Candomblé (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɐ̃dõmˈblɛ], "dance in honour of the gods") is an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition, practiced mainly in Brazil by the povo de santo ("people of saint"). Candomblé originated in Salvador, Bahia at the beginning of the 19th century, when the first temple was founded. Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, and is also practiced in other Latin American countries, including Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela, having as many as two million followers.
Candomblé developed in a creolization of traditional Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu beliefs brought from West and Central Africa by enslaved captives in the Portuguese Empire. Between 1549 and 1888, the religion developed in Brazil, influenced by the knowledge of enslaved African priests who continued to teach their religion, their culture, and language. In addition, Candomblé absorbed elements of Roman Catholicism and includes indigenous American traditions.
As an oral tradition, it does not have holy scriptures. Practitioners of Candomblé believe in a Supreme Creator called Oludumaré, who is served by lesser deities, which are called Orishas.[note 1] Every practitioner is believed to have their own tutelary orisha, which controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector. Music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies, since the dances enable worshippers to become possessed by the orishas. In the rituals, participants make offerings like minerals, vegetables, and animals. Candomblé does not include the duality of good and evil; each person is required to fulfill their destiny to the fullest, regardless of what that is.
Candomblé practitioners in Bahia
|Priesthood||Mãe-de-santo or Pai-de-santo|
|Associations||Order of Our Lady of the Good Death|
|Region||Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Uruguay, United States, Portugal|
|Origin||19th century |
|Members||167,363 (Brazil, 2010)|
Candomblé is an oral tradition and does not have holy texts. Only recently have scholars and "povo de santo" begun to write down its practices.
The word Candomblé means "dance in honour of the gods", and music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies. The name Batuque is also used to refer to the religion, especially before the 19th century. After that, Candomblé became more common. Both words are believed to be derived from a Bantu-family language, mainly that of the Kingdom of Kongo. Candomblé may also be called Macumba in some regions of Brazil, notably Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Macumba has a distinct set of practices more akin to European witchcraft.
Candomblé originated among enslaved Africans who were transplanted to Brazil during the Atlantic slave trade. From the earliest days of the slave trade, many slave owners and Catholic Church leaders felt it was important to convert enslaved Africans. They believed this would fulfill their religious obligations and lead the enslaved to be more submissive in their status. Some historians suggest that Africans were forced to give up their traditional religions to cut their ties to their pasts.
Although the Church succeeded in many cases, not all slaves converted. Many outwardly practiced Christianity but secretly prayed to their own God, gods, or ancestor spirits. In Brazil, adherents of Candomblé saw in the Catholic veneration of saints a similarity with their own religion. Bantu followers found a shared system of worship with Brazil's indigenous people, and through this connection they re-learned the ancestor worship that was part of their own traditional systems. They often concealed the sacred symbols of their deities inside figures of their Catholic saints. In segregated communities of the country, it was easy to create Catholic fraternities where slaves would meet with each other. These meetings, however, were an opportunity for Candomblé worship to be practiced and for feasts to be held on special religious days. They were also opportunities for the enslaved to gather and plan rebellions against their masters.
Candomblé was condemned by the Catholic Church. Followers of the faith were persecuted violently, including by government-led public campaigns and police action. Repression of African religion began early in the Portuguese colonial period, with calundu (spiritual leaders) subject to the Inquisition. The Brazilian Penal Code of 1850 condemned charlatanismo (charlatanry) curandeirismo (quackery). Both Candomblé religious leaders and terreiros were attacked by the police. With Catholicism as the state religion, other religious practices threatened the secular authority.
The persecution stopped in the 1970s with repeal of a law requiring police permission to hold public religious ceremonies. The religion has surged in popularity in Brazil since then, with as many as two million people professing to follow this faith. It is particularly popular in Salvador, Bahia, in the northeast region of Brazil, which is more isolated from other influences and had a high percentage of enslaved Africans. Many people from African countries visit Bahia in order to learn more about the faith of their ancestors. For many followers, Candomblé is not only a matter of religious belief but also of reclaiming the cultural and historical identity of ethnic Africans, although their separate tribal identities have been obscured by peoples being mixed in communities during and after slavery.
