Thursday, May 7, 2009



Candomblè is a religion that originated in Brazil by enslaved Africans who were making an attempt to recreate their culture despite being on the other side of the ocean. The orixás are gods that are the spiritual beings of the Yoruba; they are connected in Africa with geographical features, extended families, towns, and the Yoruba subgroups dominant in those towns. They believed that Candomblè provided a foundation for a new social organization that would replace the systems destroyed by slavery. However, the Portuguese would not allow the enslaved Africans to worship their own deities, furthermore forcing them to participate in the worshiping of the Catholic saints. Brazil ended slavery in 1888, which was much later than the United States in 1863. Despite being abolished in 1808, the transatlantic slave trade lasted in Brazil until 1851, thus allowing new African influences to continue to enter the Brazilian society. Afro-Brazilians were able to preserve their African religion with influence from Catholicism. It had many saints, costumes, processions, as well as rituals; allowing Afro-Brazilians to have a much more affable disguise for African beliefs and practices. Therefore, the Yoruba learned the names and characteristics of these saints, and figured out the similarities between the saints and their Orixás. This resulted in the Yoruba’s being able to establish uniformity between their orixás and the saints, thus allowing them to be able to use the saints as camouflage their own spiritual beings. The Orixá Omolu, the god of smallpox and other diseases, was referred to the Leper, St. Lazarus (“What is Candomblè” 1-3). The orixá that I will be discussing is the deity Omolu. I will be discussing one of the stories of Omolu, descriptions, and dance movements, as well as, attire.


Omolu was one of the two children from Naña, the other being Oxumaré. He was the first born, at a young age he contracted the smallpox disease. So Naña left him in a basket that was close to the shore side, due to the fact that she could not cure him. However Iemanjá, the orixá of the ocean, noticed him covered in crabs as she was passing by; in which, the crabs were engulfing him. She picked him up and raised him in the sea, despite the fact that he was sick. Iemanjá stitched a hood for him that was made out of palha da costa, also known as raffia fiber, so that his abnormalities would not show; considering, he had unpleasantly deformed skin and small pox scars. Since Omolu was raised away, he became studious and demonstrated that he was very knowledgeable. After noticing how educated he was on human nature and human diseases, Iemanjá suggested that Omolu overcome his differences with his real mother Naña. Iemanjá then leaves the water with Omolu, so she can go to land to present Omolu to Naña. In which, there was a reunion between Omolu and his mother. Omolu became known as the master of land or the owner of land, since he had inherited a vast knowledge of soil from Naña. From the axé he acquired from Naña as the owner of the soil and Iemanjá as the owner of the ocean, he became a counseling doctor; who is the one that knows how to avoid evil (Voeks 79-80).


Omolu is the god of smallpox and with infectious diseases. Now his realm has expanded to include AIDS as well as other modern diseases. His ritual number is 17, and the sacrificial foods that are offered to him are peas, beans, and popcorn (Dorsey 88-89). Popcorn is a primary offering and bath ingredient for Omolu. The popcorn is used to symbolize the skin outbreaks associated with smallpox, due to the contorted shape of the popcorn. The popcorn can also reflect Omolu’s explosive temper (Minnis 163). The color that Omolu is associated with is brown.

Dance Movements

When Omolu moves, his body will be bent in half due to the weight of pain, in which he seems like he is always on the brink of falling. He drags his feet for three steps, then he gathers to lift his torso up slightly and then he goes the other direction. He breaks at the knees and lunges to the left with his arms behind him shaking with fever. Furthermore, his movements require a vast amount of strength and flexibility to keep the body in a bent position without ever breaking, along with being balanced at a pivotal point that is between the upright and lying down positions (McHugh 3-5). He dances with the xaxará which is the leather, shell and bead wrapped broom that he uses to sweep away disease and tribulation (Murphy 72). During the dance Omolu also points to the palm of his hand, his eyes, and his mouth to show his different wounds.


Omolu’s costumes are comprised of his head being covered in the iko, which is a vast cone of dried raffia, along with a gold palm straw skirt that comes from Africa. Raffia is a fiber that is gathered from the raffia palm tree in Madagascar. The raffia takes on a yellowish tan color after being dried in the sun (“Raffia” par.1). He carries the xaxará, a broom, in his hand to sweep away disease and death (Murphy 64).

Video One
I attached a video link of an Omolu dance. I recognized their bent posture that they maintained throughout the dance. The dancers wore the raffia that Omolu is embodied by. They danced with a bounce that they would do after the three steps. I noticed them spreading their hands, which might have been to symbolize Omolu spreading smallpox.

