Although many people who follow an A.T.R. often associate the Catholic saints as being one and the same with African deities, this sincrenition for the most part did not happen in most areas of Puerto Rico until the 1960s. I say most areas because the cult for San Santiago in the pueblo of Loiza Aldea, Puerto Rico has always closely associated San Santiago with the African Yoruba deity, Chango. For most part, and as my grandmother would best say. "A Los Santos, Santos, y a los Angeles, Angeles. (The Saints are Saints, and the Angels are Angels), or in this case African deities are African deities. My Tia (aunt) a bruja and a Sancista / Santera also would say 'Llamen al pan, pan y al vino, vino, y carajo no los confundan!". (Let call bread, what it is, bread, and wine wine, but damn it, don't confuse them!".
It is also important to note that the Taino culture had been almost completely eradicated on the island until the 1970s when excavations of ancient Taino Bateas and ceremonial grounds where discovered through out the island. The Taino Spirits and the Cemis had finally awaken from their 300 year slumber, and would never be quieted again.
Not until the wave of Cuban immigrants to Puerto Rico and New York in the 1950s and 1960s, which later proceeded with the wave of Dominicans to the island and the United States mainland in the late 1970s and the 1980s, did the Orisha and Lwas return to Puerto Rican soil and Puerto Rico was reintroduced to the African Spirits.
This is not to say that the Orishas and Lwas never touched Borinquen (Puerto Rican) soil till this time. Slaves from Puerto Rico were also from Yoruba and the Kongo regions of Africa, this African culture survived and still can be seen and felt in Loiza Aldea and Guayama, in the music, dance, spiritual traditions and dialect of the language. But the African deities where eradicated from the island, manly because of the smaller groups of African slaves in Puerto Rico in comparison to other islands of the Caribbean.
The reason for the survival of the Orisha and Lwas in other Caribbean islands and not in Puerto Rico has to do in part with how small Puerto Rico is in comparison to Cuba and Hispaniola (The Dominican Republic and Haiti) Also although the Spanish Inquisition followed the Conquistadors to the New World, it was heavily felt in Puerto Rico. The first witch hunt and burning in the Americas was held on Puerto Rican soil and predates the Salem Witch trials of Salem Massachusetts about 180 years, in a section of Old San Juan that was once called " el Fangito de las Brujas." Also as I have stated Puerto Rico did have slaves but the African population was much smaller in comparison to other Caribbean Islands.
White Spanish origin 75.8%, Black 12.4%, Amerindian 7.8%, Asian 0.2%, other 3.3%, (2010 census) although most Puerto Ricans consider themselves white 65% of the islands population is of Meztiso or Mulatto background.
Santerismo is a branch of Afro Cuban Santeria "Lukumi" which has a strong influence with Puerto Rican Brujeria and Mesa Blanca Espirotismo.
While in Santeria "Lukumi" many African deities come down in ceremonies known as BembesCaballo, in Puerto Rico it is titled a casillabanco. In Santerismo and Sanse, the Saints are invoked in Fiestas Espirituales and like Santeria they do dance and show of their abilities, but mostly they interact with the congregation, consulting, prophesying, and lifting a Causa. Also in an Afro Cuban bembe only the Orisha come down and in Haiti the Lwa come down, while in Sanse and Santerismo, the Saints, African deities and any spirit from the Familia and the 21 Courts and Commissions come down together.
Many compare Puerto Rican Sanse and Santerismo de la Mesa Blanca to Afro Cuban, Dominican and Haitian religions, in my personal experiences, there are many similarities, but if Sanse and Santerismo where to be compared to any similar spiritual paths, they would defiantly fall closer under the categories of Brazilian Umbanda, Venezuelan 3 Potencia Espiritismo and Afro American Hoodoo, which is a sincrenition of African and indigenous spirituality. Many Puerto Ricans use the term Santos or Santos Africanos to describe the Orisha, unless the person was initiated into Lukumi, and call them los Orichas, some of the Orisha of the Cuban Lukumi pantheon are.
