Beliefs Of The Yoruba And Bantu People Religion Essay Example
Beliefs Of The Yoruba And Bantu People Religion Essay Example

Beliefs Of The Yoruba And Bantu People Religion Essay Example

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  • Published: September 24, 2017
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Some people believe that those they blame for conflicts may be immoral or seeking revenge. It is common for individuals who have never practiced witchcraft or followed mystical religious practices, such as Christianity or Catholicism, to express their belief in the existence of witchcraft and its potential dangers. They may say phrases like "I don't believe in witches, but if they do exist, they exist" or "don't mess with the Saints" (referring to Santeria, a syncretistic cult). Santeria is a religion that combines beliefs from the Yoruba and Bantu people of Southern Nigeria, Senegal, and the Guinea coast with elements of Roman Catholicism. It originated in the Caribbean. According to Donnelly (2005:65), Venezuelans today are increasingly breaking away from societal taboos imposed during Spanish conquest regarding customs and religion. This has opened doors for practicing rituals, spiritualism,


and occultism passed down from ancestors, indigenous populations, and past slaves. This cultural inheritance blends elements of occultism, rituals, and different belief systems to create a connection between faith, magic,and the mystical. It explores how the sacred intersects with non-religious beliefs as well as rational and irrational aspects of life.The goal is to enhance the significance of real-life experiences and jobs, while striving for a deeper and more concrete comprehension of God instead of a vague or distant one.

(Marin,1986:27) The spiritual patterns and beliefs, such as Santeria, in this region lack a clear foundation due to their reliance on unwritten tradition. These faiths and pseudo faiths are characterized by a complex process of syncretism that continues even today. According to Gruson (1970:34), the most popular religion in this area is Catholicism, with 80 percent of the population identifyin

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themselves as Catholic, regardless of their level of participation. In this faith, believers worship God who is seen as distant from this world, and instead direct their rituals towards saints, the Virgin Mary, and souls who are closer to earthly matters. Religion provides solutions to many problems faced by people in this region, including physical and mental health issues. It also serves recreational purposes such as dances and parties, satisfies individual egos through important roles in ritual organizations, promotes social bonds through cronyism, and offers medicinal remedies believed to have miraculous properties.

Popular faiths, such as Catholicism, embrace the belief in supernatural entities and nature liquors without conflicting with the core principles of the religion. Private rites, which are conducted discreetly and aimed at resolving crises or addressing personal issues, do not impede the fundamental structure of faith. In contrast, public rites are closely associated with official Catholicism. Popular Catholicism is characterized by a combination of pagan religion and sacred practices. The interpretation and significance of Catholic rites and symbols often vary between educated individuals and those from lower social classes or rural areas. Catholics attend church services but also engage in rituals associated with Santeria at spiritual centers. Additionally, they may visit the graves of "folk saints," seek guidance from religious therapists, or even seek guidance through online consultations. It is noteworthy that even television channels dedicate programs to cartomancy, tarot reading, and similar practices, attracting a significant audience share of over 7%.

According to IBOPE AGB Venezuela (2010), baptism and the presence of crosses are seen as protective rituals against evil influences. Despite the influence of Christianity on the indigenous and enslaved populations during colonial

times, older spiritual practices have been preserved and continue to thrive alongside official Christianity. Some medical professionals even recommend the use of enchantments to ward off spiritual afflictions like evil eye and herpes zoster (spiritual-intentioned pain) (Molina, 1947:90-110). While there is no substantial evidence of extensive research on this topic, it is worth noting that Venezuela has a widespread mix of spiritual practices, including witchcraft rituals, black magic, popular religiosity, and Catholic beliefs. Notable examples include Nigerian Santeria or traditional Santeria and Cuban Santeria (Martin, 1983:74). In terms of psychotherapy, Venezuela is relatively new to the practice. The country has only a small number of professionals in this field, and there is no specific regulatory entity apart from the Venezuelan Association of Psychotherapists (AVEPSI), which was founded in 2009 and is based in the capital city of Caracas.

