chapter  9
22 Pages

Religious Healing and Biomedicine in Comparative Context

WithComparative Context KAREN V. HOLLIDAY

Santería, as a religion emerged from Cuba as a direct result of the slave trade (Brandon 1997; Conniff and Davis 1994; Efunde 1996).1 It developed as a syncretic religious practice resulting from the Catholic colonialists prohibiting African slaves from practicing their Yoruba-based religious tradition because the worship of the Yoruba deities, known as Orishas (see Table 9.1), was considered idolatrous and sacrilegious (Brandon 1997; Cabrera, 1980, 1986, 1994; Canizares, 1994; Efunde, 1996, Gregory, 1999, Murphy, 1988, 1995; Vega, 2000).2

In response to this, the slaves drew correlations between their Orishas and the Catholic saints, and Santería was born.3 Pérez y Mena (1998) argues that the similarities drawn between Catholic saints and Orishas served as a means to viably practice a Yoruba-based religion and that Catholic saints merely represent aspects of the Orishas. Consequently, Orishas and saints are not interchangeable; they simply share particular characteristics. For example, Saint Barbara became associated with Shango (or Chango) because of the principle of force and thunder (Lefever, 1996). Pérez y Mena (1998) believes that this clarification demonstrates that African slaves did not simplify their religion to mirror Catholicism, but instead they understood both practices as two different religious ideologies that