In this time anyone caught in the worship of native gods would be punished and many times by death, Africans and the native Tainos. In order to keep the religion and life, The slaves became “Christianized” at least to the slave owners. The slaves took each African god(Orisha) and renamed them after the saints. Chango the god of thunder became Santa Barbara and they kept the religion in secret. Even today the religion is kept in secret since there is still people who see it as devil worship when it’s not.
There are hundreds of gods in Africa but within Santeria, many people worship 7 main Orishas. Also represents the planets: Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune,Uranus plus the Sun & Moon. Each has his or her own colors, numbers, foods, herbs, so on. Jesus would be Olodumare or Olofin, Olorun. He would have no sacrifices, his day is Thursday and his color is all combined.
Sacrifices is a part of Santeria, Animal as well as foods and cafe…money Chances are that within your home or relative’s home, You have seen the 7 day glass candles in different colors and with pictures Of the saints. Maybe a cup with old coffee and a dish full of change. Or you light candles for your dead family since we as Puerto Ricans have What is called “ancestor worship” which can be found in the African & Taino culture. We pray to our dead for help and guidance and protection. This is Santeria and Taino beliefs and not Christian beliefs.
What is Santeria?
When an animal is to be sacrificed, Its done by a priest or Babalu only. We can have altars and offer food, money, coffee, but we are not to kill an animal. Animals are used only in major situations, Such as ones life is in danger or badly cursed. With all religions, there is good and bad people.. This does not make the religion itself bad but the people who use it for harm.
Santeria isn’t just about magic or voodoo, These people are the people we go to when we are sick. They know what herbs gives what effects, This is something in the African & Taino culture as well. To the church it is looked at as bad and even evil. Within the church, There is no herbs and only Jesus is the one you pray to and not the Virgin or Lazarus.
Every Puerto Rican and Latin knows to pray to Lazarus is to pray for money. This is not a Christian or Catholic belief. So in many ways we still keep our pre-Christian beliefs with us without knowing where we get them from. The Virgin brings miracles…San Jose protects her and all Virgins St. Christopher protects while we travel.
Elegua – a.k.a. “Holy Child of Atocha”
Day of week: Mondays and 3rd of each month
Color: red & black , his beads or Ilekes would be 3 red, 3 black over and over until you have the length you want.
Sacrifice/Animal: roosters & goats
Foods to offer him:smoked fish, yams, sugar cane
Herbs: avocado leaves, coffee, guava, mint, coconut husk, black eyed peas, crowfoot, dried rose buds.
Elegua – is the god of the dead or underworld and is know to play tricks on people and is the god whom protects your home.
Always at the “crossroads” like to be at the cemetery & Funerals
Chango- a.k.a. Santa Barbara
Days of the week: friday also Dec.4 th
Color: red & white, his beads would be 6 red, 6 white
Animals: pigs ,roosters, goat, rabbits sometimes horses and bulls
Foods: corojo butter, cactus, corn meal, apples, red wine
Herbs: pine, plantains, mugwort, apple trees, leeks
Chango is the god of thunder but also a lustful god..he’s fire much like the mythic Aries
Also an African warrior King
Yemaya a.k.a. La Virgin de Regala
Days of the week: friday & saturday
Colors: white & blue, her beads would be 7 white, 7 blue
Animals: roosters, lambs, fish
Foods to be given: sea water, pork cracklings, plantain chips, watermelon
Herbs: seaweed, florida grass, indigo
Yemaya- is a “Mother” goddess and protects women and children.. she is an ocean goddess
Also queen of all brujas y brujos- she is the moon
Oshun -a.k.a Our Lady of Charity
Days of the week: saturday
Colors: yellow & orange, her beads would be 5 yellow, 5 orange
Animals: hens(white), nanny goats, female pigs
Foods: honey, river water, cinnamon, shrimp
Herbs: cinnamon, roses, oranges, anise seeds, rosemary, sunflowers, papaya
Oshun – is the goddess of love and beauty, much like Venus..she is a river goddess
Also a fertility goddess..lover of Chango
Ogun- a.k.a St. Peter & St. Miguel
Days of the week: tuesday
Colors: green & black, his beads would be 7 green, 7 black
Animals: roosters, bulls
Foods to be given: smoked fish, water from ponds, yams w/blood.
Herbs: eucalyptus, red pepper, black pepper, oak leaves
Ogun- is a warrior god and enemy of Chango, god of technology
Oya-a.k.a Santa Virgen de la Candelaria & St. Theresa
Days of the week: wednesday
Colors: black & white
Foods to be given: eggplant, rain water
Herbs: plantain, marigold, mugwort
Oya – Is a goddess that has powers over spirits..the dead,
To look at her will make you blind or madness within the mind
She is a warrior goddess.
Obatala – a.k.a Our Lady of Mercy
Days of the week: sunday
Animals: goats, chickens, cows – all must be white & female
Foods: rainwater, flour, cornmeal
Herbs: mint, basil, yucca, cotton, almonds
Obatala – is a god who is said to be the father of man much like Adam
Oshosi -a.k.a St. Norbert
Days of the week: tuesday
Animals: roosters, pigs, goats
Foods: mango, smoked fish
Herbs: basil, tobacco
Oshosi – is a hunter god who lives in the wild
Orula -(Orunmila)a.k.a St Francis
Days of the week: thursday
Colors: green/blue & yellow
Animals: goats (virgin)
Foods: plum & yams
Herbs: ginger, jasmine, guava, sage
Orula -is a god of great importance..one who knows the future of all people. Also a warrior god.
Babalu-Aye- a.k.a San Lazurus
Days of the week: sunday
Colors: white with blue
Animals: roosters, snakes, goats
Foods to be given: corn meal, coffee, cigars, pond water
Herbs: guava, beans, jasmine, sage, peanuts
Babalua-Aye – is a compassionate god and brother of Chango.
Always shown as an old cripple man with 2 dogs and sores on his skin. He helps the poor and cripple.
This is another word for spells with sacrifices. People use ebos in love, marriage, money, healings and yes..to harm or hurt others.
People who practice Santeria are to go through an initiation period. For this you would go to a Babalu who would perform this for you. You become a child and an Orisha is chosen for you who protects you. You will learn all the secrets of the particular Orisha. The Babalu will consult the Orishas through the use of cowry shells. There will be an animal sacrifice for this ritual and it’s not cheap. You’ll be given a “Godfather” and “Godmother” who are people within the Santeria community, They will guide and instruct you as to your rituals and be there for you in time of need.
Books to read: although there are many on this subject.
Look for books by Migene Gonzales-Wipper, she has many Santeria books As well as a Boricua herself.
Visual Ethnographic exploration of the Afro-Caribbean religion of Santeria as it exists in my experience as a Puerto Rican – American woman from New Jersey