O`ri`s,a` Devotion as World Religion, 20-22


20. (pp. 400-15) "Brazil’s Sacred Music of Shango".

p. 402 conductor of orchestra

"A specialist called the alabe ... directs the orchestra. ... The otun-alabe, "the one of the right," is older in initiation and knowledge, and the osi-alabe, "the one on the left," is younger and less knowledgeable. An osi-alabe can only be promoted upon the death of an otun-alabe. Being an alabe involves leading the chants, teaching the ritual songs to the novices, caring for and tuning the instruments, and assuring their consecration. Only then {viz., after the musical instruments’ being caerimonially consecrated}, through the music they create, can the instruments establish desired relationship between human and deities."

pp. 402-3 musical instruments in Candomble`

p. 402

"In Candomble`, the ritual battery is composed of several percussion instruments :

three drums, of atabaques, and

two iron bells, the agogo and the gan, which are played with metal sticks.


The drums of various sizes and specific names.

The largest of them, with a low pitch, is called run, ... [there being] a Fon origin of this term, meaning blood or heart (Lacerda 1998:7). ... Striking it with a wooden stick and one of the hands generally produces the run’s deep sound. This drum is considered ... making the sound that reaches the "o`run," or the land of the o`ri`s,a`s and the ancestors.


It is the rumpi, smaller than the run and bigger than the le’ (the third drum), that has the role of ... maintaining the rhythm. The two, rumpi and le’, ... are played with aquidavis, wooden sticks made from branches of the guava tree. These drums ... create the space in which the run can freely improvise the musical variations that constitute the solo ... . ...

p. 403

The term le’ in the Ewe language means "small" and refers to the third drum’s size ... . The sound is ... of higher pitch than the rumpi, which is of moderate pitch".

Lacerda 1998 = Marcos Branda Lacerda : Drama e Fetiche : Vodum, Bumba Meu Boi e Samba no Benin. Rio de Janeiro.

p. 404 categories of oral chants






"chants of praise" [p. 406 : "laudations"]






"chants directed toward herbs" [p. 406 : "enchantments"}

p. 405 alabe & iyatabexe’

The term "alabe ... is derived from ... Yoru`ba’ ... ala (owner) and agbe` (drum or gourd). ...

The alabe’s female correspondent, iyatabexe’ ..., only chants ... . The female title in Yoru`ba’ literally means "the mother who makes the propitiatory supplications" (i`ya’ – mother; te’ – propitiates; be` -- supplications)."

"The run drum, whose possession and music is solely the domain of the alabe, can only be passed on to another alabe when its owner becomes unable to perform."

pp. 408-9 ba`ta’ drum

p. 408

"Ba`ta’ is a small Yoru`ba’ drum ... . ... The ba`ta’ is a drum of two membranes distended by cords, which "is used hangning from the player’s neck and played on both sides" ... . It is

p. 409

... played with the hands without the use of aquidavis, or wooden sticks. ... Verger (1997:140) affirms, "The ba`ta’ drums were ... known ... in Cuba, but the rhythms played to Shango are ... quick rhythms, called tonibobe’ and aluja’, and they are accompanies by the sound of the ‘shere’ shaken at the same time."

pp. 409-10 rhythms for dances of Xango`

p. 409

"Aluja’ ... means "perforation" or "hole" in Yoru`ba’. ... it "is the hole than Shango opened in the earth, going into it, leaving the kingdom and becoming an orisha." ... The aluja’ ... reaches its climax when Shango ... "... makes a gesture of picking up ... the thunderstones, which he hurls to the earth" (Verger 1997:140)."

p. 410

tonibobe’ : "gestures of the hands at the level of the face of the dancer. The hands are closed, with the exception of the pointing finger, as they turn around themselves and repeatedly launch to the right, then to the left, and up ... . In each hand gesture, one of the feet lifts ... . In relation to this performance, it is said : "Shango is preparing the lightning with his fingers ... .""


"The rhythm kakaka-umbo’ ... dramatizes the use of the pestle ... . Ogiyan does a war dance, usually in the ceremony called "the feast of the pestle," wherein balls of yam are offered and dedicated to this o`ri`s,a`, considered the "king of war."" {In New Zealand, on the contrary, the kumara (sweet potato) is dedicated to Rongo, the god of peace!}

pp. 411, 413 legendary dynasties at Oyo

p. 411

"during the rites performed near the bonfire, or the "o`ri`s,a` of the fire," one of the titles given to the old Ala’a`fin of Oyo – prayers are chanted. ... In this prayer, Aganju, the Ala’a`fin of Oyo, is saluted as son of Ajaka’ and nephew of Shango. I`ya’masse, his mother, reveals to mortals the thunderstone ... found at the foot of the big tree. ... After Aganju, in this chant follows Ayra, then Baru, and others, twelve total. One by one, all of the "kings of Oyo" are saluted."

p. 413

"the ram was losing, went to his house and god horns ... then ..., Shango was beaten , and ... with a great roar he disappeared into the earth, becoming an orisha. but he still eats ram ... . The ram, according to Verger (1999:348), is an animal that distinguishes with precision the two different dynasties of ... rulers of the Oyo kingdom : the Shangos Tapa, represented by a mask in which it shows a ram, and the Mesi Shango ... . Mesi Shango, according to the myths, originated from the Borgu, who lost their crown to the Tapa, who are of Nupe origin."

