During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, in West Africa, thousands of Africans were subjected as slaves and sent to various colonial territories in America, especially Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Colombia and Brazil . A large number of slaves belonged to the Yoruba ethnic group.
This community practiced its own rituals based on animism.
Their religious beliefs were not accepted by the authorities that ruled the colonial territories, so the Yoruba adopted a strategy to maintain their rituals: to disguise their ceremonies of worshiping Catholic saints. Hence the santeria concept more precisely.
Thus, in the Yoruba pantheons, people prayed to Saint Peter or Santa Barbara, when in fact what was done was to worship the Yoruba deities. In other words, whites believed that in this way they converted black slaves to Catholicism, but they did not imagine that they continued with their rites and beliefs.
Main characteristics of the Yoruba religion
The genuine element of this religion is syncretism , since animism of African origin combines with the Catholic tradition.
Like all religions, Yoruba santeria is a way of understanding the world and human beings. Thus, they worshiped the deities that symbolize nature and man is understood in a triple dimension (body, mind and inner mind).
In the Yoruba Santeria there is a priestly hierarchy . The supreme priests are the babalawos and below them are the consecrated santeros and the aleyos or believers who have not yet consecrated themselves. Among the activities of the santeros, two stand out: the spiritual cleansing of homes and the elimination of spiritual contamination from believers.
Rituals and beliefs of the Yoruba religion
From the birth, practitioners of the Yoruba religion receive their magara, an inner force that prepares them to connect with the gods and nature.
They believe in a higher deity . At the same time, Odudua symbolizes the earth-mother and fertility, Olokun is the god of the sea, Ogun is the god of war and Oke is the god of mountains. Each of these gods corresponds to a Catholic saint, including Saint Lazarus, Saint Christopher, Saint Barbara and Saint Norbert (for example, for the Yoruba Xangô is revered by the figure of Saint Barbara and Babalu-aye corresponds to Saint Lazarus).
Both dance and music are essential aspects of this religion. Through dance, the Yoruba spiritually approach the gods they worship.