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“This is the oppressor’s language…

…yet I need it to talk to you.”

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closeup of birds in nest

Murmuration (detail) by Erica Harris

Last month we published an excerpt from sociologist C. Lynn Carr’s A Year in White: Cultural Newcomers to Lukumi and Santería in the United States (Rutgers University Press), before the author had a chance to see it. In the excerpt we mistakenly added the word “Santería,” a term the author chooses not to use most of the time. We’ve given her a chance to explain why:In the rich tradition of Lukumi divination, Orisha devotees are often advised to be careful with their words. “From the lie the truth is born,” says the old refrain. The tongue can bring forth life or death, we are cautioned. Depending on how the cowries fall, clients of Orisha priests consulting with the oracle may be counseled to speak from their hearts, to avoid saying things in anger, to speak carefully, to remain silent, to eschew sharing secrets, to reveal only some of their plans, to dodge arguments, or to refrain from giving advice. Lukumi oriaté (diviners and ritual specialists) have long warned of the power of words that sociologists understand as the Thomas theorem, which states that when something is defined as real it becomes rea …

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