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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Candomblé

This article was written by Chris Lee on April 30, 2008
posted under Candomble

Candomblé, like Santeria, is a religion that has its origins in the Yoruba religion called Ifa. Similar to Vodou and Santeria, it developed when the slaves arrived in Brazil and where "converted" to the Catholic religion. They used the Catholic saints to hide their African Deities and connected their traditional ceremonies to some of the ceremonies of the church. In Brazil, the religion evolved and incorporated other practices, such as Allan Kardec’s Spiritism and native medicinal and spiritual knowledge.

Their Deities are known as Orixás, the portuguese word for the Yoruba Orisha. These Orixás are served, venerated and prayed for, along with the ancestors, to provide guidance, protection, prosperity, health and well being. Also, like Vodou and Santeria, it is an initiatory religion, requiring to be initiated by an Iyalorixá or Babalorixá (Priestess/Priest). There are different initiations and religious ceremonies to be completed before becoming an Iyalorixá/Babalorixá. It takes at least 7 years to complete training in the tradition, before functioning as clergy. Some commonly known Orixás are:

Exú/Elegbara: Trickster, Road Opener or Blocker and Messenger Orixá.
Ogum : Owner of Iron, Blacksmith and Warrior Orixá
Oxóssi: Owner of the Hunt and Warrior Orixá
Xangô: Owner of Thunder and Fire Orixá
Oxum: Owner of Rivers and Love Orixá
Iemanjá: Owner of the Sea and Mother Orixá
Oyá-Iansã: Owner of Winds and Lightning Orixá

Candomblé practitioners believe that the Orixás can communicate with the community of devotees through possession of the priest/priestess. The Orixás are thought to possess the initiate during a state of deep trance, usually induced by ritual music, in which the initiate adopts another voice and gestures and is dressed with a ritual costume in the colors associated with the possessing Orixá and also ritual implements that have a spiritual significance to that particular deity. The Orixás are also thought to communicate through cowrie shell divination, called jogo de búzios. This system of divination consists of casting the shells on a special tray and reading the patterns that fall. From these patterns, the priest tells the stories and legends associated with them and give advice to follow to the person receiving the reading, and might also suggest rituals to achieve success, healing, protection and also enlightenment under the patronage of one or more Orixá.

There are also different religious cults and magico-religious systems stemming from Candomblé, like Umbanda, Macumba and Quimbanda, among others. Some of these are sometimes considered dark, because of their use of magic for negative purposes, more specifically Macumba and Quimbanda. Candomblé is about healing, empowerment and connecting with the Spiritual Forces that guide the Universe. All in all, Candomblé is a religion that has thousands of followers worldwide and continues to grow and help people grow both materially and spiritually.

About the Author:

Chris Lee is an initiated priest of Oshun in the Orisha tradition of the Caribbean who continues to study every aspect of this ancient practice and its sister religions. He loves learning about alternative religions and philosophies and writing about them. He has studied the Wiccan religion in depth as well as folk magickal traditions and practices, including Herbalism, Spiritualims and Hoodoo. He is a Third Degree Reiki Master and has studied and read Tarot for 10 years.

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