In the Western imaginary, Brazil embodies the myth of a wild
and enchanted land, inhabited by hospitable people who are at
one with nature. Salvador has long been a city in which con-
trasts are diminished, colors combine, and beliefs intertwine.
But Bahia is also the ‘‘Rome of Africa,’’ a place in which religious
traditions brought by slaves have been preserved and transmit-
ted most faithfully. Bahia—with its Nagô Candomblé, which
concentrates an ideal of Africanity—has become the prom-
ised land in which racial mixing and harmony reign, although
the dream of African purity lives on in the quest for roots
which animates conversations in the most traditional houses of
In this work, it is another Brazil that I want to look at, a Brazil
with thousands of exceptions to the rules—whether the rule be
a law or a model to be respected—making the establishment of
orthodoxy or a standard line impossible in the thousands of
Candomblé centers spread throughout the country. Multiplic-
ity dominates and is imposed, weakening the elegant—and, at
times, too perfect—systematizations that attempt to crystallize
the religion.
Writing about Candomblé is certainly a dangerous under-
taking, with many pitfalls. Too many illustrious predecessors
and too many works presented only one of this religious phe-
nomenon’s many forms. For a long time, there was even a feel-
ing that nothing new could be said about this field, perhaps one
of the most explored in religious anthropology.
Beatriz G. Dantas’s pioneering work, which took Brazilian
scholarship by storm, brought crucial criticism of the very idea
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