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Advice For Newcomers to The Santeria Religion | Botánica Viejo Lazaro

What is Santeria?


Lucumi, or Regla de Ocha, is commonly known in the U.S. as Santeria, a religion that blends Yoruban beliefs with elements of Roman Catholicism. Santeria is believed to have originated in Africa or the Caribbean and to have eventually arrived in Cuba due to the slave trade.

Santeria focuses on building relationships between followers and powerful spirits called Orishas. Orishas assist followers throughout life if praised through rituals and worship. The Santeria religion has no written scripture. Beliefs and rituals are most often passed down by word-of-mouth and through practice.

What the Santeria Religion Is Not.


The media has often falsely portrayed Santeria as a form of devil-worship. It is the religion’s incorporation of animal sacrifice purposed as food, divination, and herbal healing practices that outsiders have found misleading. Santeria is often confused with the Voodoo or Voodou religion and the practice of Hoodoo, southern folk-magic.

Organization and Initiation.

Santeria is most often practiced within a “house” or a “temple,” which are sometimes called ilkes. Ilkes are typically erected within the homes of initiated priests and priestesses, called Santeros. Altars are built and become shrines to Orishas. Priests and priestesses are initiated as part of an intense week-long process of healing, cleansing, and teaching.

There are four steps involved in joining the Santeria religion, followed by a post-initiation. The first step involves the acquisition of a special beaded necklace known as an ileke. The second step of initiation is the medio asentio, where the initiate meets with a Santero and their life is put under review. The initiate will create an image of a specific Orisha during this stage.

The third stage of initiation is referred to as the receiving of the warriors. Initiates receive objects that are representative of tools that are used to forge a relationship between the follower and the Orishas. The final stage of initiation is the asentio, where the initiate follows a secretive ritual to become “born again.” The post-initiation phase lasts for a year. During this period, the newly initiated Santeros must maintain a physical distance from those not initiated, are limited in what clothing they may wear, and must not practice cleansing rituals. Healing rituals and remedies are also prohibited during this period. The end of post-initiation is announced through a ceremony, and the restrictions on the new Santero are lifted.

Tools for Santeria.

While the exact items needed for each ritual or ceremony vary by purpose, there are basic tools that are involved in most rituals. Those tools include candles, bath washes, oils, and herbs. Oils can be purchased in premixed dram vials, or they may be handmade essential oils. These oils may be added to objects or remedies or used with an oil diffuser. Other commonly used tools include jicaras, all-white garments, and statuettes. Sought-after, but more difficult to obtain items may include specific necklaces, railroad nails, and horsetails.

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