Brazilian slaves came from a number of African geographic regions and ethnic groups, including Mbundu, Yoruba, Igbo, Kongo, Fon and Ewe. Slave handlers classified them by the shore of embarkment, so records of ethnicity may not have been accurate, as captives were often transported overland away from native areas before being loaded on ships. As the religion developed semi-independently in different regions of Brazil, among different African ethnic groups, it evolved into several "branches" or nations (nações). These are distinguished chiefly by their set of worshiped deities, as well as the music and language used in the rituals.
The division into nations was also influenced by the religious and beneficent brotherhoods (irmandades) organized by the Catholic Church among Brazilian slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries. These fraternities, organized along ethnic lines to allow priests to preach who had learned the slaves' native languages, provided a legitimate cover for slave reunions. Ultimately they may have aided the development of Candomblé.
The following list is a rough classification of the major nations and sub-nations, and their sacred languages:
These deities are believed to have been created by a supreme God, Olodumare (called Zambi by the Kongo people; and Nana Buluku by the Fon people). The orishas and similar figures form a link between the spiritual world and the world of humans.
Candomblé practitioners believe that every person has their own tutelary deity which controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector. Each deity represents a certain force in nature and is associated with certain foods, colors, animals, and days of the week. A person's character or personality is strongly linked to their deity. Collectively, ancestors are called Egum in Brazil. During important ceremonies, priests and priestesses masquerade as Baba Egum and specially choreographed dances will be performed in order to become possessed of each ancestor spirit.
Deities from one nation may be acculturated as "guests" in houses and ceremonies of another nation, besides those of the latter. Some nations assign new names to guest spirits, while some retain the names used in the nation of origin.
Candomblé does not include the duality of a concept of good opposed to evil. Each person is required only to fulfil his or her destiny to the fullest in order to live a 'good' life, regardless of what that destiny is. This is not a free ticket to do whatever the practitioner wants, though. Candomblé teaches that any evil a person causes to others will return to the first person eventually.
Egúm are important in regulating the moral code of Candomblé practitioners. It is their responsibility to make sure that moral standards of the past are continued in the present. This is regulated during worship ceremonies. When a person becomes possessed of their ancestor spirit during the ceremony, they may act out scenes from the community to highlight both good and bad actions in a sort of public tribunal.
Candomble includes an Islamic-linked sect, which was more common during the era of slavery in Brazil. Many slaves from West Africa had been acculturated with Muslim traditions. These Malês set aside Fridays as the day to worship deities, as do the Muslims for prayer and meditation. Malês were the instigators of many slave revolts in Brazil. They led such actions dressed in all white with amulets and skull caps, as in traditional Islam.
The Candomblé ritual has two parts: the first is the "preparation", attended only by priests and initiates, which may start a week in advance of a major ceremony. Second is the main event, a festive public "mass" and banquet that starts in the late evening and ends around midnight.
In the first part, initiates and aides wash and iron the costumes for the ceremony, and decorate the house with paper flags and festoons, in the colors favored by the Orixás that are to be honored on that occasion. They also prepare food for the banquet. Some domestic animals are slaughtered; some parts reserved for sacrifice, the rest is prepared for the banquet. On the day of the ceremony, starting in the early morning, cowrie-shell divinations (jogo de búzios) are performed, and sacrifices are offered to the desired Orixás, and to the messenger spirit (Exú in Ketu).
In the public part of the ceremony, "saint-children" invoke and "incorporate" Orixás, falling into a trance-like state. After falling into trance (the trance is entered by women in the group) the priest-spirits perform dances symbolic of the Orixá's attributes, while the babalorixá or father of saint (leading male priest) leads songs that celebrate the spirit's deeds. The ceremony ends with a banquet.
Candomblé music, an essential part of the ritual, derives from African music. The word batuque, for instance, has entered the Brazilian vernacular as a synonym of "rhythmic percussion music".
