Sunday, 19 July 2009

the orishas


While travelling in Cuba years ago I was introduced to Santeria. Santeria is to Cuba what Voudoun (Voodoo) is to Haiti, and Candomble is to Brazil.

West africans forcibly transported across the Atlantic brought their beliefs, languages, traditions and Gods with them to the new world.

But the beliefs were beaten from them. Languages were lost as families and clans were seperated, and severe penalties inflicted on those not speaking the language of their oppressors. Traditions became hidden rituals or ignored.

Through it all the gods remain.

Kind of

Santeria was hidden during slavery by combining the gods (orishas) with Catholic saints. According to wikipedia this is called "syncretism"

"the attempt to reconcile disparate or contrary beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought"

Each orisha was melded with a corresponding catholic saint, often with equivalent characteristics

For example
Oshun "goddess of love, feminine beauty and art" became Our Lady of Charity
Elegua "the trickster god of crossroads and opportunity" became St Anthony (patron saint of roads and gates)
Ogun "god of war and iron" became St Peter (patron of war)
Shango "also a warrior god strongly associated with thunder, lightning and male sexuality" became St Barbara (patron of thunder, lightning and fire)

Last night I dreamed of Eleggua. There was a song I heard people singing along the Malecon in Havana which repeated his name and last night that song was the soundtrack to my dream. I have no idea who sings it and I haven't thought about it in years.

The dream was simple. I walked along the Malecon at night, past Friday night revellers drinking rum from the bottle and dancing under the stars, the ocean crashing on the rocks below them. The details of the landscape were sharp, but my companion's face is hazy. He was young, shorter than me and ran in circles around me, distracting me and tripping me. There is no doubt in my mind who this was, in that specific certainty that is only found in dreams.

It's odd that he should come to mind now, especially when in the past few days many little things have been going wrong. Maybe these events triggered my memory subconsciously, or maybe the dream served to show that Eleggua the trickster is causing trouble in my life. Eleggua isn't evil, this isn't the same as dreaming that I walked with "the devil" (in whose existence I still doubt). Eleggua transcends good and evil. In my mind he resembles the duality of human nature, however I would prefer if, in my dream, he was more playful, less vindictive.

I need to learn more...

1 comment:

  1. erm yeah that's yoruba black magic talk there- stay away

    ReplyDelete