeying a deity, and
magical curses can worsen it. Because of this, the divinatory ceremonies-or
counsels of Olofi-are of immense importance. Through them, a person receives
valuable advice about how to make his destiny less severe, how to decrease the
number of problems that impact his life, and how to increase the benefits
available to him. Divination helps to improve the santero's life. The santero
learns to eliminate negative influences by uncovering their origins and obeying
the instructions given him. The believer not only discovers the spiritual
reasons for the difficult situations in his life, but also is informed of how
to overcome them. In addition, the experiences of the Orishas in mythology
offer models of action which the believer can emulate.
The usual celebrants of the divinatory rituals are the babalawo
(high priests) and santeros. Normally, their instruments of divination are,
respectively, the opele and the diloggun (or cowrie shells).
The ceremonies that rely upon divination include the reception of necklaces;
the initiation; the lustral baths; animal sacrifices; the vegetable, fruit, and
sweet offerings; and the candles offered during a spiritual or Catholic Mass.
Frequently the obi and the diloggun are asked questions about
the will of the gods; thus, these rituals are characterized as propitiatory,
preventive, and reparative. Coconuts (obi) are the basic tool of the
divinatory system, but are limited to answering simple yes or no questions. Any
believer may consult the coconut-even a person who has not yet been initiated.
The santeros use coconuts in their principal ceremonies to divine the future
and determine if the deity likes a certain offering.
The opele is a chain filled with eight pieces of coconut. The
babalawo takes the chain by the middle and throws it on the floor so
that the halves of the opele fall parallel to each other.viii There
are 16 ways in which each half can fall. These positions determine the
interpretation given. The opele is thrown a number of times to determine the
source affecting the person for good or evil.When it is discovered which Orisha
is protecting the person, questions are asked to establish which ritual is
required by the deity. Generally, whatever the opele registers is valid for a
period of two to three months, excluding serious situations.
The cowrie shells (diloggun) are also instruments of divination.
The sixteen shells serve as the voice of the deity in answering questions. The
shells of Elegguá are normally used, because Elegguá
interprets the solutions given by the Orishas. Although the shells of other
deities are used for divination, they are rarely used during the believer's
life. The procedure of the shells is similar to that of the opele. However, a
litany of invocations is used to communicate with the deities. Permission is
requested of the guardian angel consulted, the shells are thrown three times in
order to obtain a key letter and two secondary ones, the additional five shells
are used so that by means of yes and no answers, one can find out . . . by the
hand of whom it is so, what saint protects him and what he should do in order
to clear his path."ix
In addition, there are other instruments of divination such as the
ikines, that consist of sixteen seeds from two plants. However, their
use is extremely rare.
Sacrifice is fundamental to the worship of the Orishas, and there are
traditional sacrificial techniques that are mandatory.
Animal blood is crucial to most important ceremonies, and each Orisha
requires particular sacrifices that provide him with vital cosmic energy
(ashé). One Orisha may prefer a goat, calf, pig, fish, sheep, or
turtle; while another calls for hens, chickens, roosters, guineas, geese,
turkeys, or ducks. There are also offerings that do not involve blood, such as
honey, fruits, vegetables, black beans, and rice.
The Orishas that materialize in the stones, cowrie shells, and
elekes (bead necklaces), do not eat the flesh of the sacrificed
animals. Instead, the ashé contained in the blood is poured out over
the fundamentos and the heads of the initiates. The sacred Yoruba words of
consecration liberate this energy, and the blood enhances the Orishas' energy.
It keeps them potent, efficient, and satisfied with the worshipers.
There is no salvation, prosperity, or security in Santeria without
sacrifice. The gods cannot do without the sacrificial blood because it
increases their energies. Those santeros, who participate in the sacrifice,
benefit by communing with the Orishas and being strengthened by the
Other reasons for animal sacrifice include obtaining forgiveness from an
Orisha, averting the fury of the creator, and symbolizing the new birth of an
initiate. Sacrifices also can be made to obtain favor from an Orisha, to free
oneself from a magical jinx, to cleanse and purify, or to turn away
Santeros justify animal sacrifices by arguing that since the beginning,
every covenant between God and man has been authenticated by animal blood. The
victim is needed as proof of man's intention to honor the agreement. The blood
represents the energy from which everything was created. Offering blood to a
deity is equated with giving him a gift of pure energy that can be used in
creation. Candles and food offerings are also given to the Orishas, in order to
replenish their powers. However, of the three kinds of offerings, the blood
sacrifice is the most important and indispensable because its energy comes from
a living being.
