Ashe santeria

Ashe santeria DEFAULT
SB090 Santería altar

Santería altar in Cuba. – ©Wikimedia Commons by Susanne Bollinger / CC-BY-SA-4.0

Santería developed in Cuba during the 19thcentury and has continued to spread in America, particularly in large cities like Miami, New York, and Los Angeles primarily through Caribbean island immigrants. Originating in West Africa among the Yoruba, brought to Cuba by captured slaves, the “saints” tradition is named by participants as Lukumi (Lucumi) or Regla de Ocha(Rule of the Orisha).

In this tradition, the cosmos is animated throughout by ashe, a dynamic vitality or power that abides within and between all beings and aspects of nature through a constant process of interaction and exchange.

Ashe is always in motion, seeking balance, and is particularly embodied in a variety of beings:

  • Olodumare/Olorun (the Creator God)
  • Orishas/Santos (powerful deities/saints)
  • ancestor spirits (babanlas)
  • human beings, animals, plants, and things of nature

The world, as a unified whole, has two primary aspects: Orun (the invisible, sky) and Aiye (the visible, earth) united by ashe through Olodumare, the Owner of All Destinies.

The Orisha

The Orisha are powerful multidimensional beings, aspects of Olodumare, archetypes of nature that can act as guardian protectors for correctly initiated human beings.

The Orisha known as Orula presides over divination in contrast to the Orisha Eshu, the spirit of unpredictability; Orisha of earth include Chango (thunder) and Yemayá (the sea). The Ajogun, “warlords” are spirit who represent forces that challenge balance, such as death (iku), disease (arun), afflictions (ese) or “big troubles” (oran). Other spirits also inhabit nature and can be appealed to particularly in the preparation of herbs or other sacred objects used in ceremony.

Most of the major Orisha also have counterparts with various Catholic saints; for example, the Orisha Obatalá, representing peace, calm, and purity is associated with the Virgin Mary. Ritual ceremonies take place in a house-temple (casa de santos) also known as ilé, usually made in the homes of initiated priests and priestesses. Ilé shrines are built to the different orichás which creates a sacred space for worship, called an igbodu (altar).

As for human being, after living a long, natural life with a good death, a departed individual may become an ancestor (egun) and live in the invisible world, watching over his or her living family. Those best qualifying for ancestor remembrance are those who “fulfilled their destiny” (as in Yoruba belief), contributed to the community, lived exemplary lives and do not die young or act in cruel or criminal ways. Ancestors are believed to reincarnate usually into their family lineages as a grandchild; however, it is also possible for reincarnation outside the family lineage.

Before rebirth, ancestral spirits restore themselves in the “good heaven” (orun rere) while watching over the family and some may become revered Orisha. Individuals guilty of crimes, cruelty, theft, slander, of using magic to harm others are not reborn but sent by Olodumare to the “bad heaven” (orun bururu), the place of broken pots which cannot be repaired, and are thus unable to reincarnate.

The concept of the “person” in early Orisha tradition included a body, the ori (“head”) or seat of consciousness and personality, and the eleda or “guardian spirit”. In later development, the eleda has diminished and been replaced by a believer’s protective Orisha or guardian ancestor spirits. Each ori is given a specific destiny (iwa) by Olodumare (as in Africa) when it is created which must be fulfilled in life, usually requiring multiple incarnations before becoming an ancestral Orisha. Every ori is also “a child of the Orisha” meaning that every soul has a specially designated Orishas over it.

Through divination rites it is possible for a person to attain a reading on current circumstances in relationship to their destiny; and through dedicated actions, it is possible to change or enhance their destiny. The departed (egun) may visit the living in dreams or imaginative visions, to provide guidance and give warnings; simply divination techniques (obi) can also be used to solicit advice. Such beliefs are all consistent with African traditions.

Family members communicate with the departed through prayer and also through simple family altars consisting of a lit candle, a cup of black coffee and a bit of favorite food.  Infertility is considered a curse that prevents reincarnations and children dying before birth (stillborn) many be an ancestral ori who prefers heaven or those infants who die immediately after birth may be abiku, a transient, trickster spirit who merges with the embryo but leaves when born, resulting in death.

A proper death after a long life is assured through the Itutu, a divination ceremony that meant to ease the soul, assure it, and clear away all negative ties to others during the just ended life; it can also assure that the soul not be reincarnated but remain in the ancestral realm, unless the soul chooses otherwise to be reborn. Similar beliefs can be found in Palo Monte (Afro-Kongo-Cuban) where all ancestral spirits become deities and incarnate in mediums through possession rites; also found in the Trinidad Orisha (Shango) traditions and in the Espiritismo tradition of Puerto Rico, all of which have American practitioners.

Lee Irwin
Religious Studies Department

Recommended Readings

Mary Ann Clark, Santería: Correcting the Myths and Uncovering the Realities of a Growing Religion (Westport: Praeger, 2007).

Miguel De La Torre, Santería (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004).

Joseph M. Murphy, Santería: African Spirits in America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).

Mercedes Cros Sandoval, Worldview, the Orishas, and Santeria (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2007).

