afro-brazilian candomblé

Terreiro de Iansa, Marajó, ParáChapter 19 of To Belém & Back describes a fascinating encounter one night in a remote part of the Amazon.

While no batuque was currently planned, Dona Fatima implied that it was for lack of “materials,” the righting of which could motivate a gathering that very night. So I immediately offered to reverse the material-deficit, which was so warmly received that Fatima directed Big João, the association’s president, to give me a ride back to the hotel on the back of his bicycle, to facilitate things. There I gave the proffered cash to Big João, who pedaled back into the twilight of adumbrations. [p.196]

There, I was introduced

to my first terreiro, the worship center for practitioners of the Afro-Brazilian cult called candomblé. It was at night, back on the outlaw island of Marajó in northernmost Brazil where, if you listen carefully, you can hear the soft, thrumming echoes of Mina-nagô drums. [ibid.]

For a full ethnographic experience, play some of the candomblé music here. [please hover over images for captions]


I watched carefully, transfixed, even startled, by the spiritual depths opening before me. If someone had blown smoke in my ears, I might not have even noticed. [p.200]


A small urn filled with smoking embers would be stoked the entire evening, creating the most sticky and omnipresent smoke I’ve experienced since the bowels of Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulcher church. In the middle of the shiny polished-cement floor a lonely candle anchored a rectangular design with Arabic writing, while off to a corner gathered some oily-dark statuary, almost Thai Buddhist in their wet sleekness. Behind the spectators’ area I noticed several large displays with full-body mannequins, mostly clad in elaborate colonial dress, the dummies with brown plastic skin and mute faces. The play of candlelight seemed to flash in their unblinking eyes. [p.198]

About Ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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