Afro-Brazilian Religion

When the Portuguese brought African slaves to Brazil in the 16th century, they imposed their authority and suppressed the religions, costumes, rituals, and all aspects of the culture of their African captives.

The Portuguese were interested only in the physical force of the slaves for hard work on the coffee and sugar cane plantations.

The result was a mix of two different cultures. Today, we can find, especially in Bahia, that there is a larger Afro-Brazilian concentration than in other parts of Brazil. The stores, people, streets, and names of objects are in African dialects.

Similar to Greek mythology, most African tribes have their gods represented in natural elements, days of the week, and colors. The prohibition of profane religions by Portuguese Catholic Authorities caused Afro-Brazilians to change the outward form of their religion, but the principle idea stayed the same. It still exists today in Brazil and in other countries where there was commercialized slavery from Africa.

Candomblé is Brazil's most influential Afro-Brazilian religion. Practiced mainly in Bahia, it mixes Catholicism and Yoruba (an African religion).

According to Candomblé, believers become possessed by spirits, and thus become an instrument of communication between divine and mortal forces. Candomblé ceremonies are a great spectacle of African rhythm and dance. They are held in places called terreiros.

The Gods of Candomblé are called Orishas. They are divided into seven divinities who have defined functions. Some Orishas are represented as a saint of catholic religion or a natural element. Each one has a symbolic color.

photo by xangosul

OXALA: This is the supreme authority of Candomblé. He is represented in the form of Jesus Christ or the sun. His color is white.

OGUM: This Orisha is the one who overcomes obstacles and difficulties. He is the lord of war, and is represented in the form of Saint George on his horse. He is also represented by himself. His colors are red, white, and green.

XANGO: Xango is the Orisha of Justice. The mythology says that Xango had three wives, Oxum, Yansa, and Oba. He is represented in the form of Moses, holding the Ten Commandments. His color is brown.

YEMANJA: Yemanja is the most well known Orisha. She is the queen of the seas and the oceans. She is represented in the form of a young woman with long, black hair, wearing a flowing blue dress. Her colors are blue and white.

YANSA: This is a God of thunder and lightening. Yansa has the posture of a fighting god. Her color is golden yellow and she is represented in the form of Saint Barbara.

OXUM: This Orisha has a calm appearance. Oxum is the princess of fresh water, such as rivers, lakes, and waterfalls. Her colors are purple and dark blue.

OXOSSY: This is the Orisha of the hunt and the jungle. He is most well known as the god of victory. Oxossy is a representative of the forest and all animals. His color is green.