Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sao Cosme e Sao Damiao, Mae Analia & Mickey

Morning haunts.

Though still groggy, I woke up just before 7:30. I splashed my face awake and looked for coffee or something in the kitchen. Gunnert and Florian, the sound engineers from the Hamburg contingent had constructed a breakfast of tropical fruit and a jerry rigged muesli from Soy Milk, store-bought granola, whole grain flaked cereal, bird seed and nuts. I applauded and giggled at their combination of ingenuity and cultural retention. I shared part of it their booty while we discussed our various agendas for the day.

I left just after 8:30 and walked to the eastern edge of town up a steep hill through a grove of banana trees and another favela to find A Igreja de São Cosme e São Damião. Beautifully cut into a hillside, it was a grayish stone with a huge woven banner of the twins, Cosme e Damiao. These twins and their holiday on September 27, are another curious fusion in the synchronized culture.

The twin saints are alleged to have been Syrian circa 300 A.D., though whether or not they were Christian is still a question. Several stories/myths exist regarding their origin and demise. Some versions have them murdered by Romans three or more times (thrown from cliffs, drowning, stoning and burning) before dying as martyrs. The West African Yoruban culture, one of the cornerstones of the Baian- Afro cosmology, sees “Ibejis” or twins as major power figures. They materialize when needed to help children suffering from violence. These twin saints/friends of children (Cosme aka “the Florid” e Damião aka “the Popular”) have the ability to expedite any requests made of them in exchange for sweets and candy. Rappadura or molasses rich chunks of raw cane sugar were the first sweets made in offering to these twin saints. Platters of rappadura are now placed alongside drippingly sweet cakes, and bonbons. Today Cosme e Damião are the patron saints of Pharmacy, Barbers and Hairdressing; go figure.

At different times that day, bags of candy were thrown from trucks at people, into stores and house windows. I was struck in the back of my head with a small bag while buying some paper Saturday morning. Children, adults and seniors scream and scamper to grab the treasure or blessing for these twin saints.
Parishioner’s had gathered early to get a good seat for the 9:30 mass. Kids were running up and down the backstairs into the choir loft, giggling and cutting up. I checked out the scene, and asked when they would be serving their Caruru. After I shot some photos, I walked down through town to get to the stairs into Mae Analia’s favela.

She was sitting in her same child’s slingback chair by the door with a drawn look on her face. She had been having some renovation done to her bathroom and they had burst a waterline. She had not had water for hours. They could not start cooking until they had fresh water. They had been ferrying water from neighbor’s homes to flush toilets and boil some water for essential needs. We agreed that I would return at 2:00 PM.

I decided to walk across the river to Ana Claudia’s house. I could visit with her, and find out where her aunt, Mae Zelita was. She shrieked with glee when she saw me walking up the stairs from her porch. Her mother, two cousins a sister in law and her mother's two other sisters were making party favors for the party. It was her daughter, Ana Julia’s 3rd and her baby brother, Joao Victor’s 2nd birthday. They were riffing on a Disney theme complete with matching red and white polka dot cotton pique outfits and mouse ear headgear. Kidville would have been proud.

They had rented the abandoned train station, where a couple of guys had a cottage industry making a sweet aperitif liqueur, and decorated it with Disneyland scenes, 15 foot spiral clusters of rainbow balloons, card tables and videos. I had to laugh that here this family that was so tied to the roots of the culture and legacy of slavery was zooming into the proto-typical upper middle class toddler b’day trope. Shouldn’t they have played and danced samba for kids? Everyone was cute and all of the mom’s were way too anxious. The guy who was making hors’ doeuvres and frying them was an hour late. The kids had fun laughing and playing, being kids in this vacuous space; until Dad, Joao turned on the formulaic kid’s party dance videos. The children, obsessed with the images of happy kids on the screen stopped creating their own games and adopted the derivative option on screen. How many generations before this magic culture in Cachoeira is going, going;-gone? Yikes.

I had been the first to arrive. Everyone was 90 minutes late. I had stayed too long, brought the wrong gift, (a traditional children's natural lavender bath oil) and pissed off Ana Claudia because I did not stay longer or agree to sleep over. Her Aunt Mae Zelita hadn’t shown by the time I left at six. I had told Mae Analia that I would be back to see how to make the Caruru at 5:30. It was a twenty minute walk back to Cachoeira across the suspension bridge.

Back at Analia’s I put two and three together and realized that in a way she had not wanted me to see her process, just the result. Cooks are quirky about “their” culinary secrets. Luckily, as I walked into the house full of people, there were still a few steps to finish all of the dishes. After showing me what she had made, Analia called me into the living room to hear the traditional songs that honor the day.

The ritual for all Catholics is to place seven whole uncut pieces of okra in the stewpot for luck. The seven youngest children who can eat by themselves are sat together in a circle each having a full plate of Caruru in front of them. The crowd serenades them with good luck prayers and a Go-Fight-Eat cheer for their food to be chowed down. Once the seven children eat, the remaining young adults are fed, and then the adults.

Since Analia is a Filha de Iansan, she cannot leave okra uncut. All of the okra has to be cut in to four pieces, or in the sign of the cross for Male deities and for luck. The tradition suggests that in every neighborhood several mothers will make this meal for their families and the neighbors, so that everyone gets fed. Once the meal is eaten by everyone the devout will create a Latin prayer sing-out. The evening ends with an acapella Samba de Roda with a handclapped accompaniment.


Samba de Caquente

Samba de Caquente

On the western edge of Cachoeira along the riverbank is the clubhouse for the Caquente crew, painted in sky and haint blue. That deep haint blue is a sacred color. We found it all over Nawlins & Savannah. It is present throughout the French Caribbean. And now here. Hmmm.

Their pad was feeling like a juke. The wooden floor smelled like dried suds. The walls, plastered with homey images of past performances, icons and bad lighting. The crew, about a dozen people appeared to be 20ish to early thirties; one or two looked fifty. A few had their children in tow. The women, friendly, were a bit robust, some wearing “Baby Look” tight blouses. The men, toned and welcoming, smiled lovingly as we entered. The Germans had already set up some of their equipment. The room had been reconfigured to create the space for playing and dancing, Samba de Roda.

