Template:Afro-Brazilian topics sidebar Candomblé (Portuguese pronunciation: [kɐ̃dõˈblɛ]) is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" (people of saint). It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to other parts of Bahia state in Brazil. Although Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, it is also practiced in other countries in the Americas, including Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama; and in Europe in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The religion is based in the anima (soul) of Nature, and is 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, vegetable 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 many parts of Latin America, Orishás are now conflated with Roman Catholic saints. This religion, like many African religions, is an oral tradition and therefore has not been put into text throughout the years. Only recently have scholars and people of this religion begun to write down their practices. The name Batuque is also used, especially before the 19th century when Candomblé became more common. Both words are believed to derive from a Bantu-family language, mainly that of (Kongo Kingdom).

Candomblé may be called Macumba in some regions, notably Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, although Macumba has a distinct set of practices more akin to European witchcraft. Candomblé can also be distinguished from Umbanda, a religion founded in the early 20th century by combining African elements with Kardecism; and from similar African-derived religions such as Quimbanda, Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santería, and Obeah, which developed independently of Candomblé and are virtually unknown in Brazil.

There are 2 million Candombles worldwide [1].


Brazilian slaves came from a number of African ethnic groups, including Igbo, Yoruba, Ewe, Fon, and Bantu. Slave handlers classified them by the shore of embarkment, so the relation to their actual ethnicity may be accurate or not. As the religion developed semi-independently in different regions of the country, among different ethnic groups, it evolved into several "sects" or nations (nações), distinguished chiefly by the set of worshiped deities, as well as the music and language used in the rituals.

The division into nations was also influenced by the religious and beneficent brotherhoods (irmandades) of Brazilian slaves organized by the Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. These fraternities, organized along ethnic lines to allow preaching in the slaves' native languages, provided a legitimate cover for slave reunions, and ultimately may have aided the establishment of Candomblé.

The following list is a rough classification of the major nations and sub-nations, and their sacred languages:


Candomblé is a polytheistic religion and worships a number of gods, derived from African deities:

These deities were created by a supreme God: Olodumare, Olorun etc. of the Yoruba, Zambi or Zambiapongo of the Bantu, and Nana Buluku of the Fon.

On the other hand, deities from one nation may be acculturated as "guests" in houses and ceremonies of another nation, besides those of the latter. Some nations assign new names to guest spirits, while some retain the names used in the nation of origin.


There is also an Islamic-linked sect within Candomblé which was more common during the slave days in Brazil. Slaves coming from West Africa had been acculturated with Muslim traditions. These Malês set aside Fridays as the day to worship deities as do the Muslims for prayer and meditation. Malês were the instigators of many slave revolts in Brazil leading in all white with amulets and skull caps as in traditional Islam.

In this regard, it is worth noting that some Candomblé rites have also incorporated local Native American gods — which, to the Church, were just as pagan as the Orixás — because they were seen as the "Orishas of the land". Finally, one should keep in mind that many (if not most) practitioners of Candomblé through the times had not only African roots but European ones as well.

Although syncretism still seems to be prevalent, in recent years the lessening of religious and racial prejudices has given rise to a "traditionalist" movement in Candomblé, that rejects the Christian elements and seeks to recreate a "pure" cult based exclusively in Africa.


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".

Temples and priesthood

Ile opo afonja

Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá

Candomblé temples are called houses (casas), plantations (roças), or yards (terreiros). Most Candomblé houses are small, independently owned and managed by the respective higher priests (female mãe-de-santo or male pai-de-santo). A few of the older and larger houses have a more institutional character and more formal hierarchy. There is no central administration. Inside the place of worship are the altars to the Orixás, or Pejis.

Candomblé priesthood is organized into symbolic families, whose members are not necessarily relatives in the common sense. Each family owns and manages one house. In most Candoblé houses, especially the larger ones, the head of the family is always a woman, the mãe-de-santo or ialorixá (mother-of-saint), seconded by the pai-de-santo or babalorixá (father-of-saint). The priests and priestesses may also be known as babalaos (interpreters of búzios), babas, babaloshas and candomblezeiros. Some houses have a more flexible hierarchy which allows the male pai-de-santo to be the head priest. Often during the slave period, the women became the diviners and healers which was not part of African tradition; however, the male slaves were constantly working and did not have the time to take care of daily instances. Or, nursing the children, the women were in the capacity of teaching the knowledge of their old religions to the newer generations.

Admission to the priesthood and progression in the hierarchy is conditioned to approval by the Orixás, possession of the necessary qualities, learning the necessary knowledge, and performance of lengthy initiation rites, which last seven years or more. There are generally two types of priesthood in the different nations of Candomble, and they are made up of those who fall in trance by the Orixá (iyawo) and those who do not (Oga – male/Ekeji – female). It is important not to confuse the meaning and usage of the Yoruba term iyawò (bride in Yoruba) with other African derived religions that use the same term with different meanings.

