What is Santeria?
Santeria is a syncretic religion that has been formed through the mixture of Roman Catholicism and African traditional religions and animistic beliefs. It has its origins in Cuba, where slaves who were brought from Africa mixed their traditional religious beliefs with the Roman Catholic religion that their Spanish owners practiced.
Santeria believers believe in a large number of deities known as “orishas.” They believe that these deities are manifestations of specific aspects of an overall supreme creator. They also are said to believe that orishas are that god’s children. The most obvious evidence of syncretism is the fact that the orishas have come to be associated with specific Catholic saints. Catholic symbols and prayers are also sometimes used in Santeria rituals.
Santeria is best known in the US because of the fact that animal sacrifice is a central ritual. Sacrifices are regarded as food for the orishas. This has become an issue in the US as Cuban émigrés have sought to practice sacrifice, which is a practice that most Americans see as barbaric.
Santeria, then, is a syncretic religion that mixes elements of West African traditional religions with Roman Catholicism.