Verger 1999 = Pierre Verger : Notas sobre o culto aos orixa`s e voduns. Sa~o Paulo : EDUSP.


21. (pp. 416-36) "Yoru`ba’ Sacred Songs in the New World".

p. 418 Brazilian songs in Yoru`ba’ language

[in Recife] "the majority of the ritual texts sung in traditional xango^ houses (many of which are sung in other parts of the country as well) have been preserved in almost intact Yoru`ba’ ".

p. 418 proverbial meanings in songs

[in Recife] "In most cases, the text runs in a plane of philosophical, mystical, or proverbial meaning that links itself with the Yoru`ba’ cosmology".

p. 422 nationalities of songs

"Practically all of the Bahian songs come from the styles of the Ketu and Ijesha Nations of candomble`, which are the two religious styles closer to the Nago Nation in Recife."

"As to the tambor de mina of Maranha~o, where the Ewe and Fon religious traditions were more strongly preserved, various researchers have confirmed the existence of a great corpus or song texts in Fon".

p. 426 local corruption of the language

"the leaders and adepts of the Shamba Nation, who had arrived [at Recife] in the first decade of the century from Maceio`, the capital of the neighboring state of Alagoas, ... had a much poorer command of the Yoru`ba’ language ... . ... we recorded the Shamba repertoire, and ... found the song texts to be in a highly distorted Yoru`ba’."

p. 431 songs for egun (‘ancestor’)

"the cult of the Yoru`ba’ ancestors does exist exclusively in Salvador and Itaparica (cities in the state of Bahia); it can also be found in Recife. Although the spectacular apparition of the masquerades, as performed on the island of Itaparica, is not found in" Recife ... .

pp. 431-2 songs for Osa’nyi`n

p. 431

"The Osa’nyi`n collection ... condenses ... charms, spells, curses, magical prayers, and abstract and philosophical expressions."

p. 432

"the contrast established in a couple of songs between tutu and iyeye leaves reminds ... of the arguments of chapter 4 of the Book of Chuang Tzu ... on the advantages of uselessness :


tutu, which is good to eat, lives a short life; whereas iyeye lives many years,

exactly like the old twisted oak tree of the Chinese parable that was never cut down precisely because it failed to serve ordinary human needs."

p. 432 songs for O,`ru’nmi`la`

"O,`ru’nmi`la`, worshipped in the Nago nation of Recife as god of time and destiny" : "text of O,`ru’nmi`la` are particularly inspiring , ... as they express the more profound and transcendent religiosity of Ifa’, and through them we have access to fragments of enigmatic oracular texts known as odu`s."

p. 433 water-goddess

"in Nigeria, Yemo,ja is a goddess of the sweet waters ..., and

not of the sea, as in Brazil." {Is her character as sea-goddess a feature peculiar to Ketu of the Yoru`ba’?}


22. (pp. 437-47) "Axexe^ Funeral Rites in Brazil’s O`ri`s,a` Religion".

p. 438 destiny of the soul after death

"the world of the living ... is called aye’ ... . ... When somebody dies in the aye’ world, his or her spirit, or a part of it, goes to o`run, from whence it returns to the aye’ world, being born again. ... Furthermore, ... the spirits return to life in the aye’ as soon as they can ... .

Spirits of the illustrious dead, such as ... famous priests, founders of cities, and lineages are praised in the egu’ngu’n festivals. During these festivals, such ancestors take up residence in the body of priests and masqueraders, enabling the ancestors to be among humans once more and to judge their faults."

pp. 438-9 a`bi’ku’

p. 438

"some ... are born and quickly die, only for the pleasure of being able to be immediately reborn again. These are the so-

p. 439

called a`bi’ku’ (from the Yoru`ba’; literally, "born to die"), which explains ... the high level of child mortality. In general, the child is reborn in a succession of births from the uterus of the same mother. When a child is identified as a`bi’ku’, numerous rituals are performed to prevent the child’s premature death. ... society of masqueraders, the ge`le`de’ society, celebrates the ancestral mothers, who oversee the care and health of children, including the a`bi’ku’ ... . ... in Brazil ... a`bi’ku’ ... began to designate ... people who are considered hereditary initiates of certain o`ri`s,a`s , thus having no need to be shaved, as do most initiates."

pp. 439-40 multiple souls

p. 439

"the spiritual part of the human is composed of four unified elements or aspects, each with its own existence :

(1) the vital breath or life itself, or e`mi;

(2) the personality destiny, or ori’;

(3) the supernatural identity or identity of origin ..., the personal o`ri`s,a`s; and

(4) the spirit itself, or e’gu`n.

... after death, each element has a different destiny.


