Santeria or Osha is a polytheistic religion with African roots belonging to Yoruba tribes located in what is currently known as Nigeria, Togo and the Republic of Benin. It is handled under quite complex philosophical and ethical concepts, because, with the passage of time, customs of other religions and ethnic groups have been indexed.
Osha arrived in America at the time of slavery, settling mainly in Cuba. Being the cultural and religious epicenter from where it expanded throughout Latin America. Brazil was also one of the main countries where the Yoruba culture spread in times of slavery.
In these countries not only came slaves believers from Osha but also from other cultures. Forced to coexist, transculturation was generated that affected the religious bases, generating a fusion of beliefs and cultural traditions.
The most popular variant is the so-called Osha / Ifa rule, which is based on the mixture of beliefs between followers of Osha and followers of Ifism, "relatively" merging the two religions to form what today we know as: "rule of Osha and Ifa ”. Under this rule, priests of both cultures converge.
Belief of the Santeros
The belief of Osha and Ifa is based on the relationship between the earthly plane and the spiritual plane. Considering sacrifice as the solution or liberation from problems, since the fundamental basis of religion is that life is nothing more than giving to receive.
Whoever sacrifices will be acquitted. Sacrifice is liberation. Life is nothing more than the process of giving in order to receive. Odu of Ifa Oyekun Meji.
The sacrifices are made to the different Orishas, they can be animals, plants, offerings among other things in order to receive some benefit (Ire) or ward off any adversity.
So Olodumare created himself, being the first cause.
This is the reason why we call Oloddumare: the only wise man on Earth. It is the only cause in Creation ... Odu of Ifa Osa Kuleya
We believe in Olodumare as omnipotent God, responsible for the creation of most things in the universe including the different deities (Orishas), to whom he delegated many functions such as completing some aspects in the creation of the world and the earthly plane.
He, "Olodumare" remains relatively distant from human beings and commissioned the Orishas, also known as Oshas, to tend to their needs. In an interpretive way we can see the Orishas as mediators between human beings and God.
Baudin wrote in 1884: “Negroes have no statues or symbols to represent God. They consider him the primordial Supreme Being, Author and Father of gods and spirits. At the same time they think that God, after starting the organization of the world, commissioned Orichanlá to finish it and rule it, then retiring to an eternal rest ... "
This does not mean that Olodumare is oblivious and indifferent to the situations that arise, so that, when a staff person worships her Guardian Angel (Orisha Alagbatorí) she would be worshiping Olodumare and thus the function of mediator between humans and the almighty god.
It is said that Olodumare created man in order to serve his divinities and thus improve spiritual development, since the Yoruba belief indicates that life on earth is ephemeral and fleeting. Affirming that, it is man who needs Olodumare to live and prosper.
Something fundamental in the Yoruba beliefs and of course in the rule of Osha and Ifa is the making of sacred objects, attributes that are used for worship, tools for divination with the different oracles and different religious practices. It is believed fundamentally in the powers of nature. Coming to believe that, through religious rites, a deity is consecrated in stones (Ota U Okuta), which is previously asked if the spirit or deity that we are looking for lives in it or in the same way, if it is compatible with the person to whom some ceremonial will be performed.
We believe in the spirit of plants (ewe) and animals. On man-made religious foundations such as an Eshu that is forged using various materials prescribed in the Ifa odu.
Learn: The Origins of the Yoruba Religion
Who are the Orishas?
The Orishas or saints as they are also called "by Catholic influence" are the deities that Olodumare created to complete different tasks. Among which, are to finish the process of creating the world, as well as that of the human being. On many occasions they are the link between heaven and earth.
When the Orishas (Oosa) were created by Olodumare (God), they were given the name Irunmole. They came to earth in their human form to fulfill missions given by Olodumare, also, to serve as an example of good customs, work and faith to the different societies in the Yoruba environment. It was this earthly stage that promoted them to Orisha status (a beatification process so to speak).
These deities are mostly associated with forces of nature such as: the sea, the river, the mountain, the rainbow, among others. For example: have you heard that Shango represents fire or lightning? Does Yemaya represent the sea? Also, they are represented in human emotions such as Oshun, which in nature is symbolized in the river, but, in a social relationship, it is associated with love, or Ochosi represents justice as social thinking.
All these deities have their own personality that is manifested in the different myths, stories, "patakies" (verses from the Ifa corpus and dilogun). Both the personality and the experience of the different deities serve as an example of behavior (ebbo and taboos) with which we can improve our lives both in the earthly and spiritually.
Take as an example a story from the odu Okana Yabile (Ojuani): He made divination for Shango when he came to earth, warning him that he must make sacrifice. All the divinities agreed that Shango was very aggressive and fickle, and that he was especially always breathing fire from his mouth when he spoke. When the other divinities finally banished him, he went to Orunmila by divination. He was warned that he must make sacrifice with a ram and other equipment. He made the sacrifice, after which the other divinities invited him for rapprochement and fellowship. He declined the invitation and they all went quickly to his house in search of reconciliation.
Shango is a saint (Orisha) who is characterized by violence and inordinate anger. For people who Shango is their guardian angel (Orisa Alagbator), that is, for Shango's children it could be a temptation to act in a fickle and irrational way, when on the contrary, it is a behavior that must be controlled, developing more well, the search for conciliation in the face of problems as Shango did in the story just mentioned.
There are many Iworos and believers who base their negative behaviors, justifying and misinterpreting the teachings left in these stories.