The blood of sacrificed animals belongs to the Orishas and, therefore, to
the creator god Olofi. It is his by divine right. The killing of the animals is
carried out in ceremonies with great solemnity and respect. Only trained
santeros, who have submitted to the appropriate initiatory rites, are permitted
Santeros argue that the Bible is filled with examples of the Israelite
sacrificing to their God. Abraham was even willing to sacrifice his only son to
please the Almighty. In the book of Leviticus, Yahweh instructed Moses how to
prepare and sacrifice the burnt offering (see Lev. 1:5).When the tabernacle was
completed, the twelve princes representing the tribes of Israel brought 20
animals for sacrifice (see Num. 7:11-17). Joseph and Mary complied with
Leviticus 12 and took two doves to the temple to be sacrificed on the eighth
day after Jesus was born (see Luke 2:22-24). Even Jesus highlighted the
importance of the blood sacrifice during the last supper, when He identified
the wine as the blood of the new covenant.
Santeros also point out that Jewish rabbis have received permission to
sacrifice animals in accordance with the laws of Moses. The purification rite
of Kaparot, which Hassidic Jews observe on the eve of YomKippur (or Day of Atonement) to reconcile for the absence of the
Temple in Jerusalem, concludes with the killing of hundreds of birds.
The santeros and their families eat most of the animals they sacrifice. They
believe that great healing powers in the meat consecrated to the Orishas keep
those who eat it healthy. However, when an animal is sacrificed in a
purification rite, they believe that the meat absorbs the problems, dangers,
and negative vibrations of the person who received the cleansing. Consequently,
they never eat this meat. Rather, it is disposed of in accordance with the
instructions of the Orisha. Their argument, based on reincarnation, insists
that the sacrifice of animals for a spiritual cause greatly enhances spiritual
Finally, because everything in nature is filled with forces and energies,
when it is given to the Orishas, the worshipper receives back the blessing a
The veneration of ancestors is a crucial aspect of this religion. Its roots
are founded in the belief that the Orishas have lived and died, and now exist
as supernatural forces. The deadxiii are fundamental because they
open the doors that lead to the Orishas. It is necessary to honor the dead by
paying their dues, calling upon them, praying to them, and feeding them. For
this reason, santeros will make sacrifices and adorn sticks with ribbons and
bells. The dead depend upon the living to keep them strong and
Every ceremony begins with an act of reverence to the dead that often
includes remote ancestors. Santeros believe that the dead can intervene in
people's lives by providing them with protection or pestering them. Thus, it is
necessary to exalt and appease them in order to earn their favor.When the dead
are cared for and receive attention, they are protective and kind. The santeros
believe that they must guard against grieving or mourning souls and dark
spirits with bad intentions since they are stronger than the living. Thus, it
is essential to invoke the ancestors, and honor them with prayers to the
In at least one ceremony, a four-footed animal, normally a pig, is
sacrificed to the dead. During the sacrifice, worshipers sing and pray in
Yoruba to the deceased, beginning with the most important departed santeros.
The head of the pig is severed from its body and placed on a white plate. The
head and blood are then put under the altar where the dead can feed upon
On occasion, constant recitation of prayers to deceased ancestors is
recommended. This includes lighting candles to them, and, in some cases,
incorporating glasses of water and coffee as signs of love and respect for
Rationalistic and Realistic Interpretations
Our society has three prevalent explanations for the supernatural: the
rationalistic interpretation, the interpretation of realism, and biblical
realism. The rationalistic interpretation, sometimes based on the
scientific method, insists that all such manifestations are products of the
human mind. No external supernatural realty exists and people's experiences are
not considered to be reliable evidence. Thus, the believers of Santeria do not
really have spiritual encounters. Rather, their perceptions of supernatural
activity are created by their imaginations.
Scientific method is based on the supposition that reality can be measured
and verified by the five senses. That means that beliefs in an afterlife and
supernatural events cannot have validity because they cannot be quantified.