I stayed off to the side, engaging a young girl, Jaclyn (Jak-leenie), 7 years old. She immediately took to my camera wanting to shoot images of her Dad, the tambour player. She had a good eye, so we shared it. When the music started in earnest, I took full possession. The sound was sweet and lovely. I knew why I needed to be back here. The air was fresh and sweet coming off of the river. Their music gave me a shit eating grin for hours even though I was tired, hungry and still nursed some flu-ie feelings. Hours later, when I was falling asleep on the patio in a light drizzle, Francisca suggested that her pal, ‘Nita take me back to the apartment to settle in. Walking the cobblestone streets after one AM, exhausted but content, I knew I was home. Blocks passed quickly. Before I realized it, we were in the house and she was making my indoor-camping bed. Snoozeville, here I come…..

walking downtown Cachoeira

Grizi and Jose, Joseph

Stepping into town..

This time, I had my MP3 charged and I made it through all those kilometers of cane fields, now mostly for Ethanol with my own vibe, a few photos and the bristliness of the chubblove gal on my left. Arriving back in town, Cachoeira it all seems low key. I distinctly remembered being here the first time in August and being immediately smitten. For no apparent reason, I was ready to kiss the cobbles in the street. Again, I feel like this could be my home base. Hmm, this New York city kid in small town Bahia. (?). Curious, this was once the capital and really the home of the first major Portuguese sugar plantations. Maybe, I sense the rootedness of Afro-Brazilian/Afro-Indian culture.

I casually walked through town from the Feira to the Irmandade. Two sisters were stationed there to receive tourists and devotees who may want to say prayers in their chapel. One was crocheting when I arrived. We talked briefly. I asked for Mae Zelita. They weren’t sure if she was in town. After a moment, they remembered me; or said that they did.

I learned quickly that they were not directly involved with the Catholic holiday that I had come back for; A Festa de São Cosme e São Damião. I would have to dig deeper. They suggested that I go to A Igreja Apostolica Brasiliera, behind A Igreja do Monte. I should ask fro Bispo Don Roque Cardoso Nonato. There or A Igreja Matriz, the Mother Church nearby. I left word for Mae Zelita. They advised me to drop by tomorrow around two o’clock, if she was in town they would have her meet me. I would also find Ana Claudia her niece and my recent acquaintance from my last visit. Ok, see ya later, ciao.

Leaving the Irmandade I walked around the corner to the town visitor center, in search of Francisca. I had asked the sisters about my colleague, Francisca Marques, the local ethnomusicologist. Last trip Francisca had offered me a room in her place. This time, just as the last time, funds were tight. I could use the the bed or floorspace and I wanted to discuss the possibility of a collaboration with Francisca too.

The woman at the desk of the center was not familiar with Francisca. Just as I was turning to leave, she called out to a young man who was in the street, walking past her door, “Jose! Jose, por favor pode venir aqui adentro?….Voce conhece uma Senhora? Moments later, Jose and I were walking to the small historical museum where he worked part time. He knew Francisca. Vaguely, I thought that I remembered him from Salvador. “Hmmm, maybe not?”

Jose, he preferred Joseph wanted to speak English. We walked to his job, because he had still had work to do and he could not leave. Standing by the entry desk was a middle aged man, Grizi (yuup, Greazie). Grizi was a musician. He played Samba de Prato, Samba of the Plate. This style of Samba originated in Santo Amaro 20 miles away. Most people used a spoon or implement to strike or rub the rim of a ceramic plate as their instrument for Samba. Santo Amaro is also the birthplace Negro Fugido, Caetano Veloso and his sister, Maria Bethania; more on that later.

Grizi and I walked through town to Francisca’s house. He asked in the clothing store next door to her front door, if they had seen her today. “Not for hours, but knock hard she works in the back of the apartment.” He rang the bell, knocked, called out, and tapped the door with his keys for thirty minutes in trying to raise her. I thanked him, and sent him on his way after he invited me to his concert the following evening in Muritiba. Cool.

After waiting around 20 minutes I decided to buy an organic cold remedy and wait until she returned. I got my stuff, found a café and sat there for nearly an hour without being asked to buy anything or leave. Small town realities… I went back to her spot, someone had come home; but not her.

I walked a few blocks to the Feira to buy a piece of fruit. I stopped to ask the time at the first barraca I found. By the riverbank they had a mobile cart serving beer, coffee and snacks. They also had a cage filled with two, no three Macaco monkeys, (about the size of a squirrel) they had found one injured, nursed it and made it a pet. She was pregnant. Her child impregnated her, so now there were three. The newborn was 24 hours old. Shot some images, bought some grilled meat on a stick and watched the day retire into dusk.

I thought enough time had passed to check back on Francisca. This time I found Jose again. He was now on his way home from work. We talked briefly. “Porque você está aqui agora?” “…Caruru e São Cosme e São Damião,” I replied. He offered to bring me to a friend’s house, she was making some Caruru. I could speak with her. Caruru is a dense Quiabo or Okra stew that makes okra become its most slimy self. It is served usually with Farofa Amarella, White Rice, Brown Beans, Chicken, Iame and generally White Corn Hominy.

We walked through the feira across town and up into one of the favelas. I checked myself to see how quickly I had allowed myself to accept and trust this stranger. Cross fingers. Walking up steep stone steps in the dark I didn’t know it but this would be my weekend base camp. Jose’s friend, was his Mae de Santo, Dona Analia da Paz. She is also one of the sisters of the Boa Morte, (the Good Death). We had met before. She has had more than twenty years membership in the sisterhood. Analia was warm and friendly, though you can tell by looking at her that you shouldn’t cross her. I believe she said that she was almost 70. We found her sitting in a low slingback chair by the front door. As we entered she was in deep conversation with one of her sons and her fraternal twin daughters. Joao, 2 ½ , one of her grand children was working on running out the front door. She carefully looked me up and down.

I reminded her of another American, Samuel from San Francisco. “No, wasn’t I the one who gave her $10 in Agosto? Hadn’t we talked at the sisterhood?” I confirmed her suspicions and now I was family. We arranged to meet in the morning. She also hadn’t seen Zelita.

“Could I give her some money now for the Caruru? If I wanted to see it, she needed money to buy ingredients. A skim coat of a scam, yet the ragged saida Baiana, cum housedress that she had pulled up above her more than ample bosom and tied just tight enough to stay, yet expose a healthy portion of one breast, told me that money was dear. I gave her a $20 and watched her roll it tightly and tie it to the end of the waist-string of her skirt/dress. The other end had a roll of one or two $5 notes.

