Online Essay, “Alchemical Axé Hieros Gamos in Brazilian Candomblé Rites”


Brazil is a land of mystical rhythms emerging from thunderous drums in the deepest part of night. Reminiscing about the three months I lived and breathed ritual and popular music in Salvador da Bahia brings back some of the most magical and mysterious moments I have ever experienced.

Building and transferring axé, the energy or life force that courses through all of creation, are the central intentions of Candomblé rituals. Although axé is invisible and cannot be viewed with ordinary “seeing” or the eyes, it exists in the dancer’s movement, the drums’ rhythms, the colors of the ritual garments, and the herbs scattered on the floor of the terreiro Subtle and intangible, axé can be sensed in the natural world through intense heat or gentle, cool breezes blowing across your brow.

Orixás rule over the elements, and through trance-possession become doorways to both experiencing and observing axé in artful motion. All of nature—including flora, fauna, rocks, mountains, rivers—is sacred and alive with axé. Art and musical instruments, such as drums, sculpture and ritual garments pulsate with the sacred energy of axé.

Candomblé devotees strive to be in alignment with universal forces. The harmony of nature, culture, family and a person’s psychological and physical health depend on a cosmological balance of feminine and masculine attributes.

Candomblé initiation rites are comparable to oppositional elements found in the Jungian alchemical process of individuation. [. . .]

Please see the full essay on Stephanie Pope’s amazing ezine, Mythopoetry Scholar.

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