from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1. Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre in the Catholic Church and
2. Ochún in the Santería

The Santería (Spanish, mostly translated as “way of the saints”) is a syncretistic , African-American main religion in Cuba that mixes its Orishas (gods of the Santería) with Catholic saints (Spanish santos ).

Many Catholics in Cuba seek advice and salvation from a Santera, a Santero or a Babalao and are practicing followers of the Santería. Due to the alleged unity of Catholic saints with aspects of the gods of the Santería, they see no contradiction in their actions. The Catholic Church rejects the Santería and its practices in principle, but tolerates popular piety .

In the USA , a spiritualism has developed from the Santería , the Santerism , in which the spirits of the deceased, Catholic saints and gods of the Santería are conjured up in meetings, following the example of Allan Kardec .

Development in Cuba


After the discovery and conquest , Cuba was colonized by the Spaniards . The Atlantic slave trade provided the necessary labor. With the cultivation of sugar cane , the slave trade increased massively in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The slaves were forcibly Christianized . Some of them were allowed to organize themselves in religious council assemblies (cabildos) and use their Batá drums . In the 17th century, the Catholic Church introduced brotherhoods (cofradías) in many Cuban cities to promote the veneration of saints, and thus "unintentionally" offered the slaves the chance to practice their African belief in gods and related religious traditions, but now under the guise of Catholic ones Practice religion, continue to practice. (This is why the Spanish word Santería is translated as “hypocrisy”.) On the other hand, the slave owners did not want to take on the costs of Christianization for baptism, marriage and burial for their slaves in addition to the necessary food.


There are Afro-Cuban cults with similar camouflage. The Santería in the narrower sense is the Regla de Ocha .

There are also numerous other groups such as those of the Voudou (also Vudú or Voodoo ), the Regla Arará (or Arada ) and the Gangá Longobá .

Inflow since 1990

After scientific materialism was declared the official state doctrine in Cuba after the victory of the revolution , many Cubans distanced themselves from religion. Even the Santería no longer fit into the new Marxist worldview and professing believers were often disadvantaged in social life. Only with the onset of the economic crisis are Afro-Cuban religious supporters officially allowed to belong to the Communist Party of Cuba . Since then, the Santería in particular has experienced a renewed boom. An example of their current popularity is the pilgrimage to the Rincón .


The Santería is an ethnic religion in the broadest sense . It is based on traditional and largely secret myths . Any attempt to canonize the religious rules in writing fails because there is no institution that decides on the right or wrong practice of religion. The cosmology is based on an inseparable cosmos in which the invisible half (orún) and the visible half (aye) interact via Ashé and are kept in balance. Help requires sacrifice. There is no polarization between good and bad .

In the Orí (literally in Yoruba: head) the determination (Yoruba: ayanmó) is anchored, which a person brings with him at his birth and which is a " partial " reincarnation of his ancestors. Difficult life situations are seen as signs that the Orí is confused. By means of divination , the cause is investigated, whether it is the result of the actions of enemies ( black magic ), the result of one's own imbalance (too little Ashé) or determined by fate. While obsession is demonized in Christianity and particularly in the Catholic Church , in the Santería it is the believer's “sacred source of personality” and is induced by consecrated batá drums (ilú-añá), antiphonal singing and trance dance.

There is no demarcation to magic as in Christianity. It is believed that Orishas work miracles in love, happiness, money making and health, which are mostly inquired about and implemented via the Santeros in the oracle. In particular, people believe in amulets and the magical powers in plants and herbs, which practically every ritual needs. The most important herbal mixture is omiero, which is essential for almost all rituals and consists of at least 21 different fresh herbs that are pounded in rainwater. This mixture is used as a healing potion , spice and to consecrate the glass pearl necklaces of the orishas and the cowries at the oracle .


Olódumaré is the almighty God and the creator of the Ashé and the Orishas. It has several aspects. Olofi is the aspect that can still be reached by humans through orishas. But it is far from the problems of everyday life . Olódùmarè are not given any offerings, nor are any priests consecrated to him.

Orishas are humanized spiritual beings / gods, such as nature spirits , cultural heroes and deified ancestors, who act as messengers and mediators between òrun and aye . They differ regionally in their meaning, their aspects and their relationships. They are assigned colors, numbers, plants, sounds, rhythms, favorite foods and drinks. In the Santería there are around twenty orishas in the core area. The believer can be obsessed with seven orishas, ​​the “seven African powers” (Siete Potencias Africanas) .

