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Tag Archive | "Lucumi"

A Response to the Accord of the Oba Oriate

Thursday, June 17, 2010

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A Response to the Accord of the Oba Oriate

What are the true intention of the Accord? Awo Ifakolade offers his perspective.

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How Should We Answer the Oba Oriates on Their Manifesto Statement and Accord?

Monday, June 14, 2010

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How Should We Answer the Oba Oriates on Their Manifesto Statement and Accord?

The Accord of Oba Oriatés of South Florida violates the tenets of Ifa and Orisa.

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Lucumi Attempt to Bury African Origins of Orisa Worship

Monday, June 14, 2010

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Lucumi Attempt to Bury African Origins of Orisa Worship

This accord is a racist, amoral and violent attempt at quelling interest among White Latinos in working working with African priests and killing the desire among Diasporan Africans to connect with their roots.

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World of Santeria includes S. California

Monday, February 16, 2009

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BURBANK – The crucifix adorning the gate and a life-size figure of a Buddha on the porch suggest the home is religious. But you won’t recognize the faith until you go inside and find Charles Guelperin going through his morning Santeria rituals.

In a study filled with unusual objects, Guelperin meditates with his forehead on an urn representing Obatala, the holiest of Santeria spirits. He then kisses it before brushing himself with an elaborate large horsetail that symbolically cleanses him for the day ahead.

This is the kingdom of Guelperin, who looks like an aging Marine with Old-World mystic eccentricities that can quickly frighten and intimidate.

Guelperin, 62, is a santero, a priest of Santeria.

“We do not have churches, temples or synagogues,” said Guelperin, a chain cigar smoker after his morning rituals. “My home here is my temple.”

Today Santeria, a blend of Afro-Caribbean voodoo and the devotion to saints among many Latino Roman Catholics, has become so big in Los Angeles that many consider the city the Santeria capital of the country.

It is a phenomenon that has occurred thanks to the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and court rulings making it easier to sacrifice animals for religious purposes.

Last Sunday, Guelperin’s temple played host to a mysterious consecration of two acolytes to their “orishas” or saints that included the controversial practice most often associated with Santeria – the sacrifice of animals – in his garage.

Two years ago, Guelperin’s home, just off Magnolia Boulevard, became the object of complaints to Burbank police and the city’s animal control officials from suspicious neighbors who heard goats baying in the backyard.

“Neighbors were upset because we were going to have animal sacrifices,” Guelperin recalled. “But we explained to police and animal control authorities that this was part of our religious practice, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we had the right to do. And when a (police and animal control) supervisor came, he said we were within our rights.

“But Sunday we (didn’t) sacrifice any goats. Only roosters and ducks and pigeons and chickens.”

Lt. Jay Jette, superintendent of Burbank Animal Control, said the Santeria practice of animal sacrifice is protected by religious freedom under the Constitution and that his department’s interest is only when the ritual is done in a cruel or inhumane way.

“Being a religious practice, people have a lot of rights and leeway,” Jette said.

Today Santeria is prominent in the heavily immigrant neighborhoods in Los Angeles that have seen the steady rise of botanicas, storefronts that sell religious icons, candles, incense and herbs and where santeros sometimes practice and offer spiritual consultations.

Guelperin himself owns a botanica, El Congo Manuel, on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. When he opened it in 1990, he estimates that there were perhaps 50 such shops in Los Angeles. Today, he says, there are more than 1,000, including a growing number in the San Fernando Valley’s heavily Latino communities.

Donald J. Cosentino, a folklore professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a book about Guelperin, believes Santeria followers in Southern California number in “the hundreds of thousands.”

“Santeria is one of the most important unofficial religions in the city,” said Cosentino, who has had Guelperin lecture at some of his classes. “It’s an unofficial religion because most of those who follow it don’t think of it as a religion but as a way of life.

“If you asked what their religion is, they’d probably not say `Santeria.’ They’d say `Catholicism’ – that they are Catholics.”

Roman Catholic Church officials are chagrined by the thought.

Like exorcisms or most things related to the supernatural, Santeria is a phenomenon the Catholic Church chooses to keep at arm’s length. Asked for the church’s position on its faithful practicing Catholicism and Santeria both, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles referred the question to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

An official with the conference, in turn, referred the issue to the local archdioceses and churches.

