Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil

Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil

Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil

Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil


Holy Harlots examines the intersections of social marginality, morality, and magic in contemporary Brazil by analyzing the beliefs and religious practices related to the Afro-Brazilian spirit entity Pomba Gira. Said to be the disembodied spirit of an unruly harlot, Pomba Gira is a controversial figure in Brazil. Devotees maintain that Pomba Gira possesses an intimate knowledge of human affairs and the mystical power to intervene in the human world. Others view this entity more ambivalently. Kelly E. Hayes provides an intimate and engaging account of the intricate relationship between Pomba Gira and one of her devotees, Nazaré da Silva. Combining Nazaré's spiritual biography with analysis of the gender politics and violence that shapes life on the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, Hayes highlights Pomba Gira's role in the rivalries, relationships, and struggles of everyday life in urban Brazil.

A DVD of the film Slaves of the Saints is included.


This entity that was incorporated in her was gargalbando
[cackling] horribly and saying, “She is mine, I am going to
take her to the cemetery, I am going to take her to the grave,
to the sepulcher, she is mine!” She was grimacing and gnashing
her teeth and we were trying to get her to go inside, but she
wouldn’t, she had a force inside of her and she wouldn’t budge.
But finally, we succeeded in getting her inside, and she was
cursing me and glaring at me and it wasn’t her in there. and I
became terrified at that, by that thing that had dominated her.


Cigarettes, CACHAÇA, and cemeteries

Recalling the fearsome, cigarette-devouring entity that had taken possession of his wife, Nazaré, some dozen years before, Nilmar glanced around the small, street-side kiosk where the three of us sat huddled across a table before continuing in a low voice:

And this is something that I knew if I told anyone outside, they would never
believe me, but she broke all the bottles in the place, as she was passing by,
they just exploded. She never touched them, but they exploded. and then she
sat there on the ground, in the middle of the temple, and began to light ciga
rette after cigarette and to eat them—lit cigarettes. She ate them one after
another, and at the time she didn’t smoke. She grabbed a bottle of cachaça
[rum] and guzzled the whole thing down.

For those familiar with the Afro-Brazilian spirit world, Nilmar’s account of his wife’s strange behavior clearly indicates the presence of the . . .

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