Video two
Compared to the first video, the second video really displayed the costume of Omolu. In the video, you could see the raffia that covered the dancers faces, along with the skirts that were under the large amount of straw. In the video, you could also see the iko at the top of their heads, which I thought all the different kinds were very nice. The video also displayed the xaxará that was the broom that Omolu carried in his hand to sweep away smallpox. The dancers also had a posture where you could really see them bent over, which they kept that posture through the whole dance.
Blog by Monique Stansell

Works Cited
1. Dorsey, Lilith. Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism. Citadel Press. 2005. Google. 5 May 2009
2. Kraay, Hendrik. Afro- Brazilian Culture and Politics: Bahia, 1790’s to 1990’s. M.E. Sharpe. 1998. Google. 5 May 2009
3. “What is Candomblè?” Google. 5 May 2009
4. Murphy, Joseph. Working the Spirit. Beacon Press. 1994. Google. 5 May 2009
5. Voeks, Robert. Scared Leaves of Candomblè. University of Texas Press. 1997. Google. 5 May 2009
6. Minis, Paul. Ethnobotany. University of Oklahoma Press. 2000. Google. 5 May 2009
7. McHugh, Isabelle. WAR, DEATH, & BEAUTY: OGUM, OMOLU, & OXUM. 2005. Google. 5 May 2009,%20Death%20&%20Beauty.pdf
8. "
raffia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. 7 May. 2009 <>.

Image Works




Candomblé is a religion with its roots from Africa and was brought to Brazil during the times of slave trade. Although, Candomblé is not the main religion of Brazil it is given a lot of importance. The religion largely originates in city of Salvador, which is the capital of Bahia. Candomblé is practiced in Brazil but it is not limited to just that. It can be found in countries like Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, etc. In Candomblé many Gods are worshiped each with their own special powers and for specific reasons. These Gods are known as Orishas or deities and represent certain things. Each Orisha has a specific power; they have individual skills, personalities and rituals. The Orishas have different things that symbolize their powers. People who practice Candomblé believe that each person has their own Orisha and that Orisha controls his or her destiny and acts as a protector. It is believed that Orishas represent a certain force of nature and are connected to certain foods, colors, animals, material goods, and days of the week. A person's Orisha can be decided by their personality and character. There are Orishas for everything and are found everywhere, from hospitals to homes. The Orisha Ogúm presides over fire, iron, hunting, politics and war. He is also known as the Orisha of the 21st Century because he deals with metals, politics and war. Ogúm is known as the warrior Orisha and looked upon for help when in a difficult situation and the person cannot see a solution for the problem. He is known to clear the path of any obstacles.

Mythical Story

The mythical story about Ogúm is that he first appeared as a hunter and was sent upon earth to find suitable habitat for future human life. This may be the reason for why Ogúm is said to controller of nature and able to alter the natural environment. "Ogúm is believed to have wo ile sun, which means to sink into the ground not to die, in a place named Ire-Ekiti." Throughout his life Ogúm fought for the people of Ìrè. Ogúm was given authority over Ìrè by his father Odùduwá (Awolalu pg31). Ogúm has fiery and masculine spirit, like the spirit of Shango. Ogúm is also linked with blood, so people suffering from blood related diseases look towards him for healing.

A myth says that when the Orishas came to inhabit the earth they came across some thicket that they could not pass. Each of the Divinities tried to clear the path but none were successful, so Ogúm volunteers and uses his machete to clear the path. The consequence of this was that the Divinities all hailed him as great. By clearing the path of the Divinities Ogúm came to be known as the Orisha that clears and removes barriers from one’s life.(Awolalu pg 31)


Each Orisha has a dance dedicated to them that symbolizes their special powers. Ogúm's dance includes a machete which is the base step of his dance. It starts off as a slow with just the base movement and then turns into a fast pace with different rhythms and beats. The performance starts off with Ogúm cutting through the bushes and forest to locate the battle (Scott). In this part the machete movement is used. As he reaches the battle the music speeds up and in the middle of the battle is turns into a "saber and shield battle" (Scott). Ogúm is lead to this battle by Oxossi and with his help Ogúm finds the easiest and fastest way to the battle. During the battle some of the movements shown by Ogúm are similar to Oxossi; I believe this may be because Ogúm and Oxossi are related.


The movements that each Orisha does symbolizes things about their powers and for which reasons the people pray to them. Ogúm cutting through bushes with the machete symbolizes him cutting through obstacles. The forest and bushes are the obstacles between him and the battle, by using the machete he clears those obstacles. He cleared the obstacle between the Divinities and their quest to find a suitable place for human to inhabit the earth. People that believe in Candomblé, pray to Ogúm when things go wrong and they cannot do much to fix it. They pray to Ogúm so he can help clear their path just as he had helped the Divinities. Ogúm is known to provide prosperity to his devotees and make their path smooth.

The Orishas of Candomblé help devotees with the problems of everyday life. Ogúm, the warrior Orisha, helps his devotees to clear obstacles from their and path to make the journey smoother. Ogúm's symbol is the machete, which symbolizes him clearing the path.

Work Cited
Scott, Anna Beatrice. Choreostories and Decipherments: Towards an analysis of Black citizenship in Salvador, Bahia-Brazil. 2003.

Awolalu, Omosade. Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. London: Longman, 1979.

