- A possession religion originating in Brazil in the interaction of indigenous-, African-, and European-derived religious traditions. Practitioners are initiated by stages (often following election by other-than-human persons as revealed by illness) into secret knowledge that allows increasing access to the gods, Orixás, and the power, axé, that can be utilized to improve health, wealth, happiness, and prestige. The Orixás principally originate in West and WestCentral Africa, as did the enslaved first practitioners of the tradition, but indigenous South American and Catholic Christian elements play a role, too. When the Orixás possess their initiates, they perform dance ceremonies with costumes and actions that reveal their attributes. In the late 20th century, Candomblé gained increasing popularity among people of European origin, spread dramatically throughout and beyond Brazil, and became increasingly public. What Paul Johnson defines as secretism (the use of secrecy, initiations, and revelation) is changing, as apprenticeship within specific lineages and terreiro, or “houses of worship,” become more public; this seems likely to continue in light of the importance of prestige and local variations in practice. The routinization of the tradition, however, may be illustrated in the hiving off of the martial art of Capoeira from its integral place in Candomblé.
Historical dictionary of shamanism. Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis. 2007.