Tag Archives: oral tradition

Candomblé: syncretic, African religion brought by slaves


Candombléa small African religion based on a mixture of Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs, is popular among African countries especially Brazil.

Candomblé can be translated to “dance in honor of the gods” in English. The BBC reports that there are more than two million Candomblé  followers worldwide. Candomblé is considered a syncretic religion because it combines many religions and beliefs. Candomblé originated from the enslaved Africans who brought their religion with them when they were shipped to Brazil during the slave trade.


Followers of Candomblé believe in one powerful and almighty God named Oludumaré. This god is served my lesser deities called orixas. Every person has their own orixa who serves the. The personal orixas serve them by controlling their destiny and protecting them. Orixas can be ancestors and they can be recent or hundreds of years old. Orixas serve as an important link between people and the spiritual world. Candomblé practitioners believe that every orixa has a central force. This central force can be associated with food, color, animals, days of the week, a person’s character, etc.

CandomblŽC: Cynthia Britto/ PulsarLic/00 fasc31 pag 11 Hist—ria

One central idea is that there is no concept of good and bad. Candomblé believes that each person has one mission which is to fulfill their own destiny by living their life to the fullest.

Candomblé is based on oral tradition. Music and dance is central to Candomblé worship. Many choreographed dances are used throughout the service in order to connect with ancestor spirits. Worship used to take place in the home of the slaves. Women in Candomblé are called “mothers of the holy one” and usually lead the service.

The first Candomblé temple began during 19th century in Salvador, Bahai in Brazil.

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Santeria: nourishing Orishas to become closer to God

You’ve heard in a Sublime song, but what is Santeria all about?

Santeria is an Afro-Caribbean religion that formed out of the slave trade in Cuba. Santeria is translated to “Way of the Saints” and it has some Catholic influences. It is considered “syncretic” because the religion blends elements from many different faiths.


Santeria is based on the relationships between humans and powerful spirits called Orishas. Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishnas and the manifestation of Olodumare, their God. They believe that certain rituals can enlist the help of Orishas.

The religion is area in Cuba through Yoruba traditions that were brought to the country by the enslaved Africans. Santeria is an interesting blend of religions, because the enslaved did not convert, but instead blended religions. For a long time Santeria was a secret religion, but over the past 15 years it has expanded. The slaves kept their own rituals like dancing, drumming, speaking and eating with the spirits. Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 it has spread to many other countries including the United States. The population of those practicing Santeria is unknown and there is no central organization. Santeria also does not have holy scripture. The religion is based in oral tradition and is passed through word-of-mouth.


Some of the blending in Santeria comes from Catholicism. There are some Catholic influences on Santeria including the incorporation of some Catholic symbols. Sometimes those who follow Santeria are also Roman Catholic. Santeria also worships some of the Catholic Saints:mainpromo

  • Saint Barbara/ Shango: justice and strength, associated with lightning and fire
  • Our Lady of Charity/ Ochun: Yoruba goddess of the river, associated with water, yellow, sweets, money and love
  • Saint Lazarus/ Bablu-Aye: associated with the sick

One central element of Santeria is animal sacrifice. Followers sacrifice animals as food in order to build a good relationship with Orishas. The process of sacrifice brings the worshiper closer to the Orishna.santeria2 Those who practice Santeria believe that Orishas are similar to living beings. They need food, nourishment and praise in order to stay alive. Sacrifices are performed for life events like birth, marriage and death and also for healing. Animal sacrifices are completed in a certain ways; the animal is killed by cutting the carotid artery with a knife. After the ritual is performed, the animal is cooked and eaten. Those who practice Santeria see it as sharing the sacrifice with the Orisha. The Orisha is nourished by the blood and the worshiper is nourished by the meat. Sacrificial animals include: chickens, pigeons, doves, ducks, pigs, goats, sheep, and turtles.

Although there is no central organization, there are a some buildings and houses devoted to the faith. Rituals are usually done in a house called the casa or ile which is generally the house of a senior Santeria priest. Santeria priesthood includes both men and women because they can either be called babalorisha which means Father in the Spirit or iyalorisha which means Mother/Wife in the Spirit. They are also sometimes called Santero and Santera which is the Spanish translation of the work priest in the masculine and feminine forms.

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