The ancestors (oku orun, osi, babanla, iyanla) can constitute part of a newborn. A young girl who is recognized as the reincarnation of her grandmother is called Yetunde (“Mother has returned”).


In all rituals , the Orisha Elegguá is the first to be greeted and the first to receive his offerings.

The Santeria knows four fundamental rituals:

  • fortune telling
  • The victim
  • the trance dances
  • the iniciación

The ancestral cult of the Yoruba ( Egungun ) and other African ethnic groups has largely been replaced by spiritualism in the diaspora .

Oracle systems of the Santería
oracle execution Instruments annotation
Ifá oracle
(tablero de ifá)
only from Babalaos 16 palm nuts (ikin ifá)
in a shell (agere ifá),
a divination board (opon ifá),
a divination stick (ìróké-ifá) .
The Orisha Orunmila as patron of the Ifá oracle,
256 oracle signs (odù),
long-term learning process.
UNESCO masterpiece of mankind .
diloggún only from Santeros 16 cowries Cowries as the mouths of the Orishas,
much simpler than the Ifá oracle.
obbi (Biagué) from Santeros
and Babalaos
4 pieces of a
dried coconut
daily questioning of the orishas,
e.g. B. about the type and place of sacrificial rituals
and about the satisfaction of the orishas.

With an initiation , the believer rises in the hierarchy of his denomination. Within the Santería he needs a padrino (godfather) or a madrina (godmother), who must be initiated as Santero or Santera. There are four initiations within the Santería:

  1. Five necklaces (elekes) are given, which are dedicated to the five Orishas Elegguá, Obatalá, Changó, Yemayá and Ochún (Orishas de fundamento) . The colors of the glass beads are the colors of the respective orishas. The cord of the necklaces must be able to absorb the blood of the sacrificed animals, because the ashe is in the blood. During the complex ritual (purification, prayers), obi oracles are used to determine whether the respective orishas are satisfied with everything.
  2. During this ceremony, the four warriors (guerreros) are symbolically awarded: Elegguá as a cement figure, Ogún as a metal working tool, Ochosi as a crossbow and Osún as a rooster on a cup with small bells.
  3. Santeros are the priests in the Santería. All Santeros know the medicinal plants and folk medicine . The preparation time in Cuba takes up to three years. The initiation itself lasts three days. The ceremonies are secret. The aspirant dies a symbolic death, is reborn as Santero and experiences for the first time the obsession with his orisha, who is lodged in his head (asiento) . After that he remains a novice (iyawó) for a year and has to adhere to some taboos . During this time he is introduced to religion and is made familiar with all rules and rituals.
  4. A Babalao (also: Babalawo) is a high priest , the highest office in the Santería. This initiation takes place only in the strictest secrecy and the initiator must swear never to pass on the process of the ceremony to outsiders. A Babalao is dedicated to Orunmila , the Orisha of wisdom and patron of the Ifá oracle.

With trance dances the Orishas are celebrated in rituals that take place in her honor ( Bembé rituals). These rituals are musically accompanied by Batá drums , with each deity having its own rhythm, with variations for the course of the ritual such as invocation of the deity, conversation and others.

The sacrifice (ebbo) is an integral part of the Santería. The type of sacrifice depends on the respective orisha and on a questioning of the oracle and ranges from a candle to fruit to an animal . For the orishas, ​​an unwanted sacrifice is considered an extreme insult.


The assignment of Orishas to Catholic saints made here is only intended to give a rough idea of syncretism . Interesting is a depiction of the Siete Potencias Africanas on Catholic saints, in which Obatalá is depicted as crucified Jesus Christ in their midst . The first five orishas belong to the Elekes initiation.

Siete Potencias Africanas
Orisha Domain cath. Saint colour
Creator Virgen de las Mercedes White
(Elegba, Eshú)
opens and closes the ways Niño de Atocha
Anthony of Padua
red + black,
black + white
Sea, birth, death Virgen de Regla depending on the Camino:
light blue + white,
blue + transparent
(Oshún, Òsun)
Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre depending on the Camino:
amber + yellow,
coral + yellow,
red + yellow
(Shangó, Sàngó)
War, strength, masculinity,
lightning and thunder
Barbara red + white
Iron, mountains, forests Peter (Havana),
Paulus ,
John the Baptist (Matanzas)
black + green
Oyá or Orunmila as the seventh orisha
Wind, cemetery gate, storm, Theresa of Ávila brown with black
and white stripes
(Orula, Orunla)
wisdom Francis of Assisi green + yellow
More orishas
Orisha Domain cath. Saint colour
Osain Mountains, plants, medicinal herbs New Year I. all colors
Aggayú Savannah, deserts, volcanoes Christophorus red brown + white
Babalú Ayé health Lazarus depending on the Camino:
white-blue striped,
Ochosi Hunt, prison Norbert von Xanten ,
blue + amber
Oricha Okó Fields, harvest, rain, fertility Isidro blue + pink


