Black People : Sisterhood of the Good Death

Discussion in 'Black People Open Forum' started by oldsoul, Mar 13, 2008.

  1. OldSoul

    OldSoul Permanent Black Man PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Sisterhood of the Boa Morte (Good Death) is the oldest organization for women of African descent in the New World. The Boa Morte Sisterhood is a secret society of African-Brazilian women, all descendants of African slaves, who sponsor a procession each August that parades through the streets of the historical city of Cachoeira on the banks of the Paraguacu River. It is perhaps the most important festival in the African Heritage calendar in Bahia and is a living tribute of African culture and Diaspora to the New World.
    The history of the Irmandade da Boa Morte (Sisterhood of the Good Death), a religious confraternity devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin, is part of the history of mass importation of blacks from the African coast to the cane-growing Reconcavo region of Bahia. Iberian adventurers built beautiful towns in this area, one of them being Cachoeira, which was the second most important economic center in Bahia for three centuries. In a patriarchal society marked by racial and ethnic differences, the confraternity is made up exclusively of black women, which gives this Afro-Catholic manifestation - as some consider it - a certain fame. It is known both as an expression of Brazilian baroque Catholicism, with its distinctive street processions, and for its tendency to include in religious festivals profane rituals punctuated by a lot of samba and banqueting.
    Besides the gender and race of the confraternity's members, their status as former slaves and descendants of slaves is an important social characteristic without which it would be difficult to understand many aspects of the confraternity's religious commitments. The former slaves have demonstrated enormous adroitness in worshipping in the religion of those in power without letting go of their ancestral beliefs, as well as in the ways they defend the interests of their followers and represent them socially and politically...
    Hierarchy and Worship
    Like all Bahian confraternities,the Boa Morte has an internal hierarchy that administers the everyday devotions of its members. The leadership is made up of four sisters, responsible for organizing the public festival in August. They are replaced each year. At the top, in the most prominent position of the Irmandade da Boa Morte, is the Perpetual Judge, who is the eldest member. There follow the posts of Attorney General, Provider, Treasurer and Scribe; the first is at the head of religious and profane activities.
    Novices must be attached to a candomblé center in the area - usually Gêge, Ketu or Nagô-Batá - and must profess religious syncretism. They go through an initiation that has a preparatory phase of three years, during which they are known as “sisters of the purse” and their vocation is tested. Once they are accepted, they can take positions of leadership and rise in the confraternity’s hierarchy every three years.
    They all share the tasks of cooking, collecting funds, organizing cerimonial suppers, processions and the funerals of members according to religious precepts and unwritten statutory regulations. Elections are held each year. Votes are cast with grains of corn and beans; the former indicates a nay and the latter a favorable vote. As application of hierarchical differences and the rules regarding each position, all the sisters are on the same footing as servants of Our Lady. Besides being sisters in their devotion to her, they are sometimes sisters in candomblé and are almost always “relatives” - Africans and their descendents in Brazil broadened the concept of kinship to include all those who are of the same nation.
    African ancestry is reworked within Bahian religious institutions an the lay confraternities end up serving this process of cultura intercourse. It is admirable how, as they celebrate death, these black women from Cachoeira have survived with such majesty and distinction. And most remarkable of all is how the belief system has absorbed the values of the dominant culture in a functional and creative way so that, in the name of life, complex processes of cultural appropriation take place. One example is the descent of Our Lady herself to the confraternity every seven years to direct the celebrations in person through the Attorney-General and celebrate among the living the relativity of death. Other examples are found in the symbols of clothing and food, where there is constant reference to the links between this world (Aiyê) and the other (Orun).

     
  2. Blackbird

    Blackbird Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Brother OldSoul,

    Thanks for the post. They are a very old and reputable confraternity. Truly a shining example for others to emulate. A sister of mine, one year out of her iyawo year, visited Bahia a few years ago and was invited into a few of their operations. She testified she had a remarkable time among those powerful sisters, many with a substantial collection of ase within.

    Blackbird
     
  3. cherryblossom

    cherryblossom Banned MEMBER

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    Thanks for this. I did not know of it.





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