It is stated that the original ancestors of the Yoruba were from an area much further from contemporary Yorubaland, being originally from the "Northeast", which either refers to Egypt, Ethiopia, Arabia, or even Assyria. It is said that the ancestors of the Yoruba differentiated themselves from the Bantu peoples when they reached West Africa through Nubia. It has also been noted that there are numerous similarities between the Yoruba religion and the ancient Mesopotamian religion, Egyptian religion, Berber religion, Arabian religion, Semitic religion, and Indo-Iranian religion, due to their shared Afro-Asiatic roots. Some scholars have suggested that the ruling Yoruba dynasties are descendants of the aristocracy of ancient Assyria.
Upon its arrival in Cuba, this religious tradition evolved into what we now recognize as Santeria.
The colonial period from the standpoint of African slaves may be defined as a time of perseverance. Their world quickly changed. Tribal kings and their families, politicians, business and community leaders all were enslaved and taken to a foreign region of the world. Religious leaders, their relatives and their followers were now slaves. Colonial laws criminalized their religion. They were forced to become baptized and worship a god their ancestors had not known who was surrounded by a pantheon of saints. The early concerns during this period seem to have necessitated a need for individual survival under harsh plantation conditions.
A sense of hope was sustaining the internal essence of what today is called Santeria, a misnomer (and former pejorative) for the indigenous religion of the Lukumi people of Nigeria. In the heart of their homeland, they had a complex political and social order. They were a sedentary hoe farming cultural group with specialized labor. Their religion, based on the worship of nature, was renamed and documented by their masters. Santeria, a pejorative term that characterizes deviant Catholic forms of worshiping saints, has become a common name for the religion. The term santero(a) is used to describe a priest or priestess replacing the traditional term Olorisha as an extension of the deities. The orishas became known as the saints in image of the Catholic pantheon.
In order to preserve ancestral and traditional beliefs, deities were synchronized with Roman Catholic Saints. This historical "veil" characterization of the relationship between Catholic saints and orichas is made all the more complicated by the fact that the vast majority of santeros in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, are also Roman Catholics, have been baptized, and often require initiates to be baptized in Roman Catholicism as well.