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The Altar of My Soul: The Living Traditions of Santeria [Paperback]

Marta Moreno Vega
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Feb 2002
Long cloaked in protective secrecy, demonized by Western society, and distorted by Hollywood, Santería is at last emerging from the shadows with an estimated 75 million orisha followers worldwide. In The Altar of My Soul, Marta Moreno Vega recounts the compelling true story of her journey from ignorance and skepticism to initiation as a Yoruba priestess in the Santería religion. This unforgettable spiritual memoir reveals the long-hidden roots and traditions of a centuries-old faith that originated on the shores of West Africa.

As an Afro-Puerto Rican child in the New York barrio, Marta paid little heed to the storefront botanicas full of spiritual paraphernalia or to the Catholic saints with foreign names: Yemayá, Ellegua, Shangó. As an adult, in search of a religion that would reflect her racial and cultural heritage, Marta was led to the Way of the Saints. She came to know Santería intimately through its prayers and rituals, drumming and dancing, trances and divination that spark sacred healing energy for family, spiritual growth, and service to others. Written by one who is a professor and a santera priestess, The Altar of My Soul lays before us an electrifying and inspiring faith–one passed down from generation to generation that vitalizes the sacred energy necessary to build a family, a community, and a strong, loving society.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc.; Reprint edition (1 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345421558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345421555
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.1 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,065,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
The orisha Olodumare, the Supreme God, originally lived in the lower part of heaven, overlooking endless stretches of water. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely!! 12 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great biography ! Very enlightened, learned a lot from this book . Great autor , Couldn't put it down .
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  34 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent memoir 25 Nov 2000
By Nina Foxx - Published on Amazon.com
Dr Vega gives an excellent and spellbinding account of her journey to Santeria. She dispels the myth that African based religions are withcraft or "paganist", forcing the reader to re-examine ideas of blindly accepting western religious practices without asking some serious questions.A must read for any student of religion and/or religious history.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glance into the world of the Santero 29 May 2002
By JB - Published on Amazon.com
This is a fine book. My only criticism is that I could use more detailed discussion of the rites and practices of Santeria, and less on personal family interaction, history and issues.
Santeria is clearly a very beautiful religion, and in my opinion quite scientific. Dr. Vega's work is yet another step in helping to dispel the vilification and demonization of a religion that has its roots in Ifa, one of the oldest religions known to Africans.
Unfortunately, much detail is left out of this book - probably too much, making the author somewhat conspiratorial in maintaining the secrecy that surrounds the religion, hence the perpetration of negative stereotypes by outsiders who just do not understand or know sufficient about the religion. While providing a glimpse into the world of the Santero, the book stops short of providing the would-be new practitioner of more detailed information necessary in making the decision to follow the path.
One of the more important points extolled by this book is that there are many paths toward spiritual enlightenment and Santeria is just one of them. There is no criticism of the other paths, but for those who choose Santeria, it's a wonderful connection to the Divine. An old and loved Cuban Santero, Ma Mina, is quoted in the book as making the following reference to her Chinese husband. "The divinities of the Chinese community are very similar to the orishas. People like to argue about the differences between the orishas, the catholic saints, and the Chinese divinities. For me they are different roads to the same destination." WELL SAID MA MINA.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Book! 15 Dec 2004
By Z. Holly - Published on Amazon.com
I am so happy to not only have read this book, but also to own it! I could personally relate to Dr. Vega's experiences as Santeria has been "hidden" in my family for quite some time now. I enjoy this book so much that I have purchased it for my extended family and friends. It has helped them to understand me and my way of life.

This book was very positive, and was meant to be a personal narrative on Dr. Vega's journey through La Regla de Ocha. So anyone who is looking for a book on ebbos or trabajos, etc., well, you are going to have to keep looking-this book ain't it!

This book touched my soul, and I love re-reading it whenever the mood hits me. Dr. Vega also personally e-mailed me concerning a small issue I had with a santero, and she was able to advise me on how to handle the situation. I was deeply touched that she was able to help me despite her busy schedule. As she is a child of Obatala, her advice was wise and practical and helpful. I am grateful to her for her advice and her beautiful words in her book. I can only hope that she will one day write another wonderful book about our religion. As an omo-Oshun, I am extremely happy with this book. Modupe Dr. Vega! Alafia.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Autobiographical account 27 Oct 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Dr. Vega's book is a rhapsodous account of her spiritual trek. As someone who is in the process of undergoing initiatings into the faith, it is enlightening to read an account of what it was like for another. A great text! From an omo-Chango to a daughter of Ayaguna, I applaud work! Bendicion, Dr. Vega
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Gem 8 Nov 2012
By charm13 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For starters, there aren't enough books out there on Santeria...at least not ones told from the point of view of a practitioner and with such in-depth information on certain rituals. This is real deal, and it is a powerful book if you allow yourself to be open-minded. Not everyone will get it or relate to it on any level but for those of us with a certain background (or those who are truly open to a different way of approaching spirituality), this book is a true gem. The writer is an amazing woman full of knowledge and wisdom. Highly recommend this book!
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