The crossroads

19 07 2010

From the blues to Brazil and beyond

If you want to learn how to make songs yourself, you take your guitar and you go to where the road crosses that way, where a crossroads is. Get there be sure to get there just a little ‘ fore 12 that night so you know you’ll be there. You have your guitar and be playing a piece there by yourself…A big black man will walk up there and take your guitar and he’ll tune it. And then he’ll play a piece and hand it back to you. That’s the way I learned to play anything I want


This vignette was told in conjunction with the story of bluesman, Robert Johnson, who according to another site, “claims he sold his soul to the Devil at the Crossroads in exchange for becoming the greatest musician ever. He is — and was dead at 27.”
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Hino da Umbanda

3 11 2009

New World Jihad

28 04 2009

You learn somthing new everyday (and somewhat related to yesterday’s post)…

I stumbled across various references to the Revolta dos Malês, an 1835 slave rebellion in Bahia, Brazil, of Muslim slaves. Led by a Luisa Mahin, a snack vendor who could read and write Arabic, it sought to overthrow slavery in Brazil, enslave all non-Muslims, and create a kingdom governed by Islamic law. Mahin was also responsible for spreading the words of the Prophet Mohammed amongst the slaves. The revolt arose at the end of January and was suppressed within two days. The end of its leader Mahin is unknown to history, though she is known to be the mother of the Brazilian abolitionist, Luis Gama.

Related to this, it is said that santeros (priests of an Afro-Cuban religion) often greet each other with a phrase astoundingly close to the Arabic As-Salamu Alaykum, which has been passed on to them from their African rituals.

The Eyes of Escrava Anastacia

26 04 2009


Race, Gender, and Religion in Brazil

For American students of Latin America, the idea of a “racial democracy” in Brazil has long been an intoxicating prospect, especially when compared to our own very polarized racial history. Indeed, it is a myth that the Brazilian intellegentsia has itself been pushing for over sixty years. The myth is basically that since there was far more miscegenation in Brazil than there was in the United States, there is far less racism. The fact that the racial hierarchy is more complex is seen as being indicative of a society where class and not race is important. It was only about twenty years ago that such ideas were challenged by black intellectuals. The reality on the ground turns out to be as ugly, if not uglier, than the American situation.
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On the Divine Frenzy – II

3 04 2009

This is not enough. For multiplicity still remains in the soul. There is added, therefore, the mystery of Dionysius, which by explanations and sacrifices, and every divine worship, directs the attention of all the other parts to the intellect, by which God is worshipped. In this way since all the other parts of the soul are reduced to the intellect alone, the soul has already been made a certain single whole out of the many.

-Marsilio Ficino, Commentary on Plato’s Symposium on Love

Escrava Anastacia

12 03 2009


…et non aperuit os suum sicut ovis ad occisionem ducetur et quasi agnus coram tondente obmutescet et non aperiet os suum

The above is an image of Brazilian folk saint Escrava Anastacia (Anastacia the Slave), the daughter of an African princess in colonial Brazil who was reputed to work miracles and be a model of virtue in her own lifetime. Renowned for her beauty and her beautiful blue eyes, she is said to have often exclaimed, “eu não sou escrava” (I am not a slave). The popular image is of her muzzled with an iron mask which many believe was a punishment for the refusal of her master’s sexual advances. She more than likely died of gangrene from wearing that mask, and is said to have forgiven her oppressors before her death.
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Maria Desatadora

9 12 2008


Virgem Maria, Mãe do belo amor, Mãe que jamais deixa de vir em socorro a um filho aflito, Mãe cujas as mãos não param nunca de servir seus amados filhos, pois são movidas pelo amor divino e a imensa misericórdia que existem em teu coração, volta o teu olhar compassivo sobre mim e vê o emaranhado de nós que há em minha vida. Tu bem conheces o meu desespero, a minha dor e o quanto estou amarrado por causa destes nós. Maria, Mãe que Deus encarregou de desatar os nós da vida dos seus filhos, confio hoje a fita da minha vida em tuas mãos. Ninguém, nem mesmo o Maligno poderá tirá-la do teu precioso amparo. Em tuas mãos não há nó que não possa ser desfeito. Mãe poderosa, por tua graça e teu poder intercessor junto a Teu Filho e Meu Libertador, Jesus, recebe hoje em tuas mãos este nó … Peço-te para desatá-lo para a glória de Deus, e por todo o sempre. Vós sois a minha esperança. Ó Senhora minha, sois a minha única consolação dada por Deus, a fortaleza das minhas débeis forças, a riqueza das minhas misérias, a liberdade, com Cristo, das minhas cadeias. Ouve minha súplica. Guarda-me, guia-me, protege-me, ó seguro refúgio!
Maria, Desatadora dos nós, roga por mim.

Heitor Villa-Lobos

3 10 2008

No translation needed

3 09 2008

This is from a news report shown on Brazilian television around the time of the Pope’s last visit to that country. The footage highlights Catholicism as it exists in the impoverished northeastern region of the country. Notice how they show no priests or Masses going on here, probably because a lot of places don’t have priests. Notice as well the woman’s private altar, complete with some interesting folk saints of that region. And lastly, notice the folk healer who cures by signing people with a branch. She says the branch represents the Word of God. Even though many of you probably don’t know Portuguese, I thought it was edifying enough to show with little translation.