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Tag Archive | "Santeria"

Is it black magic, voodoo, or witchcraft?

Monday, September 26, 2011

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Is it black magic, voodoo, or witchcraft?

Animals sacrificed for the living. The sight can be unnerving and even terrifying for those not familiar with the practice.

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Santeria Lives on in the District

Friday, July 9, 2010

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Friends, scholars, and practitioners of a revered religion gathered at a Northwest theater to chant, beat drums and participate in a series of lectures that celebrated a mystical, Afro-Cuban tradition.

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Venezuela Folk Religion

Thursday, October 15, 2009

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The traditions centered on Maria Lionza are hundreds of years old and draw on elements of the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria and indigenous rituals.

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Texas Priest Can Resume Animal Sacrifices…for Now

Thursday, August 27, 2009

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Texas Priest Can Resume Animal Sacrifices…for Now

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a district court’s ruling, paving the way for Jose Merced, a Santeria priest and Puerto Rico native, resideing in Euless to resume animal sacrifices as part of his religious ceremonies.

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UPDATED: Animal Cruelty Case Goes to Court

Sunday, May 17, 2009

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UPDATED: Animal Cruelty Case Goes to Court

Prosecutors dropped animal cruelty charges Thursday against a man who was sacrificing animals in his Lawndale home for religious purposes.

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Two Women Arrested, Animal Sacrifice

Saturday, May 16, 2009

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Two Women Arrested, Animal Sacrifice

Two Bay Area women were arrested Thursday afternoon for felony animal cruelty in connection with the killing of four chickens in Marin County.

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Priestess of the Ancestors

Monday, March 23, 2009

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Priestess of the Ancestors

"My religion has given me the greatest respect for life and living things. It has connected me with my environment. Santeria allows me to be a Caribbean person, because it is Afro-Caribbean."

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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.”

Continue reading...

Animal Sacrifice: Priests Only

Thursday, February 12, 2009

3 Comments

Animal Sacrifice: Priests Only

More and more westerners are tempted to duplicate or recreate the spiritual and religious rituals of indigenous people without proper instruction or thought to tradition. This can be dangerous and counterproductive to one's spiritual development.

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Santeria: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

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Santeria: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

A woman is telling a tall tale of a non-existent Santeria Voodoo, church members that abducted her and a MacGyver-like escape out of the movies. The Flager and St. Johns Sheriffs are buying the story - and it appears that Santeria will pay the cost of admission.

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