Tag Archives: santeria

Sacred Sounds of the Female Orishas, collected by Raul Canizares

By Mike Gleason | November 12, 2013 | Leave a comment

Sacred Sounds of the Female Orishas, collected by Raul CanizaresSacred Sounds of the Female Orishas: Rhythms of the Goddess, collected by Raul Canizares
Destiny Recordings, 1-59477-071-9, 60 mins., 2005

Raul Canizares, who collected and produced the recordings which are the basis for this CD was the head of the Santeria Temple Orisha Consciousness Movement in Manhattan, and the author of Cuban Santeria, as well as the producer of another CD , The Sacred Sounds of Santeria.

The emphasis of this collection is the female aspects of divinity. It helps to know some of the stories associated with these strong female images, although it isn’t absolutely necessary. The liner notes give a little sense of the strength of these goddesses. There are no shrinking-violets in this collection. Even the orishas associated with love are strong, independent figures. Their songs convey this as well. The rhythms are forceful and compelling. You can feel their presence and power as their songs are sung. Continue reading


Teachings of the Santeria Gods, by Ocha’ni Lele

By Lili Saintcrow | May 2, 2011 | Leave a comment

Teachings of the Santeria Gods, by Ocha'ni LeleTeachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu, by Ocha’ni Lele
Destiny Books, 9781594773327, 270 pp. (incl. glossary and index), 2010

Teachings of the Santeria Gods centres on the diloggun, a method of divination involving cowrie shells cast on a mat. The backs of the shells are filed down, but the important thing is the “mouths” of the shells—how many are facing upward gives the diviner the number of an “odu.” Each odu comprises an almost-endless array of stories (the pataki) about particular orisha, or cautionary folk tales. This is what makes this style of divination so interesting; the choice of the story to be told to the querent, and the ebo (sacrifice to be made in order to banish the querent’s ill-luck, avert disaster, or appease angry spirits, among other things) to be made gives a diviner near-infinite possibilities. Continue reading


Afro-Brazilian Tarot, by Alice Santana and Guiseppe Palumbo

By Mike Gleason | September 7, 2009 | Leave a comment

Afro-Brazilian Tarot, by Alice Santana and Guiseppe Palumbo
Kit: Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738709603, 78 cards plus instruction booklet, 2006

I’m not sure what I expected when I requested this deck for review (although I was sure that the artwork would be impressive, based on other decks from Lo Scarabeo). Oh, I’m familiar with both the Tarot and with Candomble (the Afro-Brazilian equivalent of the Afro-Cuban Santeria), and I do understand the desire to provide divination decks which go outside the commonly accepted parameters which are associated with the Tarot.

The deck, which is a standard deck as far as number of cards and divisions, is accompanied by a multilingual instruction booklet (English, Italian, Spanish, French, and German, I believe) which gives very basic meanings for each of the cards, as well as an extremely simplified layout (in keeping with the traditional divination method of the Yoruban people, which the Tarot is definitely not).

Although the suits carry the traditional names – chalices, pentacles, wands and swords – some of the images are slightly unconventional. The chalice suit is represented by soperas, which are traditionally used as containers of the physical representation of the orixas; the pentacles are represented by opon, the plates used in traditional divination by cowry shells and the shells themselves; while the wands and swords are more conventional. Continue reading


The Diloggun, by Ocha’ni Lele

By Mike Gleason | May 1, 2004 | Leave a comment

The Diloggun: The Orishas, Proverbs, Sacrifices, and Prohibitions of Cuban Santeria, by Ocha’ni Lele (B. Stuart Myers)
Inner Traditions, 089281912X, 2003

The author of this book, Ocha’ni Lele, has been involved in the religion of Santeria since 1989, and has been a priest in that religion since 2000. He is a priest of Oya and brings his experiences over the past several years to bear on the topic of divination by this little understood system.

He does not equivocate or make excuses for the requirement for sacrifice. Many readers may be uncomfortable with these statements and feel that the religion is “too primitive” or “too brutal” to be considered a “real religion,” but that is, in my opinion, simply a result of the culture many of us have been raised in.

He is, by no means, the ultimate authority on the system of diloggun, as he is the first to admit. There are many more experienced diviners out there. What he is, is the first to write a book from the perspective of an actual user of the system for those who are not members of the system.

