02/06/2015 10:30 am ET Updated Feb 06, 2015

Candomblé, Afro-Brazilian Religion, Struggles Against Evangelical Hostility


SANTA CRUZ, Brazil — The religious ceremony had only just begun when Caroline Linhares unleashed a long, guttural roar, clearly audible over the drums and chanting. She had been “incorporated,” she said, by one of the deities being celebrated in this outlying Rio de Janeiro suburb one recent Saturday night, in a white house down a dirt road.

Linhares, 22, a security guard, came outside and sat in the yard: perspiring, shaken, yet cheerful. Then she rushed back inside.

“I don’t remember anything,” she said later. “It’s really something from another world.”

This is Candomblé, a Brazilian religion that developed from animist beliefs imported by African slaves. During four hours of singing, drumming and dancing, devotees screamed, grimaced or froze as they were incorporated by these deities, called Orixás. Associated with forces of nature, many are synchronized also with Catholic saints, so slaves could hoodwink their Catholic Portuguese masters and secretly keep worshiping them.