Jose showed me the Terreiro de Caboclo on the corner, decorating the house for tomorrow’s ceremony. Maybe I wanted to go, he suggested. Ok, thanks. Further up the hill in the dark he took me to the church he called Igreja dos Pretos; I forget the official name. Similar to the “Blue Church” in Pelourinho, this was a church made by slaves for their own worship, after-work. A white stone building at the top of the hill, with almost a Quakeresque simplicity soaring high ceilings, a interior cemetery beside the sanctuary and a larger one just beyond the front door. Inside, a barrel voiced man was giving teenagers an English lesson. We listened for a bit, until he gave them a break. He wanted me to come to his church, he was Evangelical. He had many history books of Cachoeira. I was anxious not to hear propaganda….we made a tentative date for tomorrow after lunch before he resumed teaching.

Now, it was close to eight o’clock. I left Jose and went back down the hill to town. This time I found Francisca, she was on her corner, getting ready to leave. She had a crew with her, Germans. Ethnomusicology students on a research project with their Prof. who was also a Paulista like Francisca. He taught between São Paulo and three German universities, Hamburg, Leipzig and Bremen. He had done his masterwork on the roots of Samba. He was bringing the students to see what changes had occurred 20 years later. They invited me to the Samba performance they had arranged to tape. I put my stuff inside the house. Now I had arrived.

on da road agin

Ready for Roadwork.... on the bus to Cachoeira, [again]

F-i-f-t-y. All four of us hit it, this summer. Madonna got herself a ballplayer, Michael might be losing himself a mansion, and Prince is always getting into something fine. At a younger age they each were some point of reference; as pre-teens maybe the original Michael was a role model for a hot minute. Now; they are just peers in the age-game. For me, I am feeling like 19 at fifty. Free like those peeps that go to Europe backpacking after college is done.

“Hmmm. Yeah, I think that I could do it. I think about it some part of everyday. I need to make plans, arrangements; my girl, family-the blood & the chosen, revenue streams, possessions, etc. Going on the road for an extended period is all about creating the right bases. Cleaning the slate & lightening the load.

Brazil has been a kick for me, in too many ways. I need a comfortable place to sleep. Sounds simple, but if you know me you wouldn’t laugh. The insomniac values sleep like a sweet spliff. Something about here, Bahia makes me feel at ease. Could be lots of things, not quite sure which or what.

–Why did that woman, the chubblove one just jump into my stuff? Knock my book over, shift my shit, to get into the seat next to me. The bus ain’t that full. She coulda asked me to move. You know, riding an interstate bus can be a funky hairdo that won’t grow out quick enough……

I think that these thoughts are coming up now because I am headed back to Cachoeira. This was one of first destination after Michele split back to NY. Its all about nostalgia and going home again. I see the finish line, for the first time. Also, yesterday and Wednesday I was stuck up in Allen Woolf.

Allen came raining down hard into all of my thoughts. I was a bit paralyzed by the memories he stirred up. The Hindus and the Jews, probably most folks say that the spirit is present for thirty days after someone passes, takin’ care of business. They are tying loose ends, collecting memories and leaving their trace in the consciousness of the families that they created in life. It makes me think of the accelerated Technicolor flood of visceral re/memoried-images of my life with Sylvia that came randomly at all hours of the day in the first three months after she, Mom, passed.

Something still keeps churning up. Though now, I feel like it is more of a gentle touch, keeping me from getting burnt. As Kath says, “remembering to take the sweater that you were told to pack.” I usually wonder how do I get to where I find myself. My life is so much soup sometimes. This morning as I prepared to catch the moto-tax, to the Lancha boat, to a city bus, to the interstate bus I was already tired. Still nursing the remnants of a minor flu, I just wanted to putz. But, I wasn’t comfortable in my skin where I was that morning at Sacatar either. Please trust me, think twice before creating a Cancerian boy-child. Emotions and moods run deep.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Look how dey livin'

Rants, aka who do you choose for ten cents a dance?

So once more I feel like the guy with the AM radio in the sea of Flat Screen High Defs....

Seeing Sarah and Kissinger was like seeing a pit bull puppy riding atop a Great White.
I do understand symbiosis. There is a logic to Wrasse, that eat parasites and clean dead skin from sharks bodies. They do get their payback in the mileage that comes with the ride; -but this symbiotic relationship…Ayiiiiiiii:Yech.

Hmm, but media savy, that they are. The Bride of Frankenstein is being created in their own monster image.

Can Warren Buffett send some folks in [fill in the blanks], Somalia, Health Care, Sudan,the Gulf States; or Hospitalized Chinese infants? How about a $7Bil scholarship fund for every black man in prison to enroll more black men are in college?

P.S. WB -Me and a bunch of my homey's, we got debt.

Thanks Huffington:
comment from Robert Kennedy, Jr. on Sarah Palin

"Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin
approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of
small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F.
Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that
"some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains
in public premises before the snow flies." It might be worth asking
Governor Palin for a tally of the other favorites from her reading
Robert Kennedy, Jr. Sept.15,2008

Finally, I am hoping that my home away from home in Oxford, Ms and Ole Miss will turn the Motha out and get the country to stand up for Obama and slay this next potential lineage of more malfeasing conservative politicos that I skeeve. Revive the chutzpah of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and git this party started!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ile Aiye {Senzala = former Slave Quarters}

Power Figures: Vovo, Ursinho & Bemba [click box to open]

Quiet Fire

Times tough, sometimes. Groggy was my reality this week; still needing to chill, a bit. Now I am getting ready to return to Agua Potavel. That takes me way outta the loop. New vocabulary word = Malembe*.

Another Bright Moment of the week was meeting Vovô. He is the director of the Terreiro Ilê Aiyé Cururu, Community Education/Cultural Center and Ground Zero for Black Consciousness Bahia Style. He reminded me of being with Drew Nieporent; if only for the phone juggle. Vôvô is a sweet and lovely, highly focused and unassuming player. Every few moments the phone would ring for him. Several times he spoke between two desk phones and a cell, cradling one in each ear and holding the third. He ‘da man.

Curiously, I had overslept the morning of the appointment. I had an agreement to share a cab or Kombi with Lauri; we were both meeting with him. I knew that he was a key player, and wanted to be ready. This was the same morning after the Eguns; got it? I never heard Lauri knock on my door. She thought that I was ill, since I am such a light sleeper. She split; then I woke up. Frantic, I started walking in search of a cab, it was 7:55 AM. I had needed to catch the 8:00 AM Lancha. Mar Grande was 15-20 minutes away. Bad math.