Olodumare / Olorun / Olofi The Omnipotent, All Powerful Creator God the Creator
Obatala -- Our Lady of Mercy September 24rth Color White
Odduduwa -- Saint Claire August 11 Colors White and Green
Eleggua Elegba - Saint Anthony or the Child of Atocha Color Red and Black
Aganyu -- Saint Christopher Feast Day July 25th Color Shades of Reds
Yemaya -- Our Lady of Regla Feast Day September 7th Colors Blue, Agua and White
Chango -- Saint Barbara December 4th. Colors Red and White
Oya -- Our Lady of La Candelaria Feast Day February 2nd Colors 9 Colors
Oshun -- Our Lady of Charity September 8th Colors Yellow, Amber, Gold
Ochosi -- Saint Sebastian Colors Violet, Blue, Yellow
Oggun -- Saint Peter Feast Day June 29th Colors Green and Black
Babalu-Aye -- Saint Lazarus Feast Day December 17th Colors Purple and Yellow
Orunla -- St. Francis of Assisi Feast Day October 4th Colors Green and Yellow
Inle - Saint Rafael Feast Day October 24th Blue and Yellow
Ibeyi - Saints Cosmo and Damian. Feast Day Red and White "Male" Blue and White "Female"
Osanyin - Saint Sylvester Feast Day December 31st Color Green
Obba - Virgen del Carmen. Colors Pink, Yellow Lilac
The name the 21 Divisions has nothing to do with the number of Loases, as there are virtually countless of Loases, the name implies the 21 various groups of hierarchies that a Loa may belong to and they are as follows.
- The Leguas
- The Ogunes
- The Guedes
- The Rodas
- The Lokos
- The Lokomis
- The Petos
- The Simbis
- The Petifones
- The Marasa
- The Zombis
- The Indios
- The Nagos
- The Congos
- The Guineas
- The Niñillos
- The Caes
- The Dangueles
- The Shuques
- The Piues
- The Difemayos
División Blanca, División India División Negra
The División Negra: This División is also placed close to the earth, and are placed away from the Indian División because those initiated into Dominican Vudu called Caballos de Misterio give them blood sacrifices. Those who are not initiated into their mysteries offer them black beans, okra, pumpkin, and potatoes, as well as tobacco and liquor. The Loases within this Division are: San Elías "Barón del Cementerio", San Expedito "Guedé Limbó", Santa Marta La Dominadora, Ezili Kénwa".
Bakúlu Baká - San Felipe
Barón Del Cementerio - San Elías
Belié Belcán - San Miguel
Cachita - Nuestra Señora de la Caridad
Candelina - Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
Candelo Cedifé - San Carlos Borromeo
Centinela - San Sebastián
Clementina - La Virgen Milagrosa
Damballah - San Patricio
Ezili Alaíla - Nuestra Señora de la Alta Gracia
Ezili Danthó - Santa Bárbara Africana
Ezili Kénwa - Santa Martha
Filomena Lubana -Santa Martha La Dominadora
Gran Bwav - San Judas
Gran Solié - San Nicolás del Sol
Gran Toroliza - Cristo de las Buenas Esperanzas
Gunguna - Santa Elena
Jan Bakéo - San Pedro Jan Ferro - San Marcos de León
Jan Kriminelo - San Pancracio
La Señorita - Santa Clara
Marassa - San Cosme and San Damián
Metresilí - La Dolorosa
Ofelia Balendjo - La Virgen de las Mercedes
Ogún Balendjo - San Santiago
Ogún Batalá - San Martín de los Caballeros
Ogún Fegai - San Jorge
Papá Legbá - San Antonio
- The Legbas
- The Ogunes
- The Guedes
- The Candelos
- The Belcanes
- The Metresas
- The Indios
- The Solieres
- The Prietos
- The Simbises
- The Centinelas
- The Guineas
- The Madamas
- The Niños
- The Orientales
- The Potencias
- The Magos
- The Aguases
- The Jemelos
- The Cemises
- The Arabeses
He is always seen using his cane as he is an ancient Misyerio and is considered as old as time itself and has a child like, mischievous quality and often plays pranks and tricks on those who are near his presence. Papa Legba is usually happy but when he is contemplating on an individuals Causa he becomes quit and observant and is quick to scold and tell an individual their faults.
One of the most wildly popular and most venerated Metresas Spirit is Anaisa known also as Anaisa Pye. While in the Dominican Republic she is synchronized with the young Virgin Mary who is accompanied by her mother Saint Anne, in Puerto Rico she is associated with Saint Jean di Arc and her feast day is celebrated on July 26th.
She is the faithful companion of Belié Belcan and on altars you will often find the statue of Saint Jeane Di Arc next to Saint Michael.