Xango-The King
By: Depika Narewatt


In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries a religion known as Candomblé was arising. It began in the cities and plantations of Northeastern Brazil by enslaved Africans and their descendants. This Afro-Brazilian religion has its roots in ancient societies of West, Central and Southwest Africa, amongst which there is the “Dahomey empire; the Yoruba kingdoms of Oyo, Ketu and Oshogbo; and the Kongo and Angola nations” (Candomblé: A Religion of the African Diaspora). “The followers of the Candomblé Religion are known to worship several different deities, spirits or Gods” (What Are The Beliefs Of The Candomble Religion?). Each Candomble deity is known to have his or her own individual personality, ritual preferences, and specific skill or power that they connect to either their past experiences of a natural phenomena (What Are The Beliefs Of The Candomble Religion?). In the Condomble religion, one of the most popular Orisha (God or Deity) would have to be Sango (also spelled, Sango or Shango, often known as Xangô or Changó in Latin America and the Caribbean, and also known as Jakuta). He is known as the center point of the religion for he represents the Oyo people of West Africa and was a royal ancestor of the Yoruba as well as the fourth king of the Oyo Kingdom (Shango: Encyclopedia – Shango).

Shango is a major character in the literature of the Candomble religion; therefore there are many different tales that portray how he was born. One story says, “Shango was the fourth king of Oyo in Yorubaland, and deified after his death; mythologically, he (along with 14 others) burst forth from the goddess Yemaja's body after her son, Orungan, attempted to rape her for the second time” (Shango: Encyclopedia – Shango). Then there is another story that says Shango is the son of Obatala, the king of the white cloth. Supposedly, one day the king was travelling and had to cross a river. Aganju, the ferryman and god of fire, refused him passage. Obatala retreated and turned himself into a beautiful woman. He returned to the river and traded his/her body for passage. Shango was the result of this uneasy union. This tension between reason represented by Obatala and fire represented by Aganju would form the foundation of Shango's particular character and nature” (Shango: Encyclopedia – Shango). Shango always wants balance and is there to help when there is a quarrel. Another myth is that, “Shango goes in search of Aganju, his father, and the two of them play out a drama of conflict and resolution that culminates in which Shango throws himself into the fire to prove his lineage” (Shango: Encyclopedia – Shango). It is said that regardless which story may be true, one thing is for sure, Shango lived a life full of drama. He was the husband of three wives who did not seem to get along very well. Shango’s favorite was Oshum, a River Goddess, who lured him in with her cooking. His second wife was also a River Goddess by the name of Oba. She was very naive and envious of Oshum, so she would do anything to become her husband’s favorite. One day Oshum told Oba that the reason that Shango loves her cooking so much is because she puts her ear in it and Oba being as gullible as she was decides to cut of her ear and put it in her husband’s soup. Shango was furious because he thought Oba was trying to poison her, so he scorned her and turned her into the Oba River. Lastly there was Oya, the third wife who ended up stealing Shango’s secrets to his powerful magic (Shango: Encyclopedia – Shango).


“Shango is the King, Lord of Thunder, Husband of Iansa, Oxum and Obba, son of Iemanja and Aganju. He carries a double-headed ax made of wood and his colors are red and white. He often wears a leopard skin. This is the lord of the King's Justice. If you have been wronged, Xango is the Orixa to whom you may appeal. He is arrogant, regal, just, kind and beneficent. Xango is the protector of anyone in government work, or who works for the good of the State in any way. He is the protector of policemen and lawyers, judges and state mental hospital janitors. He is the epitomy of the Rule of Law. As King he is concerned for all of his subjects, and will deal out rewards and punishment with a balanced hand. He wears six red beads alternating with six white beads. His drink is beer, served in a wooden bowl. All of Xango's weapons and utensils should be made of wood. His colors are red and white. We use Thursday as his day, since it's the day of Thunder. Xango's children share all the attributes of the King, positive and negative. If there is a spotlight in the room, they will instinctively find it” (The King Lord of Thunder).

The Dance and Music

People come from near and far to see the religious dance known as the Shango which is indeed performed in honor of the Yoruba God Shango himself. The ceremony usually happens once a year, but when it does, it does not stop for three to four weeks. The payment to watch the dance is usually a donation of either rum or a white animal such as a goat or a white fowl-cock. The reward is not only to see the magnificent dance, but sometimes people come to get a spell casted upon a loved one or an enemy. The celebration consists of drummers, singers, and many people sitting around the tent in which the performance takes place. The event usually starts out with a song of African derivation. There is also an Alter with burning candles inside of the tent. (Emancipation Day). "Each drum is beaten with the palm of one hand and a stick held in the other, or beaten with both hands. One dancer starts off and is followed by others. The music and dance movements become increasingly frenzied until a dancer drops and writhes on the ground. At this time the dancer on stage is said to be possessed by the spirit. If a sacrifice is to be made, it is made at this stage. The basic step of the Shango dance is in the rhythm; with body loose and hands raised or held behind the back, one leg with knee slightly raised, is moved forward. The foot lands flat for all movements except for the final step when the appropriate foot is pulled slightly backward. The first two steps are longish and the last three, very short. The body is allowed to move at will. The basic step is repeated all over the floor until the last stages when the legs, hands and body are flung rhythmically in all directions” (Emancipation Day).
“The energy given from this Deity of Thunder is also a major symbol of African resistance against an enslaving European culture. He rules the color red and white; his sacred number is 6; his symbols are the oshe (double-headed axe), which represents swift and balanced justice. He is owner of the Bata (3 double-headed drums) and of music in general, as well as the Art of Dance and Entertainment” (Deity of the Day: SHANGO).