Augusto, the Admin. Director at Sacatar, (Ursinho to some) had just arrived to work on his Moto and shot me a “Whatdafuck happ’nd to you?”-look. He got back on his bike and found me a Moto-Taxi, then insisted that we go to Bom Despacho for the Ferry Boat, which I hate. The guy was good, had a fast bike and I coulda heaved if I had food in me. He even charged less than normal. The ferry was smooth, and I found a cab quickly.

My cabbie had grown up in Liberdade, home of Ilê Aiyé and the largest Black community in Salvador, think Harlem. He was quite happy and nostalgic to have a fare going there. When I arrived, I realized that I had blown it again….”Não pode entrar com Bermuda!” I hadn’t thought about it, rolling out of bed. I had imagined the community center side, and forgotten about it being a Terreiro, (long pants and generally white/light colors being the standard uniform) . I aspirated, “Sh h-“ “…..Pois espera voce. Posso ligar pra ele na oficina.” The guard was kind. He had agreed to call up to the office and see if they would waive the regs. Whew-it worked.

The building is huge and beautifully vibrant, with many facilities under their roof. I was surprised when I arrived at his office that Lauri was not there. Her Sacatar project is to create a photo portrait of Liberdade, so she knows the hood. Vovô and I started talking and hit it off immediately. He was curious about my project and glad to hear that I was associated with Danny D. in NY. His last trip to NY had included a meal at Sylvia’s. “Hmm?; well” I said. “I get it, but”. …..

About twenty five minutes later a male assistant interrupted us to tell Vôvô that his next appointment was here, but there we problems. It was an American woman who needed a translator, because the one she had arranged was ill. “Wasn’t this man, Me, an American? Couldn’t he do it?” They did not seem to realize that I was hip to their conversation, until I started laughing and said, “That must be my colleague. Sim, posso traducir.” The Lancha had gotten stuck in low tide.

Lauri entered not knowing that I was there. We laughed together and quickly filled in the gaps. She jumped right in, only pausing during his incoming calls. I found it curious and stimulating to have to translate for her. By no means fully competent in Portuguese, I believe that my strength with language is getting my point across. Albeit, often circuitously. This time, having to translate someone’s personal thoughts and dreams created a charged dynamic. Having to reflect on how to express the essence of an idea, bouncing it off of her for clarity, and then relating his responses informed me on some of arbitrary boundaries or obstacles I impose on myself, when asking for help. It is true that No, is a small word; big meaning, but small word.

We arrived at some preliminary agreements. There was a possibility for either or both of us to teach a class in their vocational division at a later date. Lauri might receive some great help regarding content for her book, and we made a new good friend. He invited us both back for community events and suggested that I observe their culinary classes. Like Ice melting in a drink, just a natural order of things. Never hold back on dreaming.

* Malembe is a local Angolan dialect Nfiote word by people of ethnic Bantu in province of Cabinda, north of Angola meaning take it easy! Devagar Devagar se vai ao longe!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Allen at Cliff's party

Necessary Evil-email.

The Woolf’s: Bob, Carolyn, Nancy and Allen as a family helped define my youth. Bob and Carolyn believed in equality and integration in 1950’s, Connecticut. They helped petition City Hall so that we could integrate the neighborhood in Norwalk where they lived. Many nights, weekends, dinners, holidays, marches, political rallies and election days were spent together, in our house or theirs. They often came for Christmas, and I experienced my first Hanukkah in theirs. Craig and Allen were in the same grade. For years they were fast friends. Nancy was older and I three years younger. Together we were motley.

Allen brought his family from Philadelphia to NY last February to bring our families together again. This time it was for Cliff, my Dad’s 88th birthday. For me, his presence made the evening electric. I met his son, Steven and his wife Lisa for the first time. We promised to figure out regular get togethers in Philly or NY. My brother Craig just emailed me to say Allen has just passed. He was recently diagnosed with cancer. A doctor, he knew the right channels, but it came on too fast. 53 years young. I just finished talking to Carolyn. Bob passed awhile back. You shouldn’t have to outlive your children, unless you are a centurion. Allen, I love you.

All day I have wanted to stay in bed or crawl up somewhere and hide. I thought I was just tired. Maybe this was why.


Mr. Powerhouse

…Is that why Joan Crawford liked “Jungle Red?”

It had to happen, to someone. And fruitloops is a nickname that I could have. I guess, “Timing is everything. “ I can attribute my lack of sleep to the Eguns. Coulda, woulda, shoulda is the mantra.

What do I mean to say? He hath picketh my pocket. Who? I dunno. I believe it was on the bus to Cabula yesterday morning. I had agreed to not sleep after the Eguns. I would run on the nervous energy; especially if we got home at dawn. I sat down after showering to read for a moment and slept deeply for 90 minutes, almost missing my Moto-taxi and Lancha connection.

I was sure that that evening I would turn to jelly and that would be that. But, no Mr. Insomnia had Everyready Bunny energy. I had crashed the night before last close to 12:45. Yesterday morning, I was woken up by Hannah knocking and calling my name. “Davis was waiting!” I was a mess. I knocked things over dressing quickly. The air on the bike brought me closer to consciousness. Bleary eyed and dopey I made it to the Lancha, as the doors were being pulled closed. I never got coffee, though.

Salvador 8:40 AM; Indecisive about the best route to Cabula on the bus; my gut told me to go up and over the Pelourinho to get to the Av. dos Sapateiros, a faster connection. Instead, sluggish and lazy, I stood at the Lacerda stop looking for a bus. Confused, I asked a friendly woman for help. More waiting. I asked a Guarda, he said, “Deve ter pacíenca.” I probably came off as a mark. I had checked my seat as I left the Lancha. I had had my wallet as I mounted the bus. And, I did check my seat as I exited the bus. Cool, cool, cool.

I walked to the Terreiro, (Opô Afonjá) stopping to try and buy a churro and shoot some pictures. I arrived at the gate by 9:30-ish. I went to the house of Xango and found a seat on one of the salmon leather easy chairs. The room was decorated with references to all of the Mae’s de Santo and other power icons. Within 15 minutes it was full of Brazilians, some seeking Buzio readings, a crippled man fulfilling regular obligations and a mixed bag of folks from far and wide. We all were waiting for our audience with Mae Stella.

I listened to their chitchat as I read at my new find, “Sacred Herbs of Candomble.” Someone put something together and asked me where I had come from. I supplied my back-story, just as the Xango sanctuary room opened and we all went in to pay respects, praise him and kiss the Mae on duty. We were told that Mae Stella had been up until dawn and would not be giving readings today. Later I was told that Mae Detinha was taking her place. She and Mae Stella were both colleagues of Danny, my mentor. It was all good.