Frequently, such beliefs and practices are classified as superstition or
self-suggestion because they have no objective reality outside the faith of
believers. Though the scientific method relates very well to the study of
certain phenomena, it is too limited for the analysis of existential matters
such as human moral and spiritual values.
The second explanation is the interpretation of realism, which
recognizes that there is a reality beyond what the human mind and senses can
perceive. Spiritual realism acknowledges the existence of the supernatural
world and life beyond the grave. People sometimes have experiences that do not
arise from the material world, and what appears miraculous, may well be
supernatural action. In fact, many santeros believe that miracles are brought
about by Orishas that exist solely on the spiritual plane.
Carl Gustav Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and father of analytical psychology,
recognized that people could experience a reality beyond the five senses. He
developed a hypothesis about the collective unconscious of humanity,
which is the knowledge all people are born with. This unconscious is made up of
archetypes - or organizing principles - which shape the way people
experience the world. According to this hypothesis, each Orisha can be
interpreted as an archetype that assists individual aspects of the human
personality to develop. Each Orisha, then, would help to grow and advance the
santero in a different way, and individuals would be naturally drawn to the
Orisha that resembles their interests, strengths, and talents the most.
González-Wippler argues that the personification of the Orishas helps to
harmonize the different elements of the unconscious within the human
When an Orisha takes possession of a person, its psychic energies dominate
the person for the moment. That individual, then, exhibits the extraordinary
powers and exceptional knowledge of the future that are found in the natural
attributes of the Orisha.xv From Jung's point of view, every deity and angelic
force become points of contact within the human unconscious and they are
accessed by means of prayers, visualizations, invocations, and ceremonies. They
are the concentrated energies of the human race that have developed throughout
the evolutionary process.
Jung identified powerful negative forces, or shadows, as
concentrations of everything repressed-anger, frustration, resentment, hate,
and negative inclinations. According to him, people should integrate the shadow
within the other archetypes of personality-a technique he identified as the
process of individualization. Orishas, then, help the santero
integrate shadows and achieve individualization.xvi
The third explanation is biblical realism that recognizes the
existence of two worlds: the spiritual and the material. It affirms the
existence and importance of God's material creation and spiritual kingdom.
Biblical realism teaches that the spiritual world is divided into two
kingdoms. The first is the realm, ruled by God, and inhabited by angelic
messengers. The other is an evil dominion, controlled by Satan and the demons.
Both kingdoms can penetrate the human dimension. For the Christian, the Orishas
and deceased ancestors of Santeria produce the real manifestations for they
originate in the satanic kingdom of darkness. The images and saints that
symbolize deities are, in fact, evil spirits and demons (see 1 Cor. 8:4-6;
It is inappropriate to attribute every phenomenon in this world to the
spiritual realm since the human mind is not completely understood. Some
phenomena can be attributed to coincidence and have no direct relationship to
the supernatural world. Why is Santeria so popular in the twenty-first century?
Perhaps the most important reason is the knowledge that the santero believes he
acquires about himself and the forces of nature. He feels that his soul is
integrated with nature in some way. Others seek the ancient mysteries and
special powers that are absent from secularized and rationalistic
A Christian Evaluation
From the biblical perspective, there are a number of negative points to be
made about Santeria. The most important is that Santeria ignores Jesus Christ,
His teachings, and redemptive work. Though santeros insist that antiquity and
the greatness of African civilizations give credibility to Santeria, the
criteria for truth is neither age nor cultural achievement. Spiritual truth can
best be known through a relationship with God and His revealed will. For this
reason, the definitive revelation of God for every person is through Jesus
Christ, God's only begotten Son (see John 1:18; Heb. 1:1-14). Consequently,
Christianity is Christ-centered.
Second, the basis of Santeria is the worship of spirits, whereas in
Christianity only God is worthy of worship even though demons do exist (see
Eph. 2:1-2; 6:12). According to the experience of Jesus and the apostles, these
spirits are evil and can possess people (see Matt. 12:43-45), even speaking
with human vocal chords (Mark 5:1-13) and predicting the future (Acts 16).