The practice of psychotherapy in Venezuela embraces the pattern of incorporating beliefs in the supernatural, myths, and rites. This approach is highly favored by the general population. The interaction between the healer and the client, as well as the feedback received, is essential in this therapeutic process. Just like Carl Jung, who faced various situations and even described a young woman experiencing supernatural attacks in his thesis "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-Called Occult Phenomena" (1902), healers in Venezuela may also encounter diverse situations.

The goal of this study is to describe the influence of faith, beliefs, magic, and witchcraft in the practice of psychotherapy in Venezuela. The specific objectives are as follows:

- Identify the impact of spiritual beliefs, magic, or witchcraft on patients attending psychotherapeutic sessions.
- Determine the prevalence of spiritual rites, magic, or witchcraft among clients

attending psychotherapeutic sessions.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of Psychotherapy Techniques in treating clients with spiritual inclinations or practicing witchcraft.

In Venezuela, some scholars view the practice of witchcraft as somewhat folkloric (Cazabone, 2009:89), unlike other countries where some rituals have demonic intentions and involve animal sacrifices.The folkloric aspect of the Venezuelan humorous character is closely associated with a perception that magic is not taken seriously. The phrase "just in case" or "I don't believe in witches, but if there are, there are" suggests a belief in certain supernatural elements. Branch (in Zalazar et al, 2001:67) determined that this Venezuelan way of thinking is a stereotype that has evolved from mixing different cultures and the characteristics of the people involved, highlighting the creativity of the indigenous population, the hard work of black laborers, and the arrogance of the conqueror.

These original sources explain that the Venezuelan people are characterized by various traits. They argue that Venezuelans are generally cheerful and humorous due to their black and Spanish heritage. They also suggest that Venezuelans are intelligent as a result of their Spanish and Indian roots, and loving and generous because of their Indian ancestry. However, they claim that Venezuelans can also be lazy due to their Indian background, disorganized and uneconomical because of their black lineage, disrespectful to the law and violent because of their Spanish origins. It is important to note that none of these influences are supported by scientific evidence; they are simply social stereotypes that continue to be relevant (Zalazar et al, 2001:89). In addition, beliefs and magical-religious practices serve as a prominent means for Venezuelans to express human conflicts, emotions, and hidden feelings that go beyond

rationality. Christian (2009:30-45) explains that many people light candles to different deities (such as Black First, Philip Black, Guaicaipuro, Maria Lionza, etc.) in hopes of receiving miracles or favors.

This usage of appliances serves as a psychological scheme, as explained by Figueroa (2005:82), where individuals use them to control their lives and overcome their limitations in an environment that may surpass their capacity for understanding and action. Additionally, the use of amulets and talismans, or what is commonly referred to as "vulture seed" or "aloe works", is prevalent in rituals and cults as a form of protection or fortunate appeals. Cabazone (2009:97) describes how the former leader and president Romulo Betancourt asserted with certainty that his pipe was enchanted by a witch, and many believed that this was the secret to his success. Magic, along with all its techniques, serves as one of these resources, sometimes generating dramatic solutions through religious rituals and beliefs.

According to Figeroa (2005:89), the use of amulets and talismans has been widespread since ancient times. People from all walks of life, including great men, politicians, artists, soldiers, athletes, etc., have trusted in and carried symbols of good luck. They have placed a high value on the power of positive suggestion and have been successful in achieving their goals. This psychological effect leads believers to have faith in talismans, rituals, or amulets.

The significance of faith in Venezuelan culture and beliefs

As previously mentioned, the cultural background and fusion of influences have greatly impacted Venezuelan culture as well as Latin America as a whole despite increasing secularization. It is important to note that religion has played a role in shaping civilizations worldwide; no cultural group

can escape this phenomenon. In the same country, supernatural religious traditions and customs have significantly influenced social interactions, community life, and moral principles. "This belief in supernatural beings is apparent not only in Venezuela but also globally" (Pollak-Eltz 2004:69).

