Ceremony : The letter of the year

Since ancient times, man has always tried to know the future through divination and reading oracles. These ceremonies are generally performed at important times of the year such as the equinoxes, the change of seasons and the beginning of the year.

Believers want to know the future, either because they are about to begin a journey, or because they are about to start a new job, or perhaps, as we will analyze below, when the year begins and twelve new months open a question mark in our lives.

If you visit Cuba, you will very often come across people dressed in white who are wearing pearl necklaces and bracelets of different colors, they are religious people. You are now immersed in the spiritual heart of Cuba which is made of a mixture of African Animism and Catholicism.

We all know that the first slaves arrived on the island from Africa and that these slaves were automatically converted to Catholicism upon their arrival. Rapidly the slaves saw the similarity between Catholic saints and their gods. It was therefore through the temple-houses that the whole process of religious syncretism began, which is still continuing today.

The origin of the religion of the Regla de Osha y Ifa better known as Santeria has its roots in Nigeria and West Africa. The Cuban practice of Santeria is different from what it is in the rest of the world like Nigeria, Haiti or Brazil.

What is the letter of the year ? It is the most important religious event in Cuba. It is carried out by “babalawos“, the name given to priests, both in Cuba and in Nigeria.

The Letter of the Year” is eagerly awaited by Cubans who want to know the predictions for the coming year. Many Cubans follow the sacrifices prescribed in the predictions, whether they are believers or not.

Internationally recognized Cuban ethnologist Natalia Bolívar defines it like:

The Letter of the Year is a prediction, generally very accurate, which can be read through the Oddun, the letter that comes out. There are sayings, prayers, and you know who rules the year, what will happen, what disease will be strong that year, what earthquake and what problems will there be in the world, and it offers recommendations … “

Letter of the Year Ceremony
Letter of the Year Ceremony

The Letter of the Year and the ceremony that gathers the priests always arouse great interest from those who come to the island just for the occasion. Many take advantage of this event when they want to know, either for curiosity or by religious vocation, about their personal, family or social future.

In the case of the Letter of the Year, it comes from the consultation of the Oracle of Ifa, a great ceremony with the different religious branches existing in Cuba comes together and the predictions are made by the babalawo.

It is the Yoruba Cultural Society of Cuba and the Cuban Council of Elder Priests of Ifá who are witnesses and write the Letter of the Year.

All Cubans, in one way or another, know about this religion.

An old Cuban song says that:

“Some say that they do not believe in anything and at sunrise they will consult …”

Letter of the Year 2020


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