Correcting the Myths and Uncovering the Realities of a Growing Religion
by Mary Ann Clark
March 2007, 192pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99079-4
$55, £41, 48€, A75
eBook Available: 978-0-313-08140-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

An introductory guide to Santería—its rituals, beliefs, practices, and place in religion at large

Santería, also known as Yoruba, Lukumi, or Orisha, was originally brought to the Americas from Africa by enslaved peoples destined for the Caribbean and South America. By the late 1980s it was estimated that more than 70 million African and American people participated in, or were familiar with, the various forms of Santeria, including traditional religions in Africa, Vodun in Haiti, Candomble in Brazil, Shango religion in Trinidad, Santeria in Cuba and, of course, variants of all of these in the U.S. Today there are practitioners around the world including Europe and Asia. Because of the secretive nature of the religion, it has been difficult to get accurate and objective information, but here, Clark introduces readers to the religion, explores the basic elements, including the Orisha, and answers the many questions Santeria arouses in observers and practitioners alike.

Santería was brought to the United States in two principle waves, one in the early 1960s after the Cuban Revolution and later by the Marielitos who escaped from the island in the 1980s. Since then it has spread to the larger Hispanic community, to the African American community, and to other segments of society as well. Today, practitioners can be found in every state, and interest in Orisha and related traditions has gained popularity. As the number of practitioners has grown so has public awareness. In this compelling introduction, Clark answers such questions as where did this religion come from? What do practioners believe? Is it a cult? What takes place at a ritual event? How does it view death and the afterlife? Is there ritual sacrifice? Clark, a practitioner as well as a scholar of the faith, dispels the myths that surround this religious practice, and brings readers to a better understanding of this growing faith in America.


"Clark provides an accessible, sympathetic introduction to an often-misunderstood religion, Santeria. Intended for seekers or those with no background in the religion, the book even provides instructions on worship etiquette. In ten brief but clear chapters, Clark takes the reader from the origins of the religion in Africa (chapter 2) to a discussion of its mythologies and deities or orishas (chapter 4), to an explanation of its rituals of divination (chapter 7) and initiation (chapter 8), to a consideration of its future in the US (chapter 10). The book is best in explaining how Santeria is different from yet appropriates other Caribbean religions--Spiritism (Espiritismo) and Palo Monte--as it morphs into Santerismo....A useful glossary lists Spanish and Yoruba words used in the religion. Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates, general readers."—Choice, October 1, 2007

"Clark, who is both a scholar and a practitioner of Santeria, does a very good job of explaining both the concepts and the rituals in such a way that even those not initially receptive to this tradition will at least come to understand the rather sophisticated thinking behind it....This is a very clear and informative book on an important and growing religion that would be valuable in any library."—Catholic Library World, December 1, 2007

"A practitioner as well as a scholar, Clark provides an introduction to the religion that was developed in Africa and brought to the Americas, and is part of the Orisha worship religious system. She treads a middle ground between the inaccuracies of popular sensational works, and the technical terminology of specialist academic studies."—Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2007

"Clark's refreshing approach to Santer^D'ia arises from a mind and heart immersed in the tradition. Yet Clark also exhibits the nuance and thoroughness any good scholar exercises in her study of a subject. Clark has written an excellent introduction for both the seeker interested in Santer^D'ia personally, and the curious reader who would simply like to know more about this fascinating and timely religious tradition."—W. Michael Ashcraft, co-editor, Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America

"Chock full of clear and accurate information, this book is the perfect starting place for seeker and student alike. In step-by-step chapters, Dr. Clark leads the reader toward a deeper understanding of a highly-misunderstood tradition. In addition to basic facts about the beliefs and practices of Santer^D'ia we are given much good advice: what to expect at ceremonies; how to dress and act; and what things to consider for those seeking a spiritual path in the religion. Dr. Clark's excellent work is a sympathetic yet critical guide to this important religion now experiencing a renaissance in America."—Joseph M. Murphy, Professor of Theology at Georgetown University, author of Santer^D'ia: African Spirits in America.
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