Guelperin’s own botanica, like his home, is routinely filled with the smoke of Cuban-made cigars mingling with the scent of exotic incense and oils. The shelves are filled with images of Catholic saints next to African voodoo masks.

No one would seem more unlikely a resident of that environment than Guelperin, who hardly cuts the figure of what Hollywood casts as a santero.

Argentine-born, the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Guelperin has graying blond hair styled in a conservative crew cut and wears no special religious garments or robes. He wears small designer eyeglasses, tattoos on his arms, painted fingernails and speaks with disarming charm.

“I speak with an accent,” he said, holding back a smile as he delivered a punchline. “But I don’t think with an accent.”

Guelperin is also an unlikely santero because in the 1980s he was managing and promoting two of Los Angeles’ then trendiest celebrity-laden clubs, Cachet and La Cage aux Folles, where on any night the champagne flowed, air kisses blew incessantly and American ’80s extravagance reigned.

“One night, a spirit came to me at the club and told me I had to leave all that and become a santero,” Guelperin recalled. “I said, `Are you crazy? I’m having the time of my life. I have a great home in Sherman Oaks. I’m making $10,000 a month in the nightclub business, and every night I’m hanging out with Liza Minnelli, Boy George, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Carson, Milton Berle, Frank Sinatra …

“`Do you think I want to trade all this to sit in some little shop and wait for people who want a reading?”‘

That night, Guelperin remembers, Los Angeles experienced one of its worst storms in history. The rainfall collapsed the roof of Cachet, flooding the nightclub and putting Guelperin out of the club business.

“I realized then,” says Guelperin, “that the spirit meant business.”

In his immersion into Santeria, Guelperin said he met the orisha Manuel, who in Santeria folklore is a 500-year-old warrior-king from the Congo, enslaved and shipped to Cuba as a young man who lived to the age of 127 and sired 100 children.

“Manuel told me that in a previous incarnation I was one of his children,” said Guelperin.

The way he told him this, Guelperin said, is the way Manuel communicates most often to him – by “channeling” himself through the santero, usually during paid readings with clients from all walks of life to whom Manuel offers advice and counsel through a haze of cigar smoke and while sipping rum.

“One of the reasons why I’m writing the book about Charlie is because his clientele is so cosmopolitan,” said Cosentino. “He is just down the20090214_061300_do15-santero-1 street from Paramount Studios, and he’s got a lot of people from the film industry who come to his botanica. Sports people. He’s got businessmen. Men from West L.A. Men from Beverly Hills. He’s got foreign clients.

“He is a very cosmopolitan man, a very cosmopolitan priest, and that’s what makes him so interesting.”

One of his clients, a Los Angeles businessman who did not wish to be identified, even credits Guelperin for new-found virility.

“He gave me the confidence to ask a woman to marry me,” said the follower, “and we’re happily married with children.”

But the santero makes no claim to any special powers.

“I’m just the medium for a spirit,” he said. “Remember that religions are crutches that help spiritually handicapped people to walk.

“If humans were born perfect and knew how to follow their own conscience, they wouldn’t need any religion.”

BURBANK – The crucifix adorning the gate and a life-size figure of a Buddha on the porch suggest the home is religious. But you won’t recognize the faith until you go inside and find Charles Guelperin going through his morning Santeria rituals.

In a study filled with unusual objects, Guelperin meditates with his forehead on an urn representing Obatala, the holiest of Santeria spirits. He then kisses it before brushing himself with an elaborate large horsetail that symbolically cleanses him for the day ahead.

This is the kingdom of Guelperin, who looks like an aging Marine with Old-World mystic eccentricities that can quickly frighten and intimidate.

Guelperin, 62, is a santero, a priest of Santeria.

“We do not have churches, temples or synagogues,” said Guelperin, a chain cigar smoker after his morning rituals. “My home here is my temple.”

Today Santeria, a blend of Afro-Caribbean voodoo and the devotion to saints among many Latino Roman Catholics, has become so big in Los Angeles that many consider the city the Santeria capital of the country.

It is a phenomenon that has occurred thanks to the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean and court rulings making it easier to sacrifice animals for religious purposes.

Last Sunday, Guelperin’s temple played host to a mysterious consecration of two acolytes to their “orishas” or saints that included the controversial practice most often associated with Santeria – the sacrifice of animals – in his garage.

Two years ago, Guelperin’s home, just off Magnolia Boulevard, became the object of complaints to Burbank police and the city’s animal control officials from suspicious neighbors who heard goats baying in the backyard.

