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KRISTINA WIRTZ Western Michigan University

How diasporic religious communities remember:

Learning to speak the tongue of the oricha in Cuban Santera
In this article, I probe the relationship between historical consciousness and cultural transmission. In contrast to scholars focus on language loss in African-language ritual registers in the Americas, I examine how Cuban Santeras ritual register, called Lucum, is actively regimented through the ways in which Santeras practitioners learn, use, and interpret it. I discuss two specic interpretive strategies that santeros use: The etymological approach is a focus on studying and recovering xed original Yoruba meanings, whereas the divining-meaning approach is a more charismatic, contextual, and performance-based focus on revealing deep and hidden meanings in Lucum texts. [ritual language, historical consciousness, language loss, cultural change, interpretive strategies, situated learning, African diaspora]

n this article, I examine how particular situated practices of textual interpretation shape, and are reexively shaped by, particular historical subjectivities. I do so by bringing into productive tension work on historical consciousness with that on learning as situated practice, examining both subjects through the lens of recent approaches in linguistic anthropology to linguistic and cultural change. My goal is to sharpen the ways in which scholars track continuity and change, acknowledging that the recognition (or misrecognition) of either is an ideologically fraught exercise, especially in the charged context of a diaspora. My ethnographic data concern ritual language in Cuban Santera, a striking (but not unique) case of cultural continuity amid transformation in one corner of the African diaspora. I argue that locally situated language practices generate two types of historical process at the nexus of which tradition is produced even as it is transformed. One historical process is the circulation of specic cultural formsfor example, word tokens of a register of ritual speechvia mechanisms of replication (Urban 1996). The other related historical process is the emergence of particular forms of historical consciousness. Both processes are evident in the interpretive strategies Santera practitioners (santeros) ap ply to learn and make sense of Lucum, a ritual register marked by emblem atically (if not empirically) African words.1 I distinguish between what I call the etymological approach and the divining-meaning approach taken by santeros. The etymological approach involves the attempted recovery of Lucums original Yoruba meanings through linguistic study, whereas the divining-meaning approach has a more performance-based and charismatic focus on the revelation of hidden or deep meanings. The events in which individuals engage in these strategies of learning and practice, I argue, are the key sites in which the ritual registers meanings are negotiated and, thus, are the sites in which cultural replication takes place (Agha 2003; Wenger 1998). These events also actively create a historical consciousness of durable but decaying tradition (Tomlinson 2004a, n.d.). Whereas the etymological approach relies more on literacy practices, the divining-meaning

AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 108126, ISSN 0094-0496, online ISSN 1548-1425. C 2007 by the American Anthropological Association. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Presss Rights and Permissions website, DOI: 10.1525/ae.2007.34.1.108.

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approach applies ritual interpretation practices. In the next section, I dene historical consciousness as a kind of metaculture, following the work of Greg Urban (2001), and lay the groundwork for mapping its circulation in situated practices of textual interpretation.

Historical subjectivities in practice

Historical consciousness consists of temporally inected stances, or what Hans-Georg Gadamer (1987) calls interpretations of cultural forms. Historical consciousness, then, is metacultural, following Urbans (2001) denition: It consists of cultural forms or practices that reect on or interpret other cultural forms and practices. Historical consciousness is not necessarily or solely articulated as a narrative. Rather, it may be embedded in linguistic and visual metaphors (Comaroff and Comaroff 1987), ritual practices that enact repressed collective memories that are not explicitly discussed (Shaw 2002), embodied historical gures of spirit possession (Cole 1998; Lambek 1998; Sharp 1993; Stoller 1995), and language ideologies that shape speech and literacy practices, including the production of written histories (Blommaert 2004; Inoue 2004; Robbins 2001). Common to all of these cases is an approach using locally situated practice as insight into historical processes such as the emergence and transformation of durable subjectivities (Holland and Lave 2001:45, 8, following Bourdieu 1977). A tenet of the situated-practice approach, as Dorothy Holland and Jean Lave note, is that both the continuity and the transformation of social life are ongoing, uncertain projects (2001:4), which, as they point out, echoes Bakhtinian analyses of the dialogical and emergent character of discourse (see also Mannheim and Tedlock 1995). The self, in Bakhtinian terms, is continually reconstituted through relations to and boundaries with others, which are identiable in real-time interactions as stances (Goffman 1981; Wortham 2001). Historical subjectivities, then, emerge through consistent stances taken toward different voices, including those inected as more or less traditional, historic, or authoritative. As Jane Hill (1985, 1995) and, more recently, Asif Agha (2005) point out, participants in speech events adopt stances toward entire registers and codes and not only individual or individualized types of voices. Indeed, the very tangibility and salience of any particular register or code are themselves products of such alignments (Agha 2005; Silverstein 1998). In the case examined here, I am interested in how religious practitioners and scholars establish consistent stances toward Santeras ritual register that construe it as both a potent divine language and a historical relic, a product of faulty collective memory. The dynamic tension between individual and collective historical subjectivities is evident in the blurred categories of memory and history, as Jan Blommaert (2004)

explores in the problematic voicing of a postcolonial subjects grassroots historiography. Although memory has typically been more closely associated with learning as something localized in individuals, recent work on situated knowledge complicates this association because cognition is increasingly viewed as socially situated and learning strategies, in any case, are saturated by history (Barton and Hamilton 2000; Gee 2000; Lave and Wenger 1991; Wertsch 1998). There are also dynamics to explore between cultural replication processes and consciousness of those processes, as the literature on invented tradition attests (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1992). Evidence of replication and, thus, cultural continuity is distinct from peoples existential sense of continuity (or rupture; Sutton 2004; Urban 2001), but the two are easily entangled because the framing of certain cultural forms as continuous or altered can happen implicitly, through metapragmatic framing or through explicit metapragmatic discourse. Whereas metapragmatic frames like those generated by the interpretive strategies I discuss below can operate without rising into conscious awareness, metapragmatic discourses represent explicit and conscious reections on ways of speaking (Silverstein 1993). There can, thus, be a disjuncture between the two, as illustrated by the scholarly metadiscourses that represent Santeras ritual register (Lucum) as an obsolescent form of an African lan guage (Yoruba) and the contradictory evidence of Lucums ongoing active regimentation via practitioners interpretive practices.

Background on fieldwork, Santera, and Lucum

Santera, often called La Regla de Ocha, is a widespread popular religion in Cuba whose practitioners worship a pantheon of Yoruba deities known as the oricha. The best estimates suggest that perhaps eight percent of Cubans have been initiated as santeros (priests), although a much greater percentage of the population participate in ceremonies or seek consultations with initiated santeros (Arguelles Mederos and Hodge Limonta 1991; Centro de Investigaciones Psicol gicas y Sociol gicas 1998; Millet et al. 1997; o o Wirtz 2003:3841). Those who seek deeper involvement in the religion choose a godparent to guide their spiritual progress. Although Santera is popularly conceived to be Afro-Cuban because of its historical roots among enslaved Africans, its contemporary adherents span class, racial, and regional distinctions in Cuba. Some santeros grow up in religious families and neighborhoods and, thus, are exposed to religious practices, including Lucum speech, from a young age, whereas others turn to the religion as adults and must more purposefully seek out religious knowledge if they wish to advance in the religion, as santeros say. They do so by studying published sources and libretas (private religious notebooks), often under the tutelage of godparents, and by


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participating in rituals to observe their religious elders and learn by doing.2 Their relationship to their godparents is, thus, similar to an apprenticeship (Herzfeld 2004; Lave and Wenger 1991). I conducted ethnographic research among religious practitioners in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba during two short visits in 1998, a nine-month stint in 1999 2000, and a month in 2002. I attended ceremonies, conducted interviews, elicited information on Lucum, received formal instruction and less formal tutoring, and engaged in the long-term, often low-key hanging around religious practitioners, listening, and chatting that constitute so much of participant-observation. Wherever possible, I recorded ceremonies and other interactions on audio- or videotape. Although I made every effort to meet a wide range of religious practitioners and observe as many ceremonies as possible, I worked especially closely with three santeros who are also scholars and folklorists. In addition to the extensive tutoring and mentoring I received from them, and the countless introductions they provided, these three consultants also reviewed and sometimes helped me transcribe my audio and video recordings. In many ways, then, my research positioned me much like an adult neophyte learning the religion by participating and studying under a godparent, although I did not undergo initiation. I supplemented eld research with linguistic and textual analyses of published and unpublished texts and eld recordings of Santeras ritual register, Lucum. Santeros describe Lucum as a divine language, call ing it la lengua de los orichas (the tongue of the oricha) to highlight its tremendous importance in maintaining ritual channels of communication with the deities and spirits. Lucum texts, such as songs and invocations, are widely known among santeros, who can expertly perform them in rituals, even when they profess not to understand a texts referential content. Indeed, only a few santeros feel able to offer translations or detailed explanations of even a few Lucum texts, even though most santeros control a lexicon of a few dozen to hundreds of Lucum words and phrases. Santeros, thus, display a bifurcated and very partial linguistic competence in Lucum, in which they control a set of in dividual Lucum words and phrases that have denotational (semantic) meaning and a set of phrases and longer texts that have primarily pragmatic and connotative meanings and often cannot even be segmented into individual words and translated. This state of affairs came about through particular modes of language learning and religious socialization incorporating both literacy practices and more embodied learning through participation in ritual performances. Below, I discuss santeros strategies for remembering and making sense of what is to them largely a xenoglossic (foreign-language) registerstrategies closely linked to their understandings of the registers ritual efcacy and its historicity.3

