Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death, Egun and Orishas dolls: Afro-Brazilian religiosity

Afro Brasil Museum

Discover the context and the garments used in important religious manifestations with African roots.

Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death, Tradition and Faith
When, in 1950, Pope Pius XII expressed his view on the ancient doctrine, which would later become Catholic dogma, that Mary ascended into heaven through Christ without suffering death, he could not have imagined how widespread that belief already was in Brazil. There, a group of devout black women firmly believed in the Virgin's ascension and the incorruptibility of her body as part of their African traditions. Many years earlier, on the eve of the Counter-Reformation, there were those in Portugal who believed the apocryphal texts that said that Mary had died and had been buried at Gethsemane but that her body had never decayed and remained incorrupt. This Iberian tradition reached Brazil in colonial times before being transformed through the piety of Afro-Brazilians. The Sisterhood of Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte (Our Lady of the Good Death) is a Catholic organization, based in Cachoeira in the State of Bahia. The sisters are Afro-Brazilians and they hold public parades and processions on days consecrated to the Virgin's death and ascension, with the main celebration being on August 15.

Ave Maria, enthroned on your litter, pray for us sinners. Bless this swarthy land. Its rivers, fields, and tranquil nights.
Dalva de Oliveira

In Salvador, at the end of the 18th and start of the 19th centuries, there were groups of Africans from the Jeje culture and other similar cults who were joining Catholic Orders. There was, for example, a Ketu Boa Morte Sisterhood at the beginning of the 19th century at the church in Barroquinha and, around the year 1820, freed Africans from the Jeje culture took the Sisterhood's traditions with them to Cachoeira. On each of the days honoring the Virgin, there is a Mass, festivities, and a procession.

THE DORMITION
In this excerpt of the video embedded from YouTube and produced by Tradições Brasileiras, it is possible to see the first day of the ritual. On this day, the sisters abstain from eating red meat and palm oil, eating only white meat and other "white" foods, as white represents "dawn" in relation to the Virgin Mary's death. Obviously, there is also a clear link here with the color typically associated with the Candomblé deity, Oxalá.

THE FUNERAL
In this video excerpt embedded from YouTube and produced by Tradições Brasileiras, it is possible to see the second day of ritual, when there is a funeral procession with an image of the Virgin and the sisters wear white with black sashes and carry crosses.

THE GLORY
In this video excerpt embedded from YouTube and produced by Tradições Brasileiras, it is possible to see the last day of the ritual. Symbolically, the third day is when the Ascension of the Virgin takes place. The sisters dress up in all their finery, wearing beautiful dresses with red satin sashes and a lot of jewelry. "Caruru" (a local dish made from okra, shrimp, and nuts) is served as part of a special feast and shared among everyone present, and then they dance the Samba de Roda.

Cachoeira, in Bahia
At the Sisterhood of Good Death chapel is where happens the most part of the festivities.

THE SKIRT

Cotton and satin

THE BAND

Polyester fabric.

THE LACE

Cotton lace in richelieu lace.

THE TURBAN

Cotton lace in richelieu lace.

Egun Clothing - Africa and Brazil
Egun are the “departed ancestors”. This is a Yoruba tradition and is still found today in Nigeria, Benin, and Brazil. The cult known as "egungun" is an ancestor cult which dramatizes the Yoruba belief in the afterlife.

Baba Egum Garment
Author: Cosme Daniel de Paula

Fabric, cowrie shells, mirror and beads
1996

In Africa, the masked "egungun" represent the spirits of dead ancestors who return to earth to visit their living descendants. During these earthly visits, they help resolve land disputes, as well as purifying the land and curing disease.

Baba Egum Garment

Fabric, cowrie shells, mirror and beads

The "egum" cult in Brazil is one of the cults that has undergone the fewest changes to its liturgical practices, clothing, and ways of ancestor worship.

For over 200 years the cult has been based mainly on Itaparica Island, where the ancestors appear in clothes kept specifically for them as part of the main annual Baba Olukotun festival. One of the best known figures in the tradition was Mestre (or Master) Didi (1917–2013), who was a priest in the "egungun" cult and a visual artist.

Mother Detinha de Xangô
Mother Detinha de Xangô (1928-2014) was a very respected egbomi and artisan of Salvador whose name of baptism was Valdete Ribeiro da Silva (Detinha was the affectionate nickname, diminutive of Valdete, that ended up distinguishing the Ialorixá until her death in 2014 ). Her father and grandfather spoke Yoruba and she came from a lineage of strong women of the Bahian candomblé, although it was only shortly after the age of 60 that she was initiated into candomblé. Her initiatory order refers to mother Aninha (1869-1938), who initiated her mother Ondina (1916-1975) who, in turn, initiate in 1971 Mother Detinha de Xangô in Ilê Axé Apô Afonjá, one of the most traditional and certainly one of the oldest among the Candomblé Terreiros of Bahia, next to traditional Terreiros like Gantois, and the White House of Engenho. In addition to her religious activities, Mother Detinha was well known for making small dolls representing Orishas. Having developed this activity since the 80's, she spent years producing dolls and even creating a network of dozens of disciples (among which Bezita de Oxum stands out) in the popular art of making dolls with the attributes of the gods of the Nagô nation.

Egun
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal and sequins
43 x 24 x 22 cm

Erê
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, wood and gourd
44 x 18 x 8 cm

Oxaguiã
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, plastic and wood
44 x 18 x 12 cm

Tempo
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, cowrie shells, gourd and metal
40 x 30 x 26 cm

Iansã
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, leather, synthetic fiber, plastic, metal and sequins
50 x 36 x 24 cm

Oxumarê
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, plastic and plush
42 x 20 x 10 cm

Logunedé
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, feather, leather, synthetic fiber, plastic, metal and plush
45 x 23 x 14 cm

Ewá
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, vegetal fiber and cowrie shells
42 x 39 x 23 cm

Oxalufã
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal and plastic
41 x 21 x 16 cm

Erê
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, wood and gourd
42 x 21 x 09 cm

Exu
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, cowrie shells. plastic, ceramic, vegetal fiber and sequins
44,5 x 24 x 09 cm

Obaluayê
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Vegetal fiber, Fabric, cowrie shells and plastic
42 x 21 x 19 cm

Ibeji
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, cowrie shells, plastic and metal
34 x 14 x 09 cm

Ossaim
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, plastic, vegetal fiber and cowrie shells
45 x 17 x 10 cm

Oxóssi
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, feather, sequins, synthetic fiber and leather
51 x 22 x 10 cm

Ibeji
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, cowrie shells, plastic and metal
33 x 14 x 09 cm

Oxóssi
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, leather, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, wood, feather, plastic and plush
46 x 22 x 10 cm

Ifá
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, plastic, cowrie shells, vegetal fiber and seeds
40 x 15 x 09 cm

Obá
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal and plastic
46 x 31 x 34 cm

Bayánni
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, cowrie shells, metal and plastic
48 x 31 x 20 cm

Oxum
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal and plastic
46 x 36 x 27 cm

Xangô
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal and plastic
42 x 29 x 09 cm

Nanã
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, vegetal fiber, plastic and cowrie shells
47 x 27 x 24 cm

Iemanjá
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, metal, plastic and sequins
49 x 34 x 27 cm

Xangô
By Mãe Detinha de Xangô and Bezita de Oxum

Fabric, vegetal fiber, cowrie shells, plastic and wood
44 x 18 x 12 cm

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