Your Introduction to Santeria Customs and Rituals

We don’t have to tell you that the world has become a complex, tech-driven, time-obsessed place where people think more about whether their cell phones are charged than whether their spiritual lives are in good order. But in fact, belief systems hold together a fragile world moving at a frenetic pace.

Ask someone with a worldview and they’ll tell you that all religions have value and that includes non-mainstream faiths like Santeria, still practiced around the world by believers. This religion has been rooted in history and time since the late 19th Century, particularly in Caribbean countries.

With deep roots in Nigeria and the Yoruba people, this religion, based on animistic beliefs, morphed into a duplicitous belief system born of the slave trade that hid many of the sacred, time-honored rituals of the Yoruba beneath a veneer of Christian symbols that literally mocked Spanish captors.

Today, Santeria has found a place of prominence in the lives of people who believe and there are few epicenters of this faith more prominent than Miami, Florida. Santeria Miami can be seen, felt and heard when you stroll down Calle Ocho for the world’s best Cubano, and you’ll be remiss if you don’t go to Flagler Street for a tour of Botanica Viejo Lazaro. It’s no mystery what you’ll find at this botanica Miami: Beauty. Tradition. Perhaps a few miracles await at this Santeria Miami headquarters.

Questions most often asked about Santeria

Like Catholic saints and other religions that use symbolism to represent deities endowed with unique gifts and powers, Santeria also includes practices and rituals that are unique to this faith. If you know nothing about Santeria, the following questions can help you understand a little about this sacred faith before you go off on your botanica Miami adventure.

Q: Are Orisha unique or the same spirit? 
A: Every Orisha is so unique, he or she is represented by a number, color, food, dance and symbol. For the faithful, these personal attributes are no secret because they empower that deity to help resolve all sorts of problems and issues for believers.

Q: Is it true that animal sacrifice is practiced? 
A: It is. Animal sacrifice remains a practice in some quarters due to the belief that Orishas need food and it’s up to the faithful to provide it. Most often, chickens are used. These rituals bring good luck, purification and can absolve believers of sins.

Q: How important are dancing and chanting? 
A: Both are critically important to rituals. Feverish dance moves are considered necessary and mandatory because the human must let go of “worldly” thoughts and give themselves over to possession by the spirit to whom they pray.

Q: What about ancestor veneration? 
A: Ancestors are a particularly important part of Santerían rituals because it is only in the past that people can connect to those who gave them life. Even in modern times, believers recite ancestor names during ceremonies to invoke their moral guidance.

Q: Why is there so much secrecy in Santeria? 
A: This is a practice borne of secrecy because early practitioners had to hide their beliefs or suffer consequences. Further, part of the magic found in Santeria is bound up in keeping practices a secret. Practitioners tend to be extremely guarded and private about rituals and practices. Some worry about being judged or ridiculed.

Q: What books do people who practice Santeria use? 
A: There are no texts associated with Santeria as there are with other religions whose faith and practices may revolve around a Bible, Koran or Tanach. Santeria spreads by word of mouth and rituals that are the very heart and soul of this faith.

Q: How important are the drums and dancing to ceremonies? 
A: Playing drums to call forth Olurun and other spirits is an essential part of any ritual. There’s even meaning in the beat; whether it's fast or slow. Dancing shows a willingness to allow a spirit to enter one’s body so the faithful can be enlightened, healed and otherwise changed.

Q: How can one get ritual items that are required for specific ceremonies? 
A: Botanicas are the lifeblood of practitioners who require specific goods to conduct ceremonies, decorate homes and provide symbols of the faith. Charms, herbs, candles, potions, drums, jewelry and other essentials are all stocked by Botanica Viejo Lazaro.

Whether you follow Santeria’s practices, or you’re just fascinated by this faith and find meaning in the beautiful, meaningful ritual items that serve as this religion's symbols, you owe it to yourself to visit Botanica Viejo Lazaro sooner rather than later, your experts in Santeria Miami. Plan to spend some time there because you’ll want to see it all!