Some reasons why NOT to practice Santería

The Way of the Orishas can be very rewarding but think carefully before you knock at the door

There are many reasons why we take decisions in life. In my years learning about the Orisha I have come across very sincere devotees who have truly felt touched by the Orisha and who have humbly come to learn about them. I applaud those who can hear these inner voices and know when and how to follow them for most times those voices are mixed with spiritual and egún (ancestor) influences.

In due time, some of those aborishas (outsiders) have realized that their level of involvement was to be as an aleyo (an initiate who does not reach priesthood level) and stay with the elekes and warriors for life. I applaud those who listen to their inner voice and do not become intimidated to go further.

Oftentimes, I see paths get ruined because instead of walking, people make the journey a race. I have seen many friends come to an ilé and become competitive. They want to see who gets what initiation first, who does kariosha first, who is the more powerful. Ego is not a friend of the faithful, but a force to be directed because it will slow down the process of development of good character or Iwá Pelé.

And then, there is the factor of not peer pressure, but pressure from above, pressure from initiates seeking to amass followers and grow their ‘kingdoms.’ I have sat at many a reading and seen oloshas and babalawos, intimidate people into taking initiations because they claim some big bad problem was coming. I say to those who are facing something like this, look before you leap. Question the olosha / babalawo; find out details on why these reasons are so imperative and if you are given vague statements, stop, think, and perhaps, then act.

For your health

I have spoken to dozens of people who have been corralled and intimidated into initiations in Santería “por su salud” or due to health reasons. Yes, there are cases where health is a legitimate concern, but to come to a religion because you are getting a material benefit from it hardly seems devotional to me.

Correct me if I am wrong, isn’t religion supposed to reflect an internal calling? To help you answer questions related to spiritual matters? To help you be a better person?

I am not denying the fact that there have been many whose health were poor and who have done the ultimate sacrifice and done kariosha. Their health has indeed greatly improved and in terminal cases, it has even been prolonged. I have a sister in osha who did wonderful after she made Obatalá, and her grandmother who also made Obatalá as a woman over 85 years when she did the ceremony, has extended her lifespan and improved her health considerably. However, I also have seen folks being unhinged because they were better off as aleyos. Mental stability sometimes suffers when too much is given too soon, I should know, I have lost beloved people as well. Loss teaches us the hardest lessons.

To save you from jail

Some other folks have been living ‘la vida loca’ and finally, when they find an olosha / babalawo who gives them an accurate Dilogún or the Ekuele (in the case of the babalawo) reading depicting the chaos their life is and pointing out imminent legal and law and order matters, folks tend to panic and think on how to preserve their freedom rather than why is it that they are coming to the orisha.

You can’t erase a life of osogbo (bad deeds/luck) overnight. No, it takes a sincere heart to make that leap of faith and lots of work to make up for bad deeds. I have seen lives changed, lives that were chaotic; but it took determination and courage to abandon drugs, vices, alcohol and other detrimental conduct.

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t religion supposed to be a safe-haven for the faithful? Since when Orisha ilés became places to protect those who break the law, put other lives in danger and hurt the innocent? Part of developing Iwá Pelé is facing moral issues head on and being responsible for those actions by facing who we have hurt and even the law if necessary, not by buying spells.

To bring a lover back

Last time I check, love is about free will. You can bend and tie, but you will never own anyone’s heart when it is not freely given. If you know of anyone who is coming to the orisha with these grand notions of obtaining lovers and power over other people, send them my love and a short message: Wake up and grow up.

Everyone deserves to be loved for who they are. The truly powerful will show their skills only when absolutely needed and to do deeds that would make the orisha proud of having them as an omó (child).

There are people who have come to the orisha for the wrong reasons and found themselves changed and blessed. Those cases should be the exceptions and not the rule; since our religion is not evangelical or proselytizing but rather of personal choice, make yours count as a valuable thread in this great tapestry we call The Way of the Orishas.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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11 Responses to “Some reasons why NOT to practice Santería”

  1. ochun Kayode says:

    Aché to everything you have said.

  2. Bozanfe Bo Oungan says:

    Its funny… the one reason not to practice that came to my mind was commitment/development in another path; personally, Im terrified of the prospect of having a reading done my a Santero as I dont feel that I want another set of spirits telling me they need my attention. ;) (or initiation, or really anything… but let me explain.)

    Since my Kanzo and elevation to Houngan Asogwe, I’ve come to realize exactly how much there is to learn within my own religion and it’s set of paradigms; Ive come to be very, very skeptical of those who seem to me to collect titles and religions, or who have pursued elevations in what looks to me like so many spiritual traditions that they must not have the time to serve any one set of spirits with the dedication they deserve, or that they simply havent thought of just how much attention one can devote to learning the intricacies of any of our faiths. NONE of the African diasporic traditions are “simple” or “easy”… but it galls me how many seem to just want to flit from one to the other, claiming a mastery that can only come with years of dedication and service, years that the individuals in question have had no way of giving.

    I know that my own tradition is one that can easily take a lifetime of study and service, one that doesnt need extra additives or additional traditions to make its clergy any more powerful, wise, or better servants… and while I am not a member of the Lukumi community, I can easily see another faith that can easily fill all free time with learning, songs, service, and faith… so to me, I can see dedication and devotion to another path as a reason not to enter Santeria (or, on the flip side, dedication and devotion to the Orisha as a reason not to enter another faith like Vodou… that goes either way)

    • Omimelli says:

      Bozanfe Bo Oungan,

      Thank you very much for making such a valid point. Yes, indeed having time to dedicate to a path is crucial. This is why I raised the first point in this essay, the ‘health’ reason.

