Traditions: The Orishas of Cuba

Traditions: The Orishas of Cuba

Heritage & Traditions

By Alina Veranes

In close rapport with nature and the world that surrounds them live the Orishas or deities of the Yoruba religion, of African origin, who are a kind of envoys of the almighty Olodumare, the Almighty God, to govern the elements and affairs of humanity.

The pantheon of that cult considered monotheistic reached the largest of the Antilles, enriched itself and grew, in the minds and souls of African men and women humiliated by slavery, something that cruel punishments and restrictions could not prevent. Nor the catechization of the official religion, Catholicism.

The Orishas are numerous and diverse, like the natural forces they represent, and identified by numbers and colors. Believers must know their favorite foods and preferences by heart, as they must take them into account for offerings and gifts. Only then will your requests be met.

In that cosmogony there are 401 different deities. It is striking that Olodumareo Olorun, even being the supreme, does not have temples in his honor, although blessings are asked of him when he is invoked. Rich and complex, the Yoruba cult has variations in terms of the sex of the deities according to the region of origin where they are venerated, which makes them owners of different paths or characteristics.

The so-called transculturation process described by ethnologist Fernando Ortiz, explains the confluence of Yoruba deities and Catholic saints in the faithful of those beliefs, as a protection against the prohibitions imposed on those from Africa by the colonizers.

That is why an Orisha as popular as Ochún is equivalent, so to speak, to the Virgin of Charity, patron saint of Cuba, highly venerated in the national territory. As a Catholic saint, she has a beautiful Shrine in the town of El Cobre, in Santiago de Cuba.

Elegguá is Saint Anthony of Padua, Oggún, is Saint Peter, Oshosi, Saint Norbert, Osun, Saint John the Baptist, while Obbatalá represents the Virgin of Mercy, Shangó Saint Barbara, Yemayá the Virgin of Regla or of the Sea… A topic we promise to talk about another day.