The Historical Museum of Southern Florida
June 20, 2003 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Great, Plep. I'm looking at the Orisha pages now; I didn't know that Orisha and Santería were the same, or that the religion originated with the Yoruba people. The Orisha Pantheon is interesting, but I am disappointed to see that there isn't a link for "Babaluaiyé", spirit of smallpox and epidemics (this one just struck me as strange, since all the others are spiritual/geologic/nature-related).

A search didn't yield much, but I did come across this interesting introduction and glossary of Ifa, the language of Yoruba divination, in which "the rituals, invocations, incantations and recitations of traditional Yoruba religion are not expressed through conversational Yoruba. The language of Ifa is liturgical Yoruba (ofo ase), a language used among diviners to express transcendant ideas. Many of the words used in Ifa have a tonal resonance used to access the power of Spirit...."

Interesting stuff, especially to some people. *cough* languagehat *cough*.
posted by taz at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2003

The best museum in florida is the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.

I've been to a bunch of museums in Florida, and Ringling takes the cake. Be sure to check out Ca d'Zan, the summer's awesome. Before it was restored it was used in the Gwyneth production of Great Expectations.

While you're doing Florida culture, check out Bok Tower. Beautiful gardens, IMMENSE marble statue, all located on the highest point in the state.
posted by taumeson at 11:21 AM on June 20, 2003

Having grown up in South Florida, I am reluctant to click any of those links. All I know is that when I first saw GTA Vice City, I had a cognitive freakout because it looked like home.
posted by solistrato at 11:31 AM on June 20, 2003

Although I must add:

Ten thousand years ago, humans first wandered into South Florida.

Where they invented the early bird special.
posted by solistrato at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2003

I was taught that Santeria was the name of the religion and that word "Orisha" was equivalent to the word "gods"

Although we were told that a lot of it was somewhat dependant on where you were taught. When these things all started getting hidden among the Catholic saints, it gets a bit confusing... not every village used the same saints to represent the same Orisha. There is also a lot of varition on the spellings... for example, "Chango" vs "Shango"..

Babaluaiyé was generally pictured as a very old lame man on crutches. IIRC there isn't really ritual garb for his followers, as one cannot have him as a "father"... the short version is that every person has a "mother" and "father" deity, and the way the shells were thrown determines who's son you are. IIRC, Babaluaiyé was not an option...

There are a few very VERY good books out there by Migene Gonzalez-Wippler that are a great starting point to Santeria.
posted by niteHawk at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2003

The Altar of My Soul - a website of a follower of this religion.

Must admit to not being too clear on the exact distinction myself, but I agree with niteHawk; the impression I get is - 'Orisha' are the spirits, and the exact term for the religion depends on where you come from.
posted by plep at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2003

Bok tower is such a sight. I remember being a little kid, and seeing it on the hill next to the highway.. struck me as so odd, what is that tower looking thing doing in boring-old-florida? Little did I know of the builder's contributions to American Literature.

I live quite close to Sarasota, and anyone in the area should visit Ringling, and make a stop at the Salvador Dali museum too.
posted by shadow45 at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2003

Yeah, I'm sure no one will read this so late, but I wanted to add a couple things on it. The pictures hosted at MIT are mine, but you can't come across these by google... I just got back from a study abroad program in Cuba, where we studied the history and contemporary culture in Cuba (which is, honestly, pretty easy to do just wandering the streets there).

niteHawk is right on the Orishas - they are deities syncretized between Catholic Saints and African deities primarily of Yoruba origin. The religion itself is most commonly known as Santería, but also as Regla de Ocha. It's important to distinguish that it isn't an African religion - it's distinctly Cuban, and started back in the 1700's and 1800's when slaves were brought to Cuba. Forced to renounce their religion in favor of Catholicism, syncretism was a way to ensure survival without abandoning their faith. One example of this is Changó, a warrier deity, master of fire, thunder, drums, and love. He's syncretized with Santa Bárbara. They both carry double-edged weapons (hers is a sword, his a hatchet), wear red and white, and are invoked against similar hazards. Changó, well, he was quite the lady's man, and he was in Bárbara's house when her husband came home. To avoid disastrous consequences, he snuck out the back way on her horse, in her clothes, disguised as a woman, explaining how Changó is now dressed as a woman. Saint Anthony is commonly syncretized to Oggún, a warrior orisha in charge of work, metals, and tools. We had the opportunity to visit one of three remaining cabildos in Cuba, el Casino de congo reales, on the evening of Saint Anthony's Day when they celebrate la despedida de San Antonio.

If you ever make a trip to Cuba, you can visit a babalao by asking around in the neighborhood. In Havana, we saw the most action in the areas of Regla, Casablanca, and El Cerro. These are not highly touristed areas of the city, so the people you meet are showing you something important to them, not a dolled-up shrine with a smoke-and-mirrors spectacle. Keep your eyes open when you're on the street for people wearing all white, usually with a white hat or headdress as well. Santería initiates go through a rite where they wear all white (don't have the specifics), colored only by the beaded necklaces which represent their "mother" and "father" orishas. The babalaos always wear a bracelet of green and yellow beads, symbolizing their connection to Ifa, the spirit through which contact can be established with the dead. Those who can talk to Ifa do so with the batá drums. If you're outside of Havana (and anyone visiting Cuba really should get outside the city), the people in Santa Isabel de las Lajas, Cienfuegos province, were very welcoming, and the town was a good insight into country life.

posted by whatzit at 11:25 AM on July 9, 2003

Oh poo. I knew it wasn't going to go right the first time. Those who can talk to Ifa do so with the batá drums.
posted by whatzit at 11:26 AM on July 9, 2003

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