Slaves and Secrets

Paul Christopher Johnson

in Secrets, Gossip, and Gods

Published in print August 2002 | ISBN: 9780195150582
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834358 | DOI:
 Slaves and Secrets

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Presents conceptions of secrecy West Africans brought with them to Brazil: the interpretive separation of superficial appearance from “deep knowledge,” the face presented in public (ori ode) versus the inner head (ori inu), the layered nature of knowledge, which is ultimately bottomless, and the secret society of the Ogboni earth cult among the Yoruba. Additionally, the chapter recounts the nineteenth‐century context and motivations for a second historical layer of secrecy generated in response to repressive slave laws and policing, and the construal of Candomblé as illegal sorcery. Candomblé is interpreted as a secret society that was both built upon West African ideals of secrecy and constructed in Brazil as a religion that was seen, but not penetrated, and whose members concealed their affiliations with the orixás. Finally, in a third use of secrecy, the chapter demonstrates how masters with reason to fear it attributed extraordinary powers to exotic Candomblé.

Keywords: Brazil; Candomblé; orixás; secrecy; slave; West African; Yoruba

Chapter.  11827 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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