Click on the first image below for a video of a performance of the Shango Dance.

Shango brought prosperity to the Oyo Empire when he was in charge. Therefore, believers of Candomble dedicate a ritual to the post King hopefully that he will help maintain order and balance in their lives as well. After practicing the ceremony, a Shango follower is supposed to have gained self-control (Deity of the Day: SHANGO). "According to Yoruba and Vodun belief systems, Shango hurls bolts of lightning at the people chosen to be his followers, leaving behind imprints of stone axe blade on the Earth's crust. These blades can be seen easily after heavy rains. Worship of Shango enables- according to Yoruba belief- a great deal of power and self-control" (Deity of the Day: SHANGO). "Shango altars often contain a carved figure of a woman holding a gift to the god with a double-bladed axe sticking up from her head. The axe symbolizes that this devotee is possessed by Shango” (Deity of the Day: SHANGO).

Click here for a more information on the dance, costumes, and music of Shango.

Work-Cited List
"Deity of the Day: SHANGO." Weavings: Pagan & Wiccan Forums BOOK OF SHADOWS The Altar (2007).
Harding, Rachel E. "Candomblé: A Religion of the African Diaspora." (2002).
Saddaf. "1 Answer." Weblog comment. Blurt it. 2007. 7 May 2009 .
"Shango." Emancipation Day. 7 May 2009.
"Shango: Encyclopedia - Shango." Global Oneness. 7 May 2009.
"The King Lord of Thunder." 7 May 2009.
Digital Images

Iemanjá: Security and Peacefulness, Traits a Mother Portrays

Her Story

Candomblé, the belief of many different gods (orishas), is the religion that most Brazilians follow. The orishas possess different powers that followers dance to and make sacrifices to in order for a god to fulfill a request that people make to an orisha. Among these orisha is one named Iemanjá. Before there was any type of human life on earth, its surface was covered with purely water. Once Iemanjá arrived, life started to exist on earth, and that is why most consider her the mother of everyone. She, however, was not the first orisha because her parents are Obatalá and Oduduá, who were the creators of the earth and sent their daughter to create life. As depicted in the photo above, Iemanjá is part of the ocean, and she is giving birth to many beings.

Colors and Symbols of Iemanjá
This orisha represents the ocean and motherhood. Her colors respectfully are variations of blue and white. The blue represents security in the corrupted world most of us live in today. She is calming, and her blue color symbol keeps bad spirits from entering the community. This represents her motherly authority to make everyone feel safe. The dark blue which is the color of her hair represents intelligence, stability and unity. Once again, these are characteristics that a mother holds, which is what Iemanjá is. The white, although hardly used in this painting, represents purity and cleanliness. This color also stands for royalty and deities, which are what Iemanjá is. People that follow Candomblé worship and send sacrifices and offerings to Iemanjá on Saturdays, which is regarded as her holy day. The precious metal that is associated with Iemanjá is silver. In the picture she is shown wearing silver jewelry such as bracelets, an arm band, a necklace and earrings. She is most often seen holding a silver mirror in which she can see herself. Followers of Candomblé most often dance in her name making the sign of a mirror in their hands. Iemanjá, as previously stated, is goddess of the seas. Because high and low tides of the ocean depend on the phases of the moon, Iemanjá is shown with some type of implication of the moon.

Family Ties
It is so written that Iemanja is the divine mother. She is the mother to most of the orisha, with the exception of Exu and the father to her children, Aganju. Her most well known son is Xango, he is known as The New King. He and his father, Aganju, The Old King, had an interesting relationship that legends talk about. Iemanjá however, does not have to be the birth mother to care after a child. She loves children and treats them all equally. The same goes for Iemanjá’s children. They may not have many biological kids of their own, but they will care for children as if they were the biological mother or father. Iemanjá like the rest of her kids (or the rest of the orisha) have many similar parenting techniques. They do not forgive offenses that easily. A child must learn to behave and be calm in order for the mother to be forgiving.

Her Grand Festival
Iemanjá is the mother of everyone and the divine being of the seas. Her festival, therefore, is fairly important which means that it is a big party in the streets of Brazil. The followers of Candomblé in Rio de Janeiro make her party on the last day of the year. This is because people like to honor her on New Year’s Day in order for her to bring in a good year for the citizens of the city. They dance, sing and dress in different clothing to honor Iemanjá . People make many offerings for Iemanjá. These offerings include, flowers, gifts, perfume, rice, and watermelon. Followers either send their gifts out in little hand-crafted boats, or they might just toss their offerings right into the water for Iemanjá.