“Neighbors were upset because we were going to have animal sacrifices,” Guelperin recalled. “But we explained to police and animal control authorities that this was part of our religious practice, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that we had the right to do. And when a (police and animal control) supervisor came, he said we were within our rights.

“But Sunday we (didn’t) sacrifice any goats. Only roosters and ducks and pigeons and chickens.”

Lt. Jay Jette, superintendent of Burbank Animal Control, said the Santeria practice of animal sacrifice is protected by religious freedom under the Constitution and that his department’s interest is only when the ritual is done in a cruel or inhumane way.

“Being a religious practice, people have a lot of rights and leeway,” Jette said.

Today Santeria is prominent in the heavily immigrant neighborhoods in Los Angeles that have seen the steady rise of botanicas, storefronts that sell religious icons, candles, incense and herbs and where santeros sometimes practice and offer spiritual consultations.

Guelperin himself owns a botanica, El Congo Manuel, on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. When he opened it in 1990, he estimates that there were perhaps 50 such shops in Los Angeles. Today, he says, there are more than 1,000, including a growing number in the San Fernando Valley’s heavily Latino communities.

Donald J. Cosentino, a folklore professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write a book about Guelperin, believes Santeria followers in Southern California number in “the hundreds of thousands.”

“Santeria is one of the most important unofficial religions in the city,” said Cosentino, who has had Guelperin lecture at some of his classes. “It’s an unofficial religion because most of those who follow it don’t think of it as a religion but as a way of life.

“If you asked what their religion is, they’d probably not say `Santeria.’ They’d say `Catholicism’ – that they are Catholics.”

Roman Catholic Church officials are chagrined by the thought.

Like exorcisms or most things related to the supernatural, Santeria is a phenomenon the Catholic Church chooses to keep at arm’s length. Asked for the church’s position on its faithful practicing Catholicism and Santeria both, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles referred the question to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

An official with the conference, in turn, referred the issue to the local archdioceses and churches.

Guelperin’s own botanica, like his home, is routinely filled with the smoke of Cuban-made cigars mingling with the scent of exotic incense and oils. The shelves are filled with images of Catholic saints next to African voodoo masks.

No one would seem more unlikely a resident of that environment than Guelperin, who hardly cuts the figure of what Hollywood casts as a santero.

Argentine-born, the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Guelperin has graying blond hair styled in a conservative crew cut and wears no special religious garments or robes. He wears small designer eyeglasses, tattoos on his arms, painted fingernails and speaks with disarming charm.

“I speak with an accent,” he said, holding back a smile as he delivered a punchline. “But I don’t think with an accent.”

Guelperin is also an unlikely santero because in the 1980s he was managing and promoting two of Los Angeles’ then trendiest celebrity-laden clubs, Cachet and La Cage aux Folles, where on any night the champagne flowed, air kisses blew incessantly and American ’80s extravagance reigned.

“One night, a spirit came to me at the club and told me I had to leave all that and become a santero,” Guelperin recalled. “I said, `Are you crazy? I’m having the time of my life. I have a great home in Sherman Oaks. I’m making $10,000 a month in the nightclub business, and every night I’m hanging out with Liza Minnelli, Boy George, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Carson, Milton Berle, Frank Sinatra …

“`Do you think I want to trade all this to sit in some little shop and wait for people who want a reading?”‘

That night, Guelperin remembers, Los Angeles experienced one of its worst storms in history. The rainfall collapsed the roof of Cachet, flooding the nightclub and putting Guelperin out of the club business.

“I realized then,” says Guelperin, “that the spirit meant business.”

In his immersion into Santeria, Guelperin said he met the orisha Manuel, who in Santeria folklore is a 500-year-old warrior-king from the Congo, enslaved and shipped to Cuba as a young man who lived to the age of 127 and sired 100 children.

“Manuel told me that in a previous incarnation I was one of his children,” said Guelperin.

The way he told him this, Guelperin said, is the way Manuel communicates most often to him – by “channeling” himself through the santero, usually during paid readings with clients from all walks of life to whom Manuel offers advice and counsel through a haze of cigar smoke and while sipping rum.

“One of the reasons why I’m writing the book about Charlie is because his clientele is so cosmopolitan,” said Cosentino. “He is just down the20090214_061300_do15-santero-1 street from Paramount Studios, and he’s got a lot of people from the film industry who come to his botanica. Sports people. He’s got businessmen. Men from West L.A. Men from Beverly Hills. He’s got foreign clients.

