Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

African Spiritual Methods of Healing: The Use of Candomblé in Traumatic Response

Academic journal article The Journal of Pan African Studies (Online)

African Spiritual Methods of Healing: The Use of Candomblé in Traumatic Response

Article excerpt

Abstract: In this article, the authors will present findings from a phenomenological study exploring the healing experiences of favela residents who utilize Candomblé as a psychospiritual intervention for traumatic response to neocolonial conditions. Findings have transnational implications for understanding Afro-Brazilian spiritual methods of resisting colonialism and the cultural genocide that plagues Diasporic Africans.

Keywords: Diasporic Africans, Candomblé, Favelas, Spiritual Healing, Trauma

The traumas of the Ma'afa (African Holocaust) and continued living under neocolonial conditions have been discussed widely (see for example Larson, 1999; Buckley-Zistel, 2009; Pollock, 1996; Matory, 2007). The effects of these conditions continue even in the "age of Obama" as demonstrated through the continued suffering of African people with disproportionate rates of many chronic and fatal health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and asthma. We continue to experience high rates of police brutality, homicide, psychic violence, underemployment, and struggle collectively on numerous social and economic indicators of wellness. The healing of African people throughout the Diaspora is a necessity as Africans continue to resist the thriving cultural genocide of contemporary colonial conditions.

Increased media attention to specific traumatic events such as school and community violence within the 'inner city' has led to recent attention given to trauma within African American communities (Bastide, 1978; Daniel, 2005; Harding 2000). The international trauma field specifically, has given increased attention to indigenous approaches to healing (Krippner, 2008; Miles, 2008; Pollock, 1996; Van de Port, 2005; and Voeks, 1997). Yet, there is little empirical literature investigating indigenous approaches to trauma interventions such as African spiritual pathways to healing even within African centered psychological discourse. Instead, there has been a reliance predominantly on western-oriented trauma models.

As African psychology moves toward a state of greater articulation, it must consider the ways of most effectively responding to the decimating effects of the continued traumatic conditions of neocolonial life for Africans in the Diaspora without unduly privileging the experiences of Africans in the U.S. Toward this end, the purpose of this article is to utilize an Afro-Brazilian community as a case study focusing on its employment of a traditional African spiritual system - Candomblé'- to individually and collectively heal from and resist colonization. We believe that there is much for African centered psychology to learn about trauma intervention and cultural resistance from devotees of Brazilian Candomblé'. Thus, we will begin with an overview of Candomblé', followed by an understanding of Afro-Brazilian lived experiences particularly within the favelas, and indigenous spiritual approaches to healing to provide an introduction to the present study. It is our hope that the shared Pan-African narratives of both trauma and resistance emerge as a result of the healing experiences of participants in this study.

Background of Candomblé

Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion brought to Brazil by enslaved Africans primarily from West and West Central Africa (i.e. Yoruba, Aja-Fon, and Bantu) and was largely influenced by the chattel slavery and mercantilistic context from which it emerged during the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries (Harding, 2000; Krippner, 2008; Van De Port, 2005). Candomblé' has been erroneously defined as polytheistic within the (predominantly White) anthropological literature, although there is worship of one Creator and veneration of the Orixas (Orishas) as manifestations of the Creator (Van De Port, 2005, Harding 2000, 2006). As is customary in traditional African religions, veneration of the Ancestors and the Orixas is integral which is reflected in primary rituals, ceremonies, and daily practice. …

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