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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Beads and Prayers: a Candomblé Ceremony in Brazil - Page 4

Written by Libba Hockley
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      As we head back, the leaders of the community turn into tall grass, away from the path to the van. Like everything we’ve done up until now, we don’t ask questions, just follow. Two single file lines of children welcome us into a chapel that stands alone in the middle of a large, lush meadow; the curving hills of Brazil as its backdrop. It is the same chapel I saw the moment we drove into the community. The children’s soft voices ring out in empty fields of green, giving me goose bumps in the early evening’s sun. The men beat their rough hands against drums, pick the tight strings of small guitars, and hit their palms against tambourines, bellowing percussion beats into humid air. I follow their booming voices.

      The chapel stands small and white, with open windows that let in a few blushed rays, streaking the worn-tiled floor with a dusty glow. Still curious about their lives, I step into this circle of Bahians, grazing my pale wrists against the ebony shoulders of two children. Their voices seep out through the chapel’s sun holes, singing to the gods above, singing from their little souls. I don’t know why, maybe I’m thinking of my faraway loved ones, or maybe I’m just exhausted from traveling, but I can’t hold back the bubble in my throat or tears that well up behind my eyes when I hear the children sing. 

      We go around the circle, alternating between a North American student and Bahian local, asking for the blessings of those we love from those we worship. My heart beats strong, heavy thuds that drown my chest and throat. I’ve never prayed and definitely never out loud to a room full of strangers. As the circle of prayer begins, I think about this place I’ve just entered. I look at the bare feet of the children and remember the mud huts we passed, the dusty road that led us here, the sun dancing in the leaves’ underbelly. I think back to all I’ve just done, all the heart and earth that suffused every hut. And the only genuine thought that comes to my mind is the power of the natural world.

      Awaiting my turn, I try to plan what I’m going to say. I want to pray to the natural world, to ask it to bless all the people of this community and my fellow travelers, to bless my family and friends, and the good health of myself and everyone around me. I realize I can be honest about my belief in the physical world, as someone who has always turned to nature—its beauty and cycles—for strength and comfort. I want to believe in what I’m asking, to whom I’m asking it, and know that it might somehow make a difference.  

      Sweat beads above my lip and my voice wavers as I ask for the blessings in front of this foreign circle. My words echo in the tall plastered walls. Beyond this tiny chapel, the still green of the countryside breathes and pumps life into everything around it. Caked mud on the children’s soft soles bleeds into bending grass. Sun rays birth into each open space, casting an energy that soaks into the ground and climbs up through my toes, spreading blood to the puffed tips of my fingers. Life is infinite. Spirituality is close. What I’m doing feels right, and for the first time in my life, praying feels good. It feels real and it feels like something or someone other than who’s in this chapel is listening.  

      I choose my new necklace beads based on my instinctual attraction to the natural world; another way to discover Orixá without the help of a fortuneteller. The aqua blue represents the goddess of freshwater rivers and streams, and the jade green signifies the goddess of trees and forests. They are not much in the way of religious emblems, but they hang next to my bed now as a reminder of the people of Engenho da Ponte, of the power and presence of the land. They are something concrete I turn toward, something I hold in the palm of my hands.


©Libba Hockley




(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Wednesday, 01 May 2013

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