Living Santeria: Rituals and Experiences in an Afro-Cuban Religion by Michael Atwood Mason (Smithsonian) In 1992 Smithsonian anthropologist Michael Atwood Mason traveled to Cuba for initiation as a priest into the Santería religion. Since then he has created an active oricha "house" and has initiated five others as priests. He is a rare combination: a scholar-practitioner who is equally fluent in his profession and his religion. Interweaving his roles as researcher and priest, he explores Santería as a contemporary phenomenon and offers an understanding of its complexity through his own experiences and those of its many practitioners. The rituals of Santería focus on the establishment, maintenance, and transformation of the practitioners' identities--how they create their "moral universe" and use it to change their lives. Mason examines several of the most significant ritual performances to illustrate the practitioners' intense personal relationships with the gods, or orichas, and how both humans and orichas act and are acted upon. Through his own experience Mason illuminates how the religion changes people socially and psychologically as they deepen these relationships. Balancing deftly between a devotee's account of participation and an anthropologist's theoretical analysis, Living Santería offers an original and insightful understanding of this growing religious tradition.
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