et idcirco vocatum est nomen eius Babel quia ibi confusum est labium universae terrae et inde dispersit eos Dominus super faciem cunctarum regionum [gen.11,v.9; biblia sacra vulgata]
Therefore is the name of it called Babel because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.
Many people seem to confuse the Voodoun of Haiti with that of Santeria from Cuba. There seems to be a general misconception that in fact "Voodoo" implies all of black african religion, and is synonymous with black magic, sorcery and witchcraft. It does not.
Beside the fanatical practice of christian "religious politics" which have grossly misinterpreted african customs in comparison with their european traditions and morality, the cinematographic industry has also capitalized on the "aura" of fear and deception inherited by the ignorance and prejudices of the alleged civilized Muslim, and European mercenary that has enjoyed a good profit from their slave trade.
While it seems likely that the Haitian vodun cult began to take definite form between 1750 and 1790 in Haiti, a full explanation of its origin cannot be given. The "Code Noir" of the French Catholic, prescribed baptism and instruction in the Catholic church for all slaves. it provided that assemblies of slaves for purposes other than Catholic worship were illegal, and masters would be punished for permitting such gatherings, as they could be interpreted as plots or revolts. However it was impossible to prevent all slave assemblages and secret reunions during the night occurred frequently. Evidence of what happened at these nocturnal conclaves is found in "L'Essai sur l'Esclavage et Observations sur l'Etat Present des Colonies" published by an anonymous author about 1750. [see also "Religious Rites of the Caribbean" by George E. Simpson (1970)]
"The word Voodoo or Vaudoux is from the Creole French "Vaudoux", a negro sorcerer, probably originally a dialectic form of the French, Vaudois, a Waldensian. It is the name given to certain magical practices, by the french to superstitions and secret rites prevailing among negroes of the West Indies, and more particularly in the Republic of Haiti". [Encyclopedia Britannica 11th ed.]
In the origin of the Voodoo Cult, Newbell Niles Puckett writes: "Most of the Negroes speak of conjuration as "hoodoo"- the Negro version of the familiar "voodoo or voudou" Some writers would derive the term from the followers of Peter Valdo, the Waldenses, or Vaudois (vaudois, a witch) of France-a sect later spreading into Hayti;(author's spelling)....being derived from vo (to inspire fear) of the Ewe-speaking peoples and signifying a god --one who inspires fear. Vodu is not the name of an especial deity, but applied by the natives to any god.
..this vodu cult, with its adoration of the snake god was carried to Hayti by slaves from Ardra and Whydah, where the faith still remains today. In 1724 the Dahomies invaded Ardra and subjugated it; three years later Whydah was conquered by the same foe. This period is beyond question that in Hayti first received the vodu of the Africans. Thousands of negroes from these serpent worshiping tribes were at this time sold into slavery.....They bore with them their cult of the snake. At the same period Ewe speaking slaves were taken to Louisiana. In 1809 because of war between France and Spain some of these Haytian planters with their slaves fled from Cuba, where they had sought refuge during the Haytian revolution, to New Orleans and made their residence there. Such were the principle sources of the voodoo religion in the U.S." ["the magic and folk beliefs of the southern negro": by N.N.Puckett]
Shockingly, in the prodigious work; "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics" by James Hastings Voodoun is explained thus: [pg640 v.XII]
"Voodoo is devil-worship and fetishism brought from the Gold Coast of Africa..
Its chief sacrifice is a girl child, referred to by the initiates as "the goat without horns" When a child is not available, a white kid (goat) takes its place. Excepting at the great semi-annual festival when the `goat' is drugged, killed and eaten, black dogs, cocks and hens are cruelly sacrificed by being slashed so that their bowels fall out. There is a regular priesthood to intimidate and rob the devotees...." It is no wonder, that with this ignorant bias prejudice the term Voodoo has haunted our society with imagery of horror and disgust. Yet the French expose still, a different side.
Their studies reveal that the term vo-du is drawn from the language of the Fons.
"The word Voodoo itself is spelled sometimes as vo-dou or vo-du. The prefix "vo" means "introspection" and the suffix "du" means "into the unknown". Consequently, the rituals form the sum total of this introspection; that is, they are studied accomplishments that proceed from psychological information.
