PRAYERS TO THE ORISHAS
A LOOK AT SANTERÍA
By Diane Elizabeth Caudillo, 2007
Who owns your head? This provocative question means a great deal to many people around the world who practice a religion known as Santería, or alternatively La Regla de Ocha. This tradition originates among the Yoruba people of West Africa, in the area of present-day Nigeria.
A great percentage of enslaved Africans who were taken to the New World were Yoruban— according to David Brown of Emory University, 500,000 Africans were taken into Cuba between 1800 and 1870, and one third were Yoruban or from Yoruban-influenced areas.1 According to Robert Farris Thompson, 40% of all Africans taken from Africa came from the Kongo and Angola regions.2 This fact helps explain some of the traditions observable today in the United States, in the form of yard shows, bottle trees, words like “banjo”- “mbanja” and “goober” (peanut) – “mgooba”. Many popular dance and musical styles – the Charleston, jug bands, jazz – owe their origin to African ways preserved by the descendants of the Africans who survived the Middle Passage. Continue reading