Orisa: Yoruba Gods and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora

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Orisa: Yoruba Gods and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora. Edited by Toyin FaIoIa and Ann Geneva. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 2005. Pp. ix, 457. $34.95 paper.

Falola and Genova have put together an interesting set of essays for those interested in orisha traditions as found in transnational contexts. Taking the premise that traditional orisha worship is indeed becoming a world religion, most of the authors in the volume address questions of cultural flow, authenticity, and practice in shifting and shared geographical contexts. As the volume's apt title suggests, the pieces put together create a montage of analysis that both support and deflect the notion of cultural, ethnic, racial, and social purity for Yoruba religious scholars and practitioners in Africa and in its Diaspora. Of particular interest to writers in the volume like Michael Marcuzzi, Jo Anna Hunter, and Anthony Attah Agbali is the role that the Cuban manifestation of orisha worship, La Regla de Ocha or Santeria, has played in both preserving old and extending new meanings and praxis of orisha worship as a global practice. However, in an attempt to highlight the depth of Yoruba epistemology present in the performance of contemporary Diasporic religious philosophy and ritual, the authors in this volume overlook the necessary role that creolization and nationalism have played in making orisha worship a central part of racially mixed and ethnically layered identities in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States, especially.

This said, the knowledge and depth of the issues presented in the volume speak to central concerns apparent to any serious student of Yoruba traditional religion. For example, K. Noel Amherd's piece on Ifa divination texts, "Ifa Texts: Diversity and Discourse," is a sober reconsideration of the role that the performance of the Ese Ifa verse plays in its metadiscursive unpacking. In other words, it is the dialogic moment and the polyphonic aspect of a verse, in its telling, that should inform and guide readings of the verse. …