      Let me explain, I see so many people coming to get their initiation and then they do not devote time and effort to understand that which has been bestowed upon them. So they come in for ‘health’reasons or whatever else strikes as a valid raason and then we get them cranking out more initiates…all of them equally ignorant.

      I deeply admire Voodoo, but I know that in this lifetime I have as much as I can handle in my plate. Like you, I want to make sure that I serve those whom I am promised to the full capacity that my abilities will allow. If I could be a plural being, I would run towards the Peristile of my choice and put my head down for the Lwa as well. :-)

      One very valid reason not to run to initiate: Do you have the time to make the full commitment?

      Thank you very much for participating.

      Oní Yemayá Achagbá

      PS. I am also a Yaya and yes, it is very difficult to serve both equally. I am the first to accept this. Equal devotion, but not equal time. The Orisha takes the cake in my book.

  3. Ifalola says:

    Nicely written pieces, in my many years, I’ve echoed many of these sentiments only to have them fall on deaf ears… alas… .Ase o

  4. Spiritualgal says:

    I’m quite confused by all of this. Your explanations are quite detailed and I thank you for that. I am not santeria but I am for any and all religion that is helpful to people in a positive way. My brother and sister are both Santeria and although we see them once or twice a month….they are quite distant in their conversations. If i ask how they are doing they always say “fine” and that is it. Later on I will find out that they are engaged, in love, have a new car or other things but don’t tell me to share in the happiness. I don’t want to pry but feel like they don’t love me anymore. I spoke to them about this and they were quite offended and said that it was not personal against me. If I am family how is it so easy to cut me and their children out of their lives? I have seen nothing in reading that ask santeria to excommunicate with their non-santeria family members. Is this just their own take on how things should be? I look to them to help me make our family stronger but this distance is affecting their relationships with their children as well. its very sad. Is there a rule like this? I would think if this were so this would be a very compelling reason not to become santeria. My sister was healed two years ago from a very serious illness and is very new to this so now i wonder if she will be paying the price for this health by losing her family. My brother has been santeria for 10 years but was never this distant… guess is that he is working up to priesthood and is taking advice quite literally. Your thoughts?

    • Omimelli says:

      Dear Spiritualgal,

      There is absolutely no rule that states you need to cut your blood kin out of your life if you come to Santeria. Quite the opposite, we should learn to value our families even more because we are suppose to be on a spiritual path of self-improvement and building our character to become a better person.

      I suspect there are some issues that are solely related to your family that must be addressed as a family unit.

      It is good to hear that your sister’s health is better, but I am quite sure she has not been asked to sacrifice her blood relatives to obtain such health favors from any orisha. That is simply unheard of.

      Find out what is bothering them and why are they excluding you, this just does not sound reasonable.


  5. Omo Eshu says:

    I can identify with much of what Omimelli has said here and the hard thing about it is that many practitioners get rich by doing these bad things you have said.My own experiences in different ile’s have attested to this.I have fought against many of these corrupt practices that have tended to denigrate the religion and cause confusion among the true followers.At this moment my wife and I are being vilified because we have opposed the intention of a babalowa and his wife who have sought to pressure an aleyo into an initiation that is not necessary, but just as you said “to amass followers for their kingdom” and reap the financial benefits.In the end all justice will be meted out by Olodumare.

    • Omimelli says:

      Omo Eshu

      Keep on doing what you know is right. I am fed up with seeing untethical people trying to pressure aleyos with fear tactics into getting initiated. If we don’t stand against those who use their initiatory status to make money and to force other into the ranks out of fear, we are no better than they are.

      Thanks for sharing.


  6. Brunilda Vega-Omi Yemaya says:

    This foto is meant to incite fear. When in fact it is not a Santero but a Palero venerating the Cimmaron -Run Away Slave in Cobre,Santiago de Cuba in the annual Fire Festival. In Sateria,Our Ori chooses our Orisha,our godparents and our Ita. We have survived the middle passage, slavery,false arrest and 20 years ago won a Supreme Court decision on animal sacrifice. Chango say,in the lie is born the truth-6-6 Oarra Meji.A spiritually homeless person tag this to my wall and later removed it. The Encyclopedia of Ifa is on the net for free. Folk need to learn 1st what they are getting into-aleyos is about training.

    • Omimelli says:


      I believe your perception of the photo is just that, your personal perception. The photo is not meant to incite fear. So what is really the point you are trying to make?

      All I see in your comments is that people need to learn what they are getting into before they take on responsibilities. Yes, I agree with you in that regard, however, there are too many cases in religious life and in life in general where people leap before they look. This is as a matter of fact rather prevalent.

      With regards to the Supreme Court decision, I don’t see how it has a bearing on this subject in particular. And by the way, it does not guarantee absolute right to animal sacrifice as the City of Euless Vs. Jose Merced case demonstrated. That case had to be taken to a court of appeals because Santeros need to still be respectful of State and local regulations. So please do not missinform people by using blanket statements. There is much more than meet the eye in delicate matters such as this.

      Thanks for sharing the idea about the Encyclopedia of Ifa. Personally I see it as a resource, but not the final or absolute word on my day to day practices. I do not subordinate my Ile to Ifa.


      • Brunilda says:

        This religion has no final or absolute word. It is an Oral Tradition. Your Ita is absolute. You choose to follow it. But posting a false photo is wrong. I know the man and he would be offended by it. It’s misinformation and the credibility of this blog is out the window. Respect is earned in this religion.

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