shells.jpg - 2800 Bytes Historical Museum of Southern Florida Orisha Herramientas

At the Crossroads
Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami


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Among an orisha’s paraphernalia are the metal or wooden implements known as herramientas (tools). As implied by the term “herramientas,” these objects “empower” an orisha. Miami’s Orisha community is served by several master toolmakers, including Antonio Salas and Juan Gonzalez.

Many aspects of Afro-Cuban herramientas have counterparts in Yorubaland, such as Shango’s oshe (a double-headed axe) and the ashabas (charm chains used by various orishas) that are similar to the shabas employed by Yoruba hunters and hunting deities. At the same time, various Western aesthetic elements have been adopted by Orisha toolmakers in Cuba and the United States. Metal crowns, reminiscent of those worn by European imperial monarchs, replaced the more traditional cone-shaped beaded crowns known among the Yoruba today. Symbols were also derived from Cuban plantation society. For example, Orishaokó, the god of agriculture, is represented by an ox-drawn plow, with a parasol in its rear section to protect the farmer from the insolence of the Caribbean sun.

There are two basic types of herramientas: those used for the consecration of an orisha and those employed as regalia by the orisha or by worshipers. The material used to make the implements is determined in accordance with strict religious axioms, in that each orisha has particular preferences. For example, Obatalá (the god of creation and purity) dresses in immaculate white garments. He prefers white metals: silver, stainless steel, and aluminum. Oshún (the goddess of love and sensuality) has a preference for brass. Ogún (the god of iron and war) will only accept iron implements.

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More herramientas




Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami
The Afro-Cuban Orisha Religion | Orisha Worship in Miami
Orisha Artists | Beadwork | Paños | Garments | Thrones
Herramientas | Music | Ifá Paraphernalia
The Orisha Tradition in Popular Arts
Pantheon of Orishas

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