Inscribing African continuities in Lucum

As substantial work in New Literacy Studies attests, literate and oral textuality practices have considerable overlap, and both contribute, albeit in potentially distinct ways, to processes of entextualization, or the xing of texts (Barton and Hamilton 2000; Basso 1974; Besnier 1995; Silverstein and Urban 1996). Indeed, I argue that literacy-based learning modalities and performance-based oral modalities not only produce differing kinds of competence in the register but also constitute the register in distinct ways because they provide different metapragmatic frames, a clear case of how individual learning links to cultural transmission (Barton et al. 2000; Herzfeld 2004; Holland and Lave 2001; Urban 1996; Wenger 1998). In this spirit, I repeat Niko Besniers warning that transcribing spoken discourse is an analytic act (1995:xiii; see also Schieffelin and Doucet 1994). As Bambi B. Schieffelin and Rachelle Charlier Doucet explore for written Haitian Creole, even in the choice of orthography, written representations of Lucum inscribe particular modes of histori cal consciousness onto the sounds of Lucum and also con tribute a certain sense of xity to their form. Consider the following juxtaposition of two versions of ostensibly the same song, one from Cuba and one from Nigeria: Aumba awa or Aumba awa or Awa osun Awa oma Leri oma leyao Bobo ara onu kawe (song from Santera ituto [funeral] ceremony) ` ` ` A n wa a, awa o r ` ` ` A n wa a, awa o r ` ` ` Awa o sun ` ` Awa o wo ` ` Awa o mo il o ya o e (Yoruba funeral dirge)

To juxtapose the two is to illustrate both the depths and limits of striking linguistic and cultural continuities across the Black Atlantic. The Cuban text on the left appears to be a New World derivative of the Yoruba source text on the right. The Cuban text appears as written by Spanish-speaking santeros, whereas the Yoruba text appears in standard Yoruba orthography.4 The orthographical differences, thus, obscure some of the parallels. Most santeros would not be able to gloss the semantic meaning of the Cuban text in more than a very general way. The Yoruba text, however, is perfectly intelligible to Yoruba speakers and, thus, suggests meanings that could be recovered for the Lucum text through back transla tion, by which I mean deriving a possible Yoruba original by looking for Yoruba cognates of each Lucum word or phrase:
` A n wa We (PROG) search We are searching for him/her ` ` Awa o r We (NEG) see We did not nd a (3rd-PERSON)


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` ` Awa o We (NEG) We did not sleep ` ` Awa o We (NEG) We did not slumber

` sun sleep wo slumber

` ` Awa o mo il e o ya o We (NEG) know house 3rd-P branch (SOFTENER) We did not know what house she/he has branched into

To set up such a juxtaposition is, at rst glance, to illustrate a special case of language attrition, in which non-Yoruba speakers in Cuba have preserved increasingly fragmented and unintelligible texts passed on by enslaved forebearers because of Yorubas continuing importance as the liturgical language of Santera. Cuban Lucum, thus, may appear vestigialcarefully preserved but a relic, nonetheless, and one perhaps in need of revitalization by going back to the source language, as santeros themselves have been doing (e.g., Daz Fabelo 1960; Mason 1992; Pedroso 1995). The research on Lucum and similar African-language ritual registers in the Americas has tended to focus on comparing them to African source languages to document language loss and preservation, generally as part of efforts to trace African inuences on Caribbean languages and cultures.5 Both scholars and practitioners, then, convey a particular historical consciousness of loss and a desire for recovery by focusing on Yorubas persistence in Lucum. This construc tion of Lucum as a relic of Yoruba belies the ways in which Lucum continues to be actively regimented as a ritual reg ister through santeros interpretive strategies. Because this mode of historical consciousness permeates scholars etic analyses of Lucum and is implicit even in simple render ings and juxtapositions of Lucum texts like my song exam ple above, let me clearly lay out the ways in which it can distract scholars from attending to historical processes of replication that are also evident in how santeros learn, use, and interpret Lucum. The standard account featured in most publications on Santera of how fragments of Yoruba culture, such as the songs, have survived in the African diaspora is that Yoruba orisha worship was reconstituted and adapted to new circumstances by enslaved and free Africans in particular niches of New World society, namely, in colonial-era religious cabildos, or cofraternities of Cuba and Brazil.6 These Yoruba practices spread among the general Cuban population and interacted with other religious traditions, such as Catholicism, Spiritism, and CongoBantu practices (called Palo Monte in Cuba).7 The modern religion called Santera seems to have emerged out of these acculturative (Herskovits 1937; Herskovits et al. 1936) or transculturative (Ortiz 1970) processes around the turn of the 20th century (Brandon 1993; Brown 2003; Castellanos and Castellanos 1988; Wirtz 2004). Although African vernaculars disappeared in Cuba under the

dominance of Spanish, practitioners of Santera preserved some knowledge of Lucum for religious purposes, just as they also preserved other religiously important African knowledge, including rituals and myths.8 I suggest that this standard account of Santeras emer gence in Cuba falls short in two important ways. First, its sometimes explicit and sometimes tacit emphasis on the persistence, loss, and recombination of Africanisms explains neither why nor how Lucum persisted as it became partial, fragmented, and unintelligible to so many santeros. Second, by undertheorizing the concepts of cultural change and continuity, the standard account fails to adequately link the conditions in which the ritual register emerged in its current form to the active and agentive processes through which santeros not only preserve Lucum but also imbue Lucum utterances with rich meaning. To merely repeat the claim that Lucums religious importance accounts for its preservation is to miss the signicance of the question I pose, which might be restated to suggest its broad relevance to issues of cultural change and persistence. I ask what kinds of historical processes and cultural practices have ensured the replication of Lucum across time and space and shaped its current form? To address this question, I rst critically examine the historical subjectivities religious practitioners and scholars bring to bear on Lucum. I then revisit recent theory exploring forms of cultural motion (Agha 2003; Silverstein and Urban 1996; Urban 2001) to discuss Lucums historical trajectory.

Lucum as tongue of the oricha and echo of the past

In marked contrast to Lucums characterization as a divine language, it is also seen in wider Cuban society, and by santeros themselves, as continuous with African slaves stigmatized ways of speaking. Throughout the colonial era, the somewhat perjorative label bozal was applied to slaves who were African born and to their imperfectly acquired Spanish (Castellanos 1990). Even today, when the orichas speak during spirit possession, they incorporate markers of both Lucum and heavily exaggerated bozal Spanish, evidenced in errors of grammar and pronunciation, which may minimize the intertextual gap between past and present original speakers of Lucum (i.e., ancestor spirits and orichas) by highlighting their old-fashioned African bozal voices (cf. Briggs and Bauman 1992; for examples, see Wirtz 2003:128 143, 285291).9 Lucum, thus, evokes a poignant combina tion of the presumably timeless divine plane and the bitter history of the ancestors who brought Yoruba traditions to Cuba. In part because the oricha embody ideal uency in Lucum, santeros regard Lucum as perfectly intelligible to anyone with sufcient knowledge. At the same time, they recognize that their own linguistic knowledge is imperfect


