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The Taste of Blood

The Taste of Blood: Spirit Possession in Brazilian Candomble

Jim Wafer
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Taste of Blood
    Book Description:

    Enter the fascinating world of the Condomble regions of Brazil, where interaction between spirits and human is considered an everyday occurrence. Jim Wafer uncovers the social life, rituals, folklore, and engaging personalities of the villagers of Jacari, among whom trances, sorcery, and spirit possession demonstrate the coexistence of different kinds of reality. This ethnography is intriguing not only because of the originality of its approach to the more enigmatic aspects of another culture but also because it uses insights gained from participation in that culture to reflect on the paradoxes inherent in the writer's own culture, and in the human condition in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0386-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Participants
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Pre-text
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Part 1: Exu

    • 1. The Lips of Pomba-Gira
      (pp. 3-10)

      On my second-last night in Brazil I walked across the dunes to Jaraci to take leave of friends there, and after the human farewells wound up in the company of two exuas, Pomba-Gira and Sete Saia. An exua is a female exu, one of a class of originally African deities who have found a new home in Brazil.

      This Pomba-Gira has a rather shy disposition, and Sete Saia taunted her for her “fineness.” But after some bottles of sweet red wine were fetched from the long-suffering Dona Nega, who operates a small store-cum-bar nearby, Pomba-Gira began to sing and dance....

    • 2. Padilha’s Vow
      (pp. 11-22)

      This is the story of the three exus, which Joãozinho told while we were at Jardim de Alá.

      They say that there was once, in a certain place, a woman who had two daughters. One was called Maria Padilha and the other was Pomba-Gira.

      The family was more or less well off.

      When Padilha was seven, with a well-formed body, her brother, Sete Facadas (“Seven Stabs”), felt sexually attracted to her.

      Padilha and Pomba-Gira did not get on together, since Padilha was envious of the presents that were given to the younger daughter. Pomba-Gira was treated with affection, and Maria...

    • 3. Corquisa
      (pp. 23-50)

      Just before dawn on the same night that I met Joãozinho, Archipiado and I encountered Marinalvo, Joãozinho’s father-of-saint, in Praça Castro Alves, a square in the High City, overlooking the Bay. Marinalvo was with his new boyfriend—the fifth, he later told us, he had had during the five nights since carnaval had begun. Joãozinho introduced Archipiado and me to him, as “researchers.” Marinalvo invited us to come to his terreiro for a festival in two weeks’ time, and said to bring a camera.

      Marinalvo eventually “initiated” me as an ogã in his terreiro, which is not in the city...

  6. Part 2: Caboclo

    • 4. Order and Progress
      (pp. 53-87)

      Brazil, like the continent in which the orixás originated, and like Australia, the land of my birth, lies on the surface of that half of the planet usually considered to be the “bottom.” There the stars of the night sky—represented on the Brazilian flag, with the Southern Cross at their center—are different from those seen in northern latitudes, and the cycle of the seasons is reversed, if considered from a northern perspective. However, the solar festivals introduced to the southern hemisphere from Europe are celebrated on the same dates as in the Old World. So, for example, Christmas...

    • 5. Of Keys
      (pp. 88-107)

      Before I became an ogã in Marinalvo’s terreiro I was an abiã. A Jaracian defined abiã for me as a kind of spy—someone who goes from terreiro to terreiro participating in the rituals, without having made any “obligations.” I was an abiã because my saint had not yet accepted any particular terreiro, out of the many I visited, as the appropriate place for me to make offerings to him.

      However, I have a feeling he may have come close to accepting the terreiro of Gelson, in a district of Salvador called Lobito.

      A student colleague of Archipiado’s, Márcie by...

    • 6. Villages
      (pp. 108-118)

      In contrast with the exus, whose natural habitat is the street world of the big cities, and with the orixás, who are often thought to live in royal dwellings, as befits their status, the caboclos live in “villages.” It is thus appropriate that my formal incorporation into the “village” of Jaraci was accomplished with the complicity of a caboclo.

      Maffesoli writes ofthe contemporary world as a “multitude of villages,” all interconnected, and populated by “tribes” of fluctuating composition (1987:194–95). He acknowledges that this is “only a metaphor,” but it is one that provides a useful perspective from which to...

  7. Part 3: Orixá

    • 7. Child Spirits
      (pp. 121-154)

      Ants. And the cloying sweet odor of decay. The ants are proceeding in an orderly column to the offerings, and out again, under the locked door of the bakisse. They are not paying much attention to the little cooked carcass of the dove.

      I am not permitted to kill any living thing while I am here in seclusion, in the room of the saints.

      The offerings have been here less than twenty-four hours, but, because of the heat in this little cell, the African dishes are already beginning to decompose: molocum—beans, shrimp, and onion, decorated with boiled eggs, food...

    • 8. The Throne
      (pp. 155-165)

      The press did not show up for my installation as ogã.

      After sunset Marinalvo removed my turban and cap. Dona Laura came, and I had to kneel three times in front of her. Then I was instructed in the procedure for coming out of seclusion. When I stepped off the mat I had to touch the floor three times with my left foot, then with my right foot. At the door I had to jump three times, look to the sky, the right, the left, and the ground, then exit left foot first. Dona Laura called to the four directions,...

    • 9. Tempo
      (pp. 166-178)

      It is a curious coincidence that the period of field work on which this account is based began and ended in liturgical seasons associated with the orixás of trees.

      The phytomorphic deities of Candomblé go by a variety of names (cf. Carneiro 1981:178; Lody 1975:71; Cacciatore 1975:50 and passim). In Gege-Nagô terreiros the best known is Loko, whose name derives from the Ewe language. Loko is regarded as equivalent to Iroko, whose name derives from Yoruba but is less commonly used, even in those terreiros that trace their roots to the Yoruba region.

      Some people consider Loko/Iroko to correspond to...

  8. Epilogue: Egum
    (pp. 179-190)

    Thus it was that I returned to Bloomington, Indiana, to start “writing up.”

    It could be said that in so doing I crossed various boundaries—the geographical and political boundaries that separate Brazil from the United States; the cultural boundary that separates life from text; the personal boundary that separates the Jim who was Evaristo in Jaraci from the Evaristo who is Jim in Bloomington.

    When I asked Taís why people in the terreiros of Jaraci gave me the nickname Evaristo, he said Evaristo was probably a kind of egum.

    The Jaracians, as usual, were using language to play with...

  9. Postface
    (pp. 191-194)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 195-204)
  11. References
    (pp. 205-212)
  12. Index
    (pp. 213-219)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 220-221)