“He is a very cosmopolitan man, a very cosmopolitan priest, and that’s what makes him so interesting.”

One of his clients, a Los Angeles businessman who did not wish to be identified, even credits Guelperin for new-found virility.

“He gave me the confidence to ask a woman to marry me,” said the follower, “and we’re happily married with children.”

But the santero makes no claim to any special powers.

“I’m just the medium for a spirit,” he said. “Remember that religions are crutches that help spiritually handicapped people to walk.

“If humans were born perfect and knew how to follow their own conscience, they wouldn’t need any religion.”

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The Story of an Afrocuban Family on Chicago’s West Side

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

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a groundbreaking theatrical performance that weaves together two narratives about Chicago's West Side through an Afro-Cuban lens. It incorporates Afro-Cuban religious mythology, especially concerning the ancestors and the orishas of the afterlife.

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The Yoruba culture survives in Cuba

Saturday, July 19, 2008

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The yorubá or lucumí religion which is also known as Santeria or Regla de Osha is the most expanded religion of African origin in Cuba.

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Santeria Church sues Gables over visit from police

Thursday, July 10, 2008

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A local Santeria church leader who says that Coral Gables police officers harassed followers and desecrated a ritual at a resident's home last year has sued the city for public records he says officials are withholding.

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Santería’s reach goes global via the Web

Thursday, June 5, 2008

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BY TERE FIGUERAS NEGRETE
tfigueras@MiamiHerald.com

Nelson Carrasco works inside a cavernous Hialeah warehouse, under the unblinking figures of Catholic saints and African gods, surrounded by his stock in trade: hollowed bull’s horns, cast-iron cauldrons and blocks of virgin beeswax, said to curry good fortune.

But the tools of his trade are decidedly less mystical: a sleek Compaq laptop and the Internet.

For years, Carrasco’s parents catered to a clientele of local shops, or botánicas, and Santero priests who dropped in to purchase the elaborate trappings required by their Afro-Cuban religion.

Then Carrasco, a self-confessed computer geek, decided to take the family business online.

”We’ve gone global. Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Spain, Texas,” said the Cuban-born Carrasco, 31, scrolling through a lengthy list of orders for ceremonial machetes, batá drums and burnished brass crowns, available at his website www.auctions609.com.

“You’d be surprised where these things end up.”

It’s no surprise that even the most obscure commodity can be ordered on the Web. But the advent of online botánicas are a sign that Santería’s reach is traveling far beyond Cuban exile enclaves like Hialeah and Little Havana, where brick-and-mortar versions have long been neighborhood fixtures.

”This is a religion that has been spread without missionaries or militaries,” said Terry Rey, a professor of religious studies at Temple University.

Cuban Santería, like Haitian Vodou and Brazilian Candomblé, combine the Yoruba culture of West African slaves who were brought to the New World with the Christian beliefs imposed by colonial masters.

While definite numbers are hard to come by, scholars have noted the number of people participating in these related religions could top 70 million and is on the rise.

”It’s an incredible story of a once-persecuted local faith that has turned into a world religion,” said Rey.

And that, in turn, is good for business — if your business happens to be selling smoked possum powder for ritual offerings, or cowrie shells for divination.

”All of a sudden, I’m selling to Europe. That took me totally by surprise,” said Silvia Wehe, a mother of two who lives in Country Walk and sells her Santería wares through eBay or on her own website, www.dakasicorp.com.

She specializes in low-cost imports like cone-shaped ”thunder stones.” Said to be created when lightning strikes deep beneath the earth’s surface, they’re believed to serve as a conduit for the powers of the orisha, or god, Chango.

Cost on eBay: $16 for a small black thunderstone; $60 for the more exotic white variety.

”Right now, I don’t have the big-ticket items. I want to expand eventually, maybe import the larger statues from Africa,” Wehe said.

An Argentine of German descent, Wehe became enamored of Santería while accompanying a friend to a spiritual consultation in Hialeah.

”I’m a blond-haired, blue-eyed Santera,” she said.

Adherents, and botánicas, can be found as far away as Japan and Italy, Rey said.

No less a pop-culture bellwether than YouTube features video of Santería rituals. Jennifer Lopez has been spotted visiting a well-known Santera priest in Los Angeles. Even Tori Spelling — the Beverly Hills 90210 alum — worked a Santeria plotline into her semi-autobiographical VH1 show, So NoTORIous, in April.

