Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, African History. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 30 June 2022

African Religions in Brazillocked

African Religions in Brazillocked

  • Luis Nicolau ParésLuis Nicolau ParésDepartment of Anthropology, Universidade Federal da Bahia

Summary

Despite their diverse political and cultural backgrounds, West Africans and West Central Africans shared some basic religious orientations. With a strong pragmatic focus on solving problems in this world, the dynamism and flexibility of their religious practices were critical for their quick reactivation within Brazilian slave society. The Atlantic transfer, however, deprived African institutions of their structural social basis so a complex innovative process of re-institutionalization was necessary to allow new forms of Afro-Brazilian religions to emerge. Ritual associativism first occurred around the colonial Calundu, mostly concerned with interpersonal healing and divination interactions, but rapidly saw the formation of parallel religious congregations inspired by an ecclesiastical mode of organization based on the initiatory recruitment of novices and the worship of multiple deities. Despite common elements of healing, divination, sacrifice, spirit possession, initiation, and celebration, the genesis of Afro-Brazilian religions was marked by astounding pluralism and eclecticism that led to a wide range of regional variation. The demographics and cultural specificities of the enslaved in each place, as well as local historical circumstances, determined distinct processes of creative synthesis among the various African traditions and between these and hegemonic Iberian Catholicism, Amerindian healing practices, and others. The circulation of ideas and priests across the country and between Africa and Brazil after the end of the Atlantic slave trade also added to the 19th-century consolidation of an Afro-Brazilian religious field. Despite a history of continuous discrimination and persecution, alongside occasional selective tolerance, Afro-Brazilian religions offered a unique space for the transformative reproduction of African values, behaviors, and forms of sociability, which had a long-lasting effect on Brazilian national culture. The temples’ struggles for legitimacy and recognition was expressed in a latent tension between those which claimed an alleged African ritual purity and those accused of syncretism, a divide to which scholars greatly contributed to and which has oriented their classificatory efforts.

Subjects

  • African Diaspora
  • Colonial Conquest and Rule
  • Invention of Tradition

You do not currently have access to this article

Login

Please login to access the full content.

Subscribe

Access to the full content requires a subscription