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The Orishas and the Yoruba Religion

the orishas

Santería is a religion that has its origins with the Yoruba tribe of Africa. The Yorubas lived in what is known today as Nigeria, throughout of the Niger River. Once they had a powerful and complex structure organized in a series of kingdoms, of which the most important was Benin, and
this lasted for 12 centuries until 1896.

At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. Yoruba fought a series of wars with their neighbors and between them. This internal fight and the external attacks led to the fall and enslavement of the Yoruba town.

Between 1820 and 1840, the majority of the slaves sent from Benin were Yorubas. These slaves were taken to Cuba and to Brazil to work in the sugar plantations. The Yoruba were soon called the “Lucumí”, due to his greeting “oluku mi”, “my friend”.

“time passes slowly, by the distinction and courtesy of its inhabitants”

Güerere, Tabaré.

Spanish laws, at the same time as allowed slavery, they tried to mitigate that injustice by granting the slaves some rights, at least in theory. They had the right to private property, marriage and security personnel. The laws also required that slaves were baptized Catholics as a condition of your legal entry to “Las Indias”.


The roots of Santería are found in the Yoruba religion of what is now southwestern Nigeria and eastern Benin in western Africa.

The Yorubas were one of the many linguistic-religious groups to which the slaves brought to America belonged until the 19th century (remember that slavery was legal in Cuba until 1886, when there were about 400 thousand slaves, and in Brazil until 1888).

Within the original Yoruba religions (there are several aspects), the following spiritual hierarchy is conceived.

The Orishas

Orisha representation by Dancer in Old Havana

It is the messenger between human beings and the others
orishas It has many aspects, and it can do practical jokes to teach lessons, but open new opportunities and shows the roads to reach different goals

The santeros consider him guardian of the houses, and they maintain his image behind the door. Their presents favorites are sweets, rum, cigars, and candles.

San Martín Caballero (because he travels on horseback), San
Antonio de Padua (because he finds people and missing things), San Miguel Arcángel (because he is a messenger of God), Holy Child of Atocha.

Father & mother of humanity, bring peace and harmony. It represents creativity, clarity, justice, and wisdom.

Its color is white: snow, clouds, the silver, the bones, and the brain belong to him. To sometimes manifests itself with feminine attributes, represents the forces of the earth, and sometimes with masculine attributes, by representing the forces of the sky. That’s why some people consider it androgynous.
The Virgin of the Mercedes (associated with the

Lady of the sea and the moon, spirit of motherhood, fertility and wealth. It is the feminine figure par excellence, it regulates vital juices (blood, menstruation), and gives nutrition and softness to everyone.

She is very generous, but she can be implacable, like the mother who offers love but he does not renounce his power. Know the collective unconscious and the secrets of the sea.
Color: Sky blue.
Our Lady of the Rule (Associated with the Sea).

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