Catholicism has had a profound impact on Venezuelan society and the wider Latin American region. It was once the dominant religious belief system, influencing all aspects of society. Today, there are two distinct expressions of faith: traditional or popular religion, which is practiced by the general population and associated with healing and magical practices, and official Roman Catholicism followed by urban dwellers. The presence of numerous rituals and individual interpretations among followers leaves these practices susceptible to fraudsters and exploiters. Among the most popular cults is Maria Lionza worship, where mediums become possessed seeking guidance from spirits within them. This cult encompasses various magical and spiritual beliefs held by Venezuelans, creating a synthesis of magical traditions in a spiritual context (Pollak-Eltz, 2004:82).

Described as a syncretistic cult, it incorporates Christian values and offers practical solutions through rituals. Maria Lionza is sometimes linked to the Virgin of Coromoto and an indigenous spirit. Magic is a part of this cult, with techniques that can be used for good or evil purposes. The leaders believe they have supernatural powers to control these forces and navigate the spiritual realm. Miracles are believed to occur through faith (Pollak-Eltz, 2004:83).

Because these techniques can be learned, the magician is not responsible for the acts performed; he or she is a professional whom the client pays for their services. This magician or medium often has the knowledge to solve problems and heal illnesses, and is an

excellent psychologist despite their limited formal education. According to Pollak-Eltz (2004:106), the pagan belief in witchcraft has moved from rural areas to cities. This culture is predominantly Christian, and despite advancements in technology and medicine, popular religiosity is more prevalent than ever. This is because popular religion offers practical benefits, provides spiritual support, and acts as a psychological comfort in times of personal crisis.

According to Saignes (in Pollak-Eltz 2004:65), historically, black therapists were often more successful in healing the sick compared to white physicians. The African medicine-men had extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and magical rituals, which increased their prestige. They were seen as magicians who had the power to bring prosperity or misfortune to others at will. This idea is echoed by Rojas (2006:30) who explains that Venezuelans have a particular character of trusting and surrendering to a chosen individual or spiritual figure when worshiping.

Popular Religion

The church's negative influence in the 19th and 20th centuries does not affect how Venezuelans perceive their beliefs about religion and divine beings.

Ever since colonial times, there has existed a unique blending of faith and popular belief that revolves around the supernatural and esoteric (Gackstetter et al, 2010:45). This phenomenon, known as "The three powers", is unrelated to the Catholic Trinity. Maria Lionza symbolizes the Virgin Mary and represents the three main components of national identity: European, African, and indigenous. The spirits that participate in this spiritual court include Simon Bolivar (who liberated Venezuela from Spanish rule), Andres Bello, Negro Felipe (the first black person and a slave who was also murdered by the settlers), Negra Matea (Bolivar's nursemaid), Jose Gregorio Hernandez, and other Catholic saints. The cult of

Maria Lionza is not a guided or hierarchical religion; priest-doctors or mediums merely ask believers about their families, problems, disputes, financial difficulties, or medical issues. Sometimes, individuals seeking aid for family members in jail turn to Juan Vicente Gomez for help, while political questions are addressed to Simon Bolivar.

Believers have a strong religious devotion and travel to Sorte Mountain (near Chivacoa in Yaracuy State) to seek help from the goddess in solving their problems or overcoming bad luck. They create shrines called portals in secluded areas of the forest or by the river, decorated with various items such as statues, glasses filled with rum or brandy, cigars, crosses, flowers, and fruits. There are different versions of the story behind this practice, one of which involves a woman named Yara, also known as Maria del Prado of Talavera de Niva.

The Cacique Yaracuy sent her to the mountains where she rode on an ounce, a leopardus pardali. This is why she became known as 'the Onza' and later Maria Lionza. Her cult is believed to have originated from reverence for the forces of nature and the spirits of rivers, jungles, and caves. Maria Lionza is part of a trinity, along with Guaicaipuro, an indigenous leader killed by Spanish settlers, and Negro Felipe. These three deities are the main figures of the cult and preside over various "tribunals" of lesser divinities. These tribunals include:

  • The Indian Court, led by Maria Lionza, comprising many Venezuelan indigenous leaders.
  • The Medical Court, led by Jose Gregorio Hernandez, consisting of other renowned physicians.

