Afro-Brazilian symbolism - I

The Negro was uprooted from his land and sold as merchandise, enslaved. In Brazil he arrived as slave, object; from his land he departed as a free man. During the journey, the slave traffic, he lost his personality, but his culture, his history, his landscape, his experiences; they came with him.

 

300-year history of Negro enslavement in Brazil has made an impact on this country. Candomblé is one such impact, a religion filled with many secrets, symbols and rituals known only to initiates but it is also a vital part of cultural expression in Brazil. There are no definitive numbers on how many people in Brazil follow Candomblé. The government estimates, conservatively, that there are more than 300,000 centers of worship for Brazil's Afro-Brazilian religions, which include Candomblé. Those participating in these faiths are thought to make-up at least one-third of Brazil's near 170 million inhabitants. Many practice both Catholicism and Candomblé.

 

Bahia, the state with the largest percentage of Blacks, is the capital of this religion, which closely follows its African roots and traditions among the Yoruba people of Nigeria and the Bantu people of Angola and the Congo. Yoruban traditions, including the most commonly used names of the Orixás (gods of the African pantheon), predominate.

Today Candomblé is officially recognized and protected by the government of Brazil. However, during the period of slavery and for many decades following its abolition in Brazil in 1888, Candomblé practices were banned by the government and by the Catholic church, and its practitioners were severely punished.

 

Model: 12-year old Naomi Leonardo de Queiros.

 

In all societies we are constantly surrounded by symbols, which often contribute towards the stimulation of our creative senses. Symbolism was a 19th-century movement in which art became infused with exaggerated sensitivity and a spooky mysticism, but the symbols themselves have existed for centuries.

 

In Asian culture there is not such a wide gap between spiritual and material things, as there seems to exist in the western civilization of today. Therefore religious symbols are a living part of all aspects of Asian culture.

 

Animals may have a positive symbolism in one culture yet have a negative meaning in another. Animals in Celtic and Welsh mythology are tied in with fertility and vitality, because they are living, moving, and growing. They also provided vitality and continued life for the tribes through their meat, skins, and bones.

 

In ancient Egypt it was thought that some Gods and Goddesses represented themselves on earth in the form of a single representative of a specific species, and honoring that species of animal would please the God or Goddess associated with the animal.

 

Chinese astrology uses animal names and symbols in the Chinese lunar calendar. Astrology can be defined as a pseudo-science linking human destinies to charts associated with heavenly bodies or the recording of time. The Chinese believed the characteristics of a given zodiac animal influenced the personality of every person born in that year. They used this information to create horoscopes, daily predictions based upon the year of one's birth.

 

Symbols exist in every culture, in all regions of our planet.

 

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