Followers of Candomblé that wish to honor Iemanjá have a distinct costume. They wear her colors which are light blue, white and silver. People that dance in her name try to portray her as much as possible. This lady is seen wearing a light blue, flowing dress that represents the ocean. Her hair is also dark, which is the color of Iemanjá’s hair. Her jewelry also is a representation of the Brazilian deity. The silver is the metal of Iemanjá, and this lady is seen wearing it in order to honor the orisha. The people in the background are wearing white which represents the purity of Iemanjá. They do whatever they can in order to honor this deity which may be among the highest regarded in the Candomblé religion. The dances they do to honor Iemanjá contain many water-like movements. These include movement in the arms, and entire body. People that dance for Iemanjá also spin around. All these moves represent the ocean in respect toward Iemanjá.

Iemanjá is looked at as being the mother to all. Her parents put her here in order to make life on earth and look after the seas. Many of her followers dance, make sacrifices and offerings, and dress in costumes that honor her. This is because everyone wants there to be peace on the seas that way they can have a means of survival. Both women and men hold Iemanjá on a very high pedestal. This is because she is looked at as a mother and she controls the seas. If she is upset, the ocean becomes a place that is very violent and if sailors are out to sea, or fishermen are out to fish, it is likely that they will not return. It is hard to upset Iemanjá, so she keeps things peaceful most of the time because she cares for her children greatly. Iemanjá’s festivals are held all year round in order to keep her happy, and people dress and dance just to honor her.

written by:

Arazely Montano

OXOSSI-Patron Orixa of Hunting

by: David Garcia (dgarc023)


Oxossi is a God in the polytheistic religion of Candomble, which has been influenced by the African culture brought from West African slaves to the Americas. Candomble is one of the main religions practiced in present day Brazil, usually centered at around the city of Bahia near the Amazon rainforest. Candomble can also be referred as Macumba although this term is mostly used in the coastal cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Candomble is a religion which some believe has Christian roots in certain aspects. It is composed of a large quantity of Gods such as Oxossi, which are called the Orixas. These Orixas are those spirits or deities that represent something of heavenly power, an aspect such as one true God would sustain. Candomble has deities even for the unthinkable such as the Orixa Omolu, which is the Orixa that guards the world of the ill and diseases. The Orixas’ powers vary, some for War, some for water, some for wind, peace, love, etc. The Orixa/Deity in charge of hunting and gathering as well as sometimes considered one of the three Gods of war is the Orixa Oxossi.

Oxossi Origins

Oxossi is considered one of the main deities of Candomble. Oxossi is the God with the divine power and complete control over the hunting methods and in some cases even power over how wars need to be fought, he also has power or is believed to be very skilled in fishing and finding the light, in other words, discovering answers and heloing people find the right exit to their problems. This Orixa has power over weaponry, especially that of the bow and arrow which is a very significant symbol in the God’s identity. As well as being God of the hunters and warriors, it is also seen as a leader, a God of the forest, one of the three warrior Orixas, a finder of paths that no one else can gain access to, a foreseer, i.e. mostly represented as a man seeking for birds to hunt and answers to the future. The Orixa Oxossi is also considered a marvelous fisherman, in certain cases in Brazil, called master hunter and master fisherman. The Orixa Oxossi is believed to have been originated in the Western coast of Africa. It is believed to have originated from the people who practiced Yoruba, a religion closely tied to Candomble which was practiced by the Yoruba in western parts of Africa, such as Nigeria. This being so, many ethnomusicalogists now believe that Candomble and Orixas come from the Western part of the African continent.

Symbols and Identity

Symbols in the polytheistic religion as well as Syncretism play a large role in the way the Orixas are now seen and followed in Brazil. The symbols for the Orixas make up part of the God’s identity. They are the characteristics that make the God an important figure that deserves respect. One of the Orixa's main symbols is iron which according to Afro-Brazilian mythology is what is used to construct Oxossi's bow ands arro. Another symbol are the thicket bushes. Although his favorite colors are blue and yellow, green remains as a main color because of the mixture between the blue and yellow which represents the nature and mother Earth. And last but not least, the bow and arrow which make up the most important aspect which is hunting is the most important symbol, made out of iron as I mentioned before, this tool is used to hunt and in some cases even fish in the wilderness.

Not only is he seen as the hunter and warrior God but he is also seen as an arbitrator when dealing with verbal arguments, fights, or simply the deity of those who are being accused or seeking justice. He is in a way considered the judge deity of the Orixas.

Syncretism is the blending of two religious systems in to an n entirely new system. Candomble is part of this transculturation and syncretism. The original Candomble practiced by the Yoruba was mixed with Christianity when the Portuguese took it into Africa and Brazil which is what caused the product we now have today, the modern Candomble. Oxossi is not simply a mixture of two religions and symbols in to one God but it is also called and spelled differently depending on the geographical location. The Orixa's name, Oxossi, can also sometimes be spelled as Ochosi, Oxosi, Ososi, Osawsi, etc.

Dance and Rituals

Dance in Brazil is very important, its movements and dances such as samba, capoeira all have a relationship with the different Orixas. Oxossi has a particular dance himself. It is habitually seen as the hunting dance because of its hunting hand gestures such as pretending to hold a bow and arrow.

