Tambor de Mina

Tambor de Mina is an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition, practiced mainly in Brazilian states of Maranhão, Piauí, Pará, and the Amazônia.[1]

Tambor de Mina
Atrio principal
The interior of Casa das Minas, with a photo of the last complete initiation ceremony (boat of tobossis), in 1914. The floor is made of clay
TheologyMixture of West African religions such as Yoruba and Dahomey religion, as well as Catholicism.
OriginSlave era
Maranhão, Brazil


Tambor means drum in Portuguese, and refers to the importance of the rhythmic element to worship. Mina derives from the name São Jorge da Mina, now also known as Elmina Castle, and refers to a designation given to African slaves, although the name did not necessarily refer to slaves who had passed through the fortress/port of São Jorge da Mina itself, but rather to "different ethnicities over time and place".[2] For example, 'Mina-Popo' was often the designation for people from Little Popo, originally Akan speakers who had migrated from west of the Volta River, and "Mina-Nago" and "Mina-Congo" were other designations sometimes found in Brazil.[2]


Slavery in Maranhão was concentrated in the Itapecuru Valley, the Baixada Maranhense, and São Luís, which is the capital of the Brazilian state of Maranhao. Cotton and sugar cane plantations contributed heavily to the development of larger cities. Colonial houses were built with slave labor with their unique design influenced by the harmony, beauty, and choreography of songs originating from ancient Africa.[1]


Tambor of Mina worships vodums, orixás, and entities (also called Encantados, spirits of people) who are called gentis (if they are European kings, princes and nobles, like King Sebastian of Portugal, King Manoel, King Luís) or caboclos (if they are of native origin, or Turcos of moorish kings origin, or indigenous people, like Pai Turquia, João da Mata Rei da Bandeira, Vó Surrupira, Sultão das Matas, and many others).[3][1]

Voduns, gods of the fon or jeje people, are forces of nature and deified human ancestors. Some young voduns called toquém or toquenos fulfill the function of guides, messengers, helpers of the other voduns. Tobóssis are infantile feminine deities, considered daughters of voduns.[1]

The voduns are grouped in 5 families: Davice (or the dahomean royal family, like Tói Zomadônu, Tói Dadarrô, Nochê Sepazin); Quevioçô (or Nagô voduns, such as Tói Badé Nenem Quevioçô, Nochê Sobô Babadi, Nanã, Tói Lôco, Tói Averequete); Dambirá (who cures the plague and other diseases, like Tói Acóssi Sapatá Odan and Tói Azile); Aladanu; Savaluno (like Azacá). Each family occupies a specific part of the house and has its own songs, behaviors, and activities. There are about 45 voduns and 15 tobossis in Casa das Minas.[1]

The title of Tói means that vodum is a male and the title of Nochê means that vodum is a female. Avievodum is the Supreme God, and Legba is not considered a messenger, being identified as an evil spirit by the Casa das Minas, although he plays an important role in other temples.[4]

Tambor de Mina is a mixture of Dahomey Religion, fon (jeje), Yoruba Religion (nagô), Fanti-Ashanti, Ketu, Agrono or Cambinda (Angola-Congo), Indigenous American and European traditions (Roman Catholicism).[5]

It is said that the encantados are entities of people who did not die, but disappeared mysteriously, becoming invisible or turning into animals or plants, living in a magical kingdom called Encantaria. The encantados are present in diverse Amazon beliefs (like the legend of Boto) and they are also organized in families in the Tambor de Mina: Lençol (that lives in the island of Lençóis, in Cururupu, in Maranhão, like the King Sebastian and Tóia Jarina); Codó (its leader is Légua-Boji); Turquia (like Cabocla Mariana, Herondina); Bandeira (its leader is João da Mata Rei da Bandeira); Gama; Bahia; Surrupira, and others. They are also invoked in religious ceremonies and the priest or priestess goes into trance.[1]