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because much has been lost through the generations. Some seek to recover lost meanings through etymological analysis, not unlike the work of linguists at the intersection of historical linguistics and creole studies who study African-language ritual jargons in the Americas.10 In his article on Ewe and Yoruba inuences in songs of Brazilian Candombl , William e W. Megenney, for example, poses the problem of identifying the African sources for words contained in songs and expressions (1992:459). Using dictionaries and other materials on Yoruba, Ewe-Fon, Twi, and Igbo, he analyzes a corpus of Bahian songs that practitioners of Candombl suppose to e be in Ewe but that they cannot gloss. He encounters uncertain segmentations because of the loss of phonological and morphosyntactic information, just as one sees in Lucum song texts, and ultimately does not attempt to combine the isolated words he identies to suggest translations of the songs. Armin Schwegler is more successful in his etymological study of the liturgical register of Palo Monte, concluding that the high proportion of recognizably Kikongo words indicates direct transmission and clear preservation (1998:140) of Kikongo even though Cuban Palo Monte practitioners, like santeros, do not know the semantic content of most texts (Schwegler 1998:139140). His more comprehensive study of Lumbalu funeral chants in El Palenque de San Basilio, Colombia, although still focusing on reconstructing Kikongo etymology, additionally incorporates ethnographic information about how members of the community make sense of and use this ritual genre, which is more in line with the situated-practice approach advocated here (Schwegler 1996). These sorts of etymological inquiry, fraught as they are with ambiguities for linguists and religious practitioners alike, take an implicit position on questions about the nature and degree of New World Africanisms. First, their primary focus is on reconstructing correspondences with an African legacy, which they seek out by tracing what Melville Herskovits (1937, 1945) famously called survivals (see also Apter 1991, 2002; Yelvington 2001). Herskovits looked for African survivals in concrete practices and explicit beliefs, such as the iconography of deities. Current etymological approaches to diasporic religious registers likewise tend to focus exclusively on surface lexical and denotational similarities, without considering other levels of linguistic or pragmatic parallels, even though Sidney Mintz and Richard Price (1992:56) long ago proposed that deeper, unconscious cultural grammars would be a more fruitful and accurate ground for comparison. Herskovits has been thoroughly critiqued over the years on other issues, including his overreliance on a syncretic model of psychological correspondences between (overly generalized) African and European practices to explain what persisted (Apter 1991; Mintz and Price 1976) and his insufcient attention to dynamics of power and agency at work in religious syncretism

(Droogers 1989; Shaw and Stewart 1994). In his update of Herskovitss line of questioning, Andrew Apter (1991, 2002) has proposed continuities in deep hermeneutics of power and resistance that have persisted in New World practices. Stephan Palmi (2002:25) and David H. Brown (2003:514), e however, argue that altogether too much emphasis is placed on African origins, instead of investigating how Cuban history, practitioners agency, and contemporary context shape Afro-Cuban religion. My analysis coincides with theirs in focusing on historical processes of cultural replication within Cuba. A second implicit position etymological studies take in identifying continuities with Africa concerns the question of what has persisted and what has been lost. Simply put, studies of diasporic Afro-American languages tend to portray linguistic change in terms of loss, whereas studies of other aspects of diasporic religious practices tend to conceptualize cultural change in terms of creative adaptations. Santeros and scholars alike explain how Santera differs from Yoruba orisha cults by emphasizing how Africans responded to the difcult conditions colonial Cuba presented. For example, the syncretization of Yoruba orisha with Catholic saints is explained as a clever disguise or, more fashionably, a counterhegemonic signication on dominant European sources of power (Apter 1991; Brandon 1993:7378, 9799; Lefever 1996; Piedra 1997). Likewise, changes in initiation rituals and ritual lineages reect a creative response to slaverys destruction of African kinship and lineage structures (Brandon 1993:135136; Brown 2003), and African herbal lore was necessarily adapted to Caribbean ecologies (Cabrera 1984; LaGuerre 1987). In contrast, the differences between Lucum and Yoruba are usually discussed in terms of language loss and the failure of collective memory. Santeros themselves have come to see Lucum, at least as the living speak it, as a decayed form of Yoruba, opening the door to its reconstruction and even revitalization via back translation of the sort I illustrated above. In the case of Lucum, there has, in fact, been considerable loss of syntactic, phonological, and semantic information, rendering songs like the funeral dirge above only partially and problematically intelligible.11 I suggest, however, that focusing only on loss blinds one to dynamics through which santeros interpretive practices maintain and actively shape an esoteric, semantically impoverished, but ritually efcacious register. Instead of framing Lucum as the end stage of language loss that has merely been delayed by religious usage, what might be revealed by reframing it as a special case of successful diasporic cultural persistence or even innovation?

Cultural motion in the diaspora

I suggested above that scholarly treatments of ritual registers like Lucum tend to rather unreectively cast them into a


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paradigm of language loss, in which modern religious practitioners half remember a relic or shadow of the real African language. I, instead, ask how the register is maintained and why it takes the form it does. What mechanisms of cultural circulation have acted to perpetuate it? Urban (2001) describes replication as one specic process of cultural motion in which some bit of learned behaviora song lyric, for exampletravels between people in tangible, material form, such as person A singing the song in the presence of person B. He argues that something intangiblean abstract form or mold for the production of something material (Urban 2001:3)is transmitted through the vehicle of the tangible form, like Ferdinand Saussures (1996:6667) description of the signier carrying the signied.12 Cultural replication becomes evident when person B, in turn, puts the song into tangible form again, perhaps by singing it or by writing it down.13 Urban (2001:23) emphasizes that the trail of tangible manifestations left by each new copy of the song is merely the footprint of the intangible idea that is actually moving. Agha (2003:1619) takes this essentially dyadic model of microcultural motion a step further, describing how subsequent interactions (i.e., speech events) get linked together so that meanings can pass from A to B, then from B to C, in what he calls speech chains that ultimately convey meanings across historical time. In the case of Lucum songs, for exam ple, one might then ask what intangibles of form and meaning are being conveyed through what circuits of replication. The question of what, precisely, is replicated is closely linked to another question Urban and Agha pose: What impels the movement of any particular bit of culture? Urban mentions its intrinsic properties as one accelerative factorwhat Roman Jakobson (1960) called poetics in the case of speech: Some songs are catchy and have features sound- or wordplay, melodic hooks, rhyme schemes, or other parallelismthat make them easy to remember and replicate (Urban 2001:1520, 9899). Such features allow cultural forms to emerge from the background as recognizable types, a process Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs (1990; Briggs and Bauman 1992) call entextualization and closely tie to the production and recognition of genre. Ritual forms of culture tend to be highly entextualized and entextualizable, which makes them easy to replicate as entire chunks that may cue particular participant structures, spatial relations, or other aspects of context (Hanks 1996; Kuipers 1990). For example, Lucum songs have distinctive melodies and considerable repetition of lines, especially when sung antiphonally. Songs, as easily replicable bundles of distinctive characteristics, help re-create their ritual context anew with each performance because those characteristics evoke intertextual relations with previous performances (Briggs and Bauman 1992). Another accelerator of culture is what Urban (2001:45, 3738) calls metaculture, or cultural forms that reect on or interpret other cultural forms. In the case of Lucum rit

ual songs, any circulating discourse through which santeros convey the importance of the songs serves a metacultural function, promoting the continued circulation of the songs. Indeed, santeros frequently said things to me like, If there is something important in the religion, it is the songs that are sung to the oricha. These give praise. This is how one invokes the saint.14 With this theoretical model of cultural motion in mind, I now examine the conditions under which Lucum has been replicated in Cuba. I have already described two metacultural characterizations of Lucum, as a language spoken by slaves of Lucum origin and as a divine language through which santeros establish communications with the oricha. In comparison with the uent Lucum spoken by Lucum ancestors and deities, modern-day santeros recognize that their own knowledge of Lucum is partial. Presumably, at some historical turning point (or a series of them), their ritual ancestors began communicating religious knowledge less in Lucum and more in Spanish, which had become the vernacular. The next section traces out the consequences of this transition. Historical overview of Lucums emergence and spread The linguistic situation of plantation societies like Cuba between the 16th and late 19th centuries is a subject of considerable debate.15 What is undeniable is that African languages did not persist as vernaculars among Cuban-born descendants of enslaved Africans, who became Spanish speakers (Lipski 1998). Whether in one generation or several (and it probably varied with time, locale, and other conditions), a linguistic gap widened between Africans and those to whom they might have wished to transmit their knowledge.16 For Yoruba practices to become as widespread in Cuba as they did, native Lucum speakers had to transmit their reli gious knowledge to others whose mother tongue was either Spanish or perhaps another unrelated African language. It would have been important to convey the original forms of prayers, songs, and other ritually efcacious texts, perhaps even at the risk of losing subtleties that did not translate. To efciently explain how to properly use the songs and prayers in addition to other ritual practices, however, and to pass on the rich corpus of lore associated with divination, they would have had to resort to the Spanish vernacular (Chaudenson 2001:132; Ortiz L pez 1998). If one conceptuo alizes the speech chains across which religious information moved, in which addressees of a prior link in the speech chain then became transmitters to the next link, at some point the recipients of the information would, of necessity, have conveyed their stories and explanations in Spanish and had limited ability to translate the Lucum texts they knew. What resulted was a decoupling of semantic content from linguistic form: Religious knowledge would have been conveyed to a large extent in Spanish, whereas ritually important Lucum texts would have retained their efcacious, if


