"For far too long, a majority of Africans have been indifferent to misrepresentations about who they are
– Childo Nwangwu.
Before the whites came to Africa, the Africans have their gods/deities and their unique ways of worship. There were also traditional cults that people belonged.  These worships of deities were described as 'pagan/ungodly" worship by the white imperialists. Christian and Islamic worships were foisted on the Africans. If an African recants his traditional faith and joins the colonialists` way of worship then they are described as civilized and an African who is educated and still practices his/her native deity worship is tagged as "uncivilized.' Most African abandoned their own native religions and embraced the imperialists` so-called superior worships that was used as a vehicle to loot Africa`s resources and human capital in area of slavery. Africans taken into slavery were made to worship the gods of their masters, however, others well steeped in their native traditions continued to  practice their native worship of deities. One of this great African traditional worship apart from vodoun practice that also withstand the white man`s christianity and Islam is Afro-Brazilian worship, Candomble.
     Lorenzo Dow Turner Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
Mãe Menininha (front center) and her Candomblé priestesses at the Ilé Axé Yá Masse temple, Salvador, Bahia, 1940-41. Mãe Menininha, who was a highly respected Candomblé leader in Bahia.

                       THE HISTORY OF CANDOMBLE
Candomblé is an African-Brazilian religion. It was born of a people who were taken from their homes in Africa and transplanted to Brazil during the slave trade.
The religion is a mixture of traditional Yoruba, Fon and Bantu beliefs which originated from different regions in Africa, and it has also incorporated some aspects of the Catholic faith over time.
The name itself means 'dance in honour of the gods', and music and dance are important parts of Candomblé ceremonies.

Beautiful Afro-Brazilian Candomble faithful in her religious attire

                                                   Nanã Buruku


Candomblé and Catholicism

From the earliest days of the slave trade, many Christian slave owners and Church leaders felt it was important to convert the enslaved Africans. This was in order to fulfil their religious obligations but also in the hope of making the enslaved more submissive. Others also argue that enslaved Africans were religiously persecuted in order that they held no connection to a shared past.
While walking the streets of Salvador in the state of Bahia, one might notice several similar-looking buildings that resemble churches.  These buildings, called terreiros, are the centers of worship for followers of the syncretic religion Candomblé.  The religion is not practiced just in Brazil, it has around 2 million followers worldwide although Salvador has the most terreiros and is the center of the religion.

Although the Church succeeded in many cases, not all Africans converted. Many outwardly practised Christianity but secretly prayed to their own god, gods or ancestor spirits. In Brazil, where Catholicism was popular, adherents of Candomblé saw in the worship of saints a similarity with their own religion. Candomblé practitioners often concealed the sacred symbols of their deities inside their corresponding Catholic saints.
                                Candomblé - São Sebastião e Pe. Cícero (watch the worship of objects
                                 just like the Catholics do.)
In the segregated communities of America, it was easy to create Catholic religious fraternities where black people would meet with each other. These meetings, however, were actually an opportunity for Candomblé worship to happen 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.
Many of the enslaved Africans from Bantu found a shared system of worship with Brazil's indigenous people and through this connection they re-learned ancestor worship.
    Orações aos Orixás - Candomble prayers to the Orishas by Ana Flávia

                            Candomble practice in Brazil

Persecution and resurgence

Candomblé was condemned by the Catholic Church, and followers of the faith were persecuted violently right up through government-led public campaigns and police action. The persecution stopped when a law requiring police permission to hold public ceremonies was scrapped in the 1970s.
The religion has surged in popularity in Brazil since then, with as many as two million people professing to follow the faith. It is particularly practised in Salvador da Bahia, in the north east of Brazil. Interestingly, many people from African countries visit Bahia in order to learn more about the faith of their ancestors.
          candomble ceremony

For many followers it is not just a matter of religious belief but also of reclaiming the cultural and historical identity which slavery stripped them of.
There is also some movement to remove Catholic imagery from worship services, in an attempt to return the faith to its more fundamental origins.
                                          Candomblé Opo Afonja Salvador, Bahia. 1950 - 1951
In all Candomblé living spaces the cult is headed by either a holy mother or holy father, whose African heritage can often be perfectly traced, like with Maria Bibiana do Espíritu Santo, better known as Senhora. With authority, Mae Senhora led the Terreiro *) do Axé Opo Afonjá in Bahia. She initiated numerous holy daughters and thereby became their spiritual mother.

          On festive days, the holy daughters wear traditional attire for Bahian women: long dresses, embroidered smocks, wraps over their shoulders, and turban-like headpieces. Over their breasts they wear decorative chains and amulets.


The head of the initiate is shaven and his hair collected inside a white cloth...Then the first of the animal sacrifices are made: cocks, pigeons, tortoises, partridges, snails.
         Man starting the Candomble initiation
The blood simultaneously poured over his head establishes the connection between the novice and his god.
          second stage of the initiation
The pinnacle of this blood-baptismal is the sacrificing of the ram.
On the third day of their initiation, the bodies of novices are marked with white chalk. These white dots and stripes applied to their heads and bodies are made out of respect for Obatala (in Brazil Oxala), the king always shrouded in white and also the creator of mankind.

