Santeria priests see bad omens in coming year
Santería priests warn of more disease, broken accords and corruption
BY ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
HAVANA - Priests of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería called on islanders Monday to be wary of diseases, broken agreements and corruption as they issued their much-anticipated predictions for the New Year.
Although the annual ''Letter of the Year'' is vague enough to be interpreted in a variety of ways, Cubans anxiously look forward to it each January.
Several competing groups of Santería priests, or babalaos, gather every New Year's Eve for religious ceremonies that include chanting and animal sacrifices. Predictions are announced in the first days of the New Year.
Santería is a mix of spiritual traditions carried here by African slaves and of Roman Catholicism brought by Spaniards. The faith is practiced throughout Cuba; even many members of the Communist Party follow its rituals and look forward to the predictions each year.
The ''10 de Octubre'' group of nearly 900 priests, named for the Havana municipality where it is based, issued the warning about disease, ruptured accords and increased corruption.
The group said the Santería orishas, or gods, ruling 2006 will be Obatala, god of wisdom and justice represented in the Roman Catholic faith as Our Lady of Mercy, and Ochun, the goddess of maternity and newborns, whose representation is Cuba's patron saint, the Virgin of Charity.
The priests urged Cubans to watch out for cerebrovascular problems, stomach disorders, hormonal ailments and unknown diseases.
Society as a whole can expect an increase in crime, particularly corruption; broken agreements, including international accords; and a risk of drought and other natural disasters.
A different Santería group, the Yoruba Association, which is more closely allied with Cuba's communist government, had similar predictions with some variations and said the orishas ruling 2006 would be Oggun, associated with St. Peter in Roman Catholicism, and the Virgin of Charity.
The Yoruba group called for Cubans to pay attention to their health, especially cardiovascular ailments and mental problems.
It warned against violence and alcohol and drug abuse, calling for the exercise of intelligence, humility and the guarding of secrets.
The Yoruba Association also called on Cubans not to underestimate the power of meteorological phenomenon.