In Cuba, this religious tradition has evolved into what we now recognize as Santería.
"The colonial period from the standpoint of African slaves may be defined as a time of perseverance. Their world quickly changed. Tribal kings and their families, politicians, business and community leaders all were enslaved and taken to a foreign region of the world. Religious leaders, theirrelatives and their followers were now slaves. Colonial laws criminalized their religion. They were forced to become baptized and worship a god their ancestors had not known who was surrounded by a pantheon of saints. The early concerns during this period seem to have necessitated a need for individual survival under harsh plantation conditions. A sense of hope was sustaining the internal essence ofwhat today is called Santería, a misnomer (and former pejorative) for the indigenous religion of the Lukumi people of Nigeria.
"In the heart of their homeland, they had a complex political and social order. They were a sedentary hoe farming cultural group with specialized labor. Their religion, based on the worship of nature, was renamed and documented by their masters. Santería, a pejorativeterm that characterizes deviant Catholic forms of worshiping saints, has become a common name for the religion. The term santero(a) is used to describe a priest or priestess replacing the traditional term Olorisha as an extension of the deities. The orishas became known as the saints in image of the Catholic pantheon." (Ernesto Pichardo, CLBA, Santería in Contemporary Cuba: The individual life andcondition of the priesthood.)
As mentioned, in order to preserve their authentic ancestral and traditional beliefs, the Lukumi people had no choice but to disguise theirorishas as Catholic saints. When the Roman Catholic slave owners observed Africans celebrating a Saint's Day, they were generally unaware that the slaves were actually worshiping one of their sacred orishas. Due to this history,in Cuba today, the terms "saint" and "orisha" are sometimes used interchangeably.
This historical "veil" characterization of the relationship between Catholic saints and Cuban orisha is made all the more complicated by the fact that the vast majority of santeros in Cuba today also consider themselves to be Catholics, have been baptized, and often require initiates to be baptized as well. Manyhold separate rituals to honor the saints and orisha respectively, even though the faith's overt links to Catholicism are no longer needed.
In 1974, the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye became the first Santería church in the United States to become officially incorporated.
Rituals and ceremonies
Santería does not use a central creed forits religious practices; it is understood in terms of its rituals and ceremonies. These rituals and ceremonies take place in what is known as a house-temple or casa de santos (house of saints), also known as an ilé. Most ilés are in the homes of the initiated Priests and Priestesses. Ilé shrines are built, by the priests and priestess, to the different orishas which creates a space for worship,called an igbodu (altar). In an igbodu there is a display of three distinct thrones [draped with royal blue, white and red satin] that represent the seats of the queens, kings and the deified warriors.
Each ilé, is comprised by those who occasionally seek guidance from the orishas, as well as for those who are in the process of becoming priests. The many cabildos and casas that bridged...