Sitting Room

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Candomblé and Umbanda Festivities and holidays

Photo of artistical rendering of a Preto Velho - Old Negro Slave - taken from the Raiz Cultural (Cultural Roots) Blog

The dates first:

January 20 - Oxóssi
February 2 - Iemanjá Day Bahia / Iguaçu

April 23 - Ogum
May 13 - Pretos Velhos (Old Negroes)
June 13 - Xangô
July 26 - Oxum
September 27 - Saints Cosmas and Damian
October 12 - Erê Children's Fest
November 02 - Omulú
November 15 – Umbanda’s Foundation / Flag Day
December 04 - Iansã (Yansan)
December 12 - Iemanjá (Yemanja)
25/12 - Oxalá

Now some words on the dates:

These are not holydays in the sense that shops close, children do not go to school and offices normally do not have to open. These are more internal celebrations or festivities held in Umbanda and Candomblé ‘terreiros’ or centers. These special days are dedicated to one Orisha (Orixá). But two main dates above mark important events inside and outside umbanda. May 13 is the day when Brazilians celebrate Slavery Abolition Day. It is the day when Princess Isabel signed the law setting all slaves free.

The Umbanda tradition celebrates the Preto Velho Day, the Old Negro Slave Day. The second important date for all Brazilians is November 15, the Day the country celebrates the Republic Proclamation Day also known as Dia da Bandeira or Flag Day. The Black Brazilian Umbanda Nation celebrates the Umbanda’s Foundation Day. Last but not least there is a third interesting date. November the second when Christianity with a few exceptions celebrate the Dia dos Finados or Dia de los Muertos or All Souls' Day.

The Afro-Brazilian religion as a religion of the oppressed used these days to protest, tough silently and cunningly, the injustices committed and the nearsighted, single-minded solutions offered like the mainstream society idea that freedom was given by the princess and not fought over bravely and very costly in lives and suffering by the negroes for over 100 years. Nearsighted because the end of slavery was the beginning of a free life of suffering where the only choice available was the choice of on which miserable place he or she or the family choose to die? Millions of free negroes took to the streets of a poor country, of city and urban misery. Something similar to the land enclosure measures in England prior and through the industrial revolution.

That mass of homeless migrating people marked the beginning of Brazilian-style ‘favelas’ with dispossessed former slaves climbing the ‘morros’, hill and mountains to hide in their makeshift shacks. In this sense it is interesting to highlight that Brazilian Negro Movements do not accept or celebrate Slavery Abolition Day neither on May 13 or under that name. They celebrate the end of slavery of sorts on November 20, which marks the date of Zumbi's death. Zumbi is the Afro-Brazilian anti-slavery hero who fought Portuguese, French and Dutch for nearly 100 years.

Zumbi was the leader of Quilombo dos Palmares Brazil’s largest and most successful quilombo in what is today the State of Alagoas. It was a community-republic of slaves who fled their owners and got ready to fight back and liberate fellow slaves. The Quilombo was finally subdued by Domingos Jorge Velho a “badeirante” Indian slave raider and gold prospector from São Paulo. The Bandeirantes were also responsible for the destruction of the Jesuit Missions in this region of Southern Brazil, Northeastern Argentina and Southern Paraguay. What a link!

The last date is a good example of religious adaptation when Brazilian slaves took advantage of the holiday not to celebrate the dead according to the Catholic Church but to honor Omulu the orisha responsible for protecting cemiteries and holy fields.

Soon to come:
Plan a visit!
What is an Orisha?

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