Salão interno
The interior of Casa das Minas, a temple of Tambor de Mina

Due to the cultural richness and syncretism present in the cult, these elements coexist in a harmonious way, being almost impossible to separate popular Catholicism, local folklore and the Encantaria, the Cure or Pajelança from the Tambor de Mina (in festive rites called Brinquedo de Cura; or Tambor de Curador, in the city of Cururupu). It is said that the pantheon of encantados shared by the two religions "navigate in the two waters", being the Tambor de Mina classified as "sea water line" and the Cura/Pajelança as "fresh water line".[3][6]

In the temples of Tambor de Mina, it is common to hold feasts and parties of the popular culture of Maranhão that are sometimes requested by spiritual entities that like them, such as the Feast of the Divine Holy Spirit, Bumba-meu-boi, Tambor de Crioula, and others.[5]

Terecô is the denomination of one of the Afro-Brazilian religions of the city of Codó (called capital of macumba or capital of magic, by the great number of terreiros, the temples of Afro-Brazilian religions) in Maranhão and Teresina in Piauí, derived from Tambor de Mina.

Temples and priesthood

Vista externa da fachada da casa
Casa das Minas, in São Luís.

There are two main models of Tambor de Mina in Maranhão: Jeje and Nagô. The former seems to be the oldest and settled around the Casa Grande das Minas Jeje, better known as Casa das Minas (Querebentã de Tói Zomadônu or House of Minas), the oldest temple (terreiro), which must have been founded in São Luís in the 1840s. The other, which is almost contemporary and which continues to this day, has settled around the Casa de Nagô (House of Nagô). Casa das Minas and Casa de Nagô are located in the same neighborhood.[1]

The Casa das Minas (Querebentã of Tói Zomadônu) is unique; it does not have houses that are affiliated to it. It was founded by an African woman named Maria Jesuina, who came to Brazil as a slave and, according to Pierre Verger, was the Queen Nã Agontimé, wife of King Agonglô of Dahomey and mother of King Guezô. The most famous priestess (vondunsi) of the temple was Mother Andressa Maria, considered the last princess of Fon direct lineage that headed the Casa das Minas. She was born in 1854 and died in 1954, at the age of 100.[1]

In this house, the songs are in language jeje (Ewe-Fon) and deities called voduns are worshipped, but although it does not have affiliated houses, the cult model of the Tambor de Mina is greatly influenced by the Casa das Minas. In the Casa das Minas, only women can command religious ceremonies. They are called vodunsis, the priestess of Tambor de Mina. The men had a special function of drum players (abatás players; hence, the definition of "abatazeiros").[4] The last vodunsi, Dona Deni, died in 2015, having been no full priesthood initiation rituals (vodúnsi-gonjaí) since 1914 (for reasons not clarified), without other vodunsis to the trance by the invocation of voduns.

Casa das Minas is currently managed by Euzébio Pinto, the grandson of vondusi Dona Amélia. There are still many festivals of popular culture in the temple, such as the Feast of the Divine Holy Spirit, Tambor de Crioula, Bumba-meu-boi and others (that traditionally were requested by the voduns who liked them), with the Casa das Minas continuing with much cultural relevance.[1]

The Casa de Nagô (Nagon Abioton) was founded by Josefa (Zefa de Nagô) and Maria Joana Travassos, who were African women of yourubá tradition, and helped by the founder of Casa das Minas. They worship voduns, orixás (Yoruba deities), gentis, and caboclos. The House of Nagô influenced the formation of the other terreiros (temples) of São Luís.

Various objects of the Afro-Maranhense culture, especially the Tambor de Mina, as accessories of clothing and support, used in the rituals of Casa das Minas, Casa de Nagô, and other terreiros of Maranhão can be found in Cafuá das Mercês (Black Museum), in Sao Luís.[7]