I watched the folks in front of me, and sublimated myself accordingly, taking in all of the fascinating objects, and references to Xango in this shrine. Back in the waiting room, over our breakfast of Amala, (Caruru and Farofa) I engaged a woman who had a colleague she thought could help me. Reaching into my pocket for a business card, I realized that it was gone. No more wallet! Sweaty and anxious, I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I did not keep my money with my wallet, so I could still get around. I retraced my steps and realized that it was solid gone. Just then I was summoned to speak with Mae Detinha, sitting in the yard. Probably close to 80, sage and strikingly beautiful, she was sitting on a low wall with a few assistants. After hearing my request she had a youngster take me to Nana, the librarian; an affable, kind faced woman in her late 60’s.

Nana, in the middle of an audience with some upper class Paulistas, invited me to sit in. We sat together for nearly an hour, sharing our interests and requests. When they left, I had a good yet brief private session with her. Back in the waiting room to use the toilet, before initiating the paperwork with police to track down my wallet, I was confronted by one of the Filhas de Xango. “Was I alright?” she asked. I had not known that she knew of my plight.

“Se voce pode ficar aqui quando me banho; posso se ajudar...” That was kind. She, Christianne, telephoned her husband who had a job as a city functionary, trying to locate the best place for a foreigner to register a theft. Per our agreement, I waited as she showered, slipped out of her Baiana whites and into a red dress; preparing to leave the Terreiro and start her day outside this oasis. The best warrior and hunter, Red is Xango’s color. Today, Wednesday is his day. That is why I was at the Terreiro; this is the key day to be there.

I needed to change money. Other than the three credit cards, my business cards and a receipt for cell phone credits that had not gone through: I had had the $2 real bill I needed for the bus in my wallet. I suggested that I buy something at the supermarket, Bom Preço to break the bill.

Christianne chose a small discount store a few blocks down from the Terreiro. They were not willing to make the trade, but suggested that we go to the gas company nearby. Their entryway was locked. Adjacent to the door was a 3” hole in the two foot thick concrete wall, just large enough for a child’s hand to fit into. We called into it, and saw lips at the other end, asking after our business. The man’s lips agreed to make change, and I slipped and shoved my money to him.

Now more mobile, we walked to the bus stop. I had begun to doubt Christianne’s veracity. She was being kind; I was vulnerable and thus suspicious. I spotted my bus, which was not her best choice, but she climbed on, offering to pay my way so that I could guard my cash. If it was a setup, I could trust that a strange bus route would throw her off. In the end, she was just being generous and kind, and I paranoid. She suggested that I come back for the short service that evening, if I could work out my difficulties. I agreed to try. This daughter of Xango had been helpful.

I found the Ajudamento para Turistas at the back of the police station on the Praça Terreiro de Jesus in the Pelourinho. The intake officer In-training, took to me, complementing my Portuguese and agreeing to delay his lunch hour to help me. He shared his dreams of using his degrees and training in sports to create an international foundation for inner city youth to get ahead through sports scholarships. He wanted to apply to a model program in Jamaica. But he needed a job to pay the bills. A friend had hooked him up here. As we talked, and he eased my anxiety, I noticed that he had a carved stone necklace on; Xango’s axe. Hmm, whatever.

I was advised to contact my Consulate to help cancel credit cards, and further register the theft; their offices were in Cidade Baixa on Avenida dos Estados Unidos. Got it. Down in the elevator, past the bus stop of consequence and then a short walk to Av. E.U. Almost all of the Consulates were there. The building that I was directed to had no idea of the Consulate. Luckily, the larger buildings on this boulevard had concierge desks. I would find it. It was just after three o’clock. Eight buildings later, and no end in sight, I was pissed. My phone was still out of money, and I had not wanted to use the little money I had to buy more, since the voucher was in the lost wallet.

I asked several concierge’s if they knew of the Consulate, and the answer was, “Não, só conheco meu lugar aqui.” –I only know my building; Ugh. “How about a phone book?” I implored. Finally, one guy told me to wait until his buddy the bottled water delivery man came downstairs. He would know. Of course, he said it was in the first building I had gone to. Retracing my steps, the new man on duty said that he thought that they had moved, only Danmarka and Hollandaisa were still here.

“Can I go to the Danish Consul then?-They should be able to help me.” He shot me a quixotic stare, but agreed. The elevator doors opened to a security entrance. The receptionist and most of the staff were Brazilian, and not Danish. Exasperated, I had hoped for a schooled English speaker. As I addressed the receptionist, she took a call from a friend; part business, part girltalk. Venom was rising in my throat. Instincts knew that she was not at fault, but I was thin on patience. Nearly ten minutes later, still on the call, she rifled through papers to look up my request, still chatting.

She hung the phone up and stated, that the address was in Iguatemi. “What?” I said, “Está longue da aqui.” Shit. Trying to think quickly, I struggled to find a remedy when she suggested that she call the Consulate and pass me the phone. Perfect. That was when I focused on her carmine silk blouse.

The woman on the phone, Baiana with a stilted English accent, explained “That the office is closed now. They just take calls in the morning. Since another Consul was calling, she had taken the call. No, she couldn’t call my credit companies. Nor did she think she could give me access numbers.” Hmm. “ Oh, wait, her co-worker has an Amex card, he can retrieve their number from his card.” A patch of daylight. I hung up the phone, thanked the receptionist and asked her if she followed Xango. “Com certeza,” was her reply. She had heard through my anger and distress to offer help. I left seeking an HSBC branch to cancel their bankcard. It was just 4:00PM and the man in the blue uniform refused to let me in or take anymore work for the day. Come back in the morning.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Exu and some friends

Beyond the Sacristy

The Cocoa Tree and Exu, or not.

Over the next several days after class at Senac, I attempted to gain access to Nossa Senhora, the Blue Church. For one reason or another, usually the staff lunch hour, I usually found the front door locked. Finally, on Friday we were released before noon, so I scurried downstairs to make another attempt. The side door was unlocked. I paid my $2 reals and went on in. I had not captured a good photo of São Benedito and I wanted to explore more of the facility.