These deities promote practices-such as divination and sorcery-which are
manifestations of the kingdom of darkness. Although the images, myths, and
names of the Orishas hide the identity of the evil one-Satan's deceptions are
unmistakably present. Those spirits of darkness that pretend to be loving
beings of light are actually leading people down the path of destruction (see 1
The required invocation of spirits leads to the demon-possession of the
santero. Though they may be called Orishas and ancestral spirits, they belong
to the kingdom of lies. God created individuals with the capacity to choose to
worship Him by spiritual and rational means (see Rom. 12:1-2).When one submits
to possession, he voluntarily gives up the ability to choose and allows the
evil spirit to make decisions for him.
Third, Christ is more powerful than all of the spirits and Orishas. The
gospels agree that Christ has power over every kind of spirit-even when
thousands of them unite within an individual (see Mark 5:1-20). Jesus attained
His greatest victory over the kingdom of darkness by His death on the cross and
resurrection (see Col. 2:13-15). Paul referred to the demons (see Eph. 1:21;
3:10; Col. 1:16) as principalities and authorities that are subject to Christ's
rule. Though the crucifix is an image of Christ's death on the cross-it is the
empty cross that truly symbolizes His victory over death.
Another point of contention is that santeros claim to be
monotheists-believing in only one creator god, Olofi. However, their ritual
practices show them to be polytheists. Their legends describe a creator so
distant and transcendent that he has no personal interest in any human being.
The Orishas were created to be mediators between humans and Olofi. Santeria's
concept of the creator god resembles the biblical revelation in some respects,
but not sufficiently to be acceptable. Some obvious differences are that Olofi
approves of divination, delegates elements of nature to the Orishas, and had a
brother named Oddua. These distortions of the original revelation are due to
the fall of man and the influence of sin that have perverted and twisted the
vision of the Creator God.
Another negative point of Santeria is that the deities have the same
weaknesses as human beings. They have material desires, form amorous bonds, get
into conflicts, and become jealous. They are violent, belligerent, have
prejudices, get drunk, commit adultery, and engage in incest. Almost all of the
Orishas are witches and practice divination and magic. They are vulnerable,
passionate, and vengeful. Contrast these qualities of the Orishas with the
holiness of God and the example set by the life of Jesus Christ, and it is easy
to see that there is very little common ground between them (see 1 Pet.
Santeria is, in essence, a pagan religion. Santeria thrives on divination;
necromancy (consultation with the dead); and sexual magic with its
special powders, baths, and incense. It utilizes amulets; fetishes (Osain); and
sacred water (Omiero) that supposedly purifies, regenerates, and cures
with the concentrated power of the Orishas.xvii According to the Bible, all of
these practices are utterly against the will of God (see Ex. 22:18; Lev. 20:6;
Deut. 18:10-12; 2 Kings 23:24; Acts 19:19; 1 John 5:21; Rev. 22:15).
The exclusive interest of Santeria is resolving personal problems. Santeria
does not work for the good of society or the welfare of the community. In fact,
the moral norms within Santeria are kept for the purpose of making ceremonies
more effective, and not for the civility or well being of the people.xviii It
is the ceremony that makes one a saint. Even the belief in reincarnation is
incompatible with Biblical teachings.xix Conversely, the Christian does not
achieve sainthood through ceremonies or the manipulation of God (see 1 Thess.
4:3; Heb. 12:14; 1 Pet. 1:16). God is just, righteous, and pure; therefore He
demands that those who worship Him be holy and perfect as He is (see Matt.
Animal sacrifices to the Orishas serve purposes very different from those of
the Old Testament. The purposes for Old Testament sacrifices are varied. Some
were given as joyous gifts to God (see Ex. 23:15; Deut. 16:16), while others
sealed alliances between men and with God (see Ex. 24:8-11). Offerings were
sometimes made for the forgiveness of sin (see Lev. 16:11), and often served to
instruct the people about the holiness of the Lord and the sinfulness of man.
They were a constant reminder of the seriousness of sin and how blood is always
necessary for its forgiveness (see Heb. 9:22). The annual repetition of the
atonement sacrifice indicated the ineffectiveness of the offerings to
completely eliminate sin (see Heb. 10:11-14). However, the perfect sacrifice of
Christ on the cross forever eliminated the need for any more blood to be
Hebrews clearly teaches that the blood of Old Testament sacrifices never
could atone for man's sin (see Heb. 10:4). However, chapters nine and ten
testify that Christ accomplished forgiveness for sin once and for all. Although
the animals were sacrificed by force, Christ's sacrifice was His own voluntary
decision (see Heb. 10:5- 10). Therefore, His sacrifice on the cross is a
superior sacrifice in that it covers all the sins of the people (see Heb.