A new initiate's story

Roderick Steel Roderick Steel © Like many people who eventually found their spiritual home in candomblé I was drawn to it by a deep respect and fascination for the orixás, an admiration of its mythology, and by the charisma of a priest who invited me to join his temple. This priest ushered me into his spiritual home by casting a set of sacred cowries and determining the role my mother's and father's ancestors played in my life, what my destiny (odu) had in store for me, and what deities would guide me through my life. After many months of interacting with the members of the temple, and gaining their acceptance, a date was set for my initiation, whereupon I would receive the title of Odé Aperin, servant of the hunting deity Oxossi.
On the night of my initiation I arrived at the temple wearing old clothes, and was led to an ancestral grove in a candle-lit procession. For the next three days I underwent a series of rituals and libations that invited my deity to take charge of my inner, spiritual head. Due to my special relationship with another priest some rituals were performed in his presence. (Longer, more elaborate rituals are performed on initiates who become fully possessed by their deity.)
Table full of colourful food served on leaves, surrounded by moving people Olugbajé feast, served in large leaves and containing food sacred to all the deities © On the final day the temple was prepared for a great party, whereupon the hunting deities descended to celebrate life, dance and offer visitors a banquet featuring their favourite foods. Priests from other temples and 'nations' (Candomblé has several 'nations', reflecting the different African nations the slaves came from) arrived and I was presented to the community at large: a long line was formed and all those present embraced me and wished me well. The drummers sang in many different languages (yoruba, fon, bantu) as the night wore on and deities from these different nations arrived.
Once the African deities departed the party continued, the drummers moved outside the temple and played samba. This acted as a 'call' for the ancient spirits of the land (belonging to sailors, Indians, slaves) to 'arrive', arbitrarily possessing priests and other initiates. These fun-loving and mischievous entities made sure that even the shyest person (which was no longer me) had a beer or two before going home.(

                          A Brazilian woman is initiated into the Candomblé religion

                                  CANDOMBLE BELIEFS

Practitioners of Candomblé believe in one all powerful God called Oludumaré who is served by lesser deities. These deities are called orixas, voduns and inkices.
Orixas are ancestors who have been deified. These orixas can be from recent history, perhaps only one hundred years old, or they may be over a thousand years old. Orixas are a link between the spiritual world and the world of humans.
Voduns and inkices are spirit gods, essentially the same as orixas. Candomblé is a synthesis of three African religions, Yoruba, Fon and Bantu, and voduns and inkices are the names preferred by the other two sects. For the purposes of clarity, the term orixa will be used throughout the article.

Candomblé practitioners believe that every person has their own individual orixa which controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector. Each orixa represents a certain force in nature and is associated with certain foods, colours, animals and days of the week. A person's character or personality is strongly linked to their orixa.
Collectively, ancestor spirits are called 'Baba Egum' in Brazil. This is also known as 'Egungun' in other parts of South America.
During important ceremonies, priests and priestesses will masquerade as Baba Egum. Specially choreographed dances will be performed in order to become possessed of each ancestor spirit.
         Candomblé / Festa de Erê
Candomble is an afro-brazilian cult.
The yaos, iniciated neophytes of Candomble, can "incorporate" their orishas, the archaetypical gods of this spiritualist and teluric religion. The Eres are a vibrational part of this orishas, that's associated with the childish vibes. These were taken during a celebration for the Eres (Ibeji Party) at a "candomble house" from the african keto nation doctrine, on a rural area of Rio de Janeiro. It's a tradition that, during this ere's party, poor children from all around came to receive gifts, candies, food and clothes. It's a very beautiful and pleasant happening. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 2004.

Concepts of good and bad

There is no concept of good or bad in Candomblé. Each person is only required to fulfil his or her destiny to the fullest, regardless of what that is. This is not a free ticket to do whatever you want though. Candomblé teaches that any evil you cause to people will return to you eventually.

The Baba Egum are important in regulating the moral code of Candomblécists. It is their responsibility to make sure that moral standards of the past are continued in the present. This is regulated during the 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 (African) Religious Ceremony     

Holy scriptures

Candomblé is an oral tradition and therefore has no holy scriptures.

    A pregnant Candomble follower dances on the beach during the festival in honor to Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, 2 February 2012. Yemanjá, originally from the ancient Yoruba mythology, is one of the most popular ?orixás?, the deities from the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. Every year on February 2nd, thousands of Yemanjá devotees participate in a colorful celebration in her honor. Faithful, usually dressed in the traditional white, gather on the beach at dawn to leave offerings for their goddess. Gifts for Yemanjá include flowers, perfumes or jewelry. Dancing in the circle and singing ancestral Yoruba prayers, sometimes the followers enter into a trance and become possessed by the spirits. Although Yemanjá is widely worshipped throughout Latin America, including south of Brazil, Uruguay, Cuba or Haiti, the most popular cult is maintained in Bahia, Brazil.

