Creole Religions of the Caribbean: An Introduction from Vodou and Santeria to Obeah and Espiritismo

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Creolization—the coming together of diverse beliefs and practices to form new beliefs and practices-is one of the most significant phenomena in Caribbean religious history. Brought together in the crucible of the sugar plantation, Caribbean peoples drew on the variants of Christianity brought by European colonizers, as well as on African religious and healing traditions and the remnants of Amerindian practices, to fashion new systems of belief.

Creole Religions of the Caribbean offers a comprehensive introduction to the syncretic religions that have developed in the region. From Vodou, Santería, Regla de Palo, the Abakuá Secret Society, and Obeah to Quimbois and Espiritismo, the volume traces the historical-cultural origins of the major Creole religions, as well as the newer traditions such as Pocomania and Rastafarianism.

Chapters devoted to specific traditions trace their history, their pantheons and major rituals, and their current-day expressions in the Caribbean and in the diaspora. The volume also provides a general historical background of the Caribbean region.

Creole Religions of the Caribbean is the first text to provide a study of the Creole religions of the Caribbean and will be an indispensable guide to the development of these rich religious traditions and practices.

With 23 black and white illustrations

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“With vitality and dexterity the authors paint a nuanced portrait of Caribbean spirits and persons, of issues holy and secular, and of the hybrid character of this region's religions. Best of all, they honor the shifting sentiments and unravel the multiple meanings behind numerous spiritual ideas and practices. Teachers and students alike will admire their brilliantly researched, sensitively written, and richly textured tome. It represents the high-water mark of all introductory books on religion, race, and ethnicity.”
-Darren J. N. Middleton,Texas Christian University

Creole Religions stands out as vastly superior to the theologically oriented introductory-level material available up to this point and should serve as an indispensible teaching tool in departments of anthropology, sociology, literary criticism and history of religions.”
-Journal of Religion


“Unique to such a study, this book uses extracts from novels . . . to illustrate some points. [A] fine text.”
-Library Journal


“The book provides a unique sociocultural, historical and political analysis of Caribbean religion.”
-Centro Journal


“Bravo! A well-written text that de-mystifies Creole spiritual practices and places them in historical perspective is a major contribution to the twenty-first century. Over and above the accurate and detailed descriptions of the various spiritual practices of the Caribbean, the authors have clearly delineated the historic origin and connection of Creole practices to African religions, often indicating the specific regions of Africa from which they came. This volume provides an excellent overview of the history and culture of the Caribbean islands and is the first of its kind to present comprehensive, well-researched treatise of Obeah, Myalism, Quimbois, Espiritismo, Vodou, Santeria, Regla de Palo, and the Abukua Secret Society as well as the more recent traditions of Rastafarianism and Pocomania. This work is interesting and will leave the reader well informed about the Caribbean island's religions, practices, and culture, complete with present-day expressions in the Caribbean. It will be an important text for the study of the Caribbean, religion, ethnicity, race, and culture.”
-Multicultural Review


Library Journal
Creolization, or combining various beliefs and practices to form new ones, is a phenomenon in Caribbean religious history. Caribbean peoples drew on the Christianity brought by European colonizers, as well as African religious traditions, to form religions such as Santeria, Regla de Palo, the Abakua Secret Society, Vodou, Obeah, Myal, Quimbois, and Espiritismo. Here, Olmos (Spanish, Brooklyn Coll., CUNY) and Paravisini-Gebert (Caribbean literature and culture, Vassar Coll.) have joined forces to provide a scholarly introduction to the various Creole religions of the Caribbean. Common roots and comparative aspects are explored, and chapters on each religion cover historical origins, major rituals and deities, and their divination in current culture. Broad historical information on the Caribbean region is also given. Unique to such a study, this book uses extracts from novels, such as an account of the making of an Nganga from Leonardo Padura Fuentes's Adios Hemingway y La cola de la Serpiente, to illustrate some points. Extensive notes and a bibliography round out this fine text. Recommended for scholarly collections.-L. Kriz, West Des Moines P.L. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814727195
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2003
  • Series: Religion, Race, and Ethnicity Series
  • Pages: 262
  • Product dimensions: 0.75 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Margarite Fernández Olmos is a professor of Spanish and Latin American literatures at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. She is the author/coeditor of many books, including The Latino Reader: An American Literary Tradition from 1542 to the Present.

Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert is a professor in the department of Hispanic studies on the Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair and Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Vassar College. She is the author of a number of books and is coeditor with Fernández Olmos of Healing Cultures: Art and Religion as Curative Practices in the Caribbean and its Diaspora.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Historical Background 13
2 The Orisha Tradition in Cuba: Santeria/Regla de Ocha 24
3 The Afro-Cuban Religious Traditions of Regla de Palo and the Abakua Secret Society 78
4 Haitian Vodou 101
5 Obeah, Myal, and Quimbois 131
6 Rastafarianism 154
7 Espiritismo: Creole Spiritism in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States 171
Glossary 211
Notes 219
Bibliography 239
Discography 252
Index 253
About the Authors 262
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