Again, I looked at the cocoa tree, admiring the six or so large pale green fruits that hung from its spindly branches. When I inquired about the tree and its story, the attendant could not tell me anything more than it was here when I arrived; 18 years ago. We went to the Irmandade Office, where the Sister in charge said the same thing, adding a few more years for herself. In the end, they went to the rear to ask one of the older Sisters. She conveyed that it was 28 years old, and was recently identified as the best species of Cacao in the country. Quite rare, and no one knows how it got there…

Through two doorways at the rear of the building was a small Sacristy that contained vitrines filled with various images of the black saints, a few portraits of previous pastors, key members of the Irmandade, a traditional lion’s head faunt and a signed photo from Pope Paul II’s visit.

Not being Catholic, I needed some tutorial on the saints. As I began photographing all of the icons a petite black woman amply built with a frosting of moles on her face brought in some golden and white carnations to fill the vases throughout the church. While she added water to each vessel, I introduced myself and began to ask questions. The Sister said that she was one of the 300 plus members of the Irmandade. They were dedicated to the church and community work, which included helping sister churches and the needy. All my questions were carefully answered in beautifully enunciated Portuguese. We hit it off well.

“E voce estava afora no jardim pra ver no cimiterio des escravos? E muito importante pra a Igreja; pra a comunidade.” I made sure that she understood that I would not miss the slave cemetery in the backyard, and kept on taking pictures as she filled the vases.

I am fascinated by the dialectic between belief systems. It has been suggested to me that São Benedito was a bone of incentive thrown to the slaves. If they saw one of their own in an ascendant role, it may have been an inspiration to adopt Christianity. Thus they may become faithful; and possibly more easily able to be dominated.

In contrast, the Africans arrived with a full complement of their own, “saints”. The Catholic cosmology provided a thin veil to drape over their belief systems, thus fostering the spread of Candomble, Santeria and other African spiritual cosmologies of the Americas. Now, so intertwined this fabric appears seamless. There are modern voices preaching for a cleaving of the Christianity from the Candomble; thereby arresting the synchronous connection. Mae Stella at Terreiro Ile Axé Opo Afonjá had all of the Christian references removed from her Terreiro in 1988.

It all becomes a trick-bag. Many of the metaphors in the synchronous experience reference slavery, keeping it fresh in our minds. Foods that we have eaten as slaves, and still consume in sacred and utilitarian cooking provide a through line to our history. This may suggest the possibility of an empathic experience. Hopefully, it does not foster a victim or martyr status. These deeply rooted retentions often seem essential as markers of the culture.

I suspend my internal dialogue, as she directs me to the vitrine along the far wall. I had noticed the sparse arrangement when I had entered this room. There were just three items inside, a painted ceramic sculpture, a weathered pencil drawing of a proud woman and a picture of Pope Paul II. Playing tour guide, she now turned toward the carved marble lion’s head faunt behind her. “Ate poco tempo estavamos utilizando este banho pra baptistas. Agora fazemos no sanctuario……” I think, “Ok, so the baptisms don’t happen here anymore, what about the vitrine. Nice, but..”
Switching between topics I continue, “Gosto muito a esculptura de Exu. Está bem feito”. -I very much like the Exu sculpture. It is well done. I had accepted his presence as another example of the bonding between faiths. “…..Oo. Este home, ele não é Exu. Eu posso ver porque voce esteve achando isso. Mais, não é ele.” I retorted, “Huh?” Essa esculptura é uma imagem da molher ao lado; dentro na desegno.Sim. Aquela.”

Now, I am truly stumped. Does she not want to reveal a truth set down as a construct hundreds of years ago? This likeness is so reminiscent of Ex..and No; it is not a feminized image. I sat on my thoughts and the images, wrestling with my logic and perceptions. Roaming the surfaces, my eyes continue to investigate and question the premise; while I look for some concordance. Her smiling face and the glint in her eye allowed me to insert a ray of doubt regarding her statement. The alleged door closed and we stopped discussing this piece, moving toward the hallway and the backyard.

The yard is nondescript, ordinary. Two reddish benches face each other. A large white planter is standing empty on top of the scrub grass. In the distance I see a partial view of Avenida des Sapateiras, made famous by Jorge Amado. The hallway door closes, revealing a long glass case mounted to the structural wall. Four large square concrete lids are set just below the ground’s surface. The covers of the communal crypts housing the slave remains from this neighborhood. Inside the case are plastic flowers and references to Escrava Anastacia, a famous local slave who faced and fought her captors. She has a power and place in history akin to Sojourner Truth. Her remains now reside in Rio. We stand quietly, staring at the contents of this display. I cry briefly, scattered tears, not a river. I thank her and walk towards the street.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Neto and company

Whose Hands are clean?

Igreja de Nossa Senhora: Outra Veja

Rushing to piss on a break between recipes: Xinxim and Farofa Amarella, I heard a loud commotion from the street below Senac, when I got to the hallway. I rain into the little chapel to find a window. Outside there were hundreds of electioneers. They were clustered in the street segregated into three groups by flags and colors. Each team was dressed in either Red, White or Blue and huddled around the flag of their color, anxiously waiting on the steps of A Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos. They were not all cheering for the same candidate, Senhor Neto, who was inside the Blue Church taking a special mass. Or, better, he’s working the crowd to secure a portion of the black vote. The candidate’s bloco was warming up. Curiously, the banners above the crowd were for another opposition candidate beaming down on his rival’s team.

Taylor later told me that this was the grandson of one of the oldest, Bosses of Salvador. He had been grooming his son to succeed him, when the son had a freak accident and died. He needed family to complete the dynastic order, securing a financial and power base. He would surely f- over any constituent that he secured this morning. I peered down for a moment and then scurried back to class.

When we finished our class, I jogged downstairs and into the crowd. I had wanted to shoot the drummers. I keyed into them as they banged out their tunes, looking for the best angle in full sun. I turned to hear a ruckus behind me, suddenly at my cheek was Neto. Fairly handsome and barely 30ish, he had the glassy stare and plastic disingenuous smile of a career public persona. I torqued my upper body to to wrangle a closeup, which came up blurred. In a moment the wave had come and gone, Neto and his entourage were cutting a swath up the hill towards the Terreiro de Jesus.

The band played a few more tunes to keep the hangers on rev-ed and then made their way up the hill, Ladeira do Carmo. Like a tide quickly flowing out the energy of the street had come and gone. I learned that in Brazil the candidates cannot campaign until 60 days before the election. Citizens are bound by law to vote. They are legally penalized if they abstain. So those two months are a total blitzkrieg. They are also granted free TV time based upon the percentage of the electorate and fund raising they have gained. So a splinter candidate may get seven minutes per day, while a serious contender thirty. Here and gone.

