Mulheres de Axé (Women of Axé) is a short documentary–with English subtitles–about the Bahian women of Candomblé and their roles in leading the community, keeping their culture alive, and being at the forefront of the struggle against religious intolerance and discrimination from evangelicals. The video features many of the same women featured in another documentary called Cidade das Mulheres (City of Women) which goes deeper into the exploration of the topic of race and gender and reveals Afro-Bahian women as leaders, cultural sustainers, and the heart and soul of Salvador.
Iyabá, meaning “Queen Mother” in Yoruba, is a term given to all feminine orixás in Candomblé, such as Iansã (Oyá), Oxúm, and Yemanjá. During the first and second week of December these deities, along with their Catholic counterparts are celebrated.
Every December 4, thousands of Bahians attend mass and make carurus (a typical Bahian dish, of African origin, made with okra, dried shrimp, and spices) in honor of Saint Barbara and Iansã, considered to be among the most highly revered divinities in Bahia. She is the protector of firemen and the patron saint of the markets. In Candomblé, Iansã is a warrior woman who brings sudden changes and transformation. She fights with Xangô (orixá of thunder), and represented in nature as lightning, wind, and storms. Nowadays, the celebrations last 3 days and begin with the mass in the Church Nossa Senhor do Rosário dos Pretos, in Pelourinho, where the image of St. Barbara is displayed. From there, a procession is led throughout the streets of the center, passing in front of the firemen headquarters. At the end of the religious festival, the traditional caruru is given out and the celebration continues to the rhythms of samba and capoeira.
On December 8, Nossa Senhora da Conceição da Praia (Our Lady of Conception) is the patron saint of Bahia and celebrated at the beach. Both Oxúm (the orixá of love, prosperity, sweetness, and represented by the river and waterfalls) and Yemanjá (the orixá of motherhood, rebirth, creation, and represented in nature by the beach and the sea) are associated with the celebrations. On November 30, devotees pray for nine consecutive evenings at the Cathedral of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and close their prayers with a mass and procession. At the vicinity of the Mercado Modelo (Model Market) the party continues with typical Bahian food and music.
In Candomblé and Umbanda, Exú is the orixá that serves as the messenger between humankind and the orixás. When offerings are made to the orixás, Exú receives his first so that he may deliver the axé of the offerings and messages to the other orixás for them to receive and accept it. Therefore, he is always honored first in any ritual or ceremony. Exú is the opener of doors (opportunities) and owns the crossroads. He is the spiritual energy of communication, choices, as well as cause and effect. Though he is seen as playful and childlike, he also delivers justice to those who choose the wrong path and don’t offer sacrifice for their blessings, therefore called a trickster. Yet, he is good to those who are good to him and remember their obligations to God (Olodumarê) and the orixás. In Brazil, you will commonly find plates of food and candles left in the streets at crossroads. These are offerings to Exú as a petition to open the way for blessings and prosperity.
colors: red and black
Food: Yam, yellow corn flour Pade with palm oil
Symbols: Erect phallus
Elements: Earth and Fire
Domains: pathways, crossings, doorways.
Day: August 24
Syncretism: St. Anthony or Archangel Gabriel
August 16 is generally when many celebrate the feast for Omolu/Obaluayê (who is associated with St. Lazarus and St. Roche).
Obaluayê (oh-baloo-ai-YAY) is the praise name meaning “King of the Earth” and is strongly associated with infectious disease and healing, as well as the earth itself. Legend has it that Obaluayê was born to Nanã Buruku who abandoned him as a baby as he had wounds all over his body. Yemanjá found him and covered him in straw and took care of him as her own. Because of that, he became the orixá of diseases and the healing of them. Also referred to as Omolu, meaning “son of the Lord of Heaven”, the orixá’s face is thought to be so scarred by disease and so terrifying that he appears covered with a raffia/straw masquerade that covers his whole body. “Atotô” is said to greet this orixa, and grains and popcorn are common offerings.