Cultural Appropriation of Lucumí Religion by Non-Initiates
By Ekundayo (iba’ye)
"A popular phenomenon we’ve witnessed with the incredible amount of information available on the internet about Lucumí religion, is the cultural appropriation of Lucumí and Yoruban ritual elements by online merchants, Neo-Pagans and Eclectic Magical Workers claiming to be practicing hoodoo, voodoo, rootwork or obeah all at once. This phenomenon seems to be very prominent amongst professional workers who are peddling their services online, or more commonly with individuals selling “magical products” like oils, baths, incense, soaps, mojos, pakets, or even statues and sculptures made to look like orishas. This is not only completely out of alignment with traditional Santería Lucumí practice but it is very dangerous for spiritual reasons outlined below. [….]”
This article by the late Ekundayo (iba’ye layen t’onu) is a must-read.
And, for the last time, there is no such thing as “solitary” Santeria, Vodou, Candomble, etc. Even Hoodoo was never done “solitary,” it took growing up in (mostly) the South among black and multiracial communities to learn. Solitary practice is an idea from 1980s Neo-Paganism that has absolutely nothing to do with African-Diasporic Religions or African Traditional Religions.
The article says that of 840 Candomble and Umbanda terreiros (temples) surveyed, 430 of them report attacks, violence, and desecrations committed against them, primarily by Evangelical Christians. It says that there has been an increase during the last twenty years, in particular during the last decade, of these incidents.
Olorisha Asiel Baez on initiation prices in Lukumi-Santeria.
This is something I get asked about a lot. Asiel sums it up really well here. Although, I’ve never heard of a $5k outside of Cuba! Whoa, that would be so cheap! Most Orisha that I’ve seen are between $8k-12k in California and Michigan (with Warriors and Oya and Oba being around $14k). I imagine it’s cheaper and easier in Miami.
Santeria, Bronx by Judith Gleason (1975, out of print)
This novel is by far the best English-language fictional depiction of the Lukumi-Santeria religion. Written by Judith Gleason (Oyá Lola — thought to be the first white American initiated in Lukumi in the United States in the late 1960s), the novel centres around a Puerto Rican Santera and Espiritista Concha and her would-be Godson, a young white boy who’s recently become an orphan. While the story is fiction, many of the people within it are thinly veiled depictions of well-known Santeros in New York City in the late 60s and early 70s (including the founders of Oyotunji Village), so it serves as a fascinating historical record in addition to being a thoroughly engaging read. I’ve read this book two or three times, and it truly is my favourite novel.
Judith Gleason went on to write several more novels and non-fiction books about the religion. She passed away on August 5th, 2012. Iba’ye l’ayen t’onu Oyá Lola!
Yewa crown by Beth Pert Weekes.
This crown gorgeously incorporates a mixture of Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Lukumí (Santería), and traditional Yoruba crown styles. Yewa is the Orisha who lives in the grave. She is the Orisha of virginity, and is very austere. It is strictly taboo to swear in her presence, and men are not supposed to cook for her. Ideally, the people who serve her are virgin women and post-menopausal women. Along with Oya and Oba, she is one of the rulers of the cemetery. She lives in the grave because Shango tried to have sex with her, and she ran away, only finding refuge in the grave which is the one place Shango will not go.
The artist Beth Pert Weekes recently made a crown for my Yemoja Ogunte, which is stunningly beautiful.