SUBHEAD

But despite these mainstream moments, ”there is still a stigma, and people can tend to be secretive because of that stigma,” said Rey. “You have people mistakenly portraying them as devil worshipers, or bloodthirsty.”

Online shops offer buyers some measure of privacy, adding to their popularity, Rey said.

Still, as with most Internet transactions, buying ritual supplies online comes with certain caveats.

”There are definitely plenty of racketeers,” said Miguel Ramos, who teaches history and religious studies at Florida International University and who is a practicing obá oriaté — meaning he performs the ordination of Santero priests, or babalaos.

False advertising tops his list of online sins, like vendors trying to pass off mass-produced, generically African statues as sacred objects.

”If you don’t know any better, you’d think it’s orthodox,” he said. “But it’s really the same Zulu warrior they sell all over Busch Gardens.”

Ramos keeps a list of what he considers reputable botánicas — online and otherwise — on his website, www.eleda.org.

Virtual divinations, performed via e-mail, have also created a cottage industry possible only in a digital age — although traditionalists scoff at the practice.

”It would be like a therapist or psychiatrist selling their services on eBay,” said Ernesto Pichardo, a local Santero priest best known for his successful lawsuit against the city of Hialeah to allow animal sacrifices, an integral part of his religion. That resulted in a landmark supreme court decision in 1993.

What he is not so famous for: Being one of the first babalaos to create an online botánica in 1997, inspired by the dot-com boom. He aimed for an Amazon.com-style, one-stop shopping experience for Santeros, but shut it down within a few years.

”I think we were maybe ahead of our time. There weren’t that many people online,” Pichardo said. “Now, of course, it’s a whole new world.”

That new world belies certain misconceptions, he said.

”There’s this stereotype that people who practice this religion are backwards and brainless. I’m always going to be that guy who wants to sacrifice chickens,” Pichardo said. “No one talks about my business sense.”

After shutting down his web-based store, Pichardo decided to concentrate on another online venture closer to his heart: a ”distance counseling” service through his website www.church-of-the-lukumi.org, which puts worshipers in touch with a network of priests across the country.

While he objects to e-divinations, Pichardo says Carrasco and other vendors fill a niche in the spiritual marketplace — especially for devotees who can’t drop by their local shop in person.

Convenience isn’t the only benefit available for the online Santero.

Carrasco, the young entrepreneur, offers gift certificates and a loyalty reward program, allowing customers to accumulate points with each purchase. Points can be redeemed for discounts on items. ”It’s like frequent-flier miles,” he said.

Still, even the most modern online botánica has its limits.

”People are always e-mailing, asking if I ship live animals. Chickens, goats, things like that,” said Carrasco, who rejected the idea after considering the logistics.

”It’s not worth it,” he said. “How do you send a chicken through UPS?’

BY TERE FIGUERAS NEGRETE
tfigueras@MiamiHerald.com

Nelson Carrasco works inside a cavernous Hialeah warehouse, under the unblinking figures of Catholic saints and African gods, surrounded by his stock in trade: hollowed bull’s horns, cast-iron cauldrons and blocks of virgin beeswax, said to curry good fortune.

But the tools of his trade are decidedly less mystical: a sleek Compaq laptop and the Internet.

For years, Carrasco’s parents catered to a clientele of local shops, or botánicas, and Santero priests who dropped in to purchase the elaborate trappings required by their Afro-Cuban religion.

Then Carrasco, a self-confessed computer geek, decided to take the family business online.

”We’ve gone global. Amsterdam, Minneapolis, Spain, Texas,” said the Cuban-born Carrasco, 31, scrolling through a lengthy list of orders for ceremonial machetes, batá drums and burnished brass crowns, available at his website www.auctions609.com.

“You’d be surprised where these things end up.”

It’s no surprise that even the most obscure commodity can be ordered on the Web. But the advent of online botánicas are a sign that Santería’s reach is traveling far beyond Cuban exile enclaves like Hialeah and Little Havana, where brick-and-mortar versions have long been neighborhood fixtures.

”This is a religion that has been spread without missionaries or militaries,” said Terry Rey, a professor of religious studies at Temple University.

Cuban Santería, like Haitian Vodou and Brazilian Candomblé, combine the Yoruba culture of West African slaves who were brought to the New World with the Christian beliefs imposed by colonial masters.

