Manual Where Men Are Wives and Mothers Rule: Santeria Ritual Practices and Their Gender Implications

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You could not be signed in. Examining the practices of divination, initiation, possession trance, sacrifice, and witchcraft in successive chapters, Clark explores the ways in which Santeria beliefs and practices deviate from the historical assumptions about and the conceptual implications of these basic concepts. After tracing the standard definition of each term and describing its place within the worldview of Santeria, Clark teases out its gender implications to argue for the female-normative nature of the religion.

By arguing that gender is a fluid concept within Santeria, Clark suggests that the qualities of being female form the ideal of Santeria religious practice for both men and women. In addition, she asserts that the Ifa cult organized around the male-only priesthood of the babalawo is an independent tradition that has been incompletely assimilated into the larger Santeria complex.

Based on field research done in several Santeria communities, Clark's study provides a detailed overview of the Santeria and Yoruba traditional beliefs and practices. By Mary Ann Clark.

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Where Men Are Wives and Mothers Rule

University Press of Florida, Such theological studies generate new audiences for these materials, and raise new topical and methodological questions to consider, foremost among these: How should theologians, usually trained to systematize Western monotheistic traditions, approach non-Western, polytheistic religions? How should scholar- practitioners position themselves in relation to a religion they both practice and analyze? Where the Men Are Wives and Mothers Rule is addressed to both scholars and practitioners of orisha religions.

Orishas are divine beings, who were orig- inally worshipped by Oyo, Egba, and other West African ethnic groups now collectively designated as Yoruba from the regions of present-day Nigeria and Benin. These enslaved West Africans known as Lukumi in colonial Cuba brought the worship of orishas to various locations of the New World, where these religious practices were reformulated by their religious descendants.

The book includes a helpful glossary of terms, and is arranged with topical chapters about divination, initiation rites, possession trance, sacrifice, and witchcraft. Within religious studies, African diaspora religions are often regarded as the "Other" of Western theological traditions. For scholars in emerging fields, such as religious studies scholars who research African diaspora religions, it is challenging to maintain apace our respective content, theory, and method conversations—particularly when, as expressed as program sessions of the American Academy of Religion, these discussions often proceed along parallel tracks.

Although at times her categorizations are a bit sweeping, Clark bridges this rift a bit. Her theoretically informed description of orisha possession as an instance of Self as Other to divine being 98 is a helpful addition to the discussion of alterity in religious experience. Clark focuses on "feminine" gendered performances in orisha spirit posses- sion rituals, a signature trait of orisha religious practice that has long attracted adherents' and researchers' commentary, but few sustained analyses.

That is, in orisha religions, "priestliness is concurrent with womanliness" 78 , such that "all practitioners.

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While female devotees are routinely possessed by male- gendered orishas, just as male devotees who are said to be disproportionately homosexual can be possessed by female-gendered orishas, all entranced mediums—regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or the gender of the possessing deity—are temporarily gendered as "female," and assume a "passive" role in order to "receive" their spirit-husband orisha Clark's strongest contribution is her delineation of the title iyawo, a Yoruba word meaning "wife, younger than the speaker," and a label that, in New World orisha religions, often designates initiates and underscores their lack of religious seniority.

Clark unpacks orisha religions' performance of gender hierarchy, and disputes Oyeronke Oyewumi's claim that, among the Yoruba, gender "is a differ- ence without a distinction. Dated phrases about "cultural genitals" 29, are employed where contemporary queer theory or gender analysis might have provided a better illumination of the materials. Another drawback is the study's ad hoc treatment of its uneven collection of sources, ranging from "Jungian archetypes" and general reference works to historical and ethnographic accounts of Nigerian and Afro-Cuban religions that jump back and forth in time and space, to Clark's own personal accounts.

Clark hypothesizes that "it was the possession priests of the Orisha, who were more likely to be women than men, who carried the knowledge of their own rituals to the New World" Since the presumably earlier-established oriates some of whom were women considered babalawos to be superfluous for initiations, babalawos were unlikely conduits of the religion in the New World, Clark argues.

As she "provides a counternarrative to the standard understanding of the babalawo as the 'high priest' of Orisha-based religion" 70 , Clark offers important insights into how androcentrism has influenced the production of knowledge about orisha religions and their gendered norms.


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