Santería: Correcting the Myths and Uncovering the Realities of a Growing Religion

Greenwood Publishing Group
8
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Santería, also known as Yoruba, Lukumi, or Orisha, was originally brought to the Americas from Africa by enslaved peoples destined for the Caribbean and South America. By the late 1980s it was estimated that more than 70 million African and American people participated in, or were familiar with, the various forms of Santeria, including traditional religions in Africa, Vodun in Haiti, Candomble in Brazil, Shango religion in Trinidad, Santeria in Cuba and, of course, variants of all of these in the U.S. Today there are practitioners around the world including Europe and Asia. Because of the secretive nature of the religion, it has been difficult to get accurate and objective information, but here, Clark introduces readers to the religion, explores the basic elements, including the Orisha, and answers the many questions Santeria arouses in observers and practitioners alike.

Santería was brought to the United States in two principle waves, one in the early 1960s after the Cuban Revolution and later by the Marielitos who escaped from the island in the 1980s. Since then it has spread to the larger Hispanic community, to the African American community, and to other segments of society as well. Today, practitioners can be found in every state, and interest in Orisha and related traditions has gained popularity. As the number of practitioners has grown so has public awareness. In this compelling introduction, Clark answers such questions as where did this religion come from? What do practioners believe? Is it a cult? What takes place at a ritual event? How does it view death and the afterlife? Is there ritual sacrifice? Clark, a practitioner as well as a scholar of the faith, dispels the myths that surround this religious practice, and brings readers to a better understanding of this growing faith in America.

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About the author

Mary Ann Clark is both a scholar and practitioner of Santería. In addition to teaching in the Religious Studies Program at the University of Houston and the School of Human Sciences and Humanities at the University of Houston Clear Lake, she is the coordinator of the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion. She is the author of Where Men are Wives and Mothers Rule: Santeria Ritual Practices and their Gender Implications as well as several articles, book chapters, and book reviews.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Greenwood Publishing Group
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Published on
Dec 31, 2007
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Pages
185
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ISBN
9780275990794
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Comparative Religion
Religion / Ethnic & Tribal
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In the Afro-Cuban Lukumi religious tradition—more commonly known in the United States as Santería—entrants into the priesthood undergo an extraordinary fifty-three-week initiation period. During this time, these novices—called iyawo—endure a host of prohibitions, including most notably wearing exclusively white clothing. In A Year in White, sociologist C. Lynn Carr, who underwent this initiation herself, opens a window on this remarkable year-long religious transformation.
 
In her intimate investigation of the “year in white,” Carr draws on fifty-two in-depth interviews with other participants, an online survey of nearly two hundred others, and almost a decade of her own ethnographic fieldwork, gathering stories that allow us to see how cultural newcomers and natives thought, felt, and acted with regard to their initiation. She documents how, during the iyawo year, the ritual slowly transforms the initiate’s identity. For the first three months, for instance, the iyawo may not use a mirror, even to shave, and must eat all meals while seated on a mat on the floor using only a spoon and their own set of dishes. During the entire year, the iyawo loses their name and is simply addressed as “iyawo” by family and friends.
 
Carr also shows that this year-long religious ritual—which is carried out even as the iyawo goes about daily life—offers new insight into religion in general, suggesting that the sacred is not separable from the profane and indeed that religion shares an ongoing dynamic relationship with the realities of everyday life. Religious expression happens at home, on the streets, at work and school.
 
Offering insight not only into Santería but also into religion more generally, A Year in White makes an important contribution to our understanding of complex, dynamic religious landscapes in multicultural, pluralist societies and how they inhabit our daily lives.
 
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