Whilst taking Shaking the Spirit, I found the polytheistic aspect of the course the most interesting. We spent a lot of time looking into the Afro-Creole religion Santeria. Santeria in Spanish means the “worship of saints,” a fitting name for an extremely unique polytheistic religion like Santeria. For a while, we focused our studies on these saints known as Orishas. One of the most fascinating aspects of this religion is the way the early adopters of this religion shielded their faith through Christianity. Santeria has its roots in the Yoruba religion mixed with Christianity. During the slave trade to the new world at the time, slavers would often try to convert the slaves to Christianity. Instead, they syncretized their Orichá’s with Catholic saints to mask their traditional beliefs from their masters. The Orichá’s or Saints play a huge role in Santeria. There are hundreds of Orichá’s and it is often tough to give an exact amount. It is safe to say there is an Orichá for just about everything. One of the most pivotal points in the Santeria initiation process is the divination process that determines an initiate’s “head” Orisha, also known as their patron. The initiate does not get to pick their patron, it has already been predetermined for them, and the divination process is only to uncover and show the initiate the most balanced way of life.
Much of the initiation process for some people is coming to terms with their determined Orisha. Not every Orisha is to be created equal, and often initiates have particular patron’s in mind. Even after many divination sequences that show a particular Orisha, in the end, it could still be another. Initiates often have to figure out how to go about their daily lives after this process. Maybe their favorite food is now taboo to their patron. Maybe their favorite color is the same as their patron, and only their patron can wear it. There are quite a number of specifics particular to each Orichá that new initiates have to come to terms with.
One of the things that I was most interested in regarding Santeria is personality typing people for Orishas. This seems a bit useless given that regardless of a person’s personality and traits, they could receive a patron that is nothing like them. But initiates still do it anyway. If you are strong, play the drums, and love the color red, Chango is the perfect fit. No matter how much people understand that the divination process could give them anyone, they still do their best to receive the patron they want. I started thinking about how someone who has no knowledge of Santeria could figure which Orichá would make the best patron given their personality. This made me think of those awful internet quizzes that tell you if you are a Liberal or Conservative or tell you which Harry Potter house you should be sorted into. This gave me the idea of making a culturally accurate personality quiz that determines your most suited Orichá for you and gives you more information about them.
Given new relations with Cuba, there is a fantastic opportunity to educate American audiences about Afro-Creole culture. Now is the time to spread the word about Santeria, Palo, Voodoo, and more while the world is still watching. Santeria is a great stepping stone for American audiences to get introduced to given a large amount of the United States population are Christians. These people will be able to relate and identify to the syncretized Catholic Saints in Santeria. The purpose and the goal of this Orichá personality quiz are to spread awareness about Santeria’s existence and to show people how interesting it can be.
I chose to develop an internet-based personality quiz because the reach of the product is just about limitless. The quiz can be sent to a massive amount of people at one time through email and social media and if the quiz is fun, interesting, and designed well, people will be interested in sharing it which could have an unknown reach. One of the goals of this project is to make Santeria seem more accessible approachable to sheltered audiences. Making a website that is fun and inviting that asks interesting and deep questions to determine your chosen Saint is a great way to accomplish this goal. Finding new and interesting ways to educate the masses is becoming ever more crucial, and providing an approachable entry point into learning about Santeria is a great way to do that. This project could even be a stepping stone to a larger product that entails a full website full of Santeria education tools that are based on your experience and determined Orichá. One of the issues with the majority of the Santeria resources I have used is that they lack any personal touch. Santeria is an incredibly personal and specific religion and all of the resources available are so broad and general. Providing a well-designed, personal, and fun set of resources like a personality quiz is a great first step to making Santeria more approachable to American audiences and for anyone who is interested.