Yoruba Religion

Yoruba Religion: learn about this culture and religion

Posted by

The Yoruba religion, also known as Santería, Lucumí cult or Ifá rule, is the cult of the Afro-Cubans, whose beliefs derive directly from the Yoruba culture and religion, which in Cuba is syncretised with the Catholic Christianity implanted by the Hispanic monarchy.


The Yoruba Religion began to be practiced by the former black slaves and their descendants in the middle of the island of Cuba to be more specific (Havana). Following this it spread to the eastern half and later to the other Caribbean arrivals of the Yoruba (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Panama). In colonial Cuba its rituals had to be practised secretly and clandestinely as it was marginalised and persecuted.

The Cuban revolution provoked the emigration of Santeros to Spain, the United States, Italy, among others. After all this, and with the establishment of communism in Cuba, it brought with it secularisation. Since the middle of the 20th century their social integration has changed favourably and now many Santeros and believers from all over the world make pilgrimages to the island of Cuba.

Today, the main religions in Cuba are the Catholic and Yoruba religions, without having to exclude each other, at least on the part of the practitioners of the African religion.

Yoruba Religion
Yoruba Religion

During the colonial regime it was very common to refer to the Yoruba religion as the Lucumí cult, which comes from the Yoruba expression Oloku mi (My friend), the Spaniards called it in a derogatory way “Santería”, this to mock the apparent excessive devotion shown by the followers to their saints; also known as Regla de Osha (or Ocha) – Ifá.

How is it constituted?

The Yoruba religion is made up of traditions, rich in culture and in its most ancestral foundations one can see important values such as respect, love and solidarity being important and distinctive in it, giving its practitioners to understand that faith moves mountains and that the saint is synonymous with love and hope for the believers of this religion.

A sample of the fervour that this religion arouses because of the depth of its spirituality can be seen despite its eminently African origin. I know that it has integrated people from different cultures and cultural beliefs.

Syncretism, Orishas and Saints

“He who is not of Congo is of carabali”.

This proverb is very Cuban and refers to the mixture of races, cultures and customs that have generated the very varied and Creole Cuban society.

Syncretism was a process originated for the survival of culture and belief: a mixture of elements, functions and gods; in which African slaves pretended to accept the images of Catholicism through a simple resemblance and thus the different denominations were born. The synchronisation of the different African cults and the Catholic religion, thus the Regla de Osha or Santeria was born.

And so it was that the Spanish word “Santos” was applied to the Orishas and it was this usage that gave rise to the Cuban term used to refer to the Yoruba religion: Santeria which means “The Way of the Saints”.

Yoruba SaintsCatholic Saints 
OlorunHoly Spirit
OrulaSaint Francis of Assisi 
Eleggua- EshuHoly Child of Atocha
OshúnOur Lady of Charity 
Shangó Santa Barbara
YemayáVirgin of Regla
Obbatalá Our Lady of Mercy
Oyá Saint Justus, Saint Rufina, Saint Damien 
Eggun Spirit of the ancestors 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.