Although the Santería is actually a religion of the blacks, a strong spread among white Cubans can be observed, especially since the 1970s, starting with Cuban intellectuals. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the Santería has also spread to the USA and has recently also been found in Europe.

The folkloric variant of the Santería has become known through the Cuba tourism since the beginning of the 1980s. This led to more preoccupation with these religions at German-speaking universities.

See also


  • Stephan Palmié: The exile of the gods - history and imagination of an Afro-Cuban religion ISBN 3-631-42841-3
  • Miguel Barnet : The Cimarrón . ISBN 3-518-39540-8 .
  • Miguel Barnet: Afro-Cuban Cults. The Regla de Ocha. The Regla de Palo Monte . ISBN 3-518-12143-X .
  • Varuna Crab Apple: Santería - The Voodoo of the Cubans . ISBN 3-934254-60-8 .
  • Helen Oyeyemi : The Somewhere House . ISBN 978-3-8270-0741-4 .
  • Anibal Argüelles Mederos / Ileana Hodge Limonta: Los llamados cultos sincréticos y el espiritismo . Havana 1991.
  • Natalia Bolívar : Los Orishas en Cuba . Havana 1991.
  • Lydia Cabrera : El Monte . Havana 1981. ISBN 0-939544-16-4 .
  • Fernando Ortíz Fernández (see article).
  • Enrique Sosa Rodriguez: Los Ñañigos . Havana 1982.
  • Stephan Palmié: "The cooking of history. How not to study Afro-Cuban religion". Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • Lioba Rossbach de Olmos: "Santería in Germany. On the simultaneity of heterogenization and retraditionalization of a religion in the diaspora". In: "Paideuma", Vol. 56 (2014), pp. 63-86.
  • Lioba Rossbach de Olmos: "Religiousness without borders. The Afro-Cuban Santería religion in Europe between cult, art and culture". In: "Anthropos", Vol. 108, Issue 2 (2013), pp. 531-542.
  • Lioba Rossbach de Olmos: "African reminiscences and the biography of an oracle priest" of the Cuban "school". In: Hanna Heinrich and Harald Grauer (eds.): "Paths in the Garden of Ethnology" Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2013, pp. 83-100. ISBN 978-3-89665-632-2
  • Victor R. Fuentes Fiallo: "Las" Plantas de las Muerteras "(Obba, Oya Yansá, y Yewá)". In: Hanna Heinrich and Harald Grauer (eds.): "Paths in the Garden of Ethnology" Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2013, pp. 51–82. ISBN 978-3-89665-632-2

