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.
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