Santería is a religion that is capturing the interest of many people around the globe due to its deep mystical roots and powerfully visceral religious experiences. Santería, or La Regla Lucumí (or Lukumí) as it is more properly known, is one of the African Diaspora; religions spread around the world with the scattering of the enslaved African people brought to the new world. Santería originated with the traditional religious and spiritual practices of the Yoruba people of West Africa (centered around the modern day nations of Nigeria and Benin).
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 Lucumí people (La Regla Lucumí). The religion came together on the island of Cuba where it interacted with other African religious practices of the Arará people, the Bantú speaking people, and with Spanish Catholicism. In an effort to reconcile their multi-cultural beliefs, the Lucumí people resorted to syncretism of their orishas with Catholic saints. Thus was born the religion of Santería – a unique blend of traditional Yoruba beliefs colored with the multicultural spiritual beliefs of the island of Cuba.
Santería is African at its core. The practices, songs, liturgical language, initiations, rituals and prayers of the religion are all Lucumí. The Catholic veneer of saint veneration quickly falls away once you begin to delve into deeper levels of the religion, yet many faithful followers of Santería continue to worship the saints along side the Orishas. The vast majority of Santería believers also practice Spiritualism (Espiritismo) to communicate with spirit guides, spirits of the dead and develop mediumship skills. Most Spiritualists (Espiritistas) still pray Catholic prayers during their services and the images of Catholic saints can be found on their altars along side other common Spiritualist figures like Indian Spirits, Congolese Spirits and Madama-type spirits. Santería is at its heart a multicultural religion.
Santería is an initiatory religion. As an aleyo (uninitiated believer) grows in the religion and receives more initiations, his relationship with the orishas deepens and he is granted access to deeper levels of understanding and religious function in our tradition. Because of this, there is much secrecy surrounding the religious practices of Santería and this has regrettably led to much misinformation around Santería/Lukumi practice. The Santería Church of the Orishas seeks to demystify our religious practice and bring it to the public eye. We believe in transparency and education of those who are interested. We also honor and respect that there are many things that must remain secret due to their mystical significance and to preserve the beauty around spiritual discovery of those mysteries.
The Santería Church of the Orishas also has a mission to dispel misunderstandings or commonly held superstitions about our religious practice in an effort to educate and enlighten. The Santería Church of the Orishas also takes a firm stance against religious abuse and works constantly to reveal unethical behavior in our community and to educate those who may seek our religion with the proper information so that they do not fall victim to charlatans or their scams. Santeros Against Fraud and Exploitation (SAFE) is our church’s action committee dedicated to preventing abuse and fraud in our religion, and to educate the community about unethical, non-traditional or abusive acts in the public.
Santería is a beautiful religion that is vibrant, empowering and sings to your soul. We hope to share that beauty with you, and will always dedicate our religious lives to the service of the Orishas, our Egun and the service of our fellow brethren.