Candomblé temples are called houses (casas), plantations (roças), or yards (terreiros). Most Candomblé houses are small, independently owned and managed by the respective higher priests (female mãe-de-santo or male pai-de-santo). A few of the older and larger houses have a more institutional character and more formal hierarchy. There is no central administration. Inside the place of worship are the altars to the Orixás or Pejis.
Candomblé priesthood is organized into symbolic families, whose members are not necessarily relatives in the common sense. Each family owns and manages one house. In most Candomblé houses, especially the larger ones, the head of the family is always a woman, the mãe-de-santo or ialorixá (mother-of-saint), seconded by the pai-de-santo or babalorixá (father-of-saint). The priests and priestesses may also be known as babalaos (interpreters of búzios), babas, and babaloxas. Some houses have a more flexible hierarchy which allows the male pai-de-santo to be the head priest. Often during the slave period, the women became the diviners and healers; the male slaves were constantly working and did not have the time to take care of daily practices. Or, when caring for children, the women had the chance to teach the knowledge of their traditions to the newer generations.
Admission to the priesthood and progression in the hierarchy is conditioned to approval by the Orixás, possession of the necessary qualities, learning sacred knowledge, and taking part in the lengthy initiation rites, which last seven years or more. There are generally two types of priesthood in the various nations of Candomblé: they are divided into those who fall in a trance by the Orixá (iyawo) and those who do not (Oga – male/Ekeji – female). It is important not to confuse the meaning and usage of the Yoruba term iyawò (bride in Yoruba) with other African-derived religions, which use this same term with different meanings.
The seclusion period for the initiation of an iyawo lasts generally 21 days in the Ketu nation, and varies depending on the nation. The iyawo's role in the religion is assigned by a divination made by her/his ialorixá/babalorixá. An iyawo may be assigned to care for neophytes in their initiation seclusion period, become an expert in all the Orixá foods, become an iya or babalorixa, or learn all ritual songs, etc. The iyawos follow a 7-year period of apprenticeship within which they offer periodical sacrifices in order to reinforce their initiation links, in the form of the so-called 'obligations' of 1, 3 and 7 years. At the 7th year, the iyawos earn their title and may obtain an honorific title or religious post (oye in Yoruba). Once the iyawo has accomplished their 7th-year cycle obligation, they become elders (egbomi in Brazil, which means my elder) within their religious family.
The Candomblée priesthood is divided into:
Acarajé (Portuguese pronunciation: [akaɾaˈʒɛ] (listen)) or (Yoruba: àkàrà) is a dish made from peeled beans formed into a ball and then deep-fried in dendê (palm oil). It is found in West African and Brazilian cuisines. The dish is traditionally encountered in Brazil's northeastern state of Bahia, especially in the city of Salvador. Acarajé serves as both a religious offering to the gods in the Candomblé religion and as street food. The dish was brought by enslaved peoples from West Africa, and can be found in various forms in Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Gambia and Sierra Leone.Acarajé is made with cooked and mashed black eyed peas seasoned with salt and chopped onions molded into the shape of a large scone and deep-fried in palm oil in a wok-like pan in front of the customers. It is served split in half and stuffed with vatapá and caruru – spicy pastes made from shrimp, ground cashews, palm oil and other ingredients. A vegetarian version is typically served with hot peppers and green tomatoes. Acarajé can also come in a second form called abara, where the ingredients are boiled instead of deep fried.Aganju
Aganju (known as Agayú or Aganyú in Latin America) is an Orisha. He is syncretized with Saint Christopher in the Cuban religion known as Santería.