Election Central

One of the "Blue Church" towers

Tres vistas of the Blue Church, A Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Pretos

Our Lady of the Rosary of the Blacks was built by slaves for their own religious observance. Construction was begun in1704. The slaves built the church, “after work”. Their masters sanctioned this extra-curricular activity since they saw church as a worthy activity, bringing God and salvation into the lives of the slaves. The church was finally completed in 1765. It is characterized by a Roccoco façade, painted a soft larkspur blue. Beautiful twin towers punctuate the exterior. Inside the walls are adorned with Portuguese Azuelo blue tiles depicting various biblical scenes, Neo Classic Altars, a ceiling fresco, three sculptural images of black saints- of Our Lady of the Rosary, São Antônio de Cartegerona e São Benedito. Coptic style miniatures also illustrate scenes from the Bible. Finally, an ancient slave cemetery is set in the garden at the rear of the church property.

Two weeks ago, Lauri had suggested that we stay in town for the Tuesday night street party in the Pelourinho. I agreed as long as we did not sleep over, or take the 11:30 PM Ferry Boat. The Ferry accommodates vehicles and has a one hour trip time. The Kombi ride from Bom Despacho Terminal can be forty minutes. I did not want to get in at one in the morning. The Lancha, much quicker stops running at 7:30 PM. Lauri concurred with my ideas.

We both had full days planned in Salvador. We decided to meet at Terreiro de Jesus in the center of the Pelourinho historic district, around 6:15. Nothing was going on. We considered snacking on street food, but couldn’t come to terms with the best options. I began to suggest the blistered cheese on a stick with honey or oregano garnishes. The cheese sellers walk around town and on the beach with small cast iron crocks filled with red hot coals and a cache of skewered firm cheese. The cheese is set directly on top of the hot coals until it chars and softens. Great Gooey Goodness.

Just as I began to call the cheese man, two American princess tourists started arguing with him over pricing. I had heard his rate, and it was fair for the area. They were trying to score with their Portu-Spang-lish smug haggling and save probably $0.40. It ended up disgusting me, and I lost my appetite.
I began to walk towards the first Igreja São Francisco, there are three. This one is famous for its excessive décor; Baroque design on crack and acid. Consistent with its décor, it creates of heaven as a party yacht with champagne gurgling up from each faucet. The gold inside could sustain a small nation.

The story goes that the slaves were so angry at the excesses of the church and the demands required to complete work that they wrecked havoc on some of the interior images. Sure enough, some of the cherubs were pregnant, others had engorged penises, their nasty smirks or sniggers looked down at us from every vantage point.

We walked into the end of their midweek service, and were told that the doors about to close. I need to return to properly photograph the church. They do not allow flash photography and I had quickly shot some video; which needs help. Back on the street we headed down the hill to the Praça do Pelourinho, towards the Ladeira (or hill) do Carmo.

We quickly came up to the “Blue Church,” a synchronized offering Catholic Mass with African traditions and praise songs. The services added steroids to our North American 60’s Folk Mass format. I have never felt like church was a dance party. It seemed as if the walls were whispering, “Let’s get God, and then get drunk.” The sanctuary had a full house; a perfect Brazilian mixture of: congregants, community elders, tourists, after-work crowds still in their tight outfits, Gays and Straights, Blacks, Whites and us.

After some hesitation I decided to take the communion that was being initiated. My mother would have appreciated it. Their communion consisted of a cottony Pão de Milho, and instead of a sip of wine as a metaphor of the blood of Christ; a dousing of holy water. This “baptism” was in keeping with Africanist/Candomble sensibilities. The priest wielded a bouquet of special leaves that he dipped into a bucket of holy water then shook it saturating the backs of the willing. The man carrying the bucket of water had been lurking in the Cachoeira Boa Morte church and various bars in that town. I had taken several images of him. Eerily, the cross references here is always just around the corner.

We exited the church buoyed by the festive mood that the service had bestowed on all of us. I noticed a delicate cacao tree in the hallway of the church, its spindly bows full of pale green fruit. Spilling into the street we followed new amplified rhythms up the steep hill of Ladeira to the next churchyard several hundred meters away. Geronimo, a local Brazilian Rock-Reggae legend was starting a hepped up set.

The street vibe was good, though the overflow crowd hemmed us into a corner by the church gate. If you wanted to climb the steps and sit inside the yard, looking down on the crowd, you had to suffer a full body search by Guarda Civil. We toughed it out where we were, laughing as compact cars bucked the crowd to scatter allowing them to climb the too narrow cobbles to Carmo. I bought a Skol tall boy and called it dinner as we gyrated in our little nook.

I reiterated that we needed to plan our exit within the next 30-45 minutes. Before the set was complete we begrudgingly trudged down and up the hill towards the Terreiro de Jesus. We stumbled into a 20 piece youthful Bloco practicing their Afoxe with drums and horns. One more boogie before splitting.

Lauri decided to grab an acarajé, for the road. We trudged past the taxi stands, to take the Lacerda elevator to the Cidade Baixa, the lower city. We had elected to stick to the main drags and walk to the São Joaquim Ferry Terminal. By 9:15 I had not seen the topical graffiti that marked the beginning of the São Joaquim district. Now nervous, we crossed the wide boulevard to an open gas station. The attendant looked ashen and dismayed when I indicated our goal. “Não é longue, mais, não tem taxi perto e este barrio é muito peregroso! Cuidado.” -It isn't far but there aren't any taxis and this neighborhood is dangerous. Careful.

We f-d; I heard the rumble of the bus. We bolted back across the street jumping on the moving bus, only to exit a few stops later at the Terminal with eight minutes to spare.

I immediately fell asleep on the boat, happily missing the over indulgent tele-novelas that had everyone titillated. Fortuitously at Bom Despacho the first Kombi Van filled up before we got to it. We hopped on the second one. It turned out, that there were only two other passengers on board. We made it home within fifteen minutes. Early and under budget. Whew.

Masquerade Egungun Style

Slo Dancin'

I am not quite sure how to move, right now. I just came home from a eight hour session at the Ile Axe Tuklum Terreiro in Itaparica. Nathan Gray accompanied me. Everyone else needed to sleep. There was a break at 5:00 AM for Cake and Mumgunza, a warm corn and coconut milk drink with white corn kernels inside. We were told that the service should end between eight and ten AM. As great as it was, I needed to sleep.