Represented by the act of breathing, e`mi, the vital breath that comes from O,lo,run, leaves the physical body at the moment of death and returns to ... the vital cosmic force of the primordial god Olo’du`mare’-O,lo,run. The e`mi is never destroyed and is constantly being reused.


The ori’, as the head is called that contains the individuality and the destiny, disappears

p. 440

at death, because it is unique and personal. ... Each life will be different, ... with reincarnation. ...


Finally, containing the proper memory of the living in its passage through the aye’, ... the spirit itself, the e’gu’n, goes to o,`run, able then to return, reborn into the lineage ... of its own ancestral biological family."

p. 440 determining a baby’s origin

"days after the birth of a Yoru`ba’ child, there is a ceremony in which a name is chosen for the newborn, when the babala’wo divines the find the origin of the child. The ceremony of divination will reveal if the child is a beloved one reincarnated. Yoru`ba’ names always designate the mythic origin of the person, which may refer to their personal o`ri`s,a` ..., to the condition of birth, type of pregnancy, or sibling order – signifying, for instance, one born after twins or conditions such as a`bi’ku’."

p. 440 terms for ‘funeral rites’ in several language








ntambi / mukundu

p. 442 myth of the origin of the axexe^ [M. Santos 1993:91]

"In the land of Ketu lived a hunter called Odulece. ...

He took as his daughter a girl born in Ira’,

Who ... was known as Oya’. ...

But one day, death took Odulece ... .

The young woman thought of a way to praise her adopted father. ...

She danced and sang for seven days,

Spreading everywhere her wind and her chant". {cf. "Hula wind" (Kumulipo, l. 587 – K)}

"Olorun ... was touched by the gesture of Oya’-Yansan and gave her the power to guide the dead in their trip to the Orun. ... Since then, everyone who dies has his spirit taken to Orun by Oya’. ...

Thus, the axexe^ ritual was born."

M. Santos 1993 = Maria Stella de Azevedo : Meu tempo e` agora. Sa~o Paulo : Odudua.

K = http://www.bluecoast.org/nonprofit/kanaloa/k43.html

pp.442-4 stages of the after-death rite

p. 442

"immediately after death, ... the priests handle the cadaver so that they can remove from its head the

p. 443

symbolic o`ri`s,a` markings that had been implanted during initiation. ...


Generally, the axexe^ unfolds in the opposite order of initiation proceedings. There are five stages :

(1) music, chanting and dance;

(2) possession, with at least the presence of Oya’;

(3) sacrifices and diverse offerings to the e’gu’n ...;

(4) destruction of the ritual objects of the dead person ..., although some could be inherited ...; and

(5) the sending away of the "broken" sacred objects ... .

At the end of the axexe^, ... no religious object belonging to the deceased is left in the temple. The deceased is no longer a member of that house, and ... the e’gu’n is free to go.


During the axexe^, ... the priest using the ritual used the meridilogun (cowries shells) constantly. Therefore, before each of the deceased’s religious objects is destroyed, the priest divines to determine


which objects, if any, should stay with a close friend or relative."

p. 444 tent

"The axexe^ occurs in ... a tent specifically constructed with sticks and foliage ... . In this tent, ... the ritual objects belonging to the deceased are broken ..., and sacrifices for ... the e’gu’n are performed."

p. 444 gourd; pot-drum; water-drum

"The deceased is represented in the barraca~o by an empty gourd, into which every person present adds coins.

Immediately thereafter, each participant dances to the e’gu’n, which is a compulsory form of homage to the deceased ... . ... The drums are made of ceramic pots that produce a smothered sound from the wicker fans that slap their mouth.

Other musical instruments include two large calabashes, turned upside down in clay pots with water, which are struck with stick aguidavis.

The celebrants use pieces of palm leaves (ma`ri`wo`), wrapped around their wrists, as protection against any eventual wrath of the e’gu`ns."

p. 444 memorial-services for the dead, repeated at increasing intervals of time

"in many terreiros the rituals of axexe^ are repeated after a month, a year, and every seven years, especially regarding the death of a ba`ba’lo`ri`sa` or iya’lo`ri`sa`."

p. 446 ritual cycle for life-&-death

"Without axexe^, the initiation to the o`ri`s,a` makes no sense, at least in terms of the African traditions ... introduced ... to Brazil. The cycle of life and death is no longer complete, and ... cannot realize itself."

p. 446, n. 1 retrieval in Brazil of religious traditions from Africa

"Africanization is the process of retrieval of African traditions that began in the 1960s in the houses of the Yoru`ba’ or Nago nation. It involves the re-appropriation of the Yoru`ba’ language, the recuperation of mythology and rituals previously forgotten ... in the diaspora, including oracular processes ... .

Ma~e Stella Ode’ Kaiode’, iyalorixa` of Axe’ Opo^ Afonja’, of Salvador, Bahia, has been one of the most outspoken leaders at the local and national levels in the struggle against Catholic ... practices that elsewhere are usually mixed with Candomble` thought and ritual."


Jacob K. Olupona & Terry Rey (edd.) : O`ri`s,a` Devotion as World Religion. U of WI Pr, Madison, 2008.