Category Archives: Religion

How to get a husband the Brazilian way

The biological clock is ticking and Prince Charming is a no-show? You spent Valentine’s day with your Mom? No problem! Try one of these classic Brazilian spells (we call them simpatias) and then go shop for your wedding gown.

  • Buy a small statue of Saint Anthony, the patron saint of single women. Remove Baby Jesus from his arms and tell the saint you won’t return the baby unless you get a boyfriend. You can reinforce your position, keeping Anthony upside down, so he will understand you are not kidding.
  • If you consider yourself very ugly, choose a leaf of espada de São Jorge (a sword-like plant commonly used in Afro-Brazilian cults). Cut it into three pieces and throw them in boiling water for three hours. After the water cools down, wash your face with it, praying to Saint George and asking him to convert the “dragon” into a beauty.
  • Buy a new sharp knife and stick it into a banana tree on June 12th at midnight  (Saint Anthony’s day is on the 13th). The liquid that will drip from the plant’s wound will form the first letter of the name of your future husband. The mother of a friend did this. She was very upset that K appeared – it is rarely used in Brazilian names. Years later she married a visiting German, Kurt.

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Brazilian Baroque

Igreja de São Francisco, Mariana, in Minas Gerais state

When you think of Baroque, you probably remember the curvy, exaggerated, passionate form of art that  blossomed in Europe since the 17th century.  You may think of Caravaggio and Bernini in Italy, or the rococo in France, or Bach and Handel in Germany. Less known but equally important was the Brazilian Baroque, that dominated the art scene in the country between the end of the 17th and the 19th centuries.

Although both literature and music incorporated baroque elements, it is in architecture that Baroque really excelled.

Most baroque churches have sober exteriors that contrast with very ornate interior decoration, including chubby angels, birds, vines and a profusion of color.  Cities that were rich at the time, thanks to diamonds, gold or sugar trade, such as Salvador, in Bahia, or Ouro Preto, in Minas Gerais, could afford to use gold leaves and noble materials and to hire the best artists of the time. Among them, Antônio Francisco Lisboa, known as Aleijadinho (The Crippled, a nickname given in less politically correct times), and Manoel da Costa Athaide (or Mestre Athaide).

Aleijadinho, the son of a Portuguese with a slave, lived in the state of Minas Gerais from 1730 until 1814. His amazing work as an architect, decorator and sculptor has a unique, dramatic style. The details and the realism of his statues, sculpted in wood or soap stone, are particularly impressive when you think of how the Aleijadinho worked: he had to attach his tools to his hands, after he lost his fingers to leprosy. Mestre Athaide was a very influential painter, known for the use of perspective and for the African traits of his angels and saints. Continue reading Brazilian Baroque

Iemanjá, the queen of the seas

Tonight, along the Brazilian coast, several hundred thousand people will pay their respects to Iemanjá, the queen of the seas, the beautiful orixá (deity) of candomblé, one of the main Afro-Brazilian religions. Brought to the country by the slaves of yoruba tradition, the cult of Iemanjá (or Yemanja or Janaína) can also be seen in other countries, such as neighboring Uruguay (shown in the pictures displayed here) and Cuba.

On Iemanjá Day, February 2nd, the devouts dress in white and bring to the beach all sorts of gifts for the orishá, such as mirrors and perfume (she is known for her vanity). She also receives flowers and certain dishes, such as fish, rice and a sweet milk pudding. The offerings are displayed on the sand or taken by boats further into the sea. The next morning, everything is washed back to the sand. People may also jump over seven waves and receive, over their head, a bunch of popcorn, in the candomblé tradition. In Rio, though, the celebration happens around New Year’s day.

Iemanjá‘s figure is somehow related to the cult of Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes (Our Lady of the Navigators) – a representation of Virgin Mary that is celebrated in the same day. Several orixás have “correspondent” Catholic saints because, during the slavery period, Africans were not allowed to practice their religions and had to find creative ways to keep their faith. Intertwining candomblé and Catholicism was their only option.

Gifts for the orixá displayed in a little boat in Montevideo, Uruguay