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increasingly unintelligible, Lucum form.17 To adapt Urbans phrase, Lucum songs have largely become xed texts val ued initially for their meanings, that over time came to assume value as physical things (2001:115) because of their spiritual signicance. This bifurcation of religious content from ritualized linguistic form is apparent in religious texts produced by and for santeros, such as Nicol s Angaricas (n.d.a, n.d.b) religious a manuals. On the one hand, Angarica provides a glossary of LucumSpanish terms, a list of Lucum proverbs with Span ish translations, and numerous Lucum prayers and songs that he does not gloss but whose proper use he explains (in Spanish). On the other hand, he recounts many patakines (sing. patak), or myths of the orichas, always in Spanish. He also explains divination methods and signs in Spanish. What Angarica did in his manuals, published during the 1950s, mirrors how santeros I worked with compartmentalized religious knowledge between ritualized Lucum forms and Spanish exegesis of legends and ritual procedures. Religiously signicant content and form circulate in separate but parallel circuits that reinforce not only santeros incomplete linguistic competence in Lucum but also their em phasis on precise replication of Lucum forms. Or, rather, Lucum circuits of replication are embedded in a matrix of Spanish discourse that contextualizes and provides a metacultural framework for interpreting Lucum word forms not as empty of semantic content but as pregnant with rich pragmatic associations and occult signicance. Linguistic overview of Lucum Not all santeros are comfortable using Lucum, and their knowledge of the register varies considerably, from experts or old-timers who know many songs and prayers and sprinkle their ceremonial discourse with Lucum words to others who have memorized perhaps a few words and can recite a few key invocations in Lucum. Competence in Lucum, then, differentiates practitioners by expertise and makes Lucum an indexical icon of occult religious knowledge. One as pect of santeros competence in Lucum that I noticed was its compartmentalization into two separate categories: isolated words and phrases for which santeros could readily provide glosses and memorized, formulaic songs and prayers that were rich with pragmatic meanings but semantically unintelligible. Most surprisingly, the vocabulary listseven entire glossariesthat santeros compiled generally did not seem to help in deciphering the longer texts, although santeros often believed that they would. My own analyses of songs, done in collaboration with Yoruba linguist Yiwola Awoyale, explain why. Lucum no longer contains Yoruba phonologi cal or morphosyntactic information. Cuban Spanish speakers pronounce Lucum using their vernacular phonology, resulting in many ambiguities, especially because of the loss

of Yorubas three tone phonemes. Because santeros learn phrases and longer texts rotely, these have become lexied, losing information about their internal morphosyntactic structure so that they often cannot readily be segmented and analyzed. For example, santeros learn the invocation moyuba as a single chunk, although it seems to be quite clearly derived from the Yoruba phrase mo jub` , I pay a homage. Even though santeros know that the phrase both describes and enacts giving homage, most have difculty analyzing it even to recognize the lexeme mo, I, which might be known to them as an individual word. Indeed, moyuba has been lexied to the extent that santeros regularly conjugate it as a regular Spanish ar verb meaning to pay homage: hay que moyubar al santo (it is necessary to pay homage to the saint) or cuando tu moyubas al santo (when you pay homage to the saint). In many cases, texts are not even segmentable, at least in any unambiguous way. For example, compare the rst lines from the funeral songs above: Lucum: Aumba awa or ` ` ` Yoruba: A n wa, a(wa) o r We (PROG) look, we (NEG) see We are seeking, we do not nd Santeros might recognize or to mean head. The more likely segmentation based on the Yoruba text, however, is not or (Yoruba head, a single lexeme with mid-high tone) but the negative particle o (low tone) plus the verb r (to see). My ` examples here rely on a clear Yoruba derivation, and many words and short phrases can similarly be recognized and back translated into Yoruba. Many other song and prayer texts, however, appear too garbled or variable to be readily segmented into a putative Yoruba original. For example, I have given the last line of the Lucum funeral song as Bobo ara onu kawe. The last two syllables, kawe, might derive from k a w (let us say) or k o w (that they say), so that the line translates as ` Gbogbo ara orun k a w/k o w All the denizens of heaven let us say/that they say In contrast, George Brandon (1993:79) gives the nal line of the same song and its translation as Ara orun The people of heaven ta iye sell memories

John Mason (1985:47) presents yet another variation as a back-translated Yoruba version of the song (excerpted here): A nb w o r a a We are meeting to seek to nd him A w on` a` a We search the road


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A w os` a` We search the left (secret places) A w on` l m` wa o a` a e We search the road, of arranged heaps, that swallows us a Iku l` wa y a d a e Death divides us and is quick to arrive. Most Lucum songs and other texts circulate with multiple variations of this sort. Moreover, santeros ritual usages of Lucum words often reinforce their polysemy. For example, I heard santeros use the Lucum question Kinche? as a sort of all-purpose rit ual question, meaning variously, Who are you? What do you want? and What does he, she, or it say? That is, word forms as persistent bits of culture can carry multiple levels of meanings, semantic and pragmatic, not all of which have been equally conserved. Even when semantic meanings have been lost, what Schwegler (1996:367, 1998:154 157) calls associative meanings often persist in surprising ways. Below I take up some of the connections between this variability in form and meaning and santeros interpretive strategies. Only a few Cuban santeros or babalawos (elite priests dedicated to If divination) have sufcient knowledge of a Lucum or opportunity to study Yoruba so as to be able to analyze Lucum texts in the way I have presented. In stead, most santeros learn Lucum words as functional and evocative labels for religiously important people, objects, events, and acts, and they memorize mostly unintelligible, longer Lucum phrases and texts for their ritually performa tive value, but they use Spanish for all other discourse in their religious life, including the matrix of discourse in which ritual songs are sung and Lucum words are uttered.18 In the next section, I examine how santeros gain and display linguistic competence in Lucum and how their situated practices of learning, using, and interpreting Lucum regiment Lucum as a living register.

on to songs and prayers. He again shared his extensive written notes with me, allowing me to copy down the texts while he sang or recited them for my microphone. He gave me detailed information about when and how the songs were used, what rhythms accompanied them, which orichas they directly addressed, and even how an expert singer might improvise to achieve different effects in ceremonies, but he could not tell me what the songs meant. Sometimes he could identify a recognizable word or point out a reference to a patak, but he did not know the detailed referential content for any song. Likewise, the other santero could do no more than describe contexts of use or dene a few isolated words in the prayers and songs he shared with me. As I interviewed and attended ceremonies with dozens of other santeros and babalawos, the same pattern persisted. As I began to attend to how santeros actually learned and used Lucum in their religious practice, I noticed two distinct but interconnected interpretive strategies, those I refer to as the etymological approach and the divining-meaning approach. The etymological approach My formal study of Lucum with santeros illustrated to me the degree to which santeros rely on written materials to learn and remember Lucum. For much of the 20th century, and perhaps longer, some santeros have kept libretas, or personal notebooks in which they record religious information, such as attributes of the orichas, ritual procedures, divination signs, and Lucum words, phrases, and longer texts (Martinez Fur 1979:211212). They may also keep records e of important personal details, such as results of divinations. Libretas are for private use, and many santeros regard some of the contents as religious secrets, but as I discovered, they may share at least parts of them with others, especially their children and godchildren. Sometimes they allow a godchild or someone else they are mentoring in the religion to copy information into his or her own libreta, and sometimes they bequeath libretas to others when they die. In other cases, although very knowledgeable and senior santeros, in particular, might jealously guard their own libretas and the extensive occult knowledge they represent, they may share their knowledge with their juniors in bits and pieces, for example, while doing ritual work, and those hearing the new song, legend, recipe, or explanation of a ritual procedure might, in turn, record the information in their own notebooks later. Argeliers Le n (1971) has called libretas a written oral trao dition and characterizes them as neither liturgical books nor reference works but as records of moments of oral transmission. Indeed, in a religion of muchos poquitos (many details), as santeros often say, libretas serve as mnemonic devices to ensure that ritual procedures can be precisely replicated. One highly regarded young ritual singer I interviewed explained how he began to learn his craft on the sly while still a teenager: He would attend ceremonies and listen closely