     Candomble followers dancing

Places of worship

Spotted seashell. © Cliff Parnell Cowry shells, tools for divination in Candomblé, were formerly used as currency in parts of Africa © Worship services used to be held in the homes of the enslaved. There are reports of dancing ceremonies taking place in Rio de Janeiro, and laws being made that forbade any person from attending these ceremonies. Anyone caught at such places were given from fifty to one hundred lashes.
There is an important distinction between sacred and profane places for Candomblécists. In profane places, ordinary everyday life occurs; work, play, relaxation and eating.
Sacred places are called terreiro or temples. They are buildings with indoor and outdoor spaces, and special areas for the gods. Worshippers wear clean clothes and splash water on themselves before they enter to rid themselves of the uncleanliness of the world.
Followers go to terreiro for a number of reasons. Many go to have their fortunes told. To do this, a priest or priestess casts cowry shells and interprets the pattern in which they fall. Others go for months to immerse themselves in the spiritual and become possessed by their orixa.
The first official temple was founded at the beginning of the 19th century in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil.

    A Candomblé worshipper becomes possessed during the festival of Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea,

             condomble dancer in trance

Women in Candomblé

Women are very important in the Candomblé faith. Services are usually led by women, called 'mothers of the holy one', and it is the women who are responsible for ensuring the training of future priestesses.

Dance during worship

Worship takes the form of specially choreographed dances and hymns. The dance is a call to the spirits. At its height, the worshipper's orixa temporarily possesses the dancer's body and he or she enters into a trance like state and dances alone. Finally the gods are expelled. This is done by singing the hymns again, but in reverse order starting with the last hymn.
Ogum charges towards the drums where he will show his mythical dances. Dance of Ogum, one of the fiercest deities © African dancing was well known to the slave owners of South America. Even though the dance as a form of worship was forbidden, the enslaved would still dance in their free time in the fields.
These dances became important symbols of rebellion. Their rhythmic movements and rocking bodies belied the truth behind the dances. The enslaved Africans practised a form of martial art within the dances, seamlessly moving from attacking positions to defensive ones, learning to quickly gauge how to react to their opponent. This dance is called capoeira and has become increasingly popular in the West as an art form.

           Candomblé devotees sail on Paraguaçu river during the ritual ceremony in honor to Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea.

   Candomblé devotees dance and sing during the ritual procession in honor to Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea

    Candomblé worshippers throw flowers in the sea during the celebration of Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea
A Candomblé follower becomes possessed during the ritual ceremony in honor to Yemanjá, the gsea, in Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil, 5 February 2012.

Finding your god
A young Baiana girl seen during the ritual ceremony in honor to Yemanjá, the Candomblé goddess of the sea.

Members of the Candomble cult dance themselves into a trance.
Location:Salvador, Bahia State, Brazil.
Photographer:STEPHANIE MAZE/National Geographic Stock
Boipeba Island - Bahia Brazil

Gente de Candomblé

SPIRITUAL : Candomble , fusion of African voodoo and ethnic Brazilian cults

Two young Afro-Brazilian Candomble followers

A Candomblé faithful throws flowers in the sea during the celebration of Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea

A Candomblé believer becomes possessed in the water during the ritual celebration of Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea, in Salvador, Bahia,

Candomble worshippers

Statue of Yemanja, the queen of the sea ! Candomble Culture.

Candomblé devotees carry flower baskets onto a boat during the ritual ceremony in honor to Yemanjá, the goddess of the sea


Sacrificial doves used in Condomble rituals;

ublished by erlin-Verla



  1. Firstly, beautiful post, and I hope everything is going well for you.

    I'm writing today, on behalf of my film crew, to let you know about a current project of drummer Layne Redmond to transmit the traditions of the Orixás into film via great Bahian musicians and dancers. The project focuses on 7 dances of the Orixás, and moves between them with interviews with musicians and artists and how they have been influenced by the cultural traditions of Candomblé.

    Because of your role in sharing the beautiful cultures of the African diaspora through writing and new media, I thought it would be appropriate to share with you our efforts, and ask that you may share our project with those who might also be interested in this. If you decide you would like to cover the project in a blog post, we can provide you with a press release, if desired.

    To hear the Candomblé music composed for the film, please visit:

    The early trailer for our film can be viewed here:

    And more information on the film can be found at

    Thank you for your time reading this, and I hope you have a great day!

    1. Thanks, Natty! I totally enjoyed the soundtrack... and will look forward to the 'finished product'. ^..^

  2. Btw,this isn't a criticism but a comment. Like many I notice you go for slavery as the most common explanation for the presence of blacks in the new world. Fyi,there have been blacks in Brazil and S and C America since prehistoric times. In fact since before Mongoloid peoples appeared on the earth.


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