The Cuban saints Are part of a neo-African religious tradition that developed in the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Cuba. Despite being practiced by people all over the world, Santeria is considered an Afro-Cuban religion.
This practice is based on the religion of the Yoruba people (from West Africa) and began to develop in the 16th century during the colonial period, when Africans were taken to the Caribbean in slavery to work on tobacco plantations and sugar.
The Yoruba religion considered that there were hundreds of deities, also called"orichas", that dominated certain aspects of the nature.
During the colonial period, the slaves belonging to this town carried with them to the Caribbean some of these deities. However, since the Spanish colonies, Cuba and Puerto Rico, were faithful to the Catholic Church, the religious practices of the Africans were prohibited.
Instead, slaves were converted to Catholicism, to prevent them from worshiping"false gods"and saving their souls.
Nevertheless, they found similarities between their"orichas", and the catholic saints, which allowed them to continue to adore their deities under the name of the western saints. Thus began the process of syncretism; Mixing Yoruba practices with Catholic practices and resulting in the religion that today is known as Santeria.
Orichas are the main spirits or deities who serve as an intermediary between Oldumare, a supreme being, creator of everything, and practitioners of Santeria. Due to the syncretism, the santeros have established relations between the orichas and some saints of the Catholic Church.
According to Lefever, (1996, quoted by Burgman, C.), originally, hundreds of Yoruba deities were venerated. However, currently only 16 of these are recognized, each of which has been associated with a Catholic figure:
Agayú - San Cristobal, Babalú Ayé - San Lázaro, Eleguá - San Antonio de Padua, Ibeji - San Damian, Inhle - San Rafael, Obatalá - Virgin of the Mercedes, Ogun - San Pedro, Olokun - Our Lady of Regla, Orula - San Francisco, Osayin - San José, Ochosi - San Norberto, Ochún - Virgin of the Charity of the Copper, Oya - Virgin of the Candelaria, Changó - Santa Barbara, Yemayá - Our Lady of Regla.
Featured Cuban saints
Ochún is the youngest of the orichas. This is the deity of beauty, love, prosperity, order and fertility. And represents female grace. She is the protector of the poor and the mother of the sick, as well as the queen of rivers and other fresh waters. This oricha is represented by the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patroness of Cuba.
Chango is the owner of lightning, thunder and fire. Usually associated with dance, especially the drum dance. It is related to Santa Barbara because this is the lightning protector.
Yemaya is the mother and protector of all living beings, the queen of heaven, earth and water. It lives in the ocean. This oricha relates to Our Lady of the Rule for being the patron of the sea.
It is the oldest of the orishas and creator of humans, which were sculpted in clay, as in the Jewish religion. He is known as the king of logic and peace.
It promotes the use of diplomacy and reason to resolve disputes and often acts as mediator between the other deities. Likewise, it is the protector of people with cognitive commitments and of addicts.
Obatalá is syncretized with Jesus, San Sebastian and Our Lady of the Mercedes. It is usually associated with Jesus as both represent wisdom and purity and for being the firstborn of great gods.
It is the oricha of divination. Like Elegua, it knows the patterns of destiny and therefore, can be consulted to discover what the future holds. It is the pattern of the Ifá sect, composed of Babalaos Priests who are credited with the ability of clairvoyance. Orula is associated with St. Francis of Assisi for unknown reasons.
It is the orisha of the forests and of the hunting, its arrows always give in the target. It represents the blind justice that applies to all equally. He is associated with San Norberto for unknown reasons.
In santería, Agayú is the father of Changó. This deity controls the volcanoes and is the pattern of the deserts. It is related to San Cristóbal.
He is a warrior. He is represented as a blacksmith who creates tools and weapons. He is also the father of technology and is often associated with San Pedro because he holds metal keys and Ogun is a blacksmith.
Elegua, also known as Esú, Eleda or Elegbara, is the messenger of destiny, that is, of Orula since all human languages are spoken. It is associated with the entrances, the roads and, above all, the crossroads, of which is the pattern.
This oricha also represents birth and death (alpha and omega), so it is syncretized with the Holy Child of Atoche (symbolizing childhood) and with St. Anthony of Padua (symbolizing old age).
10- Babalú Ayé
Babalú Ayé means"the king that hurts the world". This is the oricha of the disease; Their messengers are mosquitoes and flies carrying diseases. Babalú Ayé is represented as a man covered with pestilential ulcers. This deity is also capable of healing the sick and is usually related to St. Lazarus because the latter because he suffered from skin diseases such as leprosy.
According to Clark, Mary, correspondence between Catholic saints and orichas is not perfect or exact because it was made taking into account a small number of elements of Western culture, such as the iconography of the Catholic Church and the colors they used .
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