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Power of the Orishas : Santeria, an Ancient Religion From Nigeria, Is Making Its Presence Felt in Los Angeles

February 07, 1988|RICK MITCHELL | Rick Mitchell is a writer for the Bakersfield Californian.

"There is something going on in the religion, but it can only go on so long before it catches up to them. It doesn't matter how many orishas you have around you, you can't go above God's command. In other religions, you are forgiven. In this religion, you are punished. I'm afraid of what would happen if I messed up. A mistake can kill you."

"Let me show you something," Flores says softly. He opens a leather pouch and pulls out a polished, hollowed goat's horn with a beaded cowrie shell lodged in it. "As long as I have this, I'm protected. This place could burn down and you and I would walk out of here without a scratch.

"But if I start messing up, that protection gradually will be withdrawn. If someone tries to mess with me, I don't have to cast spells and stuff like that. I just have to stand in front of my \o7 orishas \f7 and tell them. If I'm innocent, somebody's gonna get it. But if I'm guilty, I'm gonna get it."

With that, he sprinkles a few drops of his drink on the floor for the ancestors.

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