Secrets, Gossip, and Gods

Secrets, Gossip, and Gods : The Transformation of Brazilian Candomble

3.93 (15 ratings by Goodreads)

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In this wide-ranging book Paul C Johnson explores the changing, hidden face of the Afro-Brazilian indigenous religion of Candomble. Despite its inportance in Brazilian Society, Candomble has received far less attention than its sister religions Vodou and Santeria. Johnson seeks to fill this void by offering a comprehensive look at the development, beliefs, and practices of Candomble and exploring its transformation from a secret society of slaves - hidden, persecuted, and marginalized - to a public religion that is very much part of Brazilian culture. Johnson traces this historical shift and locates the turning point in the creation of a Brazilian public sphere and national identity in the first half of the twentieth century. His major focus is on the ritual practice of secrecy in Candomble. Like Vodou and Santeria and the African Yoruba religion from which they are decended, Candomble features a hierarchic series if initiations, with increasing access to secret knowledge at each level. As Johnson shows, the nature and uses of secrecy evolved with the religion. First, secrecy was essential to a society that had to remain hidden from the authorities.
Later, when Candomble became known and activily persecuted its secrecy became a form of resistance as well as an exotic hidden power desired by elites. Finally, as Candomble became a public relirion and a vital part of Brazilian culture, the debate increasingly turned away from the secrets themselves and towards their possessors. It is speech about secrets, and not about the content of those secrets, that is now most important in building status, legitimacy and power in Candomble. Offering many first hand accounts of the rites and rituals of contemporary Candomble, this book provides insight into this influential but little studied group, while at the same time making a valuable contribution to our understanding of the relationship between religion and society.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 238 pages
  • 162.6 x 238.8 x 20.3mm | 453.6g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New
  • 0195150589
  • 9780195150582
  • 1,532,608

About Paul Christopher Johnson

Paul Christopher Johnson is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He has published many articles on Brazil, the Caribbean, and American popular culture, exploring the relation of religion to social identity, memory, and practice.
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Review quote

Johnson rightly observes that the contemporary meaning and experience of Candomble must come to terms with the widening of the religion from a regional base into a national (and international) status. Significant numbers of non-Afro Brazilian participants are joining and leading terreiro communities and influencing the interpretation and experience of the religion in important ways. Once secret signs and symbols are rapidly moving into the general culture
discourse of the Brazilian public sphere, Johnson's book successfully urges us toward this acknowledgement.
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Rating details

15 ratings
3.93 out of 5 stars
5 33% (5)
4 27% (4)
3 40% (6)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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