February 18, 2013

510-513 BRAZIL - The Afro-Brazilian religions

Of the more than 193 million inhabitants of Brazil, about half describe themselves as Black (6.84%) or Brown (43.80%), i.e. have mixed ancestry, Europeans, Africans, and Amerindians. Each of these ancestors have come with their own religious beliefs, which during the Portuguese colonization were mixed, leading to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices. The Afro-Brazilian religions (as Umbanda, Candomblé, Batuque, Xangô, and Tambor de Mina), originally brought by black slaves shipped from Africa to Brazil, have even now many followers, concentrated mainly in large urban centers in the Northeast, such as Salvador, Recife, or Rio de Janeiro in the Southeast. These cults were persecuted throughout most of Brazilian history, because they were believed to be pagan or even satanic, but the republican government legalized all of them on the grounds of the separation between the State and the Church in 1889.

The Afro-Brazilian religions are based on the mythology, and the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people, one of the largest ethnic groups of Native-Africa, who occupies parts of the modern states of Nigeria, Benin and Togo. Umbanda blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism, and considerable indigenous lore, while the others are based in the anima (soul) of the natural environment, the rituals involving the possession of the initiated by Orishas (spirits or deities that reflects one of the manifestations of God), offerings and sacrifices of the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdom, healing, dancing/trance, and percussion.

Because the religion developed semi-independently in different regions, among different ethnic groups, it evolved into several sects or nations (nações), distinguished by the set of worshiped deities, as well as the music and language used in the rituals. This division was influenced by the beneficent brotherhoods (irmandades) of Brazilian slaves organized by the Catholic Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. Candomblé temples are called houses (casas), plantations (roças), or yards (terreiros), the priesthood being organized into symbolic families. Each family owns and manages one house. In most Candomblé houses, the head of the family is a woman, the mãe-de-santo or ialorixá (mother-of-saint), seconded by the pai-de-santo or babalorixá (father-of-saint). According to Mapeamento dos Terreiros de Salvador, only in this city are 1,155 terreiros.

The Yoruba theogony enjoys a large Pantheon of Orishas, but I will mention only those who appear in my postcards:

Xangô (Shangó, Ṣàngó, Changó, Chango, Nago Shango, Sogbo, Kibuco) - Lord of Justice; divinity of lightning, thunder, fire, sky father, represents male power and sexuality. Historically, he is a royal ancestor of the Yoruba, being the third king of the Oyo Kingdom prior to his posthumous deification.
Sincretism: Saint Jerome
Salutation: Kawô Kabiesilé
Day: Wednesday
Colors: red and white
Sign: Sagittarius
Instrument: o(two sided hatchet)

Ossain (Ossaim, Ossanha, Ossanhê, Catende) - Lord of Magic Potions; the physician of African Religions, the owner of the medicinal plants, who releases the magical property of the leaves. The legend says that Oya (the god that controls the winds) shook her skirt and scattered the leaves, so other Orishas got some, but in general, they belong to Ossain. Ossain has a leg amputated, so he dances into one leg.
Sincretism: Saint Joseph (but also Saint Jude and Saint Kitts, according to other sources)
Salutation: Eu Eô (Ewé ó or Eueu)
Day: Saturday (or Thursday, according to other sources)
Colors: green and yellow, and the mixture of these, resulting a pale green
Instrument: seven iron spears with a dove on top

Yemanjá (Yemojá, Yemonja, Yemalla, Yemana, Ymoja, Iemanjá, Janaína, Dandalunda) - Mother of the sea and the most of the other Orishas; she is the ocean, the patron deity of the fishermen and the survivors of shipwrecks, the feminine principle of creation, the spirit of moonlight, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children.
Sincretism: Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (Our Lady of Navigators)
Celebration (in Salvador, Bahia): December 8, the Festa da Conceição da Praia (Feast to Our Lady of Conception of the church at the beach)
Salutation: Odoiyá
Day: Friday
Colors: silver transparent, blue, and white
Instrument: Abebé (a silver fan)

Obá (Ọba, Obbá) - Goddess of rivers, which figuratively represents the flow of time and life, but also goddess of love. She is traditionally identified as the first wife of Shango. She cutting off her ear to serve to her husband as food, because one of her co-wives has convinced her that this will secure Shango's attention. Once Shango sees the ear and realizes Obá has mutilated herself, he chases her from his house and into permanent exile.
Sincretism: Nossa Senhora das Neves (Our Lady of the Snows)
Salutation: Obá Xirê
Day: Saturday
Colors: red and white
Sign: Virgo
Instrument: spear and shield

About the stamps
In all four postcards are the same three stamps. The first stamp belongs to the series Obras Desaparecidas de Candido Portinari (Missing Works of Candido Portinari), issued on January 8, 2003. Candido Portinari was a Brazilian painter who was born in a coffee plantation in the city of Brodowski, São Paulo, on December 29th, 1903. He is recognized internationally, because in their works touched universal themes being always committed to the social and human values. On the stamp is the work Menino de Brodowski (Brodowski Boy)

The second stamp is part of the series Comunicação Postal (Postal Communication), designed by Mario Alves de Brito, issued on September 26, 2011, and composed from three stamps:
Marketing Direto (Direct Marketing) - it's on the postcard
Registro (Registration)
Aviso de Recebimento (Notice of Receipt)

The third is part of a definitive series representing Profissões (Professions), about which I wrote here.

Religion in Brazil - Wikipedia
Candomblé - Wikipedia
Candomblé, West African Deities at Home on a Far Shore - Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
The Orishas - OrishaNet
Série Comunicação Postal - Selose Filatelia
My Philately - Mis Timbres

sender 1-4: Silvia Guerino (direct swap)
sent from São José do Rio Pardo (São Paulo / Brazil), on 21.01.2013
photo: Christian Fehr

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