Sunday, April 26, 2009
Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practiced chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo"(people of saint).The religion was largely originated in Salvador.
The religion is based in the anima (soul) of Nature, therefore being also known as Animism. It was developed in Brazil with the knowledge of African Priests that were enslaved and brought to Brazil, together with their mythology, their culture and language, between 1549 and 1888.
The rituals involve the possession of the initiated by Orishas, offerings and sacrifices of the mineral, vegetal and animal kingdom, healing, dancing/trance and percussion. Candomblé draws inspiration from a variety of people of the African Diaspora, but it mainly features aspects of Yoruba orisha veneration.
In the Yoruba language, God, the Supreme Being, has various names such as Olodumare, Eleda, Olofin-Orun, Eledumare and Olorun. God is worshipped along with the veneration of the orishas. The Orishas are said to "mount", or possess the participant during rituals. Their indiginous spiritual practices were mostly brought over during the Atlantic slave trade by those dedicated to the veneration of the orishas.
Although originally confined to the slave population, banned by the Catholic church, and even criminalized by some governments, Candomblé thrived for over four centuries, and expanded considerably after the end of slavery in the late 1800s. The idea that the Candomblé church is a unit is incorrect, however. The original Candomble temple, terreiro, was established in early 19th century Bahia. It developed from three freed African women, Iya Deta, Iya Kala, and Iya Nasso, and many call it a true matrilineal society. They first established the Candomble headquarters in Bahia called Engenho Velho. However, this was not meant to last, and after dispute after dispute candombles split from one another; therefore, this established hundreds of different candombles. These different candombles mixed ideas and practices with local Afro-Brazilians and created distinct attributes for certain candombles. The different candomblés, today, are known as nações, or nations, including Candomblé de Ketu, Candomblé de Angola, Candomblé de Jejé, Candomblé de Congo, Candomblé de Ijexa, and Candomblé de Caboclo. It is now a major, established religion, with followers from all social classes and tens of thousands of temples. In recent surveys, about 2 million Brazilians (1.5% of the total population) have declared Candomblé as their religion. However, in Brazilian culture, religions are not seen as mutually exclusive, and thus many people of other faiths participate in Candomblé rituals regularly or occasionally. Candomblé deities, rituals, and holidays are now an integral part of Brazilian folklore.
Over the centuries Candomblé has incorporated many elements from Christianity. Crucifixes are sometimes displayed in Candomblé temples, and the African deities were often identified with specific Catholic saints. To this day, Candomblé houses in Brazil commonly display statues of the Catholic saints which correspond to the house's deity.
The Candomblé ritual (toque) has two parts: the preparation, attended only by priests and initiates, which may start a week in advance; and 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 Orixas 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, children-of-saint (mediunic priests) invoke and "incorporate" Orixás, falling into a trance-like state. After having fallen into trance, 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 and has had a strong influence in other popular (non-religious) Brazilian music styles. The word batuque, for instance, has entered the Brazilian vernacular as a synonym of "rhythmic percussion music".