Curandeirismo in the Reconcavo of Bahia : a study in cultural syncretism based on the fusion of African, indigenous and European curing practices
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The study records thaumaturgic methods of curing and preventing illness and misfortune as practiced by curandeiros (curers, folk doctors) using an ethnographic-linguistic approach based on fieldwork in the Reconcavo area of the State of Bahia in Northeast Brazil. The Reconcavo is a fairly narrow strip of land surrounding the Bay of All the Saints with its social and economic focus at Salvador, the capital of Bahia State. The study is structured to give particular attention to an examination of the religious based on which these practices may be founded, to include condomble, a religion of African origin which became rooted in this area with the importation of slaves, principally from west Africa from the middle of the sixteenth century to the middle of the of the nineteenth; Catholicism as introduced by the Portuguese and other Iberian colonizers; indigenous religions and Spiritism. Points of similarity in curing methods that may have existed among African, Puropean and indigenous cultures represented in the Reconcavo are also examined in an attempt trace how some of these similarities may have fused in a gradual process of syncretism to produce corandeirismo as it exists in the area today. The study is concluded with an assessment of the extent to which curandeirismo is practiced in the Reconcavo and the likelihood of its survival. Proceeding from a brief historical survey of the Reconcavo and its colonization, development and economy, the writer examines the different religious currents brought by colonization and population movement, giving a resume of the main doctrines of Spiritism and an account of traditional Candomble to include an exposition of the patterns of belief on which the present Candomble de caboclo is based. He then discusses the persistence and evolution of African religion in Brazil, and the dual role of the priest and curer in African-based religion. Aspects of the curing process such as ritual beating, fumigation, bathing and symbolic purgation of evil are then examined, together with details of ritual procedure and the incantations which accompany many of them. Powders and herbs, their properties and uses are then analysed, the function and composition of amulets in preventing and curing illness is then studied, as is the use of curing prayers, a number of which are transcribed and annotated. The study is illustrated with maps and photographs. Herbs employed in the rituals discussed are listed in appendices, and there is a glossary of non-English terms
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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