There are hundreds of temples of Tambor de Mina, headed by women called vodunsis and men called vodunos, in Maranhão (like Casa Fanti Ashanti), or with origin from Maranhão, in Piauí, Pará (Terreiro de Tambor de Mina Dois Irmãos), Amazonas, in the southeastern region, like the Casa das Minas Toya Jarina, in the state of São Paulo.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Reginaldo Prandi > Nas pegadas do Voduns : um terreiro de tambor-de-mina em São Paulo > Artigos, teses e publicações ... Espiritualidade e Sociedade ...:::". www.espiritualidades.com.br. Retrieved 2018-12-02.
  2. ^ a b Hall, Gwendolyn Midlo (2009-11-05). Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807876862.
  3. ^ a b www.cmfolclore.ufma.br (in Portuguese) https://books.google.com.au/books?id=uFodWson5NAC&lpg=PA176&ots=uJkitD1ODE&dq=mina-nago&pg=PA47#v=onepage&q=mina-nago&f=false. Retrieved 2018-12-02. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Reginaldo Prandi > Nas pegadas do Voduns : um terreiro de tambor-de-mina em São Paulo > Artigos, teses e publicações ... Espiritualidade e Sociedade ...:::". www.espiritualidades.com.br. Retrieved 2018-12-03.
  5. ^ a b Tambor de Mina – da África para o Brasil | Retratos de Fé | TV Brasil | Notícias (in Portuguese), retrieved 2018-12-02
  6. ^ Ferretti, Mundicarmo; Ferretti, Mundicarmo (2014-12-01). "Brinquedo de Cura in Terreiro de Mina". Revista do Instituto de Estudos Brasileiros (59): 57–78. doi:10.11606/issn.2316-901X.v0i59p57-78. ISSN 0020-3874.
  7. ^ "O Tambor de Mina do Maranhão e a Casa das Minas – GPMINA". www.gpmina.ufma.br. Retrieved 2018-12-26.
Afro-American religion

Afro-American religion (also known as African diasporic religions) are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas in various nations of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. They derive from traditional African religions with some influence from other religious traditions, notably Christianity.


Ase or ashe (from Yoruba àṣẹ) is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. It is given by Olodumare to everything — gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers, and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, or even everyday conversation. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it.In addition to its sacred characteristics, ase also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as "power, authority, command." A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an alaase.

Rituals to invoke divine forces reflect this same concern for the autonomous ase of particular entities. The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the ase of persons and gods is what structures society and its relationship with the other-world.


Babaaláwo or Babalawo (Babalao or Babalaô in Latin America; literally meaning 'father of the mysteries' in the Yoruba language) is a spiritual title that denotes a priest of the Ifá oracle. Ifá is a divination system that represents the teachings of the Òrìṣà Orunmila, the Òrìṣà of Wisdom, who in turn serves as the oracular representative of Olodumare. A Babalawo's female counterpart is known as an Iyanifa.


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. 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 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.

Cuban Vodú

Cuban Vodú, also known as La Regla de Arará, is a syncretic religion of Caribbean origin which developed in the Spanish Empire. It is a religion formed from the blending of Fon and Ewe beliefs and Dahomey religion along with influences form Haitian Vodou. Loa are worshiped by the religion's practitioners. Even though much of the practices come from Haitian immigrants bringing Haitian Vodou to Cuba the Cuban practices differ in some ways. For instance: feats of strength are more common in ceremonies and dance movements differ. Cuban Vodú is composed of three divisions: the Indigenous American Division, whose spirits are of American origin (usually refers to Taíno spirits); the African Division, whose spirits are of African origin (usually Fon and Ewe spirits); and the European Division, whose spirits are of European origin (usually Spanish spirits).

Dominican Vudú

Dominican Vudú, also known as Las 21 Divisiones (21 Divisions), is a syncretic religion of Caribbean origin which developed on the island of Hispaniola.


The Gẹlẹdẹ spectacle of the Yoruba is a public display by colorful masks which combines art and ritual dance to amuse, educate and inspire worship. Gelede celebrates “Mothers” (awon iya wa), a group that includes female ancestors and deities as well as the elderly women of the community, and the power and spiritual capacity these women have in society. However, this power may also be destructive and take the form of witchcraft; therefore, Gelede serves the function of appeasing this power, as well.