Interpretive strategies that regiment Lucum as a living practice

Learning to speak the tongue of the oricha During my eldwork in Santiago de Cuba, I found two willing Lucum instructors, both of them santeros and professional folklorists, who would patiently work with me for hours, in what became a familiar pattern among the santeros with whom I worked. Each santero shared his vocabulary list with me, giving a Spanish gloss for each word. One santero sometimes worked from memory and sometimes brought in materials such as a deceased santeras private notebook. The other shared a notebook he had begun to compile during his college coursework in folklore in Havana. When we had nished his entire notebook of some 1,000 words, we moved


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to the lead singer then duck outside to surreptitiously write in his notebook what he had heard. Another young ritual singer showed me his notebook, then explained that he was expanding his knowledge and attempting to translate the songs he recorded there by using the Lucum glossary in the back of a book on Santera that he had acquired. Indeed, santeros practice of keeping libretas parallels the activity of folklorists who have also published Lucum glossaries. In 1958, famed folklorist Lydia Cabrera, a child of the white elite and participant in the afrocubanismo movement among Cuban arts and letters in the 1920s and 1930s (Moore 1997), published what is still the most comprehensive Lucum glossary: Anag : Vocabu o lario Lucum. A few years earlier, the well-known Havana santero, Angarica, mentioned above, published two Santera manuals that contained much the same information that a personal libreta might. Cabreras and Angaricas books, in particular, have become canonical among santeros and are often copied. Indeed, one extensive, multivolume libreta a friend of mine had inherited from a deceased senior santera turned out to be a handwritten copy of one of Angaricas books. I have also encountered plagiarized typed copies of Angaricas and Cabreras books for sale on the streets of Havana and in bot nicas (religious supply shops) in the a United States. Lucum glossaries now appear in virtually every schol arly and popular book on Santera, as increasing numbers of people have become interested in Santera. Scholars and practitioners have become especially interested in African connections, sometimes with the goal of identifying a pure and authentic Yoruba origin for any given practice. When they turn their eye toward Lucum, they seek to interpret unintelligible songs and prayers by back translating them and even identifying putative Yoruba source texts. Indeed, many Lucum glossaries actually incorporate information from modern Yoruba dictionaries (e.g., Abraham 1958). Only rarely does this etymological approach successfully link Lucum and Yoruba texts, as was illustrated in my example above. In his examination of materials I collected, Dr. Awoyale recognized the funerary song from Santeras ituto ceremony as one that had been sung at a family members funeral in Nigeria. In this case, the words and melody were hauntingly similar. Such astonishing transatlantic continuities are rare, however: Not only did Awoyale not recognize most of the songs and prayers he examined in my corpus but he also found them very garbled, as if distorted by a lengthy game of telephone by non-Yoruba speakers.19 Other Yoruba linguists with whom I shared materials made even less sense of my Lucum texts and recordings, declar ing them to be completely unintelligible.20 Linguists and Yoruba speakers doubts aside, however, Santera practition ers and folklorists are intensely interested in just this sort of etymological analysis to recover the hidden meanings of the songs, which they strongly believe are perfectly intelligible

to a sufciently uent speaker or anyone with a sufciently big dictionary. To illustrate the ideological workings of the etymological approach, I compare two translations of the same wellknown song to the trickster oricha Eleggua, known as the one who opens and closes the way. As a santero and folklorist from Havana gave it to me, the song is as follows: Ibarag ag moyuba o o Ibarag ag moyuba o o Omod koni kosi ibarag e o Ag moyuba Elegu Eshulona21 o a L zaro Pedroso, a Havana-based santero and scholar, a published a Spanish translation of this verse as part of a collection of Lucum song translations: From on high to this earth, grant permission to cry out to or invoke the children so that today there be no (problems). From on high to this earth, grant permission to cry out for Eleggua or for Eshu who is in our path (1995:21, my translation).22 Pedroso does not explain how he derived this translation; nor does he line up the original and translation to reveal more about his analysis. Nevertheless, because I witnessed other santeros engaging more tentatively in the same exercise, I suspect that he rst identied familiar words, such as ag (grant permission) and omod (child), and then o e dealt with the pieces that were left, perhaps using a Yoruba dictionary and consulting other priests. I can tentatively reconstruct his analysis on the basis of words santeros I knew might recognize or have listed in their glossaries (in bold): Ibarag o From on high to this earth, Ibarag o From on high to this earth, Omod e the children Ag o grant permission koni so that today moyuba to cry out for ag o grant permission ag o grant permission kosi there be no (problems) Elegu a Eleggua or for moyuba to cry out to or invoke moyuba to cry out to or invoke ibarag o From on high to this earth Eshulona Eshu who is in our path

John Mason, a prominent orisha devotee and scholar based in New York, worked with Yoruba priests to present transliterations into Yoruba and translations into English of hundreds of Lucum texts, including the above song. He is only slightly more transparent about his process than Pedroso, mentioning alternative Yoruba possibilities in a few footnotes (see, e.g., Mason 1992:7172 nn. 611). Although he claims to present exactly the Lucum texts he recorded (Mason 1992:72 n. 7), he presents them in Yoruba


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orthography, a step that surely required a great deal of analysis. He simply provides an English line below each Yoruba line, but I have again lined up words to reveal more of his analysis (Mason 1992:61):
` a ` ` o Ib` (o)go, ag` Homage to the club, give way omod e k niko o child who teaches (the doctrine of ) ` o ag` mo make way, I ` ` esu ` ` Esu a jub` pay homage to a mo jub` I pay homage ` (s) `b` a (o)go, (paying) the club, homage to a Elegb the owner of vital force.

language forms and religious content by supplying referential meanings to those forms. Semantic transparency versus occult knowledge The etymological approach santeros use feels familiar because scholars engage in the same approach to seek semantic transparency in Lucum texts. Indeed, the efforts of santeros and scholars to make sense of Lucum increasingly overlap and reinforce one another. Because the logic of etymology is so transparent and comfortable to scholars, however, it might obscure another interpenetrating logic santeros bring to bear on Lucum texts that centers on the oc cult nature of true religious knowledge. One aspect of occult knowledge relates to the importance of secrecy to protect the sources of ones power, much as Murphy 1998, Lohman 2001, Buckley 1976, Apter 1992, and Matory 1994:178179 describe for various ethnographic cases, including the Yoruba. A distinct but equally important aspect of occult knowledge is that polysemy, indeterminacy, and intentional ambiguity may lie at its heart (Trawick 1988; see also Apter 2002; Barber 1990; Tomlinson 2004b). That is, santeros may engage in attempts to infuse semantic meanings back into Lucum texts without expecting that any such exercise completely reveals all possible meanings hidden within the text.23 Santeros, thus, apply a second interpretive strategy to making sense of Lucum that I call divining meanings because of its close association with ritual practices such as divination. The divining-meaning approach Although I have presented Masons and Pedrosos works as quintessential examples of santeros and scholars etymological approach toward Lucum, they also more subtly draw on the logic of the same interpretive strategy of divining meaning that santeros engage in during rituals to interpret often cryptic communications from the orichas. Santeros are close-lipped about their religious knowledge, and the more senior and knowledgeable a santero is, generally speaking, the less he or she will discuss anything related to religious secrets. This tendency toward secrecy is in tension with santeros efforts to demonstrate their religious authority by displaying their knowledge or passing it along (as discussed by Herzfeld 2004; Mason 1985:34). Lucum provides the possi bility of having it both ways by using a mostly unintelligible register to display secrets without fully revealing them. Controlling the interpretation of, if not the access to, religiously potent texts is key to building cultural capital through them, as Danilyn Rutherford (2000) argues. Mason and Pedroso, for example, present their translations without sharing the how-to knowledge that would allow a reader to engage in the same interpretive process (or challenge their interpretations). Like other ritual knowledge, religious language gets much of its potency because it indexes occult meanings. Indeed, santeros protect deep religious understandings