The seclusion period for the initiation of an iyawo lasts generally 21 days in the Ketu nation and varies depending on the nation. The iyawo's role in the religion is assigned by a divination made by her/his babalorixá/ialorixá; one function that an iyawo can be assigned for is to take care of neophytes as they in their initiatic seclusion period, becoming an expert in all the Orisa foods, becoming an iya or babalorisa themselves, or knowing all ritual songs, etc... The iyawos follow a 7 years period of apprenticeship within which they offer periodical sacrifices in order to reinforce their initiatic links in the form of the so-called obligations of 1, 3 and 7 years. At the 7th year, the iyawos earn their title and can get a honorific title or religious post (oye in Yoruba). Once the iyawo has accomplished their 7th year cycle obligation, they become elders (egbon in Yoruba, egbomi in Brazil, which means my elder) within their religious family.

The other priesthood is reserved for those who do not fall in trance. Ogas and Ekejis do not endure the same path to eldership as do iyawos; they are regarded as elders immediately after their initiation. Their role is to help the baba/ialorixá in different specific ritual tasks like drumming, singing, cooking, taking care of the orixá shrines and when he/she comes down in possession trance, etc... Ogas and Ekejis usually do not go on to become baba/ialorixá, nor do they open their own temples or have filhos de santo (they do not initiate others).

Some Well Known Temples in Salvador, Bahia

  • Ketu, Efon and Nago nations
    Nago/Yoruba tradition
  • Jeje nation
    Ewe-Fon tradition
    • Zoogodô Bogum Male Rundó (Terreiro do Bogum)
    • Casa das Minas (in São Luís, state of Maranhão)
    • Kwe Ceja Unde (Roça do Ventura – City of Cachoeira, state of Bahia)
    • Rumpame Runtoloji (City of Cachoeira, state of Bahia)

Kwé Jidan Vodun Jo

  • Ilheus
    • Mejito Dan Maria de Fatima S. Oliveira (fundadora) 2000

Priesthood Initiation

In Brazil: Ifá, Egungun, Orisha (Orixa), Vodun and Nkisi, are separated by type of priesthood initiation.

  • Ifá only initiation Babalawos, do not come into trance.
  • Egungun only initiation Babaojés, do not come into trance.
  • Candomblé Ketu initiation Iyawos, come into trance with Orixá.
  • Candomblé Jeje initiation Vodunsis, come into trance with Vodun.
  • Candomblé Bantu initiation Muzenzas, come into trance with Nkisi.


The Candomblée priesthood is divided into:

See also


  • Bastide, Roger. Le candomblé de Bahia <cite>. 2001, Paris, Plon.
  • Bramley, Serge. <cite> Macumba. 1994 – City Lights Books.
  • Brown, Diana. Umbanda: Religion and Politics in Urban Brazil. 1994 – Columbia University Press.
  • Capone, Stefania. Searching for Africa in Brazil. Power and Tradition in Candomblé . Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Carneiro, Edison. "The Structure of African Cults in Bahia" Civilzacao Brasileira, Rio De Janeiro. 1936–37.
  • Gordon, Jacob U. " Yoruba Cosmology And Culture in Brazil: A Study of African Survivals in the New World." Journal of Black Studies, Vol.10, No 2. (December 1979): P. 231- 244
  • Herkovits, Melville J. "The Social Organization of the Afrobrazilian Candomble." Proceedings of the Congress São Paulo, 1955.
  • Johnson, Paul Christopher. "Secrets, Gossip, and Gods The Transformation of Brazilian Candomblé". 2002 – Oxford University Press.
  • Landes, Ruth. The City of Women. 1994 – University of New Mexico Press.
  • Matory, J. Lorand. Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazillian Candomblé . 2005 – Princeton University Press.
  • Matory, J. Lorand. "Gendered Agendas: The Secrets Scholars Keep about Yoruba-Atlantic Religion." Gender & History 15, no. 3 (November 2003): p. 409–439."
  • Omari-Tunkara, Mikelle S. "Manipulating the Sacred: Yoruba Art, Ritual, and Resistance in Brazilian Candomble". 2005 – Wayne State University Press.
  • Reis, João José. "Candomblé in Nineteenth-Century Bahia: Priests, Followers, Clients" in Rethinking the African Diaspora:The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil Mann, Kristina and Bay, Edna G. Ed. Geu Heuman and James Walvin. 2001-Frank Cass
  • Reis, João José. Slave Rebellion in Brazil:The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia (Baltimore and London:The Johns Hopkins University Press,1995).
  • Souty, Jérôme. Pierre Fatumbi Verger: Du Regard Détaché à la Connaissance Initiatique<cite>, Paris, Maisonneuve & Larose, 2007.
  • Voeks, Robert A. "Sacred Leaves of Candomble: African Magic, Medicine, and Religion in Brazil." Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1997.
  • Verger, Pierre Fatumbi. "<cite>Dieux D'Afrique. Paul Hartmann, Paris (1st edition, 1954; 2nd edition, 1995). 400pp, 160 b/w photos, ISBN 2-909571-13-0.
  • McGowan, Chris and Pessanha, Ricardo. "The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova and the Popular Music of Brazil." 1998. 2nd edition. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-56639-545-3
  • Wafer, Jim. Taste of Blood: Spirit Possession in Brazilian Candomble. 1991 – University of Pennsylvania Press.

Further Reading

External links




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