From Anxiety to Pride, From Anger to Joy: Emotions in Cuban Santería

Key words
emotion, Santería, ritual, folklore, performance
Olga B. Khristoforova
About the Author
E-mail: Tel.: +7 (499) 956-99-99
84, bld. 1, Vernadskogo av., Moscow, 119602, Russian Federation
Doctor of Philology, Leading Research Fellow, Laboratory for Theoretical Folklore Studies, School for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Institute of Social Science, Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration
Date of publication

The article is a part of the RANEPA state assignment research programme.


The study of emotions in connection with folklore texts and ritual practices is an essential trend in modern folkloristics. It is especially interesting when cultural systems attach special significance to people’s emotional states and bodily sensations, considering them as “divine messages” that require deciphering. The Afro-Cuban cult of Santeria (Regla de Ocha-Ifa) is one such symbolic system that gives special meaning to the emotions of its adepts. Based on the author’s fieldwork in Cuba from 2013 to 2016, this article explores emotions within Santeria. The author examines emotions in the daily life of followers of various degrees of initiation and their emotions in the context of rituals and stage performances. She distinguishes between their human emotions and the presumed emotions of the Orisha, the deities of Santeria. Emotions in everyday life may be seen as motives shaping people’s actions; emotions in ritual and on stage serve as signs of Orisha’s presence. The author describes how adherents of Santeria reconcile the universal “list of emotions” developed by ethologists with their own personal emotional patterns and those manifested in ritual. Using a semiotic approach highlights the distinction between ritual and performance as well as the role of emotions and emotional expressions in them.


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For citation

Khristoforova O. B. From Anxiety to Pride, From Anger to Joy: Emotions in Cuban Santería. Traditional Culture. 2023. Vol. 24. No. 3. Pp. 60–76. In Russian.