The Voodoo rites, derived from the supernatural, proceed from the influence of the sun.... the entire Voodoo cult turns is the revelation that the principle attribute of solar magic is the post or pole that supports the center of the roof of the structure known as the peristyle of the oum'phor, the Voodoo temple.
The peristyle is the covered gallery of thatch or corrugated iron adjoining the holy of holies or oum'phor proper. This roof is supported by a wooden centerpost, called the poteaumitan which means to the initiates "solar support".. This post is an architectural representation of the chief Voodoo god Legba. The wood of the post represents Mercury, the offspring of the sun. Mercury is at the same time the staff of Legba. Upon this staff the two serpents of the oum'phor must normally mount so as to be harmonized or be reunited by Mercury. This poteaumitan is usually decorated with a spiral band of various colors symbolizing not only the colors of the rainbow but also of the serpent gods DAMBAHLAH and AIDA WEDO.
Near this post is kept the symbol of the moon, the Voodoo goddess ERZULIE. This lunar symbol- a model boat- is suspended in the air from the ceiling to complete the significance of the planetary origin of the rites.
In the practice of Voodoo magic, a lighted candle is often substituted for the post and the boat is represented by ritual water." [Secrets of Voodoo by Milo Rigaud]
Other tribes beside the Fons that contributed to Voodo pantheon were the Nago, the Ibo, Congo, Dahomean, Senegalese, Haoussars, Capalaou, Mandinga, Mondongue, Angolese, Lybian, Etheopian and the Malagache.
Though popularity has voted the "Divine Horsemen" by Maya Deren as a good source, we cannot ignore the clarity and succinct work of Milo Rigaud in his book "Secrets of Voodoo" a frenchman who lived in Haiti for thirty years. Mr Rigaud demonstrates that Voodoo, far from being a primitive cult, is a real religion with striking beauty and theological purpose.
The Haitian Voodooist, Her-Ra-Ma-El points out in his book "The Daemons of the Voodoo Cult" that indisputably the sources of the african religion lie in the Ethiopian-Egyptian-Assyrian civilizations where from Voodoo has sunk its roots.
The word lois which means laws in French. The lois (laws of creation) create the Loas (animistic spirits) in visible manifestations such as plants, animals and men, but chiefly ancestors, because Voodoo is essentially a cult of ancestor worship.
The African, believing that the manes (souls) of the dead reascend to the heavens, identified them with the stars. For this reason Her-Ra-Ma-El states; "The beliefs about the soul and about death have naturally given rise to the Cult of the Dead, which in turn leads to the deification of human souls. Souls thus defined or as it were, canonized after death used to be called daemons by the ancient Greek."
In the Voodoun cult however, the french language is mixed with the African (Creole), while in the Santeria it is purely of Yoruban tongue.
A comparison of a prayer to Eleggua should convince us of this.
Grande Ai-Zan, salue Legba! Great Ai-Zan salute Legba!
A l'heu qu'il e Now silver breaks rock
M'a pe mande coument nous I am asking how you are? ye?
Salue' Legba Salute Legba.
Ai-Zan vie, vie, Ai-Zan, old one, old one,
Vie Legba Old Legba
Creoles sonde mirori Legba Creoles, sound Legba's mirror.
Legba vie', vie'. Legba, old one, old one,
Creoles, sonde miroi Ati Bon Creoles, sound Ati Bon Legba's
Iba'ra'go ago mo juba Homage to the relative of the Club.
Give way, I pay homage
Omode koni'ko sh'iba'go Child who teaches the doctrine of ago mo juba Elegba, Eshu paying homage homage to the club,
l'ona. Make way, I pay homage to the Owner
of Vital Force,
Eshu is the one who owns the road.
The purity of the Santeria practitioners of both the predominance of the Yoruba culture and the language make it easy for a Nigerian to understand and feel comfortable with Santeria than alien in Haiti.
In Santeria the idea of divinity is not termed "loa" or identified as laws but rather is called Osha or Orisha or Santo or Dioses. The principles of Osha and Orisha are more in tune with ancient Egyptian theology though it does not dismiss ancestral worship. Yet the ancestors and the dead are kept quite distinctly apart from the gods. In fact substantiate two different cults.
While many a oum'phor is splattered with coagulated blood the "ile" in which the Santero honors his/her gods is usually immaculately clean, (following egyptian tradition and "magickal balance") displaying sometimes gaudy soup tureens in a break front dining room cabinet, as the house of their god-otanes rather than govis where souls are sequestered, or tortured into submission.
