SANTERIA, THE ORISHA TRADITION OF VOUDOU: DIVINATION, DANCE, & INITIATION
Copyright © 1997-2002 Zenith Harris Merrill
CNN reported on January 29, 2002, from LONDON, England: The body of a young boy had been found floating in London's River Thames, dismembered in a way that was consistent with a human sacrifice, according to expert, Dr. Hendrik Scholtz, a South African expert in ritualistic murders who took part in a second autopsy of the boy. He told a news conference on January 29, that the body bore all the hallmarks of a ritualistic death..
He said there are a few people who would have staged the human sacrifice seeking to obtain the favor of supernatural powers in order to succeed in something like business or politics. "The person is sacrificed to awaken or summon the supernatural force required to attain that goal," he said at the National Police Training Centre in Bramshill, southern England.
Dr. Scholtz said, "It is my opinion that the nature of the discovery of the body, features of the external examination including the nature of the wounds, clothing and mechanism of death are consistent with those of a ritual homicide as practiced in Africa," Scholtz said. Police discovered seven half-burned candles wrapped in a white sheet washed up on the southern shore of the Thames. The name Adekoye Jo Fola Adeoye was written on the sheet and the name Fola Adeoye was inscribed on the candles.
Detective Inspector Will O'Reilly told the news conference that the name on the white sheet was common in Nigeria's Yoruba area, but so far they had not been able to trace anyone of that name in Britain.
Detectives have not yet positively linked the sheet and candles with the death, but are now looking at whether the murder was part of a Yoruba or "muti" ritualistic murder.
The torso of the boy, believed to be five to seven years old and of African origin, was found on September 21 near London's Tower Bridge. The body was clothed in orange shorts and had been in the water for up to 10 days. Police efforts to identify the boy, whom they have called "Adam," have failed, and they have launched an appeal for help from the public, offering a reward of $72,500 for information leading to the conviction of Adam's killers.
The youngster's torso was spotted floating in the Thames by a man walking across Tower Bridge.
British police said they have been in close touch with detectives in Germany and Belgium, where there have been three similar cases involving the murder of children whose bodies were disposed of in running water.
Scholtz explained that known ritualistic murders reported in Africa have declined from about 30 a year a decade ago to just three in the year 2000, and that the fingers, brain and skull of the victims are used as potions and medicines for those who wanted to awaken the supernatural forces (Orishas).
He added that the victim was often a close associate or child of another family member who carried out the killing.
The religion, Santeria, traces it's origin and observance to the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria, in Africa, worships the Orishas (gods or spirits) and is a religion of "African mysteries," originating in Africa, and is still practised there. Brought into North America, Cuba and South America, between the 16th and 19th centuries, with the slaves imported by the slave trade, it has become known as Santeria. Because it's practise was forbidden by slave owners, which resulted in the religion being disguised, in many instances, behind the owner's own religion, the rites of Roman Catholicism, Santeria is now practised with the same African deities, renamed as Roman Catholic saints, and indeed, Santeria means "the way of the Saints."
On June 11, 1993, the Supreme Court ruled in Santeria's favor, against Hialeah, Florida, stating that ritual animal sacrifice was allowable, as forbidding such sacrifice violated the religious freedom of Santeria's followers, and thereby, ending a six year legal battle. Hialeah is a Miami suburb, and Law enforcement officials say animal sacrifice is so common in the Miami area that the river's clean-up boat picks up an average of 100 carcasses a week. In exchange for their sacrifice, practitioners of Santeria expect to be rewarded with good fortune by the Orisha spirits. Remains of sacrificed animals also show up in public parks, and parking lots, as well as the canals.
Police investigated the 1986 mutilation murder of a baby in Connecticut and linked it to the centuries-old Santeria religion. surrounding the baby were pennies, fruit, and other trinkets, indicating the involvement of the Caribbean religious cult. This increase of tribal African religious practices is responsible for increasing violence, murder, and spiritual enslavement in the United States. Areas beside Florida, Los Angeles, and New York where the religion has become prominent are Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, according to Larson's New Book of Cults.
