I have always been aware of the SanterĂ­a religion, mostly because I grew up in a predominately Cuban community in South Florida. That does not mean that I have ever witnessed a ritual involving the sacrificing of an animal (nor ever want to). So, when I was asked to produce a segment about this Afro-Cuban religion, I have to admit I was a bit nervous about what I would encounter.

While searching for an expert on Santería, I found Asiel Baez, a 24-year-old santero from Miami. He has his own YouTube channel where he explains his religion and teaches Santería classes. One of his first tutorials is titled “Working with the Dead.“

When I contacted him, he immediately agreed to participate on our show — but he was very clear about not killing any animals during the taping (or as he prefers to say, sacrificing). That was a relief. Instead, he performed a cleaning ritual on his spiritual godson that involved herbs, candles and fire. Not that scary.

The cleansing took no more than 15 minutes and although Asiel said he channeled his spirits during the process, I did not feel the presence of anyone else other than our crew. However, I respect his beliefs and, in the end, it was a very interesting experience. It is estimated that there are 100 million people worldwide that practice some form of SanterĂ­a, and that night we met one of them.