While definite numbers are hard to come by, scholars have noted the number of people participating in these related religions could top 70 million and is on the rise.

”It’s an incredible story of a once-persecuted local faith that has turned into a world religion,” said Rey.

And that, in turn, is good for business — if your business happens to be selling smoked possum powder for ritual offerings, or cowrie shells for divination.

”All of a sudden, I’m selling to Europe. That took me totally by surprise,” said Silvia Wehe, a mother of two who lives in Country Walk and sells her Santería wares through eBay or on her own website, www.dakasicorp.com.

She specializes in low-cost imports like cone-shaped ”thunder stones.” Said to be created when lightning strikes deep beneath the earth’s surface, they’re believed to serve as a conduit for the powers of the orisha, or god, Chango.

Cost on eBay: $16 for a small black thunderstone; $60 for the more exotic white variety.

”Right now, I don’t have the big-ticket items. I want to expand eventually, maybe import the larger statues from Africa,” Wehe said.

An Argentine of German descent, Wehe became enamored of Santería while accompanying a friend to a spiritual consultation in Hialeah.

”I’m a blond-haired, blue-eyed Santera,” she said.

Adherents, and botánicas, can be found as far away as Japan and Italy, Rey said.

No less a pop-culture bellwether than YouTube features video of Santería rituals. Jennifer Lopez has been spotted visiting a well-known Santera priest in Los Angeles. Even Tori Spelling — the Beverly Hills 90210 alum — worked a Santeria plotline into her semi-autobiographical VH1 show, So NoTORIous, in April.

SUBHEAD

But despite these mainstream moments, ”there is still a stigma, and people can tend to be secretive because of that stigma,” said Rey. “You have people mistakenly portraying them as devil worshipers, or bloodthirsty.”

Online shops offer buyers some measure of privacy, adding to their popularity, Rey said.

Still, as with most Internet transactions, buying ritual supplies online comes with certain caveats.

”There are definitely plenty of racketeers,” said Miguel Ramos, who teaches history and religious studies at Florida International University and who is a practicing obá oriaté — meaning he performs the ordination of Santero priests, or babalaos.

False advertising tops his list of online sins, like vendors trying to pass off mass-produced, generically African statues as sacred objects.

”If you don’t know any better, you’d think it’s orthodox,” he said. “But it’s really the same Zulu warrior they sell all over Busch Gardens.”

Ramos keeps a list of what he considers reputable botánicas — online and otherwise — on his website, www.eleda.org.

Virtual divinations, performed via e-mail, have also created a cottage industry possible only in a digital age — although traditionalists scoff at the practice.

”It would be like a therapist or psychiatrist selling their services on eBay,” said Ernesto Pichardo, a local Santero priest best known for his successful lawsuit against the city of Hialeah to allow animal sacrifices, an integral part of his religion. That resulted in a landmark supreme court decision in 1993.

What he is not so famous for: Being one of the first babalaos to create an online botánica in 1997, inspired by the dot-com boom. He aimed for an Amazon.com-style, one-stop shopping experience for Santeros, but shut it down within a few years.

”I think we were maybe ahead of our time. There weren’t that many people online,” Pichardo said. “Now, of course, it’s a whole new world.”

That new world belies certain misconceptions, he said.

”There’s this stereotype that people who practice this religion are backwards and brainless. I’m always going to be that guy who wants to sacrifice chickens,” Pichardo said. “No one talks about my business sense.”

After shutting down his web-based store, Pichardo decided to concentrate on another online venture closer to his heart: a ”distance counseling” service through his website www.church-of-the-lukumi.org, which puts worshipers in touch with a network of priests across the country.

While he objects to e-divinations, Pichardo says Carrasco and other vendors fill a niche in the spiritual marketplace — especially for devotees who can’t drop by their local shop in person.

Convenience isn’t the only benefit available for the online Santero.

Carrasco, the young entrepreneur, offers gift certificates and a loyalty reward program, allowing customers to accumulate points with each purchase. Points can be redeemed for discounts on items. ”It’s like frequent-flier miles,” he said.

Still, even the most modern online botánica has its limits.

”People are always e-mailing, asking if I ship live animals. Chickens, goats, things like that,” said Carrasco, who rejected the idea after considering the logistics.

”It’s not worth it,” he said. “How do you send a chicken through UPS?’

Continue reading...

Olokun con Obba de Obba

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

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