HAVANA (1) – The household of Emilia Montoya, 79, sacrificed 4 white doves and two roosters, chanted within the African language Yoruba and pounded a wood employees rhythmically on the ground in a ceremony to guard Montoya from coronavirus.

Emilia Montoya, 79, a follower of the Afro-Cuban faith Santeria, sits earlier than a ceremony amid issues in regards to the unfold of the coronavirus illness (COVID-19) outbreak, in Havana, Cuba, March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The small gathering in her Havana dwelling appealed to their ancestors and honored Inle, the deity of well being in Santeria, a ritual-filled Afro-Cuban faith. Montoya doesn’t have the virus although Cuba has up to now reported 170 confirmed instances.

“We’re calling these blessings upon her to maintain her wholesome,” mentioned her nephew Henry Rodriguez, 40, main the ceremony. “However this ceremony isn’t only for us; it’s additionally for world well being.”

The chance of spreading the virus has dominated out the big ceremonies of drumming and dancing that characterize Santeria, a faith that fuses Yoruba beliefs and traditions, delivered to Cuba by African slaves, with components of Catholicism.

However devotees – of which there are thousands and thousands within the Caribbean island nation – are turning to their pantheons of Yoruba deities referred to as Orishas for power in intimate household ceremonies or particular person rituals at dwelling.

“Daily once I rise up, I stand on the porch, look as much as the sky and ask God to … ship the epidemic away,” mentioned Montoya, who in regular occasions runs a weekend college educating Cubans to get in contact with their divine presents like the power to listen to or see spirits.

“Then I gentle a candle and pray to my Orishas for the entire world,” she mentioned, her thick, twisted Afro locks wound up right into a white scarf, as mandated for such Santeria ceremonies.


Some Santeria devotees are additionally coordinating, largely through social media, small simultaneous rituals carried out in self-isolation at dwelling.

These are additionally being achieved in different Latin American international locations like Venezuela the place the faith has gained a following.

The rollout of cell web in Cuba, the place most properties would not have on-line connections, is enabling non secular communion in occasions of self isolation.

On March 22, for instance, Santeria devotees heard they need to gentle two candles at a exact hour and pray to the Orishas for his or her protection.

“Might Obatala (one of many principal Orishas) shield us from the pandemic,” wrote Magdalena Barrera Valdes on a Fb group for Santeria practitioners worldwide with 44,000 followers, posting a photograph of her candles, on which 76 individuals commented “ashe” which means “could it manifest” in Yoruba.

Later that day, some Santeria monks, generally known as babalawos, had been mentioned to be imploring Iku, the spirit of demise, to not take any extra victims. Devotees warned each other to cowl their heads to guard themselves as Iku swept throughout earth throughout and after the ceremony.

“Faith is especially about religion,” mentioned Rodriguez, “and we need to give individuals hope.”

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Modifying by Cynthia Osterman

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