In short there is no comparison between Voodoun and Santeria other than their common African origin that can be easily syncretized.
In the initiatory level the secret rites of initiation demand certain substances that are found wanting in the Voodoun rites thus a great gap is stretched between Voodounist and Santero/Santeras.
The house or temple is usually called "ile" meaning ground, house,or "ile Osha" meaning house of god. There are no center posts nor elaborate veves which are designs on the floor made of a white powder not unlike the East Indian tradition drawn today. These designs called veves in Voodoo are made in a oum'phor, according to the rite, out of wheat flour, corn meal, Guinea flour (wood ashes), powdered leaves (patchouli) red brick powder, rice powder (face powder) and even gunpowder, powdered charcoal, bark or roots.
In Santeria, following Yoruba tradition, usually made of powdered calx. This calx was derived in Africa from the natural limestone deposits which were a residue of limestone a rock formed by accumulation of organic remains of shells and coral consisting mainly of Calcium Carbonate (CaCo3) though also containing magnesium carbonate. It is commonly referred to as Chalk (calx) by both ancient and modern writers and it is the formation of the Cretaceous system composed for the most part of the minute shells of the Foraminifera.
These signs are usually traced on the floor by the Santero for only special occasions, if seldom, and not at all as profusely found in a oum'phor.
In ancient Babylon it was called "Usurtu" and in Cuba as in Africa it is called Efun" or "Fun" meaning "white". Whitewash, a common use for painting walls (whiting) is of this substance and along with lime they substituted the African calx which they mixed with powdered talcum, or powdered patchouli leaves for ritual effect.
White is an extremely important color in the Lukumi. Gunpowder is seldom used if at all as it is an insult to certain gods and is reserved for the Palo preoccupations.
Many Haitians have becomes Santeros, and they can. But Santeros cannot once they are initiated into Santo (Kariosha) become Voodooists. The same thing for Palo. Many people may have been "scratched" Palero/a and then been initiated, but according to the elders once you have been initiated Santo you cannot "scratch" into a Palo conviction. It is considered sacrilegious!
Even in far away Brasil or Bahia the names of the gods are adulterated to the Portuguese language.
Obatala becomes Oxala Shango, Xango and is identified with St John the Baptist and St. Jerome Oshun and Oya become identified with St. Catherine and St. Barbara Ogun with St, George etc.
In Brasil there seems to be four distinct movements, Candomble of Bahia and the northeast, Spiritism of Rio and the more advanced urban centers; Umbanda in the urban centers not influenced by Bahia and Quimbanda a form of black magic that is practiced clandestinely everywhere.
Besides a list of recognizable Yoruba gods there also exists in the pantheon Preto Velho, Preta Velha (Old black man, Old black woman) who are really not gods but represent in the Umbandaist statues as an old but wise african spirit of an old man or woman who return to counsel human beings and intervene modestly in their affairs.
They give them names like Pai Jose or Pai Miguel or any of a hundred african or Portuguese names. Yet Pure Candomble admits no pretos velhos.
They also include Tupa. In Itubera, Senhor Valter's terrerio used this Indian name to designate the supreme spirit.
Also an Insian chieftan of the Tupininkuin tribe of northern Brasil, called Tupinamba who is believed to return in spirit to guide Umbandists in Bahia. Brothers of Tupinamba include Itubaraja, Iara, and Ibara.
Another indian chief, named Ubiraja, lamed in a hunting accident is known to have mounted mediums both in Long Beach, California and Valenca, Brasil. This Ubiraja once told the Long Beach terrerio that he had been dead for about four hundred years and that he regularly visited spiritist centers as far away as Morocco.
Thus Voodoo is indigenous of Haiti, Santeria of Cubans and Macumba of Brazilians.
One might presume that these African Religions are a small "cult" of sorts but this Old Religion is more of a phenomenal religious revival than it is not.
More than 80 million African and New World peoples participate in or are closely familiar with this religion. The number is increasing at a very rapid pace rather than declining. Yet the claim that the gods, from a comparatively small religious faith, particularly one stemming from a non-literate tradition, flourishes in spite of the overwhelming dominance of such large global religions such as Islam and Christianity jars our expectations.