` a lon` is the one who owns the road

Instead of ibarago meaning from on high to this earth, Mason gives the invocation homage to the club. He also breaks up the lines differently than Pedroso. Instead of invok[ing] the children so that there be no (problems)this last a missing or implied word in Pedrosos analysisMason nishes the rst line with I pay homage then begins a new phrase in the second line: child who teaches the doctrine of paying homage to the club. To make the grammar work, Mason, too, suggests an omission in the Lucum song: s(e), to give s`b` (the act of paying homage). Despite these and a other signicant differences in the songs meaning between the two translations, both convey a similar idea: that the song is in praise of Eleggua Eshulona, the one who controls the road and, thus, whose cooperation is necessary for any ceremony to succeed. The associations of the song, as well as its pragmatic value in gaining Elegguas cooperation, are well-known to santeros who cannot translate the song and who do not have access to Pedrosos or Masons books. They would, nonetheless, nd the two analyses fascinating and would appreciate the deeper insights into the songs meanings. Both authors position themselves as religious authorities by virtue of presenting their readers with authoritative and uent texts that conceal the uncertainties and difcult choices they surely faced in producing their translations. They do so through an interpretive strategy similar to literalism, which also assumes that a text has a single, xed meaning that transcends time and context and that can, thus, always be recovered (Crapanzano 2000:11, 1617). Mason (1992:iii) describes his motivation for his work as the desire to restore the songs meanings for santeros, who had for so long sung songs whose meaning they had lost, and Pedrosos (1995:3) similar aim is clear in his books dedication to santeros such as Angarica who also published books to ensure Santeras survival. The etymological approach they use, thus, is a salvage operationan attempt at language revitalizationthat seeks to reconnect the decoupled ritual


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as secrets that could be dangerous if used improperly or maliciously. This inclination toward secrecy is manifest in santeros tendency to avoid discussing certain topics, especially initiation ceremonies, with the noninitiated. When one santero tried to show me the notebook in which his initiation it divination results were recorded, his godfather became a quite angry and insisted that sharing that knowledge with me, a noninitiate, would spiritually endanger both of us. He then reluctantly explained that giving me too much religious knowledge could anger the orichas and force my initiation. I suspect from other conversations we had that he also feared that sharing such private information would make his godchild vulnerable to witchcraft. Michael Mason (1994) invokes the same inclination to secrecy to explain why ritual elders prefer to teach by shaping their godchildrens bodily praxis and kinesthetic experience, rather than by engaging in exegesis. For their part, younger santeros, much like the singer quoted earlier, emphasized that the only way to advance within the religion was to dedicate oneself to participating in ceremonies to carefully observe and memorize how things were done, even when more senior santeros were unwilling to provide explanations. Santeros believed that Lucum words might convey occult knowledge to someone carefully attending to their proper use. These relationships between senior and junior santeros are reminiscent of the secrecy of Cretan master artisans and the cunning of their apprentices described by Michael Herzfeld (2004) and suggest a similar dynamic is at work to produce (and protect) authoritative, esoteric, traditional knowledge. The ability to take a few lexical clues and use ones knowledge of the connotations and associations of those clues to build up an interpretation is essential during ritual communication with the oricha. Unlike secretive elders, the oricha want their messages to be understood, but the messages unintelligibility or ambiguity makes interpretation difcult. Divination with the diloggun (cowry shells) is one method of communication that requires the diviner to translate denotationally sparse signs produced by throwing the shells into an interpretation relevant to a particular client, situation, or problem. Santeros must elaborate on semantically impoverished clues to generate rich contextual meanings and reveal deep, hidden patterns, a process I call divining meaning. I argue that santeros apply this same interpretive strategy to other sorts of Lucum texts, not just those produced as messages from the oricha. To illustrate, I briey discuss a particular diloggun divination I received and compare it with how santeros provide interpretations of songs.24 To interpret a divination result, santeros draw on their knowledge of a vast corpus of legends, proverbs, and other information associated with each divination sign, most of which circulates in Spanish orally and through libretas. For example, in my divination, the rst two throws of the cowries landed with six then eight shells mouth up. The resulting sign of 68 is called Obara Unle.

Angarica (n.d.b:27) gives the proverb orejas no pasa cabezarespeta a sus mayores [ears do not surpass head-respect your elders] for this sign. He names the oricha who speak through the sign (Chang , Ochun, and Eleggua), describes o the kinds of situations, conicts, and personalities generally associated with the sign, and lists the offerings required (Angarica n.d.a, n.d.b:3435). Santeros I worked with also listed associated ailments, body parts, and medicinal plants for each sign, and they told me that a good diviner would also know the patakines associated with the sign. How does a santero apply this vast knowledge to the clients situation? During my divination, the santero threw the cowries several times to further elaborate my sign. As we proceeded, I had to hide different pairs of objects (pebbles, shells, bones, etc.) in my hands, one of which would be revealed when I opened the hand (left or right) indicated by the cowry throw. At each step, the santeros wife, who was participating, wrote down the result in a notebook: Kristina Wirtz 68 Obara Unle 4, 76, 117, 56 con Ir ariku yale e The second series of numbers determined the Lucum summary in the nal line, which means that my sign, Obara Unle, came with Ir (good fortune) from ariku yale (glossed e to me as the dead). Although not recorded in the notebook, each of the second string of numbers also has a Lucum name, so that the numbers 4, 76, 117, 56 can also be read as Iroso, Odd-Obara, Ojuani-Odd, Oche-Obara. After completing the sign, the santero looked up at me and began a lengthy interpretation, of which I provide only the rst portion here (see complete analysis in Wirtz 2003:165177): Eleggua says that (he) brings ir with Iroso, and ariku he e brings with Odd Obara, and moyare Ojuani Odd. Eleggua says that you were born to be the head. That you were born to be an intellectual, an intelligent person, a person capable of deepening whatever knowledge, or desires for knowledge, isnt it true? The santero rst gave the Lucum names of the divina tion numbers that produced my result. He specied which oricha was speaking to me (Eleggua) and paraphrased a proverb associated with my sign: born to be the head, whose meaning he then elaborated on. Although we had only met once before, he knew that I was in Cuba doing research on Santera, which undoubtedly affected how he interpreted born to be the head. In other contexts, including divinations for other people, I have heard santeros discuss the proverbs meaning as referring more to leadership or ambition than to intellect. He continued elaborating his interpretation for several more minutes, giving me more and more specic information, advice, and warnings that culminated in the suggestion that the knowledge I was gaining


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Table 1 A Santeros Interpretation of Santeras Our Father Song to Eleggua Ibarago, ago moyuba Ibarago, ago moyuba Omod koni e Kosi ibara ago Ago moyuba Eleggua Echulona Luiss glosses of individual words Iba = calabash scoop Ago = prayer, supplication Omode = woman Luiss interpretation Eleggua, by means of the prayer of the woman, the mother, the creator, the perpetuator of the species we are begging you for this reason that we are going to begin, Eleggua Echulona

(name of one path of Eleggua)

Source: Author interview recorded October 1999, Santiago de Cuba.

would prepare me well to be a santera and to realize nancial success by bringing other foreigners from my country to Cuba to learn about Santera. As in every other divination I witnessed, the santero applied his knowledge of the signs by building his interpretation around a few lexical and contextual cues. Santeros apply the same interpretive practices of using associative meanings, contextual knowledge, and a few clues from recognizable Lucum words to nd meaning in other types of Lucum texts, as well. A santero and folklorist named Luis explained to me and another, more junior santero the importance of using Lucum songs correctly. He said, One doesnt sing for singings sake. Each song has its place and its moment in which it is used. For example, our rst prayer always is a song to Eleggua, who is the one that opens and closes [the way].25 He recited, then sang the song to Eleggua I presented above, which appears again in Table 1. He then identied and glossed three words in the text, which are listed in the second column of the table. He explained that the song meant, in broad strokes, that Eleggua, by means of the prayer of the woman, the mother, the creator, the perpetuator of the species we are begging you for this reason that we are going to begin, a radically different translation than either of those provided by Pedroso or Mason above. Luis explained his interpretation by describing the iba, or calabash scoop, as a symbol of woman-as-mother. Indeed, the calabash is identied in Santera with the womb and with female fertility, although this was the only time I ever heard anyone connect the male trickster oricha Eleggua with these female symbols. Luis labeled this song to Eleggua the Our Father of Santera, because, as he explained, it must always be sung before any ceremony so that Eleggua will open the way. The rst two of Luiss glosses are supported by other sources of Lucum translation and by back translation into Yoruba: igb (mid-high tone) does mean calabash, and a ag , as already noted, is a ritual request for permission. o Most santeros, however, translate omod not as woman e but as child, a translation supported by a similar word in Yoruba, omod, meaning young child. Pedrosos and e Masons translations above, however, are reminders that other segmentations and back translations are possible.