Aganju is strongly associated with Shango, being either Shango's father or his brother or somehow having ties; both Orishas being members of the deified royal family of Oyo.Candomblé Bantu
Candomblé Bantu (also called Candomblé Batuque or Angola) is one of the major branches (nations) of the Candomblé religious belief system. It developed in the Portuguese Empire among Kongo and Mbundu slaves who spoke Kikongo and Kimbundu) languages. The supreme and creative god is Nzambi or Nzambi Mpungu. Below him are the Jinkisi or Minkisi, deities of Bantu mythology. These deities resemble Olorun and the other orishas of the Yoruba religion. Minkisi is a Kongo language term: it is the plural of Nkisi, meaning "receptacle". Akixi comes from the Kimbundu language term Mukixi.Candomblé Jejé
Candomblé Jejé, also known as Brazilian Vodum, is one of the major branches (nations) of Candomblé. It developed in the Portuguese Empire among Fon and Ewe slaves. Jejé is a Yoruba word meaning stranger, which is what the Fon and Ewe slaves represented to the Yoruba slaves.Candomblé Ketu
Candomblé Ketu (or Queto in Portuguese) is the largest and most influential branch (nation) of Candomblé, a religion practiced in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The word Candomblé means “ritual dancing or gather in honor of gods” and Ketu is the name of the Ketu region of Benin.Its liturgical language, known as Iorubá or Nagô, is a dialect of Yoruba. Candomblé Ketu developed in the early 19th century and gained great importance to Brazilian heritage in the 20th century.Cowrie-shell divination
Cowrie-shell divination refers to several distinct forms of divination using cowrie shells that are part of the rituals and religious beliefs of certain religions. Though best-documented in West Africa as well as in Afro-American religions, such as Santería, Candomblé, and Umbanda, cowrie-shell divination has also been recorded in other regions, notably East Africa and India.Eshu
Eshu (Yoruba: Èṣù, also known as Echú, Exu or Exú) is an Orisha in the Yoruba religion of the Yoruba people (originating from Yorubaland, an area in and around present-day Nigeria). As the religion has spread around the world, the name of this Orisha has varied in different locations, but the beliefs remain similar.Macumba
Macumba (Portuguese pronunciation: [maˈkũᵐbɐ]) is a syncretic religion practiced in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It is sometimes considered by non-practitioners to be a form of witchcraft or black magic. Macumba was originally used to categorize all religions who practiced or believed in animistic-syncretism during the 1800s. In the 1900s Macumba became a slang term among Brazilians who aren’t affiliated with these religions. The religions that are referred to under the umbrella term Macumba are Candomblé, Giro, and Mesa Blanca. Although the word Macumba may be used among Afro-Brazilian religion praticioners to kindly refer to their practices, it is also used as a pejorative and even a racial slur by evangelical hate groups against these religions.Ogun
Ogun or Ogoun (Edo: Ògún, Portuguese: Ogum, Gu; also spelled Oggun or Ogou; known as Ogún or Ogum in Latin America) is an Orisha, Loa, and Vodun. He is a warrior and a powerful spirit of metal work, as well as of rum and rum-making. He is also known as the 'god of Iron'.Olodumare
Olodumare (Yoruba: O-lo-dù-ma-rè) also known as Olorun (Almighty) is the name given to one of the three manifestations of the Supreme God or Supreme Being in the Yoruba pantheon. Olodumare is the Supreme Creator.The Yoruba believe Olodumare is omnipotent and is also responsible for the creation of all life, Yoruba tradition says everything is in the hands of God (Olodumare) when they are going to bed at night.The name Olodumare symbolises a divine "Entity" following these characteristics: not having a father or mother; one that and is not bound by space.Historically, the Yoruba did not worship Olodumare, there is no specific shrine and no sacrifice is often made towards their way.