The Court of the Juans, consisting of various figures from Venezuelan folklore.

  • The Teachers' Court, led by Andres Bello and other writers.
  • There is also the Black and African Court, overseen by prominent black figures from Venezuelan history such as La Negra Matea (a former slave of the Bolivar family and nursemaid to Simon Bolivar) and El Negro Primero (Pedro Camejo), who earned his nickname because he was black and one of the first to engage in combat.

    • The Celestial Court is made up of Catholic saints.
    • The Political Court includes Simon Bolivar.
    • The Court of Malandros consists of sleeping felons.
    • The Viking Court features various important Viking leaders.

    Maria Lionza has had significant societal and cultural importance that goes beyond her followers. Her cult was introduced outside Yaracuy in the 1950s, when in 1953, during General Marcos Perez Jimenez's term, the sculptor Alexander Hill (1901-1953) created the famous sculpture of Maria Lionza on a Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), which has been standing on the Eastern Freeway in Caracas for over 50 years. There is no written record of this cult, it is passed down orally from generation to generation.

    The most important churches and cults in Venezuela

    Among the largest religious organizations and cults in the country are:

    Protestant or Evangelical:

    After the Diet of Speyer or Diet of Spires protest in

    1529, there was no intention to proselytize in Latin America or engage in evangelizing missions.

    The primary focus was on the Reformation, which meant that Protestantism did not take hold in Latin America until the mid-19th century with limited success. However, the indicators have changed over the years, including the statistics of the late 20th century, which show growth not only in evangelical denominations, but also in other spiritualistic denominations. These include:

    • Anglicanism.
    • Presbyterian Church.
    • Lutheran Church.
    • Baptist churches.
    • New Tribes Mission.

    The term "Diet of Speyer" refers to any of the sessions of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire that took place between 838 and 1570 in the city of Speyer (Spires), now in Germany. The most well-known sessions occurred in 1526 and 1529 (Wikipedia 2011).

    Confederate Evangelicals:

    These are religious movements originating from the United States with Christian intentions.

    The Pentecostalists: They are a rapidly growing movement with unique characteristics. This spiritual movement originated from Methodism and the American Baptists. In 1940, the Pentecostalists arrived in Venezuela through the efforts of Rev. Irvin Olson, an American Baptist. He established the first "Assembly of God" in Venezuela, starting in Barquisimeto and later expanding his work to the capital city of Caracas and Falcon.

    Pseudo Christian faith or Millennialists:

    These faiths have a common characteristic: their founders interpreted the Bible personally

    and developed a new doctrine based on it. This led them to assign different meanings to the traditional teachings, and followers of these faiths believe they possess the ultimate truth (Mangas and Montero, 2001:110). In Venezuela, there are three organizations that fall into this category: The Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormons (who are not officially registered with the Directorate of Justice and Religion).

    • Seventh-day Adventist Church.
    • Jehovah's Witnesses.
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Religious Centre:

    The esoteric, rituals, and astrology play an important role in the Venezuelan religious scene.

    It is not based on beliefs, but on personal demands. This reconciliation between the sacred and the profane originates from animism and primitive polytheism, which were further strengthened by the African Christian cult, incorporating evident institutionalism. The indigenous people embraced the Catholic Church's religion, but the persistence of their own beliefs and their close connection to the African slaves gave rise to these new beliefs.

    The indigenous popular court system:

    This tendency is associated with elements of the indigenous population. For example, indigenous people had a belief in the power of natural phenomena, such as rocks, lakes, rivers, and acquiring supernatural power believed to be bestowed by their Gods. These beliefs were passed down to future generations and were influenced by transcultural elements such as Santeria and Spiritualism.

    In modern society, there is no hierarchy that categorizes these elements. What was considered divine by the Indian is now seen as an

    economic support agency, resembling a company with high-ranking patrons.


