Sunday, May 23, 2010
Candomblé, an everyday reality in Rio
I am not an expert in the religion of Candomblé, far from it. I know it from the warnings of Cariocas, Brazilians born in Rio. My first experience with it was during my first trip downtown to go to the Federal Police to extend my tourist visa. My husband and I were walking down a fairly busy downtown street when I almost ran into a ceramic bowl with chicken feet and candles around it. Daniel saved me by firmly pulling me out of the way.
I was given a short and not sweet explanation of "That is a Candomblé offering. You never touch them. Don't look at them if you can manage. It's powerful stuff."
Through the years I've gotten to understand what Cariocas think of these offerings that you can run into almost anywhere. There's a lot of respect. Everyone knows where the Candomblé people do their thing. They know that you don't mess with people involved with Candomblé. And if someone's life takes a random and horrible turn to the worst, many think it's a "curse" (for lack of better words) from Candomblé.
I asked my Mother-in-law if I could go watch a ceremony sometime. She told me no because I'm too open energetically and can not control my flow of energy in and out. It would be a disaster.
Now I don't necessarily believe in this kind of thing. I almost wanted to head out on my own to one just out of curiosity. What stopped me was the respect. Even Cariocas who don't believe in Candomblé, or anything for that matter, respect it. You don't mess around with it. I even got a head shaking from my husband for just taking the picture. Weird fact, my camera ran out of batteries just as I went to take the picture. The battery was full. It came back to life and I was taking pictures of my son nearby so I quickly turned and snapped a picture. The camera died right after.
Coincidence, probably. But it's enough to make you wonder.
A student of mine once told me a crazy story. He's a professor at UFRJ in Rio and he and some colleagues went to Bahia for a conference. Candomblé originated in Bahia.
He and a female colleague were buying some food from a street vendor. When it was her turn the woman would not take her money and just gave her the food. It happened with every person on the street that she attempted to purchase something from. Finally someone informed her that she is the personification of one of their Gods. Everyone knew on sight and no one could take money from her. On top of that, they had to give her anything she required.
Here are a couple of links if you want to learn more about Candomblé: