A Study Of Candomble Sacrifice Rituals

4635 words - 19 pages

A Study of Candomble Sacrifice Rituals

In Sacrifice: Its Nature and Functions, Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss describe the rites and rituals usually surrounding sacrifice in a religious context. They attempt to create a method for studying sacrifice according to the consecrating rituals that surround the act itself. According to Hubert and Mauss, it is these rituals which define the sacrifice; a sacrifice without these rituals would indeed be meaningless and empty. These rituals shape the sacrifice into what it is.

Hubert and Mauss list several distinguishing factors that a sacrificial ritual should carry; the sacrifice is only as important as the rituals that surround it. These rituals, whatever they may be, need to be precise. Anything less than exactly what the ritual traditionally consists of is simply asking for trouble and reprimanding from the deities. As these rituals all have to do with higher spiritual beings, these punishments could indeed lead to death. [1] These rituals include a sacred space, correct timing, separating the sacred from the profane and consecrating what is profane. According to Hubert and Mauss, sacrifice must also do two things: it must have an expiatory function and it must create some form of a union with the deity.

By focusing on the rituals, they are allowing for leeway as to what exactly the sacrifice is. Sacrifice does not have to be pigeonholed into the age-old misconceptions of throwing virgins into active volcanoes or binding goats to a stake. In this paper, I intend to look carefully at the public ceremonies of an Afro-Brazilian Candomblé and determine if they fit the model given by Hubert and Mauss. While there is no “typical” sacrifice, like the ones mentioned above, there is a sort of self-sacrifice of the dancers in these ceremonies.

The dancers in Candomblé sacrifice their bodies for a brief period of time so that the Orixás, or Candomblé deities, can manifest in their bodies to dance and release axé. Axé is the essence of Candomblé. According to Candomblé, it is the essence of everything in the world, cosmos, and beyond. It is the spiritual power that keeps life together and functioning, without which, life as is known would cease to exist. Humans use this life force of the Orixás to improve the quality of their lives and to bring about good luck and fortune in general. [2]

As humans need the Orixás for axé, so do the Orixás need the humans. They need the presents left to them on altars, such as aromatic food or decorations, as well as the bodies of the dancers to manifest into. Through the dancers during the ceremonies, the Orixás can communicate with the humans and dance their stories. However, if any of the steps for this worship are altered, in the wrong order, or skipped entirely, disaster could ensue. If the mistakes are bad enough, then the Orixás have every right to become angry with the worshippers and cause all sorts of problems in their lives,...

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