A new report by Michael Brown, founder of Spirit Daily, has found that as many as one out of every ten residents in the Miami metro area dabbles in a form of voodoo known as Santeria.
Brown claims his investigation took place when he was checking out the area before an upcoming retreat. While South Florida has a large Catholic population fueled by the influx of Latin Americans, there are “other spiritual issues” in the region as well, he said.
One of them is the occult practice of Santeria, which is a form of voodoo that merges the Yoruba religion (which was brought to the New World by slaves imported from the Caribbean) with either Roman Catholicism and/or Native Indian traditions.
Practices associated with Santeria include inducing trances in order to communicate with the dead and performing rituals that can include animal sacrifice and sacred drumming.
These practices are often laced with Catholic or other traditions, which is why it is not uncommon to see relics and other Catholic paraphernalia mixed in with rituals that include the blood-slaughter of small animals.
Brown reports that he spoke with a former North Miami police investigator, retired Sergeant Nelson Reyes, who is considered by the department to be the foremost expert on these matters.
According to Reyes, there are an estimated 500,000 or more practitioners of Santería in the Miami metropolitan area. If accurate, that means one out of ten who live in the metro area are engaged in occult practices to some extent or another.
“It is a widely practiced religion in South Florida,” said Reyes, who was raised a Catholic but no longer adheres to a specific faith. “People tend to classify it as bizarre because they place their own religious template on it.”
Brown believes the perception of Santeria as occultic has nothing to do with religous “templates”. It is the occult.
The practice includes worship of Olorun, who is the “owner of heaven”, and Orishas which are lesser “guardians”. Each of the Orisha has a principle, an important number, color, food, dance posture and emblem. When mixed with Catholicsm, each Orisha is associated with a Christian saint. For instance, Shangs, who supposedly controls thunder, lightning, fire, etc. is associated with St. Barbara. Eleggua, who controls roads and gateways, is associated with St. Anthony. Oshzn, who controls money and sensuality, is linked to Our Lady of Charity.
Although Santerian practices are a closely guarded secret, they are known to engage in the ritual sacrifice of small animals (usually chickens) which is supposed to bring good luck, purification and forgiveness of sin. These rituals also involve feverish dancing during which time individuals are said to be possessed by whatever Orisha is being invoked. The possessed then begins to speak and act as the Orisha. Veneration of ancestors is also included and involves the use of mediumship/channeling for the purpose of contacting the dead.
Rituals such as those described usually take place in rented halls or homes that have been fitted with special altars where the Orishas are supposedly able to meet believers. Materials used in these rituals can be bought in specialty stores known as botanicas. Catholic items are often a part of these ceremonies. For example, one ritual against the evil eye combines a specially prepared herbal bath with three Our Fathers, three Credos, and three Hail Marys.
Regardless of the Catholic trappings, these are textbook examples of occult activity. They involve the worship of false gods as well as the practice of necromancy (URL) which is explicitly forbidden in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18: 9-14) and the Catechism (Nos. 2110-2117).
Sergeant Reyes may think the occult label is just a matter of perception, but he’s wrong. Regardless of what you call it, or what saint you invoke when doing it, the practice of invoking powers that are not sourced in God is what the occult – and Santeria – are all about.
But that is not reason to condemn anyone, Brown says.
“Many people who practice Santería are good people. Credit them for believing in God. Let’s pray, rather than condemn.”