The initial iba might even more plausibly derive from Yoruba `b` , meaning homage, or the entire word might a be distorted and resegmented from its original (perhaps `b` a nago, or equally plausibly, Cabreras [1958:146] transcription, ibaragu , which suggests the Yoruba`b` ara awo, homage o a ` to the land or community of mysteries). The point is that multiple permutations are possible and little basis exists to promote one interpretation over the others. More signicantly, Luis engages in the same basic strategy as Pedroso and Mason and as I heard several other highly regarded santeros and babalawos do, usually for audiences of their godchildren or other juniors during interstices of waiting during ceremonies. Luis identies a few recognizable words and combines their meanings with his pragmatic knowledge about the song and the oricha it addresses to build a framework for a deep interpretation of the songs meaning, performed as a tour de force translation for my benet and that of the other santero who sat with us. As improvised as the translation seemed to me, hinging as it did on at least one misrecognized word (omod), my colleague e found the interpretation exciting and intriguing. The rich symbolism connecting Eleggua with motherhood that Luis invoked hints at ever-deeper layers of meaning hidden in the text. The texts combination of opacity and evocativeness, then, indexes occult religious knowledge and permits an authoritative display of esoteric knowledge. What makes a particular interpretation good, in santeros eyes, is not necessarily its etymological soundness (which most would have no tools to investigate) but its ability to reveal previously hidden knowledge and make it relevant to the situation, just as santeros do when interpreting divination messages. In contrast to the embedded historical consciousness of diminution from a once-complete original that is evident in the etymological approach, the divining-meaning approach assumes an intact, rich, and deep body of esoteric religious knowledge that has survived the ruptures of diaspora and slavery because it lies in the province of the divine, beyond the vagaries of history. One gains access to meanings not by study and reconstruction of old texts but by participating in meaning-making performances that call on divine authority, be they divination rituals or nonritual events of textual exegesis.


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Interpenetration of the two interpretive strategies Although I have cast the etymological approach and divining meaning as two distinct interpretive strategies based on two different modes of historical consciousness, it should be apparent that they converge and interpenetrate in practice. Luis used etymological clues to build his novel interpretation of the song to Eleggua and, thus, to position himself as one possessing deep religious understandings. Conversely, I have argued that the logic of divining occult meanings is apparent in Masons and Pedrosos seemingly very etymological analyses of other Lucum songs. Likewise, a tension exists between those parts of the Lucum lexicon that are clearly intelligible and those parts of the Lucum corpus in which, to paraphrase Schwegler (1996:63), incomprehension may not be a failure of memory but an original, intrinsically mystic or secretive orientation (see also Apter 2002). That is, from santeros perspective, the intractable unintelligibility of many Lucum texts may pose not a barrier to meaning, as scholars who rely too much on a framework of language loss and etymological recovery might assume, but an opportunity to apply and display ones deep religious knowledge, as illustrated in the divination example. It is through santeros activities of excavating what seem to be indeterminate, ambiguous, and ever-shifting meanings that Lucum is not simply preserved but actively shaped from generation to generation.

This articles title invokes Paul Connertons book How Societies Remember (1989), but it should be clear that investigating learning and commemoration practices as agentful and highly contextualized processes of cultural replication also provides insight into what societies remember. I have suggested that the very form of Santeras ritual register emerges out of the kinds of interpretive strategies santeros bring to bear on learning and using it. Examining interpretive strategies as a form of situated learning also reinforces Lave and Etienne Wengers (1991) insight about apprenticeship and learning, more generally: that, as Herzfeld puts it, learning the craftwith all the obstacles that this entailsbecomes [the] model for learning how to be members of . . . society (2004:51). I have focused on relating one aspect of religious learning to one aspect of social personhood; namely, the kinds of historical subjectivity inculcated in, and expressed through, santeros (and scholars) situated practices of textual interpretation. Through their strategies for learning and using Lucum, santeros enact and give meaning to the prac tice of a diasporic African religion in Cuba today. The broader lesson for scholars, as Palmi (2002:314) suggests, is to ate tend to the ways in which subjective relationships to the past get constructed through textual practicesincluding the implicit or explicit historiography underlying scholarly work.

In working between what is remembered and how it is remembered, I have sought to distinguish between two types of historical processcultural-replication mechanisms and practices of historical consciousnessto bring together two levels of analysis that usually remain separate and to show how their interactions contribute to cultural transmission. On the one hand, Urbans (2001) semiotically sophisticated approach exemplies a highly atomized method of tracing the replication of bits of culture on the microscale of realtime chains of interactions. Urban very usefully demonstrates the role of metacultural processes such as explicit metadiscourses or more implicit metapragmatic frames in accelerating certain cultural forms at the expense of others. His account, however, decouples agency and subjectivity from the processes of cultural transmission. On the other hand, a very different approach, exemplied by Apter (2002), among others, focuses holistically on deep structures of usually unrecognized cultural continuity. Apter makes a compelling argument for commonalities between modern West African societies and Haiti at the level of deep hermeneutics of power. He states that his goal in tracing African origins is not to trace direct historical connections or the movement of specic elements but, rather, to locate a general interpretive framework that informed the invention of Vodou in Haiti and its political advances and retreats (Apter 2002:251252). His notion of interpretive framework is not so different from what I have called historical consciousness, or temporally inected interpretations of cultural forms. Note, however, that he describes the hermeneutics of power as operating on Haitians historical subjectivity without itself being recognized and historicized (in the way that Lucum is). Apters search for common modes of historical subjectivity between West Africa and Haitian Vodou connes him to the macroscale of symbolic meanings as surely as Urbans approach keeps his analyses on a microscale. I have advocated a third alternative, one inuenced by both of the above approaches, that expressly focuses on the interactions between cultural-replication processes and modes of historical consciousness. I look for these, following the situated learning paradigm, in the unfolding interactions among and interpretive practices of practitioners and scholars. Historical subjectivities, I have suggested, can be traced as stances people inhabit toward cultural forms like Lucum texts, stances that convey implicit metapragmatic framing, such as charging those texts with historical and sacred value. In my ethnographic case study, the two strategies of situated practices through which santeros acquire and perform degrees of competence in Lucum work together to consti tute Lucum as a traditional form with deep African conti nuities within Santera at the same time that they transform Lucum. I have described the historical consciousness en acted through santeros etymological approach as focused


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on a sense of diminishment from a pure and perfect Yoruba original, in which modern Yoruba serves as a timeless foil for modern Lucum. In a discussion of narratives of decline as a distinctive form of historical consciousness, Matt Tomlinson (n.d.:157158) differentiates between narratives of moral decline and narratives of decreasing power. Although santeros do not engage in explicit narratives of decline from an earlier golden age to the degree that modern Fijians do, they do link their concerns about moral decline to efforts to preserve powerful knowledge encoded in Lucum utterances. Their efforts to learn the register and recover its meanings enact a referentialist language ideology involving the recovery of lost semantic transparency via back-translation strategies (Silverstein 1979; Stromberg 1993). A different type of historical consciousness is enacted in santeros more performative strategies to divine meaning in Lucum texts. In this vein, they enact a pragmatist un derstanding in which the meaning of Lucum words inheres in their power to evoke, and not only represent, esoteric religious secrets. Lucum can accomplish what ordinary lan guage cannot because it is a divine language, one with a mythic chronotope that transcends history (Bakhtin 1981) and that implicitly emphasizes deep cultural continuities, whereas the etymological approach reads decay of surface semantic meanings. These forms of historical consciousness that emerge through santeros situated interpretation practices overlay mechanisms of cultural replication that have separately and differentially transmitted linguistic form and meaning, such that Lucum word and text tokens circulate somewhat in dependently from the pragmatic religious knowledge they once encapsulated. This raw material of cultural transmission has been taken up into different situated knowledge practices that allow santeros to learn Lucum forms, inter pret their meanings, and imbue them with historical significance in varying ways that, in turn, fuel the next round of cultural replication. The style of analysis proposed here tacks between the preferred methods and materials of historical anthropology and the very different sites of situated learning preferred by learning theorists. As James Wertsch (1998) argues, because memory and mnemonic practices so evidently bridge individual and collective levels of analysis, and because learning and memory are so evidently intertwined, it seems high time to recognize the ways in which learning practices, even at the most local and mundane levels, contribute to cultural reproduction, even on the grand scale of collective diasporic memory. Historyas a sedimentation of particular modes of historical consciousnessis both a form of collective commemoration itself and a by-product of processes of learning, remembering, and even forgetting other things, like the meaning of ancestors words in a foreign tongue.

