The Altar of My Soul
The Living Traditions of Santeria
By Marta Moreno Vega
(One World/Ballantine, Paperback, 9780345421555, 304pp.)
Publication Date: August 28, 2001
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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.
"A graceful tribute to a timeless religion, a testament to the transformative power of discovering your own spiritual side."
--New York Daily Challenge (Brooklyn)
"Highly recommended . . . Vega elegantly describes the rituals, meaning, and continuing relevance of Santeria, weaving her story into 12 chapters, each devoted to a different deity. Vega's account is rich with patokis ("mythic stories") and the lessons they teach for daily living."
"Engaging, scholarly, and accessible, this is an excellent book."
"Vega makes an excellent, informed spokesperson on Santeria, and her accessible book will help explain Santeria beliefs and practices to a wide audience."
"More than a compelling study of one of the world's most fascinating religions, this inspiring account maps one woman's profound journey from emptiness to overwhelming peace and joy."
--Carib News (New York)
Selected by the Quality Paperback Book Club and the One Spirit Book Club