In this book, be continues the exploration of the divinatory systems of Santeria, adding a wealth of knowledge to an area which has, traditionally, been veiled in secrecy. While not everyone is happy to see this information becoming more readily available, no one can deny the importance of recording it. It has been passed down, orally and through handwritten libretas for centuries. It has now been accessible to the general populace.

He begins the book with a brief (eight page) “Introduction to the Lucumi Religion.” For those with no background knowledge of the faith, this is quite valuable. It agrees, in most particulars, with other accounts, although there are some areas which may be interpreted differently by other authors. Still, this is a succinct, readable condensation of several hundred years of evolution into a few pages.

At the end of this introduction, he agrees with some critics that his work should not (and cannot) take the place of personal instruction. That has never been his intention. In his previous offerings (The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination and Obi Oracle of Cuban Santeria both from Inner Traditions), he has stressed that his work is intended as a resource to be used in conjunction with the personal training and contact which is vital to the continuation of this religion.

Although not specifically stated as such, this current book is a continuation and expansion of the first-mentioned book. It contains a much fuller explanation and interpretation of the diloggun system of divination. It contains all the previously released information and a lot more. It is not a book to be approached lightly

He relates some of the oral history of the Lucumi in the late-19th and early-20th century Cuba. While it would be difficult, if not impossible, to verify much of this history, it does provide some much-needed grounding. While much of this information has been available to Santeras and Santeros, those coming to the faith will benefit from hearing this. The background given in this book is much more extensive than any I have ever seen before. The explanations given for the requisite behaviors are clear and concise.

If you wish to learn the basics of this system of divination, this book will give you all the basic information you need. HOWEVER, reading and using this book is not enough. In order to fulfill the requirements for many of the readings, it is necessary to have the proper connections with the Lucumi community, and that does not come out of a book.

The sheer amount of information contained within the covers of this book is astounding. I have never seen a book which explains this type of divination in anything like this amount of detail.

The size and price of this book will serve to discourage the casual browser, I am sure. It will, however, fill an important gap in the available information for the student of diloggun. While it cannot replace the personal instruction which is a vital component of that training, it can serve as an inspiration for the student.


Review: Cuban Santeria, by Raul Canizares

By Mike Gleason | April 24, 2004 | 1 comment

Cuban Santeria, by Raul Canizares
Destiny Books, 0892817623, 138 pages + colour insert, 1993, 1999
Raul Canizares offers a truly unique perspective in this book – that of not only an active member of the religion of Santeria, but of a high-ranking member of that religion. There have been other books by members of the religion , but none by someone with the academic background and training which Mr. Canizares brings to this work. Add to that the length of his active involvement and you have a perspective which would be hard to duplicate.

This is a reissue of a work which was aimed at an objective, academic audience, as a part of the research in order to complete a master’s thesis. It has been expanded by the addition of anecdotal stories and appendices.

On a personal note, I would like to recommend that, if possible, you obtain a copy of the CD Sacred Sounds of Santeria, which is a collection of traditional Santeria rhythms, as well as a few other songs collected in Cuba by Mr. Canizares. It offers a real feel for the rhythms which are such an important part of this religion. Having the CD playing in the background as you read this book will certainly enhance the experience of both for you.

This book, unlike those by such authors as Migene Gonzalez-Wippler, is less concerned with the workings of the religion and more concerned with the “relational” aspects. It delves into the use of Catholic iconography from a previously unexpressed point of view, as an example. It also focuses on the changes occurring in Santeria as a result of the large influx of non-Hispanic followers. As one of those non-Hispanic followers myself, it was a welcome change to see a discussion of this type in print.

Mr. Canizares is capable of presenting information regarding a seldom-understood religion in a way which is enlightening, non-threatening and, most importantly, entertaining way. I would hope that others will be inspired by his writing to continue this effort, as well as his effort to collect songs and chants “in the field.”

As a follower of a Wiccan path as well as a necklace-wearing member of the Lucumi, I applaud this books and highly recommend it to all the Pagans I know as a way of gathering further knowledge and dispelling prejudice. The more we understand other points of view, the less prejudice, distrust and hatred will hold sway in our world.

This book should be in the library of every religious educator, I know it will have a prominent place on my own library shelves.


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