Yoruba consider Olodumare to be the origin of virtue and mortality. Is believed to bestow the knowledge of things upon all persons at the time of their birth. The Yoruba call on Olodumare when other deities are unwilling to help or seem incapable. Yoruba believe Olodumare created all other forces of the universe to help continue the evolution of the universe.Olokun
Olokun (Yoruba: Olókun, known as Olocún in Latin America) is an orisha. Olokun is believed to be the parent of Aje, the orisha of great wealth and of the bottom of the ocean. Olokun is revered as the ruler of all bodies of water and for the authority over other water deities. Olokun is highly praised for her or his ability to give great wealth, health and prosperity to her or his followers. Communities in both West Africa and the African diaspora view Olokun variously as female, male, or androgynous.Oshosi
Oshosi (Yoruba: Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀sì, Portuguese: Oxóssi, is an Orisha of the Yoruba religion in West Africa and subsequently in Brazil.Oshunmare
Oshunmare (known as Ochumaré or Oxumaré in Latin America) is an Orisha. Osumare is the spirit of the rainbow, and Osumare also means rainbow in the Yoruba LanguageSanto Amaro, Bahia
Santo Amaro, also known as Santo Amaro da Purificação is a municipality in the state of Bahia in Brazil. The population is 61,702 (2015 est.) in an area of 492.9 square kilometres (190.3 sq mi). It is located in the metropolitan area of Salvador. Santo Amaro is located approximately 73 kilometres (45 mi) from the city of Salvador. Santo Amaro was home to numerous Amerindian peoples until the arrival of the Portuguese, who developed the region for sugarcane production. Santo Amaro is now noted for its numerous historic structures. The city is also a center of Candomblé, having more than 60 terreiros, or temples of the religion.Shango
Ṣàngó (Yoruba language: Ṣàngó, also known as Changó or Xangô in Latin America; and also known as Jakuta or Badé) (from shan, 'to strike') is an Orisha. He is syncretized with either Saint Barbara or Saint Jerome. Historically, Shango is a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as he was the third Alafin of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification. Ṣàngó has numerous manifestations including Airá, Agodo, Afonja, Lubé, and Obomin. He is considered to be one of the most powerful rulers that Yorubaland has ever produced, and is noted for his anger.Ọbatala
Obatala (known as Obatalá in Latin America and Yoruba mythology) is an Orisha. He is believed to be the Sky Father and the creator of human bodies, which were brought to life by the smooth breath of Olodumare. Obatala is the father of all Orishas and the owner of all ori. Any Orisha may claim an individual, but until that individual is initiated into the priesthood of that Orisha, Obatala still owns that head. Obatala's principal wife is Yemoja (known as Yemaya in Cuba).
Obatala is the second son of Olodumare and was authorized by Him to create land upon the water beneath the sky. Due to his efforts, the first Yoruba city, Ife, was founded. Obatala is Olodumare's representative on Earth and the shaper of human beings.According to the oral traditions of Ife, the mortal Obatala served as king of Ife during its classical period. His throne was lost to the lineage of his rival Oduduwa at some point during the 12th century CE.
Following Obatala's posthumous deification, he was admitted to the Yoruba pantheon as an aspect of a primordial divinity of the same name.Ọlọrun
Olorun is the ruler of (or in) the Heavens. The Supreme God or Supreme Being in the Yoruba pantheon, Olorun, is also called Olodumare.
Humans do not worship Olorun directly, there are no sacred areas of worship or ordained person. Olorun is outlying, distant and does not partake in human rituals. There are no shrines or sacrifices dedicated directly to him, although followers can send prayers in his direction.Among the Yoruba Christians and Muslims, meanwhile, the word Ọlọrun is also commonly used to denote their faith in God as The Almighty Divine, The Absolute Sovereign."
For Yoruba traditions there is no centralized authority, because of this and the way the traditions were spread through the slave trade to other areas of the world, there are many different ways that Yoruban People and their descendants or Orisa-based faiths can understand the idea of Olorun.Ọsanyin
Ọsanyin (Yoruba: Ọ̀sanyìn, rendered Osaín/Ossain/Ossaím in Latin America) is the one-eyed, one-armed, one-legged orisha of healing herbs. In America he is syncretized with Saint Joseph.Ọya
Ọya (Yoruba: Ọya, also known as Oyá or Oiá; Yansá or Yansã; and Iansá or Iansã in Latin America) is an orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death and rebirth. She is similar to the Haitian god Maman Brigitte, who is syncretised with the Catholic Saint Brigit.
In Yoruba, the name Oya means "she tore." She is known as Ọya-Iyansan – the "mother of nine" — due to the Niger River (known to the Yoruba as the Odo-Ọya) traditionally being known for having nine tributaries.
Yoruba religion (Orisa-Ifá)
|Countries of development|