Anaisa is a very feminine flirtatious spirit and is known as the Queen of Love. When she mounts her followers and takes over their body in possession she comes laughing and dancing.
Her favorite color is yellow and gold and she is always seen dancing with her yellow, golden laced cloth paños and mirrors. She is also fond of lipstick, facial powders, golden jewellery and bangles on her wrists and ankles. She is fond of sweet smelling perfumes, oils, baby powder and loves to drink a can of beer with her followers, if in possession she asks for a cigarette to smoke, this is an indication that she is ready to consult with her followers.
Saint Martha the Dominator is one of the most powerful of Metresas. Although in the Puerto Rican Sanse Religion she is simply known as Santa Marta la Dominadora in the Dominican Republic Vudù Religion she is known as Morena Filomena Lubana.
She is the queen of the Division Negra ans rules it wisely with her companion el Baron del Cementerio. Santa Marta la Dominadora is a wise, serious and fierce Misterio and is always seen carrying a serpant a symbol of her dominating anything in Heaven and Earth. She is a warrior spirit and if offended her wrath can only be pacified by Papa Buen Dios.
Her feast day is observed on July 29th and offerings of cigars and black unsweetened coffee is brought to her. The colors associated with her are green, purple and red.
One of the purest and quietest of Metresas is La Madre Dolerosa Metresili, who is associated with Our Lady of Sorrows. Her feast day is celebrated on September 15th and her associated colors are all shades of pink and white and sky blue. As an offering she is fond of pink champagne, sweet red wine, and fruit punch.
She is a quiet spirit who will not take possession if liquor or tobacco is in her presence and she does not like conflict. When she does take possession she does so crying, cleansing all with her tears. She will not touch the ground which is full of human sins and filth, so a brand new clean white cloth is put on the ground before she takes possession. Often a Fuente Espiritual is prepared with Holy Water, Florida Water, Kolonia 1800 and petals of roses which she uses to bless all who are present.
La Metresili usually does not stay long in a spiritual gathering her maximum time being that of 15 minutes of less. She is also known as the sister to Anaisa Pyè.
One of the most ancient and eldest Misterio is Belie Belcan who is associated with the Archangel Saint Michael. Belie Belcan's feast day is celebrated on September 29th and his associated colors are Green and Red, if you ever enter a Botanica and see a statue of Saint Michael clothed in a Red and Green cape this is an indication that it is Belie Belcan. He is the Punto ruler of the Division Blanca, and is often the largest statue represented. He is a warrior spirit who fights for the protection and justice of humanity and is always at war with demons. When he takes possesion in a Sesion Espiritual he often walks with a limp right leg which he wounded in battle with the devil. Others say he walks with a limp because he keeps Satan within hell with this very leg. He always greets the crowd shouting in Spanish. "Buenos Noches mi Sociedad!, or Buenas Tardes Criollos!" Or in French "Bonswa a la Societie!". Which he yells in a hoarse, but loud thunderous voice. Those who become possessed by him tie a green paño over their right shoulder and a red paño over the left. Then he asks for his rum and tobacco which he uses to cleanse, purify and consult.
In Puerto Rican Sanse he is simply known as Papa Candelo, while in Dominican Vudu he is known as General Candelo Cedife. He is an elder gentleman spirit who enjoys and loves the companion of his followers. His associated color is red, and all who invoke him know to do so in cement pavement as he takes a bottle of Florida Water and pours a circle and lights it, carefully cleansing all with the flames. He is very just, benevolent wise and knowledgeable in all things pertaining to spiritual elevation. He blesses with spiritual protection, abundance and good luck. His feast day is celebrated on November the 3rd. In the Dominican Republic he is associated with Saint Charles Borromeo while in Puerto Rico it is Saint Martin de Porres. He uses palm fronds which is his escoba, which are a symbol of triumph and victory. He also uses Coconuts to pass over his followers and coconut milk to cleanse, heal and purify.
Ogun Balendo is associated with San Santiago Apostal, and his devotees and followers are greatly concentrated in the Puerto Rican town of Loiza Aldea, where he is venerated similar to the Orisha Shango. His colors are red and blue and his feast day is celebrated on July 25th.
