Santeria: African Spirits in America by Joseph M. Murphy

This was one of the first books I ever read on the religion when I could only dream about visiting a botánica in NYC as beautifully written about in this book. I recommend this book and others by Joseph Murphy to anyone interested in religion, from personal to academic inquiry.

Murphy started the book as a graduate student looking for something to write his dissertation about. A friend pointed him toward a respected babalawo in the Bronx, New York, and Murphy began observing and participating in and receiving different rituals and ceremonies. The student of West African and Atlantic religion will get historical background on both the African and the Cuban branches of the faith, an understanding of the significant orishas, Ori, or Yoruba concept of destiny, and an engaging personal account of Murphy’s experiences with his padrino, the famous babalawo Pancho Mora Ifá Moroté, and his ilé. A scholar of west African religion would also find three more academically geared essays after the personal account dealing with how Santeria fits into the world as a whole. The book is interesting, engaging, readable, and a very useful reference to own.

Santería represents the first in-depth, scholarly account of a profound way of wisdom that is growing in importance in America today. A professional academic and himself a participant in the Santería community of the Bronx for several years, Joseph Murphy offers a powerful description and insightful analysis of this African/Cuban religion. He traces the survival of an ancient spiritual path from its West African Yoruba origins, through nearly two centuries of slavery in the New World, to its presence in the urban centers of the United States, where it continues to inspire seekers with its compelling vision.

Check out some photos of Santeria in Cuba by Joseph Murphy

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