Note from BBT: Why do so many people seem to feel a connection to the orixá (orisha) or African deity known as Iemanjá? In reality, it shouldn’t be such a hard question. If you can understand the devotion of billions of people to figures such as Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus and others, you should also be able to understand the devotion to Iemanjá. To dismiss the belief in one spirtual force as simply mythology while elevating others that are also mythical (even if you don’t believe this) is a type of religious racism. Ask yourself this question. If it weren’t for the force of some weapon or the image of wealth or prestige or the threat of eternal damnation, how many of us would be following the religion we follow? Think about it.
It’s actually understandable that people begin to follow certain religions under the threat of death, but I find it even more intriguing when people continue to follow their beliefs even when the society as a whole looks down on their particular beliefs, as is the case of religions such as candomblé and umbanda. Taking this in consideration, if we want to know why some people choose certain religious paths, it’s probably best to just ask them. In the piece below, a few people explain their devotion to Iemanjá while others clarify certain aspects of Brazil’s African religion known as the Candomblé. Check it out…with an open mind of course.
Be sure to check out my first piece on this today here.
February 2: Get to know the history and religious fascination of the festa of Iemanjá
Orixá devotees, historians and religious adherents to tell about the tradition of the festa and the polemics of today
By Naiá Braga
“How many names does the Queen of the Sea have? Dandalunda, Janaína, Marabô, Princess of Aiocá, Inaê, Mermaid, Mucunã, Maria, Dona Iemanjá”. The verses known in the voice of singer Maria Bethânia exalt the many representations of Iemanjá, an African deity of the Ketu nation, in different cultural currents of Brazil. In Bahia, the festa to greet the entity is always held on February 2, in the neighborhood of Rio Vermelho. What few people know is that the choice of the date has a troubled origin. “There was a gift for Mãe D’Água (Mother of the Water), which came after one of the fishermen consulted the buzios (cowry shells) to understand the lack of fish and at the same time there was a party for Our Lady of Santana in the neighborhood. The fishermen went to the church to bless the fishing. At a certain moment, each one went to his side and the festa of Santana was celebrated again in July, as the Catholic Church predicts”, explains historian Jaime Nascimento.
A Brazilian cultural mark, the religious syncretism, which associates saints to orixás, disappears in the festivities that greet Iemanjá, which date from the course of the 19th century and were held in various places in Salvador. Different from other popular religious festivals in Bahia, the African divinity is worshipped without a correspondent in the Catholic Church, as appears with the festa of Senhor do Bonfim (associated with the orixá Oxalá) and Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia (related to the orixá Oxum).
The historian Rafael Dantas highlights that the February 2nd celebrations gained popularity in the 40s and 50s of the 20th century. “Besides the strength of religious traditions linked to candomblé and its followers, many personalities, politicians, artists, scholars and intellectuals, including Pierre Verger, began to highlight the importance of the festa,” he points out.
Lady of my orí’.
It was also in the mother’s womb that the story of love and devotion for Iemanjá of the nutritionist Mariana Araújo dos Santos began. “I was always desired by my mother and was going to be born on February 2nd, but for other reasons, I was born on January 21st. I found out that I was a daughter of Iemanjá at 27 and I already felt a deep relationship with her since ever, and I couldn’t explain it. An inexplicable love and respect with the sea and for her.”
She is the lady of my orí, she remembers. Raised in the candomblé, a daughter of Iemanjá, Mariana attends the Ilê Axé Ajunssu terreiro, in Santiago do Iguape, in the city of Cachoeira and reveals that the orixá always appears and talks to her. “Only she makes me understand and comprehend that things happen at the right moment. She who guides, protects me, washes away my tears and welcomes me in her arms,” she says emotionally.
Born and raised in Pelourinho, it was still in her childhood that the dancer Dandara Amorim discovered her love for the African orixá. “I always said I was of Iemanjá and nobody believed it. I ended up getting started in candomblé and I had the confirmation, the certainty of what I already knew”, she reveals. In the family, the influence of the father and the paternal grandmother in religion made the devotion even stronger. “They say that we are reborn for the orixá, right? After I confirmed being her daughter, my life is only of happiness and accomplishments. I always talk to her, mentalize, light candles. My house doesn’t lack lavender,” she says excitedly. The dancer decided to tattoo her love for the Queen of the Sea in March 2018 and says that even at the time of getting the tattoo she received signs from the orixá. “I always wanted to do a mermaid. Then I was going to do something super random. I tried to do it three times and I couldn’t do it. On the fourth, a sentence came into my head and I managed to do it. I believe it was a sign from her,” she reveals.
For Marcos Rezende, the relationship between the religious and the profane in the Iemanjá festivities should be seen in an integrated way. “If we go back to the tradition of candomblé, this idea of religious and profane, both in Africa and in Brazil, gets confused, not because it is disrespectful, but because it mixes. The concept of sacred, for the religions of African matrixes, is one of a sacred that coexists with us, are overlapping plans. It is different from the Christian idea that the earth, the place where we are, is far from heaven, from paradise. The profane has always existed and the important thing is that we know that we have to separate each of these experiences, but I am more concerned about the changes given by the public managers of normatization of the festa,” he analyzes.