Ogun Balendo is a fierce warrior, and is very stern, although he is a warrior he does not like chaos or disorder and will not tolerate filth of any kind. He is also a great healer, and does not take Rum as an offering from humans, he prefers wine and tobacco and if rum is present he will take it, without the permission of any human. Although he is a fierce warrior many times he comes down greeting all present with a warm hand shake, a pat on the back and makes you feel as he is your closest long lost friend or family member. When he comes to consult he asks for his sword so he may cut the chains that bind humanity.
The Spirit who rules over the dead is el Baron del Cementerio who is associated with Saint Elias del Monte . His feast day is July 20th and his colors are black and white. In Puerto Rico he is one Spirit although in Haiti and the Dominican Republic he is many. Other Barons in this division are Baron de la Cruz, el Baron del Monte, Baron del Sabado. In Puerto Rico not to many people become possessed directly with him but become possessed by San Elias who will often use the name San Elias and el Baron interchangeably. He is very respected in Puerto Rico but rarely does he take possession of a host. He is invoked to rid of earth bound spirits and cleanse a persons aura or negative elemental spirits.
Difference between Commissions and Jefes.
The various Commission of Spirits are the souls of people who in life where wise and benevolent. They worked to serve the people and in death they still work for the greater good of humanity. Many of the Spirits in the Commissions where priests, priestess and wise men and women, and also venerated either a Lwa, Orisha, Angel, Saint or Cemi. They are the heroes the leaders whose works of good deed in life and after life insure their elevation up the Spiritual Latter to one day becoming an Ascended Master. Many are viewed and respected as folk saints or saints of the people. They are our Seres our Muertos and are the messengers of our Cemi, Loases, Orishas, and Angels.
A singular spirit of a Commission is known as a Muerto or a Buen Ser. As a group they can be called, Muertos, Seres, Cortes or the popular Commissions. Since they are closer to our plane of egsistance less energy is needed or required for them to come down into an Embajada. They are usually the mouth piece for Higher Spirits and work under their supervision and with their Corriente. Many Buen Sers come in place of an Orisha, Cemi or Loa, and usually have many of the attributes of these spiritual forces. Minor things may differ. For example, a Buen Ser may come displaying many attributes of a higher force but they also have their own likes and dislikes. So in life, Otelio may have been a follower of Obatala, and may come down instead of Obatala, acting in a similar fashion as Obatala. But Obatala does not drink liquor, and Otelio might. The mysteries of our spiritual path may seam confusing to those who do not follow it, but makes perfect sense to its followers.
The Jefes are the Orisha, Cemi, Loases, Spirits of Nature, highly elevated saints, Ascended Masters, and Angelic Forces. They are closer to God, and like the Seres come down to Embajadas to consult, heal and lift causas.
The list of Saints are those who are very popular within Puerto Rico and all of Latin America, and have become Ascended Masters. The list is short, because to include them all would be a long task.
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez. For healing and miracles
Rafael Cordero. For study, education and protection of children.
Niño de Atocha Opens and closes doorways of opportunities. Law an
d Court matters.
Santa Clara. Helps with addictions such as drugs and alcohol, protection of the body against evil.
San Miguel. Defeat Occult Enemies, and Demons
Santa Barbara. Protection from violent deaths, defender of women, drives away evil influences, protection against incarceration.
San Elias. Against earth bound malevolent spirits and Ghosts.
Santa Lucia. Helps in seeing the true matter and nature of things, eye problems, against el mal de ojo.
San Alejo. Removes obstacles, ,clears pathways, keep enemies away,
Santa Marta. dominates enemies.
San Gerardo. Channeling, mediumship and psychic visions.
San Martin de Porres. For healing, stability and calmness.
San Lazaro. Health Healing
San Expedito. To bring quick results.
San Cipriano. For knowledge in hidden wisdom.
San John the Baptist. For cleansing and purifying, removing obstacles.
San Aparicio. Helps find lost items and objects.
Saint Alejo to rid of unwanted vibrators
Saint Joseph to find work
Saint Fransis of Asis. Against gossip, evil plots, peace of mind and peace at home. For quiet and solitude.
Saint Jude. Help in lost causes.
Saint Luis Bertrand. Dominate occult enemies, rid curses.
Saint Gregorio. For healing.
El Divino Niño Jesus. For healing after surgery, healing and quick recovery.
Saint Anna. Help find a companion.
Saint Anthony. Improve memory, and overcome financial difficulties.
Saint Christopher. Against accidents and a violent death.
Saint Sebastian. Against weapons, court cases, and rivals.