The Yoruba religious way of life was developed into a suble and complex system, according to Santeria: African Spirits In America, by Joseph M. Murphy. The Yoruba call God Olodumare, the "owner of all destinies," the almighty, the ground of life. As is true within cultures all over the earth, there is a trace of the original knowledge of the one true God in the Orisha tradition. Olodumare is said to be the ultimate destiny of all creation; from whom all existence is said to come forth, and to him it all returns. His breath is this force, this pulse of life and death.
The Yoruba, having lapsed into polytheism, sang of a multitude of lesser gods as follows:
"Be there 1,400 divinities of the home
Be there 1,200 divinities of the marketplace
Yet there is no one divinity to compare with Olodumare
Olodumare is the king unique."
Olodumare is incarnated into the world as force, called ashe, which is considered to be the blood of cosmic life, the power of Olodumare toward life, strength, and righteousness. Ashe is considered a divine current that finds many conductors of greater or lesser receptivity. The Yoruba believe these channels have rhythms that can be learned and used. They believe in three basic ways to approach the highly populated spiritual world: the way of values through honoring their ancestors; the way of power through relationships with spiritual beings; and the way of order through divination. The ways of ashe are through 1) values, 2) power, and 3) order.
The Yoruba find spiritual strength in relationships with a pantheon of spiritual beings they call Orishas. The Orishas are personifications of ashe that can be put at the disposal of human beings who honor them. For every important activity, there is believed to be an Orisha whose power underlies it and whose mysteries will deepen it. For example, Ogun is the force of iron, the patron of smiths who unlock the secrets of the earth and forge them into tools; the peaceful instruments of agriculture or the terrible ones of war. Ogun is imagined as a dark warrior with bloodshot eyes. Praises to Ogun reflect his fierce strength.
Ogun kills on the right and destroys on the right.
Ogun kills on the left and destroys on the left.
Ogun kills suddenly in the house and suddenly in the field.
Ogun kills the child with the iron with which it plays.
Ogun kills in silence.
Traditionally, the Yoruba recognize as many as 1,700 Orishas, lesser gods to whom the Supreme God is said to have entrusted the world, though only a few of them are universally known. Any city where such worship is practised is honeycombed with shrines to the various Orishas of the locality, each maintained by a priest or priestess. The shrines may be humble corners in ordinary household compounds or elaborate structures attached to prominent buildings. Often they are open groves in a park or on the outshirts of a city or town where the Orishas like to receive offerings.
Priests and priestesses of the Orishas act as leaders of Yoruba worship. They undergo long and careful training in dance styles, prayer songs, and herbal healing. The Yoruba worshipers express the presence of the Orisha (spirits) in dancing, in movement that can reveal the ashe of the Orisha in the complexity and nuance of rhythm. The Orishas or spirit beings descend to "mount" their human children, and like a rider take command of the person, they seize human bodies to dance among their children on earth. This possession by the spirit results in an experience of spiritual "ecstacy."
The most prevelant of the Orishas are Ogun, Oshun, Shango, Obatala, and Ifa, the most reflective of the ways of ashe, as Ifa is the path of divination.
The Yoruba worshipers show their deepening relationship with the Orisha spirits through sacrifice, in gifts of slain animals and plants, expecting the Orisha to honor them with desired gifts in return. Each needs the other, for without the ashe of the Orisha spirits, human beings would be in despair, unable to complete their destiny, and the Orishas would wither and die, without sacrifices made to them, as they are not considered immortal, and depend on human beings for their life. Without the blood of sacrifice, they are considered unable to fight for those who worship them, or to fulfill their desires.
If one walks along the streets of any Hispanic neighborhood in New York, in Florida, in California, or other locations, wedged between the busy groceries and newsstands can be seen small retail stores called Botanicas. Their merchandise is candles, beads, herbs, oils, cauldrons, crockery, and plaster statues of Catholic saints. Each of these items is necessary in Santeria, in the religion of worshiping the Orisha (spirits). This is a taste of the ancient African spiritual path in modern America.
The most fundamental symbol of the Orishas presence are "holy" stones. They are kept in the households of believers in large crockery lidded tureens. These stones are considered to be alive with the ashe, or life force of the Orisha (spirit). They are veneterated as the tangible representation of the Orisha on earth. The stones must be treated as the living things that they are, and are lovingly bathed in cooling herbs, cleaned and oiled, and fed with the blood of sacrificed animals.
Haitians call it Voodoo or Voudou, Cubans and other Latinos refer to it as Santeria. Brazilians christen it Macumba, and Trinidadians call it Shango. According to Bob Larson's New Book of Cults, although differences exist between Santeria, and Voodoo, these cults have several gods and rituals in common. Each sect believes that all events in this world are shaped by divine and powerful spirits outside it, and a major philosophy is, "Take care of the gods and they will take care of you."
During their novice year, Santeria initiates learn their religion's secret ceremonies, and study the Yoruba language in order to be able to address their gods in the god's own tongue. They learn the favorite foods and drinks of each god in order to provide to each, as sacrifice, what is most pleasing.
Ogun, the god of iron and war prefers sacrifices of roosters and male goats, and the drink of rum. Erzulie, the Voudou god of life is said to crave desserts, such as decorated cakes and creme de menthe. Damballah desires champagne, and some voudou gods receive sacrifices of Coca-Cola.
When worshipers are possessed by the spirit that has descended and entered their body, they shriek or howl. Some violently shake or writhe, as if in an epileptic fit, prior to becoming entranced. While in this trance state, some worshipers have been seen to walk over broken glass or burning coals, others to place their hands in burning oil or alcohol, all with no bodily harm. Advocates vow that this is because of the spirits inhabiting their body.
Symbols believers commonly use include fetishes, icons and voudou dolls. These symbols are invoked and trusted to protect the wearer against poisoning, death hexes, evil spirits, sickness, injury and accidents.
In April of 1989, 12 bodies were found buried near Matamoros, Mexico, and according to Cameron County, Texas Sheriff Lt. George Gavito, cult members ritually sacrificed the victims and prayed to the devil in order that the police would not arrest them, bullets would not kill them, and in order to make more money. More victims, bringing the total to l5 people, including a Texas pre-med student who vanished on spring break in March of that year were discovered by April 19. Nine sect members were arrested in the case. The leader or "godfather," Adolfo de Jesus Constanzo, and his closest associate committed suicide as police were about to arrest them in Mexico City. This news report is adapted from "News Watch", by the Christian Research Journal, Summer 1989, by William M. Alnor.
Originally reported to be Satanists, they were found to be practitioners of Santeria, and immediately defensive Santeria priests, or Santeros all across the United States insisted that their practices do not include human sacrifice, but only animal sacrifice.
These religions are rooted in Satanism. The Bible teaches us to drive spirits out, not to invite them in. The attempt to divine and consort with spirits caused the death of King Saul in ancient Israel. God has called us to offer our bodies as holy, living sacrifices to Him, and not to appease Satan and His spirits (demons) by slaughtering and offering animals to them as gifts. He has also commanded us in Luke 10:19 to tread on demonic beings, not to invoke and worship them.
Although it has been claimed that Voudou assists Haitians in facing the crushing poverty they experience, it is more certain, that the worship of demonic spirits, rather than God Almighty, makes possible the oppression and poverty of the country. The appeal and increasing popularity of these religious sects in the United States is a result of the lack of knowledge of our Creator and His Holy Scriptures, the dark lure of uninhibited behavior, revenge for perceived wrongs, and the pursuit of personal spiritual power.
The Lord of the Universe does not approve the malevolence of this evil and selfish behavior in order to further one's position socially or professionally, but would have us "Do unto others, as we would have them do unto us." By entrusting ourselves to His care, we can avoid the temptation to gain power over others and to do evil to them, and as believers in Jesus Christ, we are assured that there is no reason to fear, for we are told in Romans 8:37-39
"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
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