    This belief system, along with santeria, is one of the most advanced forms of cryptic beliefs that are largely based on the spiritualism of Allan Kardec, a French teacher and educator. Kardec is known for establishing Spiritism, which he founded through his five books of the Spiritist Codification. It is believed that Spiritism made its way into our country through immigrants from Brazil and Colombia, who were influenced by the oil fever. There is no hierarchical structure around which these beliefs are organized.

    The main caput leads the worship and is raising otherworldly existences, going the medium and are called to execute miracles, healings, among others of its sort.


    This signifier of faith is more complex than others. There is a mix of autochthonal elements with spiritualist elements, African and Christian origining a semi-organized loanblend. This faith takes the construction of an ancient African tribal faith of the seashore of Nigeria, and has three hieratic orders: the babalaos, the Orishas curates and priests of a peculiar divinity. African slaves brought this faith and their chief Centres are in Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti, later deriving followings in Colombia and Venezuela (Gonzalez-Wippler, 1989:45). The Santeria in Venezuela have made an even greater mixture, they have found an equality between the African Gods with Catholic saints, so, for illustration, Chango (God of lightning and boom) has its equivalent on Santa Barbara, Oshun (river goddess) at Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of Charity of Copper) and so on, giving a divinity character to popular saints like Jose Gregorio Hernandez, Maria Lionza, Negro Felipe, among many others.

    A coach is

    assigned to assist with the formation of priests and teach them all the mysteries so that they can become ordained. Ceremonies are prepared at locations near rivers or mountains, such as Sorte in Yaracuy. Once ordained, priests are prepared to heal and remove the evil spirits that they believe bind individuals. Many people make regular pilgrimages from within the state to Sorte Mountain. There are transportation companies that offer services to the mountain, and a large number of appointed priests, often referred to as physicians or magicians, who organize these trips from their Centers. It is important to note that there is a thriving trade surrounding these cults, including audiences, travel arrangements, esoteric merchandise, candles, texts, and aromas.

    The cult of Maria Lionza: This Venezuelan indigenous faith combines elements from various civilizations, blending the worship of a native deity with African spiritualism.


    • The Moonies: This group is named after its founder, Sun Myung Moon, who was born in North Korea in 1920. The official name of the organization is the Association for the Unification of World Christianity (AUCM) and it aims to create a society based on religious values and the promotion of true peace within families.
    • Scientology: Founded by Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), an American known for his expertise in various professions, including science fiction author and screenplay writer. The Church of Scientology is considered a comprehensive company. Their principles are based on Dianetics, which focuses on self-improvement and freeing the spirit from bondage. The process involves "auditing" sessions, where individuals are subjected to spiritual cleansing using an electropsychometer device that detects areas of spiritual distress.

    The beginner lets go of their previous beliefs and

    adopts new rules that they must adhere to, aligning with the total number of influences received from the general public. Eastern Syncretism, unlike the disapproval experienced in Venezuela for a significant portion of the 20th century towards religious groups, is now accepted. Many Venezuelans simultaneously embrace analog aspects of their faith along with certain beliefs associated with Eastern Syncretism.

    It is common to hear statements like, "I am a Catholic but I have embraced Taoist beliefs," or "I am a Catholic but I am interested in Buddhist metaphysics." This openness to different spiritual principles by Eastern religious orders and Venezuelan society allows for the coexistence of various beliefs. The use of rituals in psychotherapeutics is a powerful tool in Venezuela, often the only way to convince a patient that their mind can be healed and protected from negative influences. Rituals have been a subject of discussion among anthropologists and have been described as therapeutic practices by clinicians in literature. These rituals are not exclusive to healers, but are integral parts of different cultures, families, and communities.One important aspect to consider is the significance of these phenomena on individuals and families who engage in these traditions (and others) as part of their healing process. Understanding these spontaneous processes can generate new ideas for creating therapeutic alternative options. These alternatives can be used to promote adaptive performance, rather than focusing solely on diagnosis, during therapy for individuals and families seeking help to alleviate their suffering.

