The Way of the Saints


Santeria - Catholic Reviews

Santeria began several hundred years ago when slave traders sold captive members of the Yoruba tribe to Spanish settlers in Cuba. After a Catholic priest baptized the enslaved Africans, they were expected to practice Catholicism. Instead of being obedient to the Gospel message, many of these slaves refused to give up their ancestral traditions and only pretended to follow the religion of their captors.

Since these slaves were not allowed to openly worship foreign deities, they incorporated pagan practices into the worship of Catholic saints. By developing special devotions to various saints, their captors would think they were practicing Catholicism, when in fact, they were worshiping African gods and goddesses. When the Spanish settlers noticed that a slave had developed an excessive devotion to the saints rather than to Christ, they called the practice Santeria—a word that means "the way of the saints."

To some degree, the practice of Santeria has continued to spread throughout many aspects of Catholicism. For example, in the Yoruba tradition there was one creator God called Olodumara, but this god was too busy and important to get involved with the everyday affairs of mankind, so the worshipers were forced to pay tribute to other entities called Orishas. These entities were easily converted into Catholic saints because anytime a worshiper needed a special favor, he would turn to the Orishas for help.

The Orisha called Elegua was converted into Saint Anthony because he was the owner of all open doors. In the same way that Saint Anthony can help people find lost articles, so too can Elegua open up all matters of hidden knowledge. The entity called Oggun was converted into Saint Peter because he has the right to control life and death. In the same way that Saint Peter holds the keys to the kingdom, Oggun holds similar rights in the netherworld. Another entity called Orunmila was converted into Saint Francis of Assisi because he was the only Orisha who witnessed the creation of the universe; and since Saint Francis is oftentimes depicted in nature, it seemed like a good match. 1

Santeria worship most commonly occurs in the houses of priests where practitioners cast spells, consult oracles, and worship with a rhythmic sound and feverish dancing. Other practices include animal sacrifice and the offering of blood for the forgiveness of sins. During special ceremonies, demonic entities are allowed to take possession of the participants. This practice is called "mounting" and is similar to the demonic possession that occurs in Voodoo ceremonies.2


Scripture Passages to Set the Captives Free

"Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles." — Romans 1:20–23

"They rejected all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves cast images of two calves; they made a sacred pole, worshiped all the hosts of heaven, and served Baal. They made their sons and their daughters pass through fire; they used divination and augury; and they sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger." — 2 Kings 17:16–17

"Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any of those of the house of Israel, or of the aliens who reside in Israel, who separate themselves from me, taking their idols into their hearts and placing their iniquity as a stumbling block before them, and yet come to a prophet to inquire of me by him, I the Lord will answer them myself. I will set my face against them; I will make them a sign and a byword and cut them off from the midst of my people; and you shall know that I am the Lord." — Ezekiel 14:6–8


Santeria, Witchcraft and Catholic Supplies


Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

  1. The Magick-Wicca website offers Santeria ritual supplies that include many of the Catholic saints: magicwicca/files/sanritul.htm
  2. More information on Voodoo can be found in a National Geographic article entitled, "Haiti: Possessed by Voodoo," by Sharon Guynup. View a PDF version of the article entitled, "Haiti: Possessed by Voodoo."
  3. The New Orleans Mistic website offers Catholic products, holy cards, and rosaries along with Santeria, Wiccan/Earth Magick, and Haitian Vodou supplies: orlea