Somewhere outside of Philadelphia on Monday, a goat’s life will come to an abrupt end because Heath Bell couldn’t keep his fastball down on Easter Sunday. Such are the realities of having a practicing Santero managing a MLB team. It’s a cut throat business.
Now that some Marlins fans have come to see Ozzie Guillen as an adversary, we need to prepare in case we find ourselves cornered by the powerful Babalao. Fortunately, at a recent Little Havana garage sale, I came a cross a wonderful research paper, ‘A Study of Divination within Santería, an Afro-Cuban Religion, as a Psychotherapeutic System’ by Lawrence J. Levy, M.S. While reading the paper, I alternately imagined myself as Guy Montag and Beldar Conehead. It was heady stuff. Literally.
A core Santería belief is the following:
The seat of the soul is the head, and therefore to strengthen the ‘Orisha’ that lives in the head of every human, it must be fed a mixture of grated coconut, honey, and cocoa butter. This mixture is placed on the head and then covered by a white hat or kerchief. The process is called ‘rogación de la cabeza.’
Bang, there it was, our defense kit.
But first I had to get the thought out of my head that if Orel Hershiser had been given the ‘Orisha’ nickname instead of ‘Bulldog,’ he would be in Cooperstown today. Talk about an intimidation factor. Heck Tommy Lasorda, who gave him the Bulldog nickname, spent a lot of time in Cuba, why couldn’t he … I digress.
Never have to say you’re sorry to the neighborhood Babalao again
But knowing the ingredients for Babalao survival wasn’t enough. How to mass produce them and have them available at critical moments? Enter late night infomercials. I just want to note two things. The ingredients in the Glossy Locks shampoo are exactly what is needed to protect our inner Orisha’s and you don’t have to enter a botanica to obtain it. ‘Nuf said.
More Santería fun facts to know and tell from the research paper:
- Santería is the popular name for the Afro-Cuban religion more formally known as Regla de Ocha or Regla Lukumi. It evolved from the religions practiced by Yoruba people, from what is now Nigeria, taken to Cuba as slaves in the 19th century.
- Santería has no mixing of Catholic beliefs, only a use of Catholic symbolism to mask the African religious, as a protective camouflage.
- In order to preserve their religion,various Orisha began to be associated with various Catholic Saints. That way, the African could continue to venerate their deities behind the mask of Catholic symbolism. Festivals and public performances in honor of various Orisha were moved to be on the same date as the feast day of popular saints. So, Sango, because he was represented by the color red and carried a wooden ax and was a king became associated with Santa Barbara whose iconography included a sword, a red robe, and a castle.
- Live animals are presented [i.e. slaughtered] to the new initiate to “absorb the sins of the initiate.”
A botanica is a store in which herbs, plants, candles, palm oil, white clothes, live animals and other items used in Santería are sold. Often spiritual readings and divination are also done [performed?] in Botanicas.
- Being “presented to the room,” and “presented to the drums.” The former is the ritual in which one’s godparent formally brings the initiate to the initiation of someone else, and confers upon them the right to work in rituals. The second is the formal introduction to the drums, and gives permission to attend ritual drummings, called Bembes.
- Divination is usually conducted in the house of the Santero, either at a table, or with the client sitting on a chair or stool, and the diviner sitting on a straw mat. The diviner then removes the shells from a small bag, selects 16 from the 21 that are in the bag, and moves them in a circle while saying a prayer called the Moyuba.
Misa Espiritual refers to a spiritual mass, or what could be called in English, a Seance. Seances became popular in Latin America during the 1850s and 1860’s in parallel to the spiritist movement started by the Fox sisters of New York, in the United States. The Misa Espiritual is not strictly speaking a part of Santería, but is widely practiced by Santeros.
- Certain elements of the Misa Espiritual resemble Gestalt therapy techniques. Finally, my hero, William F Buckely’s admonition to never exchange Gethsemane for Gestalt hits home.