    In addition, as an effective component, it can provide valuable information, especially in a relational sense. In psychotherapy, a ritual is understood to involve a series of actions and/or symbolic interactions, which are not

    limited to the ceremonial aspect alone but also encompass the entire process of preparation, execution, and reintegration into everyday life (Rappaport, 1971:12). A ritual should consist of symbols, open and closed segments, and the need to be conducted in a specific space and time (Whiting, 1991:56). The symbols or symbolic actions are the minimum elements that would denote a ritual.

    The symbol that appears usually represents a personal, family, or societal establishment. In addition to rituals, symbols can be divided into open parts and closed parts. The closed parts are the unchanging ritual elements that are performed by everyone participating in the ritual. These parts offer a firm structure that reassures strong emotional elements, communicates important values, and gives tangible form to the portions. On the other hand, the open parts allow flexibility for each participant in the ritual to contribute their own personal and unique experiences.

    In rituals, which have important cultural roots, the time and place for the ceremony are traditionally assigned. Symbols or symbolic actions are the basic elements that represent a ritual. The connection between the symbol and its meaning is typically a personal, familial, or societal interpretation. In addition to symbols, rituals include both open and closed components that are interconnected. The closed components are unchanging ritual elements that are shared by all participants, providing a minimum structure for emotional security, imparting important values, and giving concrete form to the actions. On the other hand, open components allow flexibility for each participant to contribute their own personal and unique experiences.

    The rites, which have a significant cultural origin, are typically performed according to tradition, in a specific place and time dedicated to the

    completion of the ceremony. There are different types of rites:

    1. Rites of transition or passage rites: These were described by A. Van Gennep in 1909 and are performed during the transitions experienced by individuals and groups throughout their life cycle. These rites mark the end of one phase of development and the beginning of a new one. Van Gennep argues for the universality of such rites after studying various cultures.

    2. Continuity rites: These are rites of intensification that differ from passage rites in that they are performed repeatedly throughout an individual's life. Their purpose is to establish the rhythm of life and maintain continuity and normalcy within each phase of the life cycle.

    3. Healing rites: This category includes rituals performed to cure, heal, and ward off certain diseases.

    4. Therapeutic rituals: These are rituals developed by healers and used in psychotherapeutic practice. In some cases, psychotherapy itself can be considered a ritual. Haley (1973) considered the treatment carried out to address certain problems that arise during adolescence, such as psychosis, behavioral disorders, anorexia, and others.The act of participation in rituals functions as a rite of initiation, serving to promote individualism and necessary liberation from immaturity in order to reintegrate an individual into a normal life rhythm. Ochoa De Alda (1995:56) explains that the main purposes of rituals in the lives of societies, communities, families, and individuals include:
    - Making life more predictable, creating a sense of belonging to a group that impacts the individuality of its members. Rituals establish order and regulate societal functioning, reinforcing social structure and facilitating progress with minimal conflicts.
    - Transmitting culture, values, and enduring norms. On one hand, rituals foster feelings

    of solidarity, coherence, and continuity within groups; on the other hand, they significantly contribute to the formation of a group's belief systems (Van der Hart, Voogt, and Witzum, 1989:56).
    - Traditional rites not only facilitate social coordination among individuals, families, communities, and towns in the present moment but also connect different generations representing the past, present, and future (Davis, 1987:67).
    - Rites of passage enable individuals to transition from one stage of the life cycle to another.The initial component of action in the text suggests that functions, relationships, and universe criterions are modified during their execution (Davis, 1987:78). Acknowledging that any passage is an instability to some degree, ritual ceremonials provide a structure where behavioral changes can occur and then normalize the life that follows them (Van der Hart, 1983:90). Turner (1967) proposes that rites play a ternary function thanks to symbols. Firstly, they provide multiple meanings to behaviors, emotions, and knowledge, directly impacting the open aspects or creativity of the rites. Secondly, these symbols, characterized by their multiplicity of meanings, evoke intense emotions and bring together diverse phenomena that cannot be connected through words alone. Lastly, the symbols simultaneously interact with sensory and cognitive elements.

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