Bahia of all rites
Land of Orixás, Land of the Cult of All Saints, Bahia is also the Land of all rites and myths. The diverse folkloric expressions display the richness of the popular imaginary. Rodas de samba (Samba circles), Capoeira, Terno de Reis (Epiphany), Bumba-meu-boi, Afoxé and many others add color, and exhibit the unshakable faith of Bahia’s people; a mosaic of festivities and celebrations of African, Indigenous and Portuguese origins.
The capital of Bahia is also the capital of religious syncretism. It’s a real cultural melting pot, where different believes coexist in perfect harmony. The 365 churches, in honor of all the Catholic saints blend with the African faith.
An example of this syncretism is the carnival association Afoxés Filhos de Gandhy. Hundreds of men parade wearing white costumes with blue details from head to toe, including a turban with the symbol of the association and bead necklaces in the same colors. The association, one of the most traditional of carnival, goes out on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and gathers a crowd attracted by the African chants.
The word “afoxé” means prophecy or future prediction. This folkloric manifestation is characterized by the central figure of the babalawô or baba-oni-awô, the father that knows the future.
Originated at Candomblé’s terreiros (temples), especially the Efan ones, nation dedicated to the cult of Oxum, the Afoxé symbolizes the cults of noble entities of the African culture. The chants for Oxum and Oxa,,the Ijexá refer to the ones sung at terreiros, in religious rituals.
The capital of Bahia is also the home of religious syncretism. The city is a true melting pot, where numerous diverse cultures live side by side in perfect harmony. Salvador´s 365 churches, built in homage to the Catholic Saints, all simultaneously represent the orixás, amulets and sacred entities of the African faith of Candomblé.
A prime example of this is the carnival band, the Afoxés Filhos de Gandhy. Hundreds of men parade through the streets in white outfits trimmed with blue, including a turban with the band´s symbol, and beaded necklaces in the same colours. The band, one of the first to emerge in the Bahian carnival, plays on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and enthralls thousands of people with their hypnotizing African chants. The band is associated with a number of famous musicians, such as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, as well as the Minister of Culture.
The word “afoxé” means divination, prophecy or telling of the future. This folkloric demonstration is characterized, above all, by the central figure of Babalawô or Baba-oni-awô; the Father Fortune-Teller. Originating in the terreiros of Candomblé, in particular those of “Efan”, a sect dedicated to the cult of Oxum, Afoxé still symbolizes the worship of the noble entities of the African culture. The chants to Oxum and Oxalá, the “Ijexá”, whose rhythms are beaten out with a cabaça (dried fruit used as a percussion instrument), agogô bells and atabaque (type of drum), are sung out in the terreiro by the ´parents´ of the saint, the leaders of the faith in religious rituals.
Bando Anunciador (Announcing Band)
In the eves of big festivities, the countryside cities are involved by the common enthusiasm that precedes the big celebrations. The Announcing Band is, maybe, one of the main responsible for the local excitement. A group of men dressed in sport outfits and playing drums, trumpet and clarinet, among other percussion instruments, walk the streets announcing the festival that’s coming. Accompanied by the local philharmonic orchestra, they distribute the program, always on Sundays, while stirring the city up in a kind of musical cortege.
It’s a tradition in the city of Maragojipe, in August, before the festival of the patron saint, São Bartolomeu. In Cachoeira, the tradition takes place between October and November, due to Our Lady Ajuda Festival.
Get to know more about Maragojipe…
Banho da Paixão (Passion Bath)
With the proximity of Good Friday, inhabitants of Olivença and Milagres, in Ilhéus, stage rituals of protection and faith, supported by the sacred power of the waters. Men and women imbued with the Catholic faith and based on religious myths, alternate, in the mornings (women) and in the afternoons (men), in dives in the beaches of the localities mentioned, believing that no harm will come to them during the whole year.
The origin of the custom is still uncertain, but it’s known that the popularity of the Passion Baths date back to the leisure of the indigenous tribes and African peoples.
Lindro Amor is a fund collection made in benefit of the Our Lady or the Saints Cosmos and Damian. The cortege formed by women, men and children visits houses praying for health and prosperity for their owners; professing the hope of better days and taking something that symbolizes devotion. The women always go in the middle, wearing large skirts and straw hats ornamented with colorful ribbons. They dance and sing, while men follow them, wearing white trousers, playing the tambourine, the guitar or the accordion. At the front, the children add joy to the cortege, carrying an empty box with the image of the saints, where the coins donated for the preparation of caruru (typical dish prepared with okra and dendê oil) are collected.
The tradition dates back to the slavery times, when the masters allowed the slaves to celebrate. As time went by, Lindro Amor started to have a religious connotation associated to corteges and fund collection, which precede the caruru offered to the saints and orixás (African deities). In the case of Our Lady Purificação, a crown in a flowered tray, together with the flag, is carried while the participants sing chants and play the drums and the tambourine.
The saints are exhibited in small altars, decorated with colorful paper and flowers. Donation is voluntary. After the first cortege, the sacred images stay at the house of an old and dear inhabitant of the community, and keep being moved from house to house.
Conde, Candeias, Santo Amaro, São Francisco do Conde and São Sebastião do Passe are the main cities where this tradition is present.
Terno de Reis (Epiphany)
With colorful costumes, ornamented with shining sand, beads and several details, people act and sing to honor Christ, when He was adored by the Three Kings, guided by the Bethlehem Star.
Celebrated during Christmas festivities and on January 6th, the Terno goes along the streets at night, visiting the houses under the sound of guitars and tambourines, preaching and praying for a world of faith and peace. It’s a tradition followed by cities of Alcobaça, Barreiras, Conde, Jacobina, Lençóis, Morro do Chapéu, Mucuri, Palmeiras, Porto Seguro, São Félix, Santo Antônio de Jesus and Vitória da Conquista.