A religion merging the worship of Yoruba deities with veneration of Roman Catholic saints: practiced in Cuba and spread to other parts of the Caribbean and to the U.S. by Cuban emigrés.

The Yoruba, faced with the full force of the Cuban/Spanish Inquisition and the grinding realities of slavery - in uniquely African fashion - masked their Orishas (literally, ori: head and sha: owner) under the guise of Catholic saints. The iconography gave them hints as to what Orisha was hiding there. The whiteness of the robes which Our Lady of Mercy wore, indicated she was none other than Obatala (Oba: King, tala: whiteness) whereas the abundant frills and blue mantle of Our Lady of Regla clearly pointed to Yemanya (Yema: fishes, iYA:mother) who is the mother of the ocean.

The same logic was applied to the other Orishas in the Yoruba pantheon - there are some 140 of Them. Orisha Oko, the Orisha of Farmers and all who work the soil was syncretized with St. Isadore the Farmer, Ochissi, the celestial archer who never misses the mark, was masked with St. Sebastian who was martyred by being shot to death with arrows.

The motive in doing this was to escape the persecution which would have followed had the Yoruba attempted to worship their Orisha in public. This disimilitude permitted them to worship at the feet of these statues with drumming and songs praising the "saint" while actually worshiping their ancestral Orisha.

It might be interesting to note that the early Christians, faced with the persecutions in Rome, did a somewhat simular thing.

The bronze statue of St. Peter which sits at the rear of St. Peter's Basilicia in the Vatican dates from the early second century. It is clothed in Papal robes and has been devoutly venerated by the faithful such that it's right foot is smooth and vry highly polished from a millenium of kisses. It was originally a statue of Jupiter Optimo et Bono, the Patron Protector of Rome. The early Christians, recast the hands and the head. Now, it looks more like the "traditional" version of St. Peter, the hand which held the little genius holding the laurel wreath towards Jupiter's brow now is reforged in a blessing mudra and the other hand, which once held lightening bolts now holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jupiter was baptized into St. Peter just as Our Lady of Regla was baptized into Yemanya. Simularly, the statue of the "Good Shepherd" started out life as a young devotee of Apollo and that of Demeter with Kore on Her lap became Mary with the Christ Child.

This song is probably familiar to you, as "that one Sublime song with the pretty melody and the violent lyric about romantic betrayal and revenge". Despite the fact that Sublime's album seemed to have ended up in everyone's CD collections, and on the radio (as if they were a pop group), the fact that this song would become so popular among the type of people who like this type of song has never been fully explained.

It does have a very pretty melody, especially since many of Sublime's songs are rather rhthmic and buzzy. For a pop song, its theme of cheating hearts and violent revenge is somewhat odd, even if it is taken somewhat ironically. The song also seems to meander lyrically, as Sublime songs are known to do, The opening line, I don't practice Santeria, I don't got no crystal ball doesn't seem to be directly related to the rest of the song, despite gaining its title from it.

But here is why this song is important, why it actually means something: it is a perfect expression of base, unreflective emotion of male jealousy and violence. I wouldn't inject politics into this if it wasn't relevant, but I saw an advertisement right before the election, saying "George W Bush won't ask permission to defend America". This idea of simple, unreflective action is more important in our culture than we might choose to acknowledge. While George W Bush might not think twice before defending America, Bradley Nowell won't think twice before sticking that barrel down Sancho's throat.

If this song was just a simple minded endorsement of thuggery and violence and possesiveness towards women, I don't think we could find it beautiful no matter how authentic the rage expressed was. But there is another part of the song: the haunting, seemingly unrelated course, in which Brad sings "What I'd really like to know, I can't define", and variations upon the theme. The music changes quite noticably here, too, at one point, rather than going into the chorus, the music simply goes into a quite haunting solo. What, exactly, is he trying to define? The incongruity of this part of the song doesn't seem as noticable as it should be. Why is he pausing in the middle of beating up his girlfriend and shooting her lover, to worry about epistemology and the defintion of terms?

Somewhat coincidentally, there is a philosophical concept known as The Sublime. Cutting out the technicalities, this is the concept of something that can be understood but can't be pictured. In other words, we can "understand" the concept of infinity, but we can't picture it in our head. And in the chorus of the song, Brad seems to be searching for something so close to him, yet impossible to describe.

The reason this works in the song is that Brad is tapping into the most blind, rage filled irrational thinking, and the most abstract feeling of yearning for a sense of cosmic beauty. Both are real and authentic expressions of our humanity, and both occur, in life and in the song, in very close proximity to each other.

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