Candomblé in Brazil. Picture of a hand made Brazilian flag in Salvador, Bahia.

Discovering Candomblé in Brazil

Brazil is a very big and diverse country that has always welcomed foreigners. By mixing the customs and cultures of the multiple ethnicities that have lived here, Brazilians created new and unique traditions of their own. And since you’re learning Portuguese, why not take the time to learn about one of them? In today’s Dica we”ll talk about Candomblé in Brazil, its history and some of its beliefs. So let’s jump into it!

The History of Candomblé

The word candomblé means ‘house of dance with atabaques‘. It’s a religion that stems from African traditions and it’s practiced especially by those called ‘saint’s people’ (povo de santo). Candomblé began to be understood as a religion in Salvador, Bahia in the 18th century. Yet its roots are far older than that.

Candomblé developed from a mixture of regional African deities. As slaves came to Brazil and grouped together, they began to merge their religious beliefs amongst themselves. Back then, however, those foreign religions struck fear into the Portuguese. For that reason, colonizers did their best to repress African traditions, and candomblé adherents did their best to hide their faith. Because of that African deities (orixás) began to be associated with Catholic saints. That association remains to this day, although some followers have fought against this association.

By disguising itself as some form Catholicism, candomblé survived through colonial and imperial times. Nowadays, it’s the religion of an estimated 0.3-1.5% of Brazilians. Despite being a minor religion, candomblé in Brazil is an important part of the country’s African cultural heritage.

The Tradition of Candomblé in Brazil

Candomblé is a religion of oral tradition. Therefore, there is no book nor scripture. Its practitioners believe in a Creator called Olorum and orixás, who are often associated with Catholic saints. Rituals always include singing, dancing and playing percussion instruments. Much like mass takes place in a church, Candomblé rituals take place in terreiros. And offerings are a common practice, sometimes also including the sacrifice of animals.

Candomblé in Brazil and Its Orixás

The orixás are a very important part of Candomblé. They’re deities that represent the forces of nature. In addition, they each have their own traits and personalities. Every person has an orixá that guides them. Not only that, but someone’s orixá can actually influence their recommended diet, habits and clothing at religious events. So now why don’t we take a look at some of the most well known orixás in Brazil?

Oxóssi: represents the forests and knowledge, and holds the balance in nature.

Yemanjá: queen of the sea, mother of many other orixás, she represents fertility, and protects navigators.

Xangô: orixá of karmic justice, fire, lightning and thunder, he’s known as a fighter and a conqueror.

Yansã: represents the climate, she’s a courageous warrior, and a determined and independent woman.

Oxalá: rules over silence, peace and tranquility, responsible for harmony among people, and known as the father of the orixás, he took the shape of Jesus Christ when Candomblé was still forbidden.

Let’s check the arrival of an important entity for the Candomblé practitioners (candomblecistas), Yansã:

True or False? Candomblé in Brazil Trivia

Before you get into it, check out this Dica in Portuguese. This way you can get an idea of the vocabulary you’re going to find! Now let’s go!

1) Yemanjá é a orixá que representa a água, o oceano e os mares.
2) O candomblé nasceu no século XIX.
3) Todos os orixás tem santos católicos equivalentes.
4) Animais podem ser sacrificados durante um ritual de candomblé.
5) Candomblé é, em sua maior parte, influenciado pelas diferentes crenças dos indígenas no Brasil.
6) Xangô mantém o equilíbrio na natureza.
7) Oxalá, pai dos orixás, é equivalente a São Nicolau no catolicismo.

Now you know a little bit more about Candomblé in Brazil! What do you think? Should we visit a terreiro for the next RioLIVE!?

See you in the next Dica!
Tchau tchau

Ler esta Dica em Português          Leer esta Dica en Español
Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
States and Regions of Brazil
History of Rio de Janeiro
Rio Grande do Sul
The origin of São Paulo



1) true
2) false – It dates back to the colonization era, though it was not understood as a religion in the 18th century.
3) true
4) true
5) false – Candomblé is mostly a mixture of regional African deities.
6) false – Xangô is a fighter, responsible for attributing justice, while Oxóssi holds the balance of nature.
7) false – Oxalá, father of the orixás, is equivalent to Jesus Christ in Catholicism.