Santeria : Ashé
Ashé is one of the most used terms of Santeria. However, most of us, when we begin to learn the concepts and their meanings while taking our first steps in religion, we receive the brief explanation that the Ashé is a blessing or in some case a vital power or a powder that is given yb our Santero/a o Babalawo.
The term Ashé is much broader and, therefore, much more interesting than it seems. It’s correct understanding speaks about the belief system that constitutes the symbolic and ritual construction of the Santería.
Before explaining the term, I remind you of some fundamental aspects of the belief system of the African and Afro-Hispanic cults:
To fully understand Afro-Hispanic cults, it is important to understand that we have an animist vision of the world. Animism is a word that means that, in the world everything, nature, including stones, plants, rivers, seas, etc., are inhabited by spiritual energies. All religions in the world have vestiges of animism in their belief system, for example: Catholics believe in a spiritual being who can live in a consecrated ostia, Judaism speaks of the ark of the covenant which was a a receptacle in which the spirit of his God dwelt and, in the sacred city of Mecca, is a black rock stoned by the believers of Islam, which is the physical representation of Shaitan’s spirit.
Animism, in the Santería, is very easy to see when one sees how a practitioner asks permission to the mountain to take a plant and leaves a payment in coins. Or again, when cocoa butter smeared a sacred stone that is part of the secret that hides in the tureen of some Orisha. But do not make the mistake to think that Santeríe means only to worship mountains or pebbles.
For Santería, seeing the world in this way also implies that man’s relationship with nature is not based on a utilitarian type of relationship, as a Catholic who believes that the world and all the resources available to it are at his disposal.
In this document, we explain that the Santero is convinced that, since there are spiritual entities that animate everything in nature, every thing merit consideration and respect.
Animism connects the Santero with nature and its functioning in a way very different from that of other religions, because the individual does not possess nature, but he becomes image, receptacle and element. it also implies that when the Santero makes a prayer or an offering, it is not to please a God, but to find his place in the order in which he is immersed as an individual.
Animism is therefore a means of spiritualizing all that exists in nature and of giving it sensible properties. Hence the belief in the soul, because if all that is in nature is inhabited by spiritual beings, men who are part of nature also share this fact.
In the case of Yoruba’s, it should be noted that they identify persons with this vital energy. For example: at the time of the splendor of the Yoruba peoples, it was customary to make a bronze replica of the dead king’s head and a wooden body. The body was burned, but the head was preserved, symbol of the immortality of this vital force.
So life and death are the presence or the absence of the same force that is reflected in the vital points of the human body and not only that, but this same force, as we said before, can spread everywhere but in different quantities. For example. A tree has much more life force than a woodpecker, and a lion will have more life force than a field rat, and an Orisha will have more than one person.
The vital force, as you have already understood, is the Ashe, which is contained in each of the elements of the universe is variable and does not always correspond to the size of the objects it inhabits. Therefore, it may be that the Ashe of an individual actually has more of that life force than an immense stone.
The Ashe has another property that influences the way of practicing religion. This has to do with the fact that it is an energy a force that is accessible to everyone.
I do not know if you have noticed that Afro-Hispanic practices such as Santería or even Palo Monte are practices, have no notion of good and evil in moral terms.
The concept of good and bad in Santería and other Afro-Hispanic cults has two aspects: that which benefits or harms the community and the attachment to religious worship.
When your Babalawo entrusts you with the Ashe of Orula it is to allow you to realize works to find your place in the world and to feel part of the universe which surrounds us.