African American History Culture : Mysticism in Capoeira

Discussion in 'African American History Culture' started by Corvo, Nov 8, 2012.

  1. Corvo

    Corvo navigator of live MEMBER

    United States
    May 9, 2003
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    Furniture maker, a sculptor, and fight instructor
    LaLa land
    Mysticism in Capoeira
    Translation into English: Shayna McHugh, 2005
    Translator’s note: all footnotes designated with asterisks (*) are my clarifications of the text. Everything else, including the commentary on the song lines in chapter five, is in the original.

    (Based on the Bible in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Psalms 90:15-16)
    Photo 1: Photo from Christiano Jr. taken in the 1860s, in which a African boy learns capoeira with another African Man. The richness of this photo, beyond its historical aspect, resides in the fact that even today the same
    teaching method is used in the Art of Capoeira: holding the student’s hands, as the true mestres do.

    “Listen. Son, Olorum is our
    only God and Lord. Love him
    with all your heart, with all your
    soul, and with all your
    strength. Honor the blood
    spilled by your parents and
    fight for the liberty of your
    descendents. And these words
    that I tell you today will be
    engraved in your heart, and
    you will teach them to your
    children, and your children will
    teach them to your
    grandchildren, and so on.
    Meditate on them in the
    senzalas, wherever you are,
    and he will free you. Do not
    fear those who enslave you;
    stay alert in because you will
    see the marvels of Olorum on
    the day of liberation.”

    This booklet is teaching material from the African Brazilian Capoeira Confederation. Its content is obligatory for the formation and perfection of those who are dedicated to teaching this Art. We aim for the diffusion of knowledge that is rarely taught in Capoeira and that is vital to us for the development of work with human energies. For such reasons, it is essential for the worker to know all the secrets of the tools of his
    trade, so that he can obtain the best result from them. We also emphasize that the content described here should be first felt and later studied.

    Today, we see a constant growth of Capoeira’s practice in all segments of society. Because of this great number of practitioners, it is necessary to use pre-determined weekly schedules of classes; the students spend very little time with the Mestre, and few resources arrive in their hands. All these things contribute to the dilution of the knowledge of the new generation of instructors, mainly in the area of the symbolic universe.

    Capoeira builds its base of philosophical sustenance on popular wisdom, whether from day-to-day experience, Biblical teachings, or African logic transmitted by the mysteries, beliefs, and rituals of Candomblé. Much has been written about Capoeira – whether as a fight, game, dance, art, folklore, popular culture, etc. – by the initiatives of laymen, of scholars, of Mestres, as well as academics (not just in Brazil but in
    various countries) in monographs, dissertations, and theses. We don’t intend to broach any of those themes, not because we consider them less important (which would be a great untruth, given that Capoeira is a holistic universe, where everything occurs at the same time), but instead take a new approach, which I believe has not been taken because of the difficulty of obtaining details in this area. Mestres who know the root of these secrets are rare, and even rarer are the Mestres who teach them. With this, it becomes almost impossible to transmit this knowledge to the newest generations. This has resulted in the scene we see today, in which Capoeira practitioners just imitate or at least try to imitate the movements, sing the songs without knowing what they are singing, modify the rhythms, and never manage to understand Capoeira’s sacred rituals, thus contributing to the complete profanation of the art. Upon approaching this topic, we will first need to understand the concepts of imminence and transcendence. In order to reach the goals of this work, techniques of philology will be used through the process of hyphenating words, with the aim of better explaining their meanings.
    For this study, we understand the “imminent” as things that make up part of the world. Therefore, their values are for this same world: such as physical and chemical matters (weight, height, density, atomicmolecular structure), economic aspects (such as values of buying and selling), and perhaps even historical or archeological elements – all in all, as long as a given object simply exists. On the other hand, we understand the “transcendent” as all the many aspects belonging to things that make up part of another world, a different world where objects contain other meanings besides just
    themselves. They have something that goes beyond themselves, giving them other values – for example, a wedding ring is more than gold; it is the symbol of the union of two people. When we see these rings, we see more than the gold, we see lives that are shared and built together. In its imminent aspect, Capoeira was born, grew, and developed. The people who looked at it didn’t see, the people who heard did not listen, and the people who came close did not understand; thus we have “a band of often badly-dressed people, singing, playing, and jumping around in front of some rudimentary musical instruments. The people chaotically enter and leave among punches, kicks, and headbutts, usually without touching each other, and other people around the edge sing and clap, anxious to participate in the same confusion.”
    Yet on the other hand, Capoeira in its transcendent aspect is a magical universe full of meanings and significances, only understandable to those who participate in it, and which can only be ‘felt’ by means of practicing the art, following its doctrine, and by ‘being’ a capoeirista, which occurs after a few months of initiation, whose ritual is called a ‘baptism.’

    It is a unique moment in the life of the initiate, in which he will play a game with an invited Mestre, who normally after a song compatible with the moment, will initiate the ‘volta’ (name used for the entrance and game of two capoeiristas) and usually, though not necessarily, will take the initiate down with some specific capoeira movement. “Before everything, the objective is to produce a friendly feeling between
    the two people playing, and if this does not occur, everything will have failed.”
    Soon after, the participating group, which normally accompanies the rhythm with clapping and chorus response, applauds the initiate, and the recently-baptized capoeirista receives a cord that will be tied around the belly over the umbilical chakra, and which will be the symbol of his initiation to the precepts of this holistic world. Each capoeirista has his padrinho,* which can be anyone regardless of age or gender, but is always someone who is very close to the capoeirista.

    In the past, the curious passers-by, without understanding anything about what was happening, made various comments from their points of view in discussions, whether moralist, prejudiced, or whatever else human imagination can create, and with the passage of time capoeira was seen in popular imagination as being “a thing of marginal people, drug users, blacks, troublemakers, gangs, etc.” As already stated, we don’t aim here to defend any position contrary to this manner of seeing what is not
    understandable; our purpose is instead to document the transcendent aspects of this art, which is above all a way of understanding life and experiencing the divine act of imagining oneself free to be and to do. Thus, we will move on to describe the main nuances of Capoeira: the formation of its space and the meanings of its rituals, songs, rhythms, and musical instruments, as well as those concerning the game itself.

    The delimitation of the space for Capoeira practice normally comprises a circular area, called the roda, which officially has a radius of two and a half meters and which may or may not be drawn on the ground; it can also be smaller depending on the event or on the space in which the practitioners meet. It is usually positioned in a strategic location so as to accommodate the greatest number of people around
    its circumference, both laymen and initiated people, so that as many people as possible can watch. Thus, for the capoeirista the space is heterogeneous; that is, it presents qualitative differences, which can be defined as: “inside the roda” and “outside the roda”; or in other words, the internal and the external space.

    There is alot more at this site. I must say that in discovering Capoeira has filled many aspects of my lacking African knowledge.