Historical Links

One of the oldest examples of the phenomenon of syncretism, the blending of Catholicism and Candomblé, is the Sisterhood of the Boa Morte (Good Death) in Cachoeira, 120 km's from Salvador.

This is a society of women which had it's beginnings in the senzalas (slaves quarters) where slaves would gather to discuss the news about abolition and pray for the slaves killed in the liberation movement. Once freed, ex-slaves would often form religious associations, sisterhoods and brotherhoods, often using the Catholic church as a vehicle but these associations were really cultural centers whose aims were to free other slaves from captivity and to preserve the traditions handed down verbally from generation to generation.

This was the case of the Sisterhood of the Boa Morte. Their aim was to help newly freed slaves to survive in a world where there was no longer a master with his whips and chains. Reminiscent of secret female societies in Africa, the Sisterhood of the Boa Morte worship the iyá's, the female spirits of the dead.

A "good death" (or Boa Morte) was seen as being a proper passage from the material to the spiritual world, no longer a slave. The Boa Morte festival takes place in Cachoeira every August and is deeply syncretised with the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. It is perhaps the most important festival in the African Heritage calendar in Bahia and is a living document of African culture and Diaspora to the New World.

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