Web links

Commons : Santería  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Joseph M. Murphy: Santería . In: Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed April 3, 2016.
  2. Raul Canizares (Santería priest) speaks in his book "Cuban Santería" ISBN 0-89281-762-3 also of concealment / dissimulation instead of syncretism.
  3. a b Catechism of the Catholic Church KKK 2116 + 2117
    KKK 2116 : “All forms of fortune-telling are to be rejected: the use of Satan and demons, necromancy or other acts that are wrongly assumed to 'unveil' the future [cf. . Dtn 18.10; Jer 29: 8]. Behind horoscopes , astrology , palmistry , interpreting omens and oracles, clairvoyance and questioning a medium hides the will to power over time, history and ultimately people, as well as the desire to incline the secret powers. This contradicts the respect filled with loving awe, which we alone owe God. "
    KKK 2117 : " All practices of magic and sorcery with which one wants to subjugate secret powers in order to put them at one's service and a supernatural power over others to win - be it also to give them health - 'seriously violates the virtue of worship. Such acts are even more condemnable if they are accompanied by the intention to harm others or if they attempt to attract demons. Wearing amulets is also reprehensible. Spiritism is often associated with divination or magic. That is why the Church warns believers against it. The use of so-called natural healing powers neither justifies invoking evil forces nor exploiting the good faith of others. "
  4. Kerstin Volkenandt: 7.2 The Santería and the Catholic Church, ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
  5. See George Brandon: Santería from Africa to the New World - The Dead Sell Memories, ISBN 0-253-31257-4 .
  6. Kerstin Volkenandt 3.3 Slave trade in Cuba in the 18th and 19th centuries, ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
  7. a b Kerstin Volkenandt 4.2 Missioning of African slaves, ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ).
  8. a b c d e f g h Hans Gerald Hödl Lecture notes Lecture SS06 African-American Religions, The Organization of Slaves in the Cities and the Establishment of African Religious Traditions in Cuba, pp. 27–34 (PDF, 1.5 MB).
  9. ^ Bernhard Pollmann: Traditional religions in South America. In: Harenberg Lexicon of Religions. Harenberg, Dortmund 2002, ISBN 3-611-01060-X . Pp. 910-911.
  10. Cornelius Griep: The Effect of Official Discourse on Everyday Language in Cuba, page 68.
  11. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church: Inspiration and Truth of the Holy Scriptures :
    KKK 105: God is the author (author) of the Holy Scriptures. “That which is revealed by God, which is contained in writing in the Holy Scriptures and is available, has been recorded under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”
    “Because the Holy Mother Church, based on apostolic faith, keeps the books of both the Old and the New Testament in their entirety with all their parts as holy and canonical, because they, written on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, have God as their author and are given to the Church as such ”(DV 11).
    CCC 106: God inspired the human writers (authors) of Scripture. “For the writing of the Holy Books, however, God has chosen people who, through the use of their own abilities and powers, should serve him as true authors, everything and only that which he wanted - effective in and through them - as true authors (authors ) to be delivered in writing. ”(DV 11).
    KKK 107: The inspired books teach the truth. “Since everything that the inspired writers or hagiographers say must be said to have been said by the Holy Spirit, it is to be confessed of the books of Scripture that they teach safely, faithfully and without error the truth which God for our salvation in wanted to have the scriptures recorded ”(DV 11).
    KKK 108: However, the Christian faith is not a “ book religion ”. Christianity is the religion of the “word” of God, “not of a written, silent word, but of the incarnate, living word” (Bernhard, hom. Miss. 4:11). Christ, the eternal word of the living God, must open our spirit “to the understanding of the scriptures” through the Holy Spirit (Lk 24:45) so that they do not remain a dead letter.
  12. Catechism of the Catholic Church: KKK 1673 - Exorcism
    KKK 1673: When the church prays publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or an object will be protected from the power of the evil enemy and snatched from his rule, one speaks of an exorcism . Jesus performed such prayers (cf. Mk 1: 25-26); From him the church has authority and mandate to carry out exorcisms (cf. Mk 3,15; 6,7,13; 16,17). In a simple form, the exorcism is performed at the celebration of baptism. The solemn “Great Exorcism” may only be carried out by a priest and only with the permission of the bishop. One must be wise and strictly adhere to the rules set by the Church. Exorcism serves to cast out demons or to free them from the influence of demons, by virtue of the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his church. Illnesses are something completely different, especially those of a psychological nature; Treating such is a matter of medical medicine. Therefore, before celebrating an exorcism, it is important to be certain that it is really the presence of the evil enemy and not a disease (cf. CIC, can. 1172 ).
  13. Kerstin Volkenandt: 6.7 Music and Obsession, ( Memento from May 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  14. Antiphonal singing, example: Osun Lyrik Osun Lyric Link
  15. a b c Kerstin Volkenandt: 6.1 Olodumare and the Orishas, ( Memento from May 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  16. Kerstin Volkenandt: 6.6 The Santería and Spiritism, ( Memento of May 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  17. UNESCO Masterpiece of Humanity: Ifá Divination (English).
  18. Kerstin Volkenandt: 6.3 Initiations, ( Memento from May 21, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  19. a b c Ángel Luis Martínez Acosta El sincretismo religioso en Cuba, ( Memento of July 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  20. Pictorial assignment: Seven African Powers
  21. Thomas Altmann ( Memento from July 16, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), article from 2004: Yoruba Religion (Lukumí) ( Memento from July 2, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  22. Natalia Bolívar Arostegui ; Los Orishas en Cuba 2014; P. 251. ISBN 978-959-09-0599-5
  23. Luis E. Ramírez Cabrera; Diccionario básico de religiones de origen africano en Cuba 2014; P. 26. ISBN 978-959-11-0927-9
  24. ^ Patron saint of Havana