The dance movements include movements of the shoulders, the hips, the torso, the arms and elbows. As the dancer begins the dance, the bow and arrow gesture seem to be the only dance move but as the dance progresses, the Orixa not only represents the hunter as in hunting but also as a horseback rider which then puts you in a different dance situation. As you switch from being in the bow and arrow, keeping a look out for animals to hunt in the forest, you slowly start becoming more and more relaxed, your torso begins to have less movement as your and, arms and shoulders start increasing their movement. As the drums beat harder and harder, the dancer must try to get in the rhythm of that of a galloping horse which in some cases makes the dancer start dancing sideways, as if he/she was on a trained Arabian horse. While the dancer is performing the dance not only is he/she doing the dance with their hands crossing them as if they were holding a bow and arrow but also moving their arms as if they were riding a horse. So as the dance progresses, movements become much faster and much more intense, such as a horseback ride can be. Rituals made in celebration for Oxossi and his greatness include making ceremonial dinners which include traditional Afro-Brazilian food such as "Acaraje, which is made with by frying black eyed peas, onions, and salt in dende oil, and serving with dried shrimp, hot peppers, vatapá, caruru, and fresh vegetables." This food is considered sacred due to its great importance as an offering to the Gods. Rituals and dances are performed in events which are sometimes sponsored by the local Candomble churches. As seen on the videos some of the dances are performed during the Orixa’s special dance or festival, unfortunately for Oxossi, I looked everywhere and simply did not find any events or festivals under his name.

Dance Videos


Works Cited

Theory of Maneuvers, Professor Scott

Oxumaré written by Evelynn Amabeoku

Candomblé’s Oxumaré

The practice of Candomblé was the response of the African slaves in Brazil to the forced movement against worshiping African deities and the blending of cultures and religions. African deities are replaced with orixás; the word orixá comes from the Yòrúba “ori”, head and “sha”, selected. Forms of the religion are practiced in parts of Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Togo, Brazil, Cuba, Domincan Republic, Gayana, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, West Indies, and Venezuela. In the holistic system of Candomblé there are sixteen basic orixás that are celebrated and portray certain meanings to its followers, among those worshiped is Oxumaré- the orixá of balance and movement. Myths and history are central to the understanding of the orixás. Oxumaré is believed to have taken part in the creation of the world and is responsible for holding the Earth in space. Oxumaré is said to have been the youngest and favorite son of the motherly orixá Nana. This orixá spends six months female and six months male switching back and forth during the year. Worshiping any of the orixás in Candomblé, including Oxumaré, involves gaining knowledge of many components before practicing.

Creationism and Movement

The main accoutrement associated with Oxumaré is the rainbow-serpent. When he created the world he brought together matter and wrapped him/herself around earth and rivers and valleys were formed as a result of slithering through it. This orixá lives under the ocean and takes “the water from seas to the sky, so that rain can be formed – he is the rainbow.” Therefore, Oxumaré’s natural space is water and this essential water cycle accounts for part of the reason why she/he is the orixá of movement and the image of a snake biting its tail not only illustrates the cycle but also how the universe is interconnected. Levy, an educator on Afro-Brazilian Shamanism, points out that that Oxumaré contributes to the cycle of life and fertility which is why one of the minor symbols of the orixá is an umbilical cord, the connection to the supernatural. Those who practice Candomblé do not kill snakes because of the relation to Oxumaré.

Myth of the Rainbow

The orixá Oxumaré is recalled historically as an African myth originating in Zaire or Senegal with the rainbow symbolizing of “the earth’s fecundity, of the hermit’s secret, and of infinity (biting its own tail).” Moreover, a rainbow in Candomblé serves a purpose to transport the water from the earth to the clouds that are home to Xango. The duality of the orixá’s gender is shown with the colors of the rainbow, as red being masculine and blue feminine. Although Professor Scott reports that Oxumaré’s metal is brass, the orixá marks his path with precious Dan-mi stones or “excrements de Dan (Oxumaré)” and such path of his brilliant colors is valued as much as gold. Also, Mothers try to baptize their children after a heavy rain and if a rainbow appears, Oxumaré is blessing the child.


When worshiping Oxumaré particular symbols, colors, foods, and dances are used in recognition of this Afro-Brazilian deity. Oxumaré shares its day, Tuesday, with his/her mother Nana. Participants in the ritual wear the color white because he/she is “a very old and white entity.” Women spend hours preparing food for the orixá and the dishes must be fixed and positioned properly or else the deity will not accept it. According to author Lilith Dorsey, “The altar for this Orixá is in the ceremonial colors of yellow and green and is covered with offerings of cowries, corn, beans, and shrimp sautéed in dende oil.” More offerings include pure water, armadillo and roosters as well as sweet potatoes, peanuts, and yams perhaps because their yellow coloring. The presenting of water lends itself to the fact that Oxumaré’s natural element is water and can manipulate it. The Music and dance has a very fast rhythm and the snake slither is fitted to it.