In Brazil alone, the religious groupings have more than 30 million adherents, and are spreading rapidly to Uruguay and Argentina, where there are scarcely any African descendants. The same is true of Santeria cults in Cuba (see Barnet 1968;80).
For instance 100,000 Umbanda congregations have emerged in Brazil's southernmost state settled largely by Polish, Italian, and German immigrants. This religion also moves along with Haitian and Cuban populations to New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas. (Brown, ch.4and M.Drewal, ch.9)
Participation in Santeria, is believed to be stronger since the Cuban Revolution than Roman Catholicism and it is specially strong in North America, where it also serves as a support system for newcomers. (Hageman 1972:15) In fact, Miami police are briefed so as not to misinterpret some of the sacrificial rites of Cuban- American Devotees with those of perverted neurotic cultist fad (Wall Street Journal, oct 18 1984)
Even now the issue of Santeria is harangued with animal rights from Hialeah to the Supreme Court and has the Conservative National Association of Evangelicals, joined with the liberal Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the usually isolationist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the American Jewish Congress, along with a host of other mainstream taking sides with that of Santeria.
I personally know of Santeria initiations taking place in Spain, Portugal and France as well as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Finally, Caribbean and West African religious practices are spreading to a growing body of English speaking North Americans, and these new devotees hold ceremonies and have produced, after instruction by CUBAN adherents, a theological treatise on African Deities. (M.Drewal, ch.9).
Santeria/Lukumi is not really "just" a Polytheistic religion. It is in fact a remarkable example of HENOTHEISM. Each individual has a "personal" god. Not one of his/her choosing, but rather one that has chosen you. Without the exclusion of others. In fact one can extend this observation by identifying Santeria/Lukumi as a KATHENOTHEISM since sometimes the worship of a god may be independent of the rest without denying the other's existence.
A good example of this is seen on the midnight of the 16th of December which is the "eve" of the day of Babalu where regardless of the personal preference many Santeros/Santeras and lay people who are believers will dedicate that day to Babalu and hold special homage without including any other god in the festivities. The same example is found on Dec 3 midnight as December 4 is dedicated to Shango etc.
In Santeria, the tradition is that when anyone is born, each is chosen by a god as "her/his ward. This is called the "god on the head, (ori). It is usually deciphered by a genuinely initiated elder through the oracles of either the "dilogun" which are shells or by Ifa which uses an "ekuele" or kola nuts. With the Christian influence it has been commonly called one's guardian angel. When an individual reaches a point to be initiated, this is the god to whom the person is initiated to and primarily serves.
Once initiated, that individual has formed an alliance with the god on their head and through the ritual of the Ita on the fourth day of initiation a second god is realized, as well as a "familiar" god who may favor the individual in service sometimes more than the god one is originally consecrated to. Of course this "familiar" can be the god on your head or the secondary one but usually it is more commonly found in yet another entity that shares the same favor as the god of the head. There can be found to have more than one of these "familiars" in an Ita. This Ita will decide the limits of permission an individual has at her/his disposal to act in the gods behalf.
For example, the Babalawo, (father of secrets) is nothing more than the "virgin" priest of Orunmila and cannot function as other initiates can. His sole occupation should be the reading of the kola nuts, or the ekuele (a divining chain) which in turn no other initiate can do. He has sole possession of the Ifa divining tray, but yet a Babalawo cannot initiate anybody, other than to Ifa.
In fact he can't even divine the Ita such a special juxtaposition in an initiation.
Usually a Babalawo is married to a Santera, as women cannot be Babalawos, he then can function his influence through her.
Consequently as it may seem obvious, there has been a tremendous riff between Babalawos and Santeros for a long time.
Perhaps the lack of information of the Lukumi religion may extend from the fact that it is a mystery religion., that is to say, its secrets are imparted only to the initiate, not the profane. Little of its secrets are divulged when allusion is made to them though sometimes the initiates will tend to mislead the readers so as to keep the purity unadulterated. The only way to learn these secrets is by merit and by actual practice to deter those pretenders that would prostitute a sacred thing for the sake of self aggrandizement.
Consequently, when a person is initiated, there seems to be a unity, a natural link, where with certain knowledge one can acknowledge the other with a simple telephone call where a santero/santera can easily verify the authenticity of a celebrant.
So you see Bekki, "There ARE more things in heaven and earth, than are deamt in our philosophy."
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