Acknowledgments. Trevor Stacks 2003 American Anthropological Association panel, Genealogies of History, planted the initial germ of inspiration, which has been nourished with feedback from panel discussant Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney and, later, Matt Tomlinson, Cati Coe, Yoonhee Kang, Catherine Newling, Bilinda Straight, and the Penn Working Group in Language symposium, April 17, 2004. I am especially grateful to AE editor Virginia Dominguez, Stephan Palmi , e and two anonymous reviewers for encouragement and helpful critiques. Fieldwork in Santiago de Cuba was funded by a Brody-Foley Grant; an International Pre-Dissertation Training Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies, with funds provided by the Ford Foundation; and a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. Special thanks to a Ernesto Armin n Linares, Mara Isabel Berlos, and Abelardo Larduet in Santiago de Cuba. 1. I use interpretive strategies in much the same sense as Vincent Crapanzanos interpretive styles (2000:1517). 2. One consequence of book study is that santeros understandings of their religion have both contributed to and been inuenced by scholarly production on it for some time (Brown 2003; Castellanos 1996; Palmi 1995; see also Wirtz 2004). e 3. As work on unintelligible ritual speech has shown, ritual participants hold the expectation that meaning can be extracted from seemingly meaningless utterances, even if only by experts, supernatural entities, or those receiving inspiration (Briggs 1995:209211; Samarin 1972:9293, 162167; Tambiah 1968:182; Wirtz 2005). 4. The Cuban funeral song is taken from Valdes Garriz 1991:11 and the sound recording Vida y Muerte del Santero (Larduet 1996). Yoruba texts and their analysis and translations here and in the following discussion are courtesy of Dr. Yiwola Awoyale, Linguistic Data Consortium and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 200102. 5. Notable examples include Gonz lez Huguet and Baudry 1967; a Hall-Alleyne 1990; Megenney 1992; Olmstead 1953; Rodrguez Reyes 2001; Schwegler 1996, 1998; Vald s Bernal 1987; and Warner-Lewis e 1984, 1990. 6. For a few inuential examples, see Arguelles Mederos and Hodge Limonta 1991, Barnet 1995, Bascom 1971, Brandon 1993, Brown 2003, Castellanos and Castellanos 1988, Murphy 1988, Ortiz 1995, and Simpson 1978. 7. This account is very simplied, not least in a somewhat anachronistic use of Yorubasee N. 8. Matory 1999 and Otero 2002 have shown the importance of Africans movement back and forth between African and New World ports in establishing Yoruba traditions such as If divination in the New World and in helping a to develop a pan-Yoruba identity in what became southwestern Nigeria. 8. The label Lucum began as an ethnonym Europeans applied to people and languages from the region centered on modern southwest Nigeria and Benin. Many of the people in this region would today identify themselves as Yoruba (Castellanos 1996:3941). The ethnonym Yoruba, which originally applied only to residents of Oyo, emerged later in the 19th century (Kopytoff 1965; Law 1997; Matory 1999:8288; Peel 1989). 9. I thank Yoonhee Kang for suggesting this analysis. 10. Granda 1988:1718 summarizes two methodologies in the eld of Afro-Hispanic linguistics, one focused on collecting examples of bozal (or creole) speech in bygone eras from literary sources and the other focused on collecting contemporary lyric texts preserved in oral tradition. Although the latter approach ostensibly looks at present practices, its focus is primarily retrospective. 11. Indeed, Lucums form corresponds to many of the character istics of dying languages reported in the literature: great variability


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in forms and also reduction of lexicon, phonological leveling, loss of embedding or subordination devices, and loss of former stylelevel distinctions (Holloway 1997:11, 48). Although I have laid out my objections to categorizing Lucum merely as vestigial Yoruba, my analysis complements Charles E. Holloways suggestion that the processes of language death (I would use a less teleological term like shift or contraction; cf. Hill 2002) might be better understood by shifting focus from the behavior of dying languages to the behavior of speakers of those languages (Holloway 1997:176). 12. Compare to Saussure: The contact between [sound and thought] gives rise to a form, not a substance (1996:111). 13. Note that in writing the song down, person B makes possible a different type of cultural motion that Urban calls dissemination, in which the cultural object can travel across space and time to many people without any of those people actually replicating it themselves. Another example of cultural dissemination would be for person A to make a recording of the song and circulate the recording, instead of relying on hearers of the song to resing it (which would be necessary for cultural replication; Urban 2001:4248). 14. This quote is from an audio recording I made on November 8, 1999 (Stgo 99 Cassette 17A, my translation). 15. The major issue is whether a Spanish creole developed among slaves, and if so whether it was a localized or pan-Caribbean phenomenon. Much attention has focused on the characteristics of bozal Spanishwhere it fell on the continuum between pidgin and creole or whether it was a product of second-language acquisition (Alvarez and Obediente 1998; Granda 1988; McWhorter 2000; Ortiz L pez 1998). Cuban scholars, in turn, have long exo amined the contributions of African languages to Cuban Spanish (Ortiz 1922; Penalver 1795; Pichardo y Tapia 1875; Vald s Bernal e 1987). 16. Robert Chaudensons (2001:129134) thesis is especially provocative on this point because it positions Afro-Cuban creoles as linguistic and cultural intermediaries between bozal slaves and Europeans, such that the language spoken by creolessome approximation of Spanish, in the Cuban casebecame the linguistic target for more recent arrivals (see esp. Chaudensons diagram on p. 125). 17. Urban (2001:108144) points out that such decouplings of message (news) from form (myth) can correspond to shifts in the metacultural regimentation of culture, such that one pole, usually news (or newness) under modernity, takes precedence over the other (tradition). If this were applicable to Lucum, one would expect Lucum texts, such as ritual songs, to have disappeared or otherwise not to have undergone precise replication because exact replication of forms would have become unimportant. Lucums story does not t so neat a telos, and, indeed, Palmi (2002) powere fully argues for the coevalness of Afro-Cuban religions with modernity. 18. It is not unusual to encounter ritual languages with similar complexities attributable to differential intelligibility (see Briggs 1995; Du Bois 1986; Powers 1986; Tambiah 1968). 19. In fact, Dr. Awoyale matched only one other Lucum and Yoruba text fragment: a Lucum song to Ochun and a few lines from a Yoruba oriki, or praise-poem, to a man named Waru. 20. I studied with Drs. Medubi and Orimoogunje at the University of Lagos in JulyAugust 2000. 21. A different santero wrote the rst words slightly differently, as Ibaragu ago moyuba, which is also what appears in Cabrera o 1958:146. 22. The original Spanish reads: Desde lo alto a esta tierra, conc dale permiso para clamar o invocar a los hijos para que hoy e no haya (problemas). Desde lo alto a esta tierra, conc dale permiso e para clamar por Elegu o por Eshu que est en nuestro camino. a a

23. Note that this approach is the opposite of literalism. The indeterminacy at the heart of certain texts or bodies of knowledge often relates to what John Du Bois (1992) describes as meaning without intention. Not coincidentally, his principal example is (Yoruba) If a divination, in which the divination result gains its authority by virtue of not being attributed to anyone, human or deity. 24. I recorded this divination in March 2000 in Santiago de Cuba. 25. The original Spanish reads: No se canta por cantar. Ni, ni, y cada canto tiene su lugar y su momento en que se emplea. Por ejemplo nuestro primer rezo siempre, . . . es un canto a Eleggua que es el que abre y el que cierra.

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Wirtz, Kristina 2003 Speaking a Sacred World: Discursive Practices of Skepticism and Faith in Cuban Santera. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania. 2004 Santera in Cuban National Consciousness: A Religious Case of the Doble Moral. Journal of Latin American Anthropology 9(2):409438. 2005 Where Obscurity Is a Virtue: The Mystique of Unintelligibility in Santera Ritual. Language and Communication 25(4):351375. Wortham, Stanton 2001 Narratives in Action: A Strategy for Research and Analysis. New York: Teachers College Press.

Yelvington, Kevin A. 2001 The Anthropology of Afro-Latin America and the Caribbean: Diasporic Dimensions. Annual Review of Anthropology 30:227260. accepted April 4, 2006 final version submitted April 20, 2006 Kristina Wirtz Anthropology Department, Moore Hall Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI 49008