Knowing a bit about the Osha Rule, the most practiced Afro-Cuban religion in Cuba

The Yoruba culture is considered one of the richest that integrate the Caribbean cultural diversity

His religion came to the New World in the memory of African slaves, who transmitted it orally to their descendants. Today, its philosophical richness is part of the spiritual heritage of the peoples of the Caribbean, even though it suffered transformations from confrontation with other African and European religious forms. The set of all would produce the syncretism that would establish new cosmogonic valuations and the equalization of Yoruba deities with Catholic saints.

If in the African Negro there was a simple juxtaposition of the ideas taken from the teachings of the Catholic religion with the fetishist ideas and beliefs brought from Africa; In Creole there is an irremediable tendency to fuse beliefs, to identify those teachings according to what their context requires of them. The Yoruba conceive the universe as a sphere divided into two planes.

In the superior is Orun -the sky-, world where the Supreme Being inhabits, the gods and souls of the ancestors that reach there the condition of natural forces. In the lower plane of the sphere, there is Aiyé -the physical world-, where men live for a certain time, to fulfill the mission that has been entrusted to them and then return to Orun.

The religious system of the Yoruba, the Osha Rule, is a set of beliefs and rites based on the worship of the orishas of the pantheon of Nigeria. This practice is based on a conceptual principle that is built on the orishas and that defines the paradigm of everything that operates in the universe. One can speak of a trilogy, whose members fulfill their functions:

  • Olofi, the supreme god, has power over others, but he does not receive any adoration as is the case with the orishas. He created everything that exists in the world, that is why it is said that he has the secret of creation and distributed powers to the orishas to be his messengers on earth.
  • Oloddumare is the representation of the laws of nature; it is the material and spiritual manifestation of all that exists. It is so immense that you are not offered or asked for anything directly. The practitioner addresses him, through Olofi.
  • Olorun is the sun, the most real manifestation of Olofi and Oloddumare. It is a sign of life and creation, sustenance of human existence.

The religion of the orishas is linked to the notion of the family. There is a religious brotherhood composed of godparents and their godchildren, who are not linked by blood ties, as it was originally in Africa. The Caribbean context demanded to change the natural family for the ritual, because the uprooting that caused the slavery dissolved the lineage. Thus, each religious family has a functional ethnic origin that has been propagated in a process of successive initiations, where the cultic principles of the predecessors are preserved.


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For its part, this cult takes place in temple-houses, that is, in the homes of its leaders, where the elements and religious representations that are the object of veneration are maintained. For the practitioners of this religion, the essential thing is the respectful worship of the orishas through the worship, feeding and fulfillment of the ritual of all the dates within their liturgy. Each temple house, each officiant, each santero venerates them, keeps them and repeats the transmission as he received it from his elders. Perhaps that is why differences are sometimes evident, although the essence of the cult has been maintained over the centuries.

We must bear in mind that the process of exchange from individual to individual, causes transformations that are linked to the historical moment and the social environment where it is carried out. As in all religious manifestations, in the Osha Rule there is also a hierarchy: the maxim is represented through the babalawo, who possesses the attributes granted by Orula, god of divination, for the practice of divinatory rituals through the use of the Board of Ifá and the chain, opele or ekuele. Only men can have this high rank.


This cult takes place in temple-houses
This cult takes place in temple-houses

Another important place in this hierarchical order is that of the babalocha or iyalocha, that is to say, the santero or santera, who deal with specific liturgies, among which is that of divination by the diloggún or by the obí. However, they are oriaté the wise and specialists in the reading and interpretation of Diloggun -16 snails, which are responsible for finding out the Itá or destiny to which the believer will be subjected during their existence after the initiation and act as teachers of ceremony in the consecrations.

Another relevant figure is the oyubbona or yimbona, which accompanies and guides the neophyte in all his actions during the seven days of the initiation, or the ceremony of “making saint.” The African oracles, already mentioned, have influenced the life of the Caribbean religious communities of Yoruba origin. Its use has become popular and has marked the behavior of believers.

The consultations are frequent and range from the answers to the simplest problems, to those of the most complex ones, such as the end of the year ceremony for the most prestigious Ifa houses. In them, during the last three days of the year, through rituals and offerings of greater scope to the orishas, ​​the social, natural and political phenomena that will happen will be marked.

These three systems: the divinatory complex of Ifá, the Diloggún and the Obí, have contributed to perpetuate the cultural traditions and the language of the African ancestors that are part of the Antillean root. Several religious ceremonies take place within the cult of the orishas. These include those dedicated to a particular saint, in order to express gratitude or joy for a gift received. The initiation ceremonies last a week, each day different rites are prepared that prepare the neophyte for the life of the practitioner and where the day of the drum stands out: the person who has received a saint offers himself to the sacred batá drum and dances in front of him, in recognition of its meaning within the liturgy.

In the same way, ceremonies of itutú or mortuorias are carried out in this religion, as well as bembés or wemileres, which are very popular parties of fun, and where everyone participates equally. With these celebrations, the faithful strengthen their relationship with the ruling deity of their lives and try to harmonize the forces of good and evil, in order to satisfy their spiritual and material needs. The spirit-fetish-magic relationship occupies a prominent place in the religion of the Yorubas because it has a propitiatory and utilitarian character. The otanes – stones -, for example, are objects that symbolize the supernatural power of the orisha who is worshiped. Attention to spirits, ancestors, nature, the sun and the moon are aspects that can not be overlooked in the development of celebrations, where an esoteric language and magic are used to establish communication between entities and communities. believers

Consultations are frequent and range from the answers to the simplest problems, to the most complex ones
Consultations are frequent and range from the answers to the simplest problems, to the most complex ones

In Africa, about 405 divinities are recognized, which are individually worshiped in different regions of this continent. In the Caribbean, they were synthesized in a ritual, where the most functional ones were included for the new environment, or perhaps those that were most adept in a community were imposed. The number varies depending on the context in which this religion is manifested, but usually must not exceed thirty: Elegguá, Obatalá, Yemayá, Oshún, Oggún, Shangó, Ochosi, Babalú Ayé, Oyá, Orula, are the best known. They crossed the seas in the memory of the slaves to stay forever in Caribbean lands. These gods have an ambivalent character, a sense of justice and the equity of good and evil. Around each of them there is a series of legends or patakies that have preserved the cultural traditions of the Yoruba world. 


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