This is one of the two Egungun Terreiros in Brazil. As far as I know there are only a few others in Haiti and in the U.S.A. The remainder are in Africa, centered in Benin. This tradition implies that the Orixa or dieties come to them manifest as real entities, if you have been blessed and obtained ritual cleansing so that you can see them. In there words the practioner's of Candomble experience spirits, not the gods themselves.

The song forms and drumming was quite different to the Candomble that I had previously experienced. We witnessed approximately ten entities, fairly similar in the style of their costume, yet all different in voice, dance, manner and visual detail. Typically, there were inter-generational families present. One Velha told me that we just go between the generations with no break, the cycle is continuous, so that we maintain our traditions.

This is a closed society. We arrived at the house of Dona Tuka, around 9:25 PM, she cooks for the terreiro. She was going to get a "pass" or permission to enter. I had interviewed her this afternoon, regarding her Comida de Santo preparations. She signaled someone that we were coming, and our guide, Robinson Crusoe, (Hobe-ee-Sony Caru-soee) had also made some arrangements up front. We went down the dirt road to a barraca to wait. Within ten minutes one of the dozen young men hanging around came up and identified himself. At this point every man we saw had clean "switches", just like the kind that you would have been beaten with in colonial (and post) days. We went through three sentry points to get close to the terreiro.

Once inside, everyone turned to observe and note us. We had to make an offering, money, ask for blessings, request a prayer or wish and have our eyes washed with a herbal elixir to allow us to be able to see the Eguns. Then we were led to seats in the corner. At one point one of the Eguns summoned us forward to demand a blessing, praise him and receive praise.

Many times during the service the bulk of the congregation got up and ran to different parts of the room. The sentries inside the terreiro have a serious job of trying to control the Eguns. The switches are used to corral them into specific places and cool them down. Sparring and defensive postures are normal. I was told that if I touch their clothing, I will receive a burn. Needless to say the scene felt somewhat like a bad image of a slave beating ready to happen, or a hardcore Gangsta Rap crowd control dynamic. Once the Eguns were chilled out, the switch men stayed off to the sides, unless provoked.

I looked at it all wide eyed and amazed. Because of the hour and the length of the service, I have to admit to dozing, hallucinating, seeing visions of familiar scenes and people in my life transposed and transported to this world or a third hybrid between my world and the Egunguns. It was quite surreal and scatalogical. Visually and musically their service is arresting. I was quite taken by the amount of young people present, toddlers on up. There were makeshift sleeping quarters for the comatose kids, yet many went the distance.

I sit on all these memories, since they allowed no photography. Now, that I am known I am told that I could make a request to the Eguns in advance and be able to film the service. I fear that the costs for that privilege will be quite high. News at 11.

Once back home I arranged a few things for today-tomorrow, appointments in town, editing documents and photos, etc. I read a little of my email and some online news articles too. Now that I am not in a closed in room with all the frenetic activity and not much airflow, I am quite awake; and so are the roosters.

I begin to read about the Free-falling Dow, about Zimbabwe" Accords", Pakistan, Galveston, Gas Prices and the general state of our economy with a heavy heart. In the moment, this crazy acid trip of a world outside of the mainstream, makes much more sense than the reality show called America hosted by George Bush, with a possible upcoming guest host named Sarah Palin. I am not sure where and how I can live as all of this moves forward.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cooking for the Orixas

All weekend I dosed myself with Chinese Herbs and Western Tinctures to stave off a cold or flu. Consequently, I went in between the ceremonies and my bed. The lock was partially jammed, and frozen. In the end, I gave up on my key and left the door open, which signaled a deeper trust for this new strange community. I always woke as the Atabaque drums and Mae’s singing intoned the next ritual. Waking this way deep in the woods with little modern references was somehow quite comforting and not alien.

Celeste tapped me to awaken me. “Marcia, minha irmã, comecou cozinhar. Levanta-se, por favor.” -“ My sister, Marcia has started cooking, please get up.” I watched the soaking, sifting and hand grinding of black-eyed peas for Abará, Acarajé and Camarão Seca. Pounds and pounds run through a small counter mounted meat grinder. Toucinho, rabo, costelhas and calabresa (smoked pork belly, oxtails, pork ribs and beef/pork sausage) was being cut for Feijoada.

The interplay between Comida da Casa, Comida de Santo and Comida da Rua (home-spiritual-street cooking) is a fascinating. Many dishes live in all three worlds. Often aspects of a dish are extracted, simplified or exaggerated as needed to maintain a contiguous relationship. Consistently in the production or consummation of these dishes the reference is drawn to the foods eaten by slaves. It is reinforced to honor their struggle and inform successive generations.

Mounds of quiabo, okra was being cut and onions were being hand grated for Caruru. Black eyed Peas, Black Beans and White Beans were simmering, each for a different Orixa. Corn was been shucked and scraped for Acaça. Every inch of counter, and all of the burners were being used to get the foods ready. Everything was done by hand, with simple tools and wood fires, both inside and outdoors. Only at the end of the food preparation cycle, did I see a blender get pulled out to create a finer, smoother texture. In the dining area, all of the ceremonial clothes were being starched and pressed with an old fashioned iron that had been heated on the stove.

Marcia informed me that she had slightly modified the techniques for preparing acarajé to save water. The terreiro relied on well water. Walking a moderate distance to retrieve water was a daily reality. In every way that they could, they worked to conserve resources and respect the land that supported them.

I walked outside to observe some of the other projects, wood cutting, roasting tubers over an open fire, preparation for the animal sacrifices and Ajoelai (Ajo-ay-layee) stripping young palm fronds to create the maiõ, which protects all of the doorways. Meticulously he divides each narrow leaf (approximately 1” wide x 30” long) into two or three segments, pulling out alternating strips of leaf to save for Omulu’s headdress. The fronds are generally six feet long, and he makes one for each doorway. He informs me that this activity is only done by men, normally Filhos de Ogum; sometimes they can be Filhos de Oxossi or Omulu if need be. Before he is finished most of the fronds will oxidize from the soft bright green to a straw color. He prefers it when they stay green longer. He tells me that there are people who seek the aid of Ogum (Orixa of War, Blood & Iron and by default Technology) by using an iron tool to create a symmetrical effect which is pleasing and beautiful. He still does it all by hand. Stopping for a moment, he turns to me and says Ogum helps you with technology. I know that you can send the information that you are learning right now and have it in your home, NYC, within twenty minutes. That is Ogum. “Ogum e Vitoria. Se não tem vitoria, entao ele {Ogum} não está pra la.” Ogum is Victory {triumph}. If you don’t have victory, then he is not with you.”

Preparações da Festa