Kristina Wirtz. Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World Series: Contemporary Cuba. (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. 2007).

/by stoudenmirelSours:


Religious concept related to the Yoruba of Nigeria

Yoruba Veranda Posts, Brooklyn Museum

Ase or ashe (from Yorubaàṣẹ)[1] is a Yoruba philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. It is given by Olodumare to everything — gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, or even everyday conversation. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it.[2]

In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power, authority, command." A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an alaase.

Rituals to invoke divine forces reflect this same concern for the autonomous ase of particular entities. The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the ase of persons and gods is what structures society and its relationship with the other-world.[2]

Ashe and Yoruba art[edit]

The concept of ashe influences how many of the Yoruba arts are composed. In the visual arts, a design may be segmented or seriate - a "discontinuous aggregate in which the units of the whole are discrete and share equal value with the other units."[3] Such elements can be seen in Ifátrays and bowls, veranda posts, carved doors, and ancestral masks.

Regarding composition in Yoruba art as a reflection of the concept of ashe, Drewal writes:

Units often have no prescribed order and are interchangeable. Attention to the discrete units of the whole produces a form which is multifocal, with shifts in perspective and proportion... Such compositions (whether representational or not) mirror a world order of structurally different yet autonomous elements. It is a formal means of organizing diverse powers, not only to acknowledge their autonomy but, more importantly, to evoke, invoke, and activate diverse forces, to marshal and bring them in to the phenomenal world. The significance of segmented composition in Yoruba art can be appreciated if one understands that art and ritual are integral to each other.[2]

The head as the site of ase[edit]

The head, or ori, is vested with great importance in Yoruba art and thought. When portrayed in sculpture, the size of the head is often represented as four or five times its normal size in relation to the body in order to convey that it is the site of a person's ase as well as his or her essential nature, or iwa.[2] The Yoruba distinguish between the exterior (ode) and inner (inu) head. Ode is the physical appearance of a person, which may either mask or reveal one's inner (inu) aspects. Inner qualities, such as patience and self-control, should dominate outer ones.

The head also links the person with the other-world. The imori ceremony (which translates to knowing-the-head) is the first rite that is performed after a Yoruba child is born. During imori, a diviner determines whether the child comes from his or her mother's or father's lineages or from a particular orisa. If the latter is the case, then the child will undergo an orisa initiation during adulthood, during which the person's ori inu becomes the spiritual vessel for that orisa's ase. To prepare for these ceremonies, the person's head is shaved, bathed and anointed.[2]

Modern usage in the diaspora[edit]

Since at least the time of Afrocentrism movement in the Anglophone diaspora during the late 20th century, the term "Ashe" has become a relatively common term in the US, with the general connotation of affirmation and hopeful wishes. It has also come to be used in the Black Christian religious context as an equivalent (or replacement) of the word "Amen".[4][5]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Bascom, W. R. 1960. "Yoruba Concepts of the Soul." In Men and Cultures. Edited by A. F. C. Wallace. Berkeley: University of California Press: 408.
  • Prince, R. 1960. "Curse, Innovation and Mental Health among the Yoruba." Canadian Psychiatric Journal 5 (2): 66.
  • Verger, P. 1864. "The Yoruba High God- A Review of the Sources." Paper presented at the Conference on the High God in Africa, University of Ife: 15–19.
  • Ayoade, J. A. A. 1979. "The Concept of Inner Essence in Yoruba Traditional Medicine." In African Therapeutic Systems. Edited by Z. A. Ademuwagun, et al. Waltham, Mass.: Crossroad Press: 51.
  • Fagg, W. B., and J. Permberton 3rd. 1982. Yoruba Sculpture of West Africa. New York: Alfred A. Knopf: 52ff.
  • Drewal, M. T., and H. J. Drewal. 1983. Gelede: A Study of Art and Feminine Power Among the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press: 5–6, 73ff.
  • Jones, Omi Osun Joni L. 2015. Theatrical Jazz: Performance, Àse, and the Power of the Present Moment. Columbus: Ohio State University Press: 215–243.
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Two central concepts in some African-derived religions are ase (or axe) and konesans (connaissance). Ase is the divine force, energy, and power incarnate in the world. Olodumare gives ase to everything, including inanimate objects. Ashe is the power behind all things in the universe. It enables people to find balance in life. The orishas are bearers of ashe. Santeros (Santerían priests) use ase to provide blessing and healing to devotees. "Ashe is a current or flow, a groove that initiates can channel so that it carries them along their road in life. The prayers, rhythms, offerings, taboos of Santería tune initiates into this flow" (Murphy, 1993, p. 131). In Santería, herbs are impregnated with ashe. The color of the Obatala conducts ashe. Part of the Vodun initiation ceremonies gives the priest intuitive knowledge, or konesans, enabling him to understand people, diagnose problems, and perform healing.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusReligion - African Diaspora - Religious Symbioses, Divinity, Ancestors, Spiritual Assets: Ase And Konesans, Leadership, Divination And Spirit Possession

We Don't SANTERIA the Same with Ashe.Imports


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