Deity Dancing

The dance of this orixá is much like fluid the movement of a serpent, this is mainly achieved by constantly rolling the rib cage. As explained by Professor Scott, the stance is with arms held out at sides and bending at the elbow with hands (shaped like a snake’s head) pointing away from the body. The feet move in a shuffled box step in the “RLrlrLRlrRLrlrLR” pattern while the serpentine hands strike with every big step (Scott 28). Video of me The moving spine signifies the snake that runs through the earth and could possibly reiterate that she/he is orixá of movement. The arms out at the side almost look like balancing scales which makes sense because the deity promotes balance. Also part of the dance is a moment when the performer points up to the sky and down to the earth with an iron snake in one hand to acknowledge that he/she is the connector, thus, Oxumaré holds the universe together. The pointing is also a relating gesture with brother Omolu, since he also points with his hands. Additionally, the up and down movement shows just one example of the many opposites this orixá has to balance such as light/dark and male/female.

Putting It All Together

Following Candomblé’s polytheistic practices involves oral literature, visual arts, culinary arts, music, dance and much more. Oxumaré has power of movement and balance and with this magic the orixá participated in creating the world. He suspends our planet in the universe with is serpent-like features and promotes the circle of life by emphasizing continuity. The symbols of rainbow and water have been traced back to their African roots surviving hundreds of years of tradition and thousands of miles. Oxumaré’s ritual involves many vibrant foods to be meticulously prepared some of which may represent the yellow and green that the deity is associated with. Dancing for this orixá takes time, effort, and skill because the moves involve a lot of isolated actions and smoothness as to imitate a serpent’s body movements. Oxumaré represents the balance one must have when practicing Candomblé.

Scott, Anna B. Choreostories and Decipherments: Towards an analysis of Black citizenship in Salvador, Bahia-Brazil. Ms. University of California, Riverside, Riverside.

Obatala- King of Kings

Obatala is found in the Candomble rituals that were brought forth to Brazil from Africa when dragging slaves over during the mid 1500’s through the late 1800’s. Although Candomble was a religion followed by slaves during the slave period, now many practice this religion. Over 2 million Brazilians practice Candomble and such rituals, deities and holidays have become part of the Brazilian folklore. “Candomble deities have individual personalities, skills, and ritual preferences, and are connected to specific natural phenomena.” Obatala, “God of Mankind”, is one of the many Gods that are worshipped through this religion. Obatala is known to be the Supreme Being in all the Orishas. He dresses always in all white cloths or robes. In Yoruba language, he is also known as Olodumare, Eledumare, Olodun-Orun, Eleda and Olorun. As a God, Obatala breathes life into human bodies. He has 3 wives; Yemoo, Yemaya and Igbin.

Mythical Story:
Myths about Obatala have been circulating but all of the stories insist on saying that he was in charge of creating Earth. He was ordered by Olorun, who was Sky God. Olorun gave Obatala instructions in the form of blueprints and also gave him materials. A handful of mud, a chain, and a five-toed chicken were given to Obatala to build the Earth. However, Obatala encountered a party when he was traveling to his work space. Obatala was drunk on palm wine, an alcoholic beverage made from palm tree sap like Palmyra and coconut palms; it is also known as “emu” and “oguro” in Nigeria. So since Obatala was wasted, Oduduwa, his brother, saw this as an opportunity for him to gain fame. Oduduwa was so self centered that he began the task very cheaply. A chameleon offered suggestions like lowering the chain over the edge of heaven, place mud and let the chicken start scratching. Through that process was how the Earth was created. Since Oduduwa took over the task and accomplished it with great success, he was named God of the Earth. Obatala was then punished because of his actions and was put to create mankind. Obatala, perhaps is who is to blame for many individuals that are a little misguided. Although people might say that many artist get insights and ideas when they are under the influence of any substance. But Obatala was able to learn from his mistakes and was proclaimed to be the “Great White God of Mankind”. Although he is also “God of the North”, it is not specified is it is the north pole or what.

Obatala is also said to shape humans in the womb. The New World describes him as a saint who is in charge of children, childbirth, albinos, and anyone with a birthmark. “In the New World as in the Old it is said, ‘Obatala marks his children.’”


Obatala I honored with dancers imitating the slow movements of the elderly. But if it is to represent the warrior aspect, then Obatala is represented as being on a horse and with a sword. In addition, when he is present he rushes clean all those that are present.

Since his focus is purity, then he wears a white robe or cloth and eight ribbons go around hit waist. As a warrior he would have a red sash across his chest and suns and moon would be embroidered in. Obatala’s white cloth signifies the purity, peace and honesty he brings as a God. He can be compared to Jesus Christ because he too signifies peace and purity. Like Xango, Obatala is viewed on a white horse.

Obatala is honored with white hens, snails, white melon soup, pounded yams, and other white foods such as eko. Eko is just corn in plantain leaves.

Obatala Paths:
There are about 45 different Obatala paths. But a few are:
As a Orisha Aye, Obatala is found is his most calmest stage and is represented with a large shell.
As Orinshala, he is pictured as an old woman wanting a white sheet over her. In this stage, one can be protected from traps.
As Oba Lufon, Obatala is compared to Jesus Christ of Nazareth while symbolizing the sun. In this stage is where he taught ways of sexual practice.

Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin is where Obatala is mainly praised. He portrays the moral value just like Xango does, through lightning and thunder.
Posted by
Carol Aguilar

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jonathan Godoy

Nana- Buruku


Nana Buruku, according to Paul Christopher Johnson in his book, “Secrets, Gossip, and Gods” states that “[Buruku was] a female orixa associated with the primordial debts of the cool mud at the bottom of the sea and underground.” (Johnson, 38) This means that she is considered to be one of the first people who were around when the earth was developing. “Nana Buruku is a deity of the Dahomean Extraction” (Johnson, 67). Nana Buruku is known to influence many different areas but one of the most important that she is known to influence is death.

Who She Is/Facts
Nana Buruku is closely related to death because of her great age. Due to her age, her body figure is bent down almost touching the floor. She sends her own people who have died to Orun, the other world of the ancestors. Her performances are rare and casual. Nana Buruku’s traditional colors are Black, white, purple, green, and red. She does not associate with the color
yellow or anything that is metallic. This deity’s number is the number seven. Her main focus of influence as mentioned before his death. But her other areas of influence include Women and Children’s issues, life, healing, rape, ecology and swamps. Symbol’s that are associated with Nana Buruku are things such as the moon, leaves, and angelfish. Her offerings are different from other deities; she offers things such as something called “crown royal”, rum, tobacco, coffee, shrimp, coconut, and tomatoes. Nana Buruku’s day of feast is every 26th of July.

“All the junior Orixas have the same father, Oxala, and are the children of only two mothers, Oxala’s wives are Nana Buruku and Lemanja’s” (Wafer, 84). Oxum, who is associated with mirrors and water is related to both of Oxala’s wives. Iemanja is related to the waters of the sea, and Nana who is the rain that penetrates the soil to make one of her symbols for which she is known for, mud. According to Joãozinho, he argues that Iemanja did not raise the children and that they are all Nana Baruku. He states that Nana Baruku is the mother of all the Junior Orixas. As being Oxala’s first wife, their children are Omolu who is known as the one who spreads infectious diseases such as small pox, also another one of Nana Buruku’s and Oxalas children is Oxumare who is also another pain causing orixa is a serpent who is also one of the Orixas that can change their sex. (Wafer, 126)

Nana Buruku is the grandmother of the Orishas. At the same time she is a very powerful witch with lots of power. Because of her areas of influence of life and healing, she has extraordinary extraordinary healing powers and is an accomplished herbalist. Many people claim that they can feel her when she enters a room. She is a very tolerable woman towards children and her grand children but not towards men. Because of her intolerance towards men, she normally only has priestesses, no priests (unless a man was a woman trapped in a man’s body or at a minimum, really in touch with his feminine side). She is a very spiritual woman. She deals with big issues as always, life, death, and karma. She is not the typical woman that anyone would go to figure out simple typical relationship issues. Nana Buruku embodies the archetype of the wise woman. She is who you go to for healing, to get pregnant or to end an unwanted pregnancy. In case someone is to get raped, one can visit her for comfort and healing as well as justice. S
he can be found in a swam near the ocean or in an old cemetery. For the most part you can find her by herself or her grandchildren. She is better known in Candomble and Voudou than Sateria. Because of her strong connection with nature, she is very passionate about environmental problems. She dislikes the way that we are destroying our environment. She is a very hard headed person that when she sets her mind onto something, there is no changing mind for her. Although her husband Ogoun can be violent and abusive, Nana Buruku will not tolerate spousal abuse or child abuse, which is why Ogoun never stomps all over her.

Because of her great age, she is one of the oldest deities that live. This makes her very honorable and people respect Nana Buruku. She is much honored and expects to be treated with respect. She likes shrimp. She finds a form of respect when she is called “Best Grandma” but even more when she is called “nana”. Because of her relationship with Ogoun, it is a bad idea to serve her food on metal or pewter dishes/cups because those are what describe Ogoun.

Nana can be found in hospitals, cemeteries (especially old ones), and nursing homes. She loves her swamps but can also be found at the seashore or in the forests. She likes to be
near water, whether it is a lake, stream or the ocean. You can also find her at any Church dedicated to St. Anne.

In conclusion, Nana Buruku in considered to be one of the first people that were around. Due to her age her body figure had been bent down so much that it practically touches the floor. Because of her age, she is closely related to death. Her main areas of influence are women and children’s issues, life, healing, rape, ecology, swamps, but most importantly she has a great influence on death. All the Orixas came from either two mothers, Nana Buruku or Lemanja. Although, Joãozinho argues that all the children came from Nana Buruku and Lemanja did not have children of her own. She has a great mistrust from males; she only gets along with women and children. She does not let her abusive husband rule over her or her grand children. If you want to find her, it is told that she can be found in a swam near the ocean, in a h
ospital, or in an old cemetery.

Works Cited
Johnson, Paul C. Secrets, gossip, and gods the transformation of Brazilian Candomblé. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002.
Wafer, James William. Taste of blood spirit possession in Brazilian Candomblé. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania P, 1991.