Work of the Fellows: Monographs

O Rei, o Pai e a Morte: A Religião Vodum na Antiga Costa dos Escravos na África Ocidental

Parés, Luis Nicolau (Fellow, 2010-11)

São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2022

From the publisher's description:

This book examines religious practices on the former Slave Coast in West Africa, corresponding to the extent to which today is the Republic of Benin. In this small stretch of coast, a significant part of the Africans who arrived enslaved to Brazil, in particular to Bahia, embarked. The work privileges the two centuries that go from 1650 to 1850, when the transatlantic slave trade was more intense. The main kingdoms that dominated the region at that time were Aladá, later Uidá, and from the 1720s, Dahomey. Because of the various languages ​​spoken in these societies, the gods were called in various forms, but the most common term was, and still is, vodum. Thus, the book analyzes the dynamism and historicity of the practice associated with voodoo, highlighting its overlap with the political and economic life of these realms. Due to the historical connection between Brazil and the place, the last part of the book addresses questions related to the repercussions that these customs had on Bahia and Maranhão. The forms of religiosity developed in the period of the slave trade were one of the main engines for the re-creation of Afro-Atlantic rituals. However, in addition to a simple one-way movement from Africa to Brazil, the forces of the trade economy have dramatically affected religious practices on both sides of the Atlantic. The slave system, marked by extreme power asymmetries, violence, racialization, social instability, and generalized migrations, intensified a ritualistic form based on the sacrificial exchange, hierarchy, possession, and imagery of witchcraft. Inextricably linked to the political and economic practice of these societies, the religious rituals of these peoples are a tradition of pluralism and tolerance that must be valued, especially in dark times like the present, taken by intransigence and fundamentalism.

Subjects: Religion; History; Slave Trade; Rituals; West African Vodun; Candomblé Jejé;