Letra del año

The Letra del año (Spanish) or Letra do Ano (Portuguese) (English: Letter of the year) is an annual proclamation of predictions and advice by babalawo's for the coming year, usually issued every December 31 (New Year's Eve on the Gregorian calendar). In Yorubaland, it is made by a council of babalawo's during the Odun Ifa (New Year) festival during June. In most of Latin America, a national council of babalawo's is usually responsible for the announcements of predictions. In Cuba, however, at least two national councils (one of which is state-sponsored) offer letras del año. A particular controversy arose in 2009-2010, when one of the Cuban national councils of babalawo issued a letra which predicted fights for power and an unusually high number of deaths of political leaders in the world, which many media outlets outside Cuba interpreted as being directed to Cuba's own political apparatus.


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.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.


Òrìṣà (original spelling in the Yoruba language), known as orichá or orixá in Latin America, are the human form of the spirits (Irunmọlẹ) sent by Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi in Yoruba traditional identity. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). Most Òrìṣà are said to be deities previously existing in the spirit world (Òrun) as Irunmọlẹ, while others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.Many Òrìṣà have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of orisha is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.

São Luís, Maranhão

São Luís (Brazilian Portuguese: [sɐ̃w luˈis], Saint Louis) is the capital and largest city of the Brazilian state of Maranhão. The city is located on Upaon-açu Island (Big Island, in Tupi Language) or Ilha de São Luís (Saint Louis' Island), in the Baía de São Marcos (Saint Mark's Bay), an extension of the Atlantic Ocean which forms the estuary of Pindaré, Mearim, Itapecuru and other rivers. Its coordinates are 2.53° south, 44.30° west. São Luís has the second largest maritime extension within Brazilian states. Its maritime extension is 640 km (397 miles). The city proper has a population of some 1,094,667 people (2018 IBGE estimate). The metropolitan area totals 1,605,305, ranked as the 15th largest in Brazil.

São Luís, created originally as Saint-Louis-de-Maragnan, is the only Brazilian state capital founded by France (see France Équinoxiale) and it is one of the three Brazilian state capitals located on islands (the others are Vitória and Florianópolis).

The city has two major sea ports: Madeira Port and Itaqui Port, through which a substantial part of Brazil's iron ore, originating from the (pre)-Amazon region, is exported. The city's main industries are metallurgical with Alumar, and VALE. São Luís is home of the Federal University of Maranhão.

São Luís was the home town of famous Brazilian samba singer Alcione, Brazilian writers Aluísio Azevedo, Ferreira Gullar and Josué Montello, Belgian-naturalised soccer player Luís Oliveira, and the musician João do Vale, a Música popular brasileira (MPB) singer.

Trinidad Orisha

Trinidad Orisha, also known as Shango, is a syncretic religion in Trinidad and Tobago and is of Caribbean origin, originally from West Africa (Yoruba religion) and influenced by Roman Catholicism. Trinidad Orisha incorporates elements of Spiritual Baptism, and the closeness between Orisha and Spiritual Baptism has led to use of the term "Shango Baptist" to refer to members of either or both religions. Anthropologist James Houk described Trinidad Orisha as an "Afro-American religious complex", incorporating elements mainly of traditional African religion and Yoruba and incorporates some elements of Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), Hinduism, Islam (especially Sufism), Buddhism, Judaism, Bahá'í, and Trinidad Kabbalah.


A veve (also spelled vèvè or vevè) is a religious symbol commonly used in different branches of Vodun throughout the African diaspora such as Haitian Vodou. Veves should not be confused with the patipembas used in Palo, nor the pontos riscados used in Umbanda and Quimbanda since these are separate African religions. The veve acts as a "beacon" for the Loa, and will serve as a loa's representation during rituals.

West African Vodun

Vodun (meaning spirit in the Fon and Ewe languages, pronounced [vodṹ] with a nasal high-tone u; also spelled Vodon, Vodoun, Vodou, Voudou, Voodoo, etc.) is practiced by the Fon people of Benin, and southern and central Togo; as well in Ghana, and Nigeria.

It is distinct from the various traditional African religions in the interiors of these countries and is the main source of religions with similar names found among the African diaspora in the Americas, such as Haitian Vodou; Dominican Vudú; Cuban Vodú; Brazilian Vodum (candomblé jeje and tambor de mina); Puerto Rican Vudú (Sanse); and Louisiana Voodoo.


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.

Diverse roots

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