9:16-28). Thus, today there is absolutely no need for animal
Finally, when one dies, where does the spirit go? Does it roam indefinitely?
The Bible teaches that all spirits go to a place where they await final
judgment. The dead can never return to life, nor can they do evil to those
living. Therefore, manifestations of spirits have nothing to do with the dead.
There exist, then, beings that deceive people and present themselves as the
spirits of the dead.xx The Christian, calls them evil spirits, fallen angels,
and demons. Those who profess Jesus as Savior and Lord go to be with Christ
forever (see 2 Cor. 5:1- 10). This is the Christian's eternal hope and
iIn Cuba, Santería is also known as Lucumí, La Regla de Ocha, and
La Regla de Santo. In Brazil, it is called Candomble Jege-Nago. The African
name of Santería is Ocha. Literally, the name Santería means the worship of
saints. Due to its dependence upon oral traditions and lack of written
scriptures, several Afro-American traditions exist.
iiSome archaeological studies have pointed out the possibility of
a cultural contact between Egypt and Nigeria. They suggest that in the sixth
century some emigrants from the destroyed Meroita civilization may have gone to
the Yoruba lands in Nigeria. They would have traveled through Sudan by way of
the Nile to the Niger River. The Meroe civilization, which resided to the south
of Egypt, was greatly influenced by the Egyptians, and it has been established
that certain aspects of Egyptian religious practice were present in the Yoruba
religion. (Sánchez, Julio. La Religión de los Orichas [Hato Rey: Julio
A. Sánchez Cárdenas, 1978], p. 8).
iiiThe first santeros settled in Puerto Rico between 1945 and
1950. After Cuba's communist revolution (1959), the santeros began to leave the
country, and Santería did not really begin to grow on the island until 1965. By
1970, Cuban santero Roberto Boluffer Fernández was consecrated as the first
babalawo (high priest) in Puerto Rico, and, in 1975, more priests were
consecrated. Presently there are more than 40 high priests in Puerto Rico. The
Yoruba Temple (Omo Orisha) in San Juan is one of several centers on the island.
The number of initiates in Puerto Rico is estimated to be between 15,000 and
ivJulio Sánchez Cárdenas. La Religión de los Orichas
(Hato Rey: Julio Sánchez Cárdenas, 1978), p. 33.
vSee Sánchez's diagram on p. 34.
vi The initiate's godparents are required to pay for the
initiation, that can amount to $3,500 or more. If they do not have the money,
he cannot be initiated. Some get loans to pay for this rite.
vii A high priest (babalawo) and a santero carry out different
functions, since a high priest does not have the right to initiate or give
necklaces. The high priest can only officiate in the initiation of the patron
Orúnla when a man becomes a babalawo or when he receives Elegguá and the
warriors. The function of the high priest is primarily judicial, since he makes
some of the most important decisions in the religion
viii Sánchez, 48.
xIbid., p. 36.
xiMigene González-Wippler, The Santería Experience, rev. ed. (St.
Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1992), pp. 306-307.
xiiiSome santeros submit themselves to the initiation of palo
monte or palo mayombe. The paleros, following an African
tradition from the Congo, work exclusively with the dead. They also have expert
knowledge of plants. Some paleros practice black magic, and others use their
knowledge to heal. In order to do his work, the palero must go to the cemetery,
unearth a corpse, put the bones in a pan, and make a pact with that dead being.
The palero can then obtain things for that dead person and the dead will aid
xivGonzález-Wippler, pp. 160-172.
xvIbid., pp. 112-114.
xvi Ibid., 130-131.
xviiCabrera, Lydia, Yemayá y Ochún (Madrid: Colección
del Chicherukú en el exilio, 1974), pp. 290-341.
xix"The Evidences for Reincarnation," Sound Doctrine
(III:1) (Feb.-June, 1991).
xx "Spiritism and the Christian," Sound Doctrine
(I:2) (May-Aug., 1989).
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