Categories: Society & Culture

Candomble: The Afro-Brazilian Religion That Honours Yoruba Gods

Candomblé (meaning dance in honor of the Gods), is an Afro-Brazilian religion developed during the earliest days of slave trade by blacks who were stolen from Africa and forced into slavery in Brazil.

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Candomblé (meaning dance in honor of the Gods), is an Afro-Brazilian religion developed during the earliest days of slave trade by blacks who were stolen from Africa and forced into slavery in Brazil. The religion incorporates some religious aspects of Yoruba, Bantu, and Fon African societies.

Candomblé was developed among Afro-Brazilian communities amid the Atlantic slave trade of the 16th to 19th centuries. It arose through the blending of the traditional religions brought to Brazil by enslaved West and Central Africans, – the majority of them Yoruba, Fon, and Bantu – and the Roman Catholic teachings of the Portuguese colonialists who then controlled the area.

The faith is a spirit-possession religion involving divination, initiation, sacrifice, healing and celebration.

Candomblé congregations worship a series of spiritual entities, often associated with forces of nature, who receive periodic ritual offerings in their shrines and who periodically possess selected devotees during public ceremonies.

A main component of Candomblé is dance, and special dances are performed during important ceremonies such as religious rituals and exorcisms.

The religion is also practised in other countries in Southern America, and has as many as two million followers.

Knowledge about Candomblé is referred to as the fundamentos (foundations”). There are three main nations: Nagô (Ketu), Jeje (Gege) or Mina-Jeje, and Angola or Congo-Angola. These are defined largely by which African language influences their terminology; the former uses Yoruba, the second Ewe, and the third the Bantu language group.

As of 2012, the Nagô nation has been described as the largest; its name derives from ànàgó, a derogatory term used by the Dahomey people to refer to Yoruba-speaking people, specifically of Oyo heritage, many of whom were sold as slaves to Brazil. The Yoruba terminology predominates widely, even across terreiros of other nations.

Here are some facts about Candomble:

1. 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.

2. Between 1549 and 1888, the religion developed in Brazil, influenced by the knowledge of enslaved African priests who continued to teach their mythology, their culture, and language despite warnings from the westerners.

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3. In Candomblé, the supreme deity is called Olorun or Olodumare. Candomblé focuses on the worship of the orixás or orishas, also known as santos (“saints”). The males are termed aborôs, the females iabás. Practitioners varyingly define these orixás as “African spirits,” “energies”, or “forces of nature”, and they are often conceived as being ancestral figures. The orixás are believed to mediate between humanity and Olorun.

4. Candomblé practitioners believe that every person has their own individual orixa which controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector.

5. 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

6. As an oral tradition, it does not have holy scriptures – Although Candomblé does not have Holy Scriptures, the moving oral tradition has remained quite strong since its formation in the 16 century.

5. Music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies, since the dances enable worshippers to become possessed by the orishas.

6. In the rituals, participants make offerings from the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Candomblé does not include the duality of good and evil; each person is required to fulfill his or her destiny to the fullest, regardless of what that is.

7. Candomblé was condemned by the Catholic Church. Followers of the faith were persecuted violently, including by government-led public campaigns and police action. With Catholicism as the state religion, other religious practices threatened the secular authority.

8. 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.

10. 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.

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