Friday, 19 February 2010

What Candomble is like

The Ceremony was in two parts.

The first part of the ceremony was a lot like the Sufi Zikhr I did in California; a proscribed and precise sequence of small, repetitive, rhythmic movements that everyone does together in form and formation, to live music played by people who are also committed participants. No-one has to make any creative decisions. It’s not about any individual. The individual is consumed within the group, which together becomes consumed, ideally, by spirit.

After the first part everyone went and had a jolly good meal, I made some friends and relaxed (having made an entrance like a  giant 100 watt lightbulb that set everyone blinking, a foot taller and seven shades lighter than any woman in the room). The friends were an English speaking (yippee!) young Swiss woman who’d grown up in Brazil, and a young Brazilian journalism student approaching her initiation into the Candomble community where she was not to be a Marie Santos, it was already decided, but something else, probably one of the women who looks after the MS trance dancers, wiping their brows, fixing their costumes continuously like fussy mothers… As part of her development into Candomble she’d had to spend two periods of 21 days alone in a bare room with food brought to her, to cleanse her. The worst thing about it, she said, writhing on her seat in an expression of unbearable frustration and desire, was going for 21 days without making love… for a Brazilian, unthinkable!

And then we all went back in for the second part, which was more like the Theyyam rituals they do throughout northern Kerela, India, in December and January. Some people (in this case usually about three men) get to have a pretty wild dance while everyone else watches and then has contact with them afterwards to soak up and perhaps communicate with the spirit that they've channeled through the dancing.

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