The Spiritual Baptist (or Shouter Baptist) faith is an Afro-Caribbean syncretic religion which combines elements of traditional West African religions with Christianity. The Spiritual Baptist faith is based in Trinidad and Tobago. Despite the African influences, Spiritual Baptists consider themselves to be Christians. The Baptist faith was brought to Trinidad by the Merikins, former American slaves who were recruited by the British to fight for them during the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. After the end of these wars, the ex-slaves were settled in remote areas of Trinidad.
This religion contains both elements of Protestant Christianity and many African rituals and beliefs. This religion is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago. In many other Caribbean islands, such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, this religion is widely practiced. With the exception of the Orisha worshippers, whose religion comes from Africa, all of the other religions practiced in Trinidad and Tobago were brought here by either European colonisers or Indian and Chinese indentured labourers.
The name Shouter derives from the fact that when the Baptists "catch the Spirit," they clap and shout, making a loud noise that, especially during open air services, some in the general public may object to. Shouter is seen as a derogatory term by many modern day Baptists on the island, seeing as it was first originally imposed upon them by the mainstream, then-British colonial government.
An Orisha, also spelled Orisa and Orixa, is a spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system. This religion has found its way throughout the world and is now expressed in several varieties which include Anago, Oyotunji, Candomblé and Lucumí/Santería. These varieties or spiritual lineages as they are called are practiced throughout areas of Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela. As interest in African indigenous religions (spiritual systems) grows, Orisa communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While estimates vary, there could be more than 100 million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.
Beliefs and Rituals
The Orisha faith believes an ultimate deity, Olorun or Olodumare, who is removed from the day-to-day affairs of human beings on Earth. Instead, adherents of the religion appeal to specific manifestations of Olodumare in the form of the various Orisha. Ancestors reverence and culture-heroes can also be enlisted for help with day-to-day problems. Faithful believers will also generally consult a geomantic divination specialist, known as a babalawo or Iyanifa, to mediate on their problems. This practice is known as Ifa, and is an important part of life throughout West Africa and the rest of the world. UNESCO, the cultural and scientific education arm of the United Nations, declared Ifa a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005. An important part of the traditional Yoruba faith depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's Ori. Ori literally means the head, but in spiritual matters is taken to mean an inner portion of the soul which determines personal destiny and success. Ase, which also spelled “Axe,” “Ashe,” or “Ache,” is the life-force that runs though all things, living and inanimate. Ase is the power to make things happen. It is an affirmation that is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept about spiritual growth. Orisha devotees strive to obtain Ase through Iwa-Pele or gentle and good character, in turn they experience alignment with the Ori or what others might call inner peace or satisfaction with life.
Orisha in the New World
Yoruba were brought to the Americas during the Atlantic Slave Trade, along many other ethnic nationalities from West, Central, and parts of East Africa. Yoruba religious beliefs are among the most recognizable African-derived traditions in the Americas, perhaps due to the comparatively late arrival of large numbers of Yoruba in the Americas and the conglomerative and spiritually tolerant nature of the faith. The Orisa faith is often closely aligned to the beliefs of the Gbe ethnic nationalities (including Fon, Ewe, Mahi, and Egun), and there has been centuries of creative cross-fertilization between the faiths both in Africa and in the Americas. In many countries of the African diaspora, Yoruba and Gbe beliefs have also influenced and become influenced by Catholicism, and faiths that originate in the Kongo-Angolan cultural region of West-Central Africa. These include Palo in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Quimbanda in Brazil and, according to some sources, the Petro rites of Haitian Vodou.
Santeria (or Lukumĺ) is a set of related religious systems that fuse Catholic beliefs with traditional Yoruba beliefs. Saints and other Catholic religious figures are used as disguises for Orishas.