The Yoruba religion encompasses religious beliefs and rituals of the Yoruba people. These practices were being utilized before the Yoruba community faced Islam, Christianity and other faith; it originated from Africa and into the New World. This influenced several Afro-American religions such as Lucumi in Cuba, Umbanda and Candomble in Brazil; in addition to the uproot that took place of the homeland religions. Similar to many other religions that have some form of beliefs and practices, Yoruba religious beliefs are part of an itan.
This is the term used for the sum of all Yoruba; which include: myths, traditions, folklore, and other cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba religion and society. Yoruba religion included a trance and divination system for communicating with their ancestors and deities (orishas), initiation ceremonies, taboos and rituals that involve anima sacrifice, as well as sacred drumming and dance. The Yoruba culture is one of the most prevalent of all African tribal cultures today.
The Yoruba people originated from West Africa, and their homes crossed borders of modern Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Hunters of European slaves captured millions of Africans violently and they sent them in overloaded negreros boats towards America. Yoruba’s slaves were sent to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the new world, and in a great part of these places, the Yoruba’s traditions survived with great force”(www. cubanyoruba. blogspot. com). According to New World Encyclopedia, “Their indigenous pre-Christian religious beliefs remained popular among the descendants of West African slaves.
In the early eighteenth century the Spanish Catholic church allowed for the creation of societies called cabildos, modeled on religious guilds existing in Spain, which were primarily for African ethnicities and provided means for entertainment and reconstruction of many aspects of ethnic heritage. Yoruba slaves practiced Yoruba religious ceremonies in these cabildos, along with religious and secular traditions from other parts of Africa, combining and amalgamating their masters’ pantheon of Catholic saints with their own pantheon of Orisha which is the Yoruba word for god” (www. ewworldencyclopedia. org).
The Yoruba religion is formed of a combination of various traditions; after the slave trade these traditions spread in various countries and Cuba was one of them. The Yoruba religion was adopt within the Cuban community and the religion of Santeria or La Regla Lucumi (Lukumi) was born. Santeria practices, songs, dance, initiations, and rituals. Also, when reciting prayers of the religion, the sacred language of Lucumi is used. “In Cuba, Brazil, Haiti and Trinidad, the religious rites Yoruba’s, beliefs, music and myths are enthroned to the present time.
In Haiti the Yoruba were called Anagos. Haitian religious activities gave an honor place to the rites and Yorubas beliefs, its pantheon includes numerous deities of Yoruba origin” (www. cubanyoruba. blogspot. com). The Yoruba were a collection of many tribes, often competing for political power, who shared a common religious thread – the worship of Olodumare, and the Orishas. Each Orisha had a center of worship around which their religious services would take place and where his or her priesthood would be initiated and trained.
When the Yoruba people were taken from their home lands, people of different tribes were all mixed together, and forced to live and labor together. In a desperate attempt to preserve their traditional religious practices, the Yoruba blended their individual Orisha cults together into one unified religion – the religion of the Lucumi people (La Regla Lucumi). The religion came together on the island of Cuba where it interacted with other African religious practices of the Arara people, the Bantu speaking people, and with Spanish Catholicism.
In an effort to reconcile their multi-cultural beliefs, the Lucumi people resorted to syncretism of their orishas with Catholic saints. Thus was born the religion of Santeria – a unique blend of traditional Yoruba beliefs colored with the multicultural spiritual beliefs of the island of Cuba. (www. santeriachurch. org). The Yoruba people not only survived slavery, so did their religion. The Yoruba religion’s arrival in America evolved into what is recognized as Santeria today.
The priesthood within the Santeria religion is as follows within the Santeria religion: “Priests are commonly known as Santeros or Olorichas. Once those priests have initiated other priests, they become known as babalorichas, “fathers of oricha” (for men), and as iyalorichas, “mothers of oricha” (for women). Priests can commonly be referred to as Santeros (male) and Santeras (female), and if they function as diviners (using cowrie-shell divination known as Dilogun) of the Orichas they can be considered Italeros, or if they go through training to become leaders of initiations, Obas or Oriates” (www. n. wikipedia. org).
Santeria has three basic approaches to the world of the spirits: First, the way of values; this happens by honoring ancestors or the “egun”, Second, the way of power; which is a direct relationship with spiritual beings, the orishas, and Third, the way of order; by way of fortune telling or divination: First, the way of values. Here the spirits of the dead are sought to provide ashe. Ashe gives the worshiper power to accomplish things – to be healthy, wealthy, and powerful over circumstances and enemies.
The ancestors called egun, the people of heaven, provide moral ashe or right behavior. By speaking to the living through one mounted or possessed by the egun, advice and counsel is given. However, the information communicated from the dead to the living is not moral in the traditional sense in terms of right and wrong behavior. Ashe from ancestors, or orishas for that matter, may be sought for protection in criminal activity: protection from harm from enemies or the police, or for acquittals in criminal court cases.
The egun may prescribe means by which opponents or enemies may be overcome or harmed. (www. earthenvesseljournal. com). The second way of power is through orishas; who are personifications of ashe that people can use to honor them. “In West Africa the lists of the orishas, or gods and goddesses, number about 1700. In the New World the number shrank to either 400 or 401, depending on what information you have, but in practical reality, in contemporary Santeria there are seventeen orishas that are worshiped”(www. earthenvesseljournal. com).