Interview with Mae Stella Oxóssi

Fri, Mar 13, 2009

Elders, Traditional Afrikan

Interview with Mae Stella Oxóssi

In a morning of Wednesday, between a query and another, Mother of Stella Oxóssi received us in the house of Xangô and talked about the priesthood, the history of Candomblé in Bahia and Ilê terreiro Axé OPO Afonjá. The conversation was not long, because, as always, a queue of people waiting for their advice. In turn, the German shepherd inseparable. Started deities in the religion of more than 60 years, Stella Maria Azevedo dos Santos is even a single woman. As did their predecessors in Afonjá, Mother Stella keeps inherited religious traditions of Africa with a seriousness that makes the yard a reference for all Candomblé. A task that warrants it, to absorb fully. The author of books, nurse and retired public official who has split his time between religious activities, consultations and requests for interviews, lectures and conferences in several countries. With soft voice and an enviable verbal fluency, it is the clarity and intelligence that made it a religious leader respected throughout the world. But for the children of Afonjá, it is only “Aunt Stella.”

by Agnes Mariano

AM – In nagôs religious communities, women have a very important role, different from what happens in other societies and other religious organizations. I am told that that this happens. It is a tradition that came from Africa? Where the woman is different from man? Because they have this role?

MOTHER STELLA – You see, I talk of Brazil and Bahia, in some places where the value, the lead female is larger. This is the pioneer of Candomblé in Brazil, after three women who were able to release an open house to worship the deities. Is that they formed the first box that has knowledge of the Yoruba nation in Brazil, which is the White House. So this house has grown, so many children and those three ladies were as responsible. Hence the value women because this house had the character of men not start. If not started, and all men were females, it is logical that the man could not have direction. So, the house was always growing and when the thing grows, sometimes it happens a crack, is not it? It was what happened at the time of Mary Julia, the woman who founded the Gantois. When founded the Gantois, the feature also was to have no man as leader, as a father-of-saint of the house. But in Gantois not meant that men have commanding positions. Men can have over, just can not sit as a father-of-saint. After Gantois, Aninha happened to Mother, who founded the house (the Ile Axé Afonjá OPO) and also followed the same standard, that man would not be leader of the house of Xangô, this is the São Gonçalo. Here is also starting men, but men started here in Gantois already know or can not be parent-of-saint in the house of origin. But as these two men entering houses and we know that everyone, after some time when it is completely ready for Orixá it may take a lead in some of these men founded their homes, both of Gantois as the São Gonçalo. Not be prohibited father-of-saint, but within these houses, in the lead, only women. As there are large homes … The home of Mrs. Olga (the Alaketu) also because it was the first female leader. It is an old house, older than this our own. And women these houses were strong leaders who have left the name in history, who produced, worked in favor of belief in deities, who were traveling, which were for the liberation movements of Candomblé. Had much resistance. So, it is known that, in principle, these homes can only be responsible female. And, say, in passing, the lead women in Candomblé is something very strong, because the mother and wife. For more rustic or strongly that it is, always has that women nuance for some details. And to be honest, I think a beautiful woman as mother-of-saint. Not that the man also does not have its charm, but I think I already used to it, see a mother-of-saint in the lead. The man has his value, there are parent-of-saint competent, true. We can say that the Candomblé, in actuality, is not a belief, a religion only for blacks, not only of women. The deities are symbolized by natural forces, which are the phenomena of nature, and are things that do not have sex. The wind has sex? What is the sex of the wind? Despite the Orixá called Iansã symbolize the spiritual has no sex, has no race, nothing.

AM – You started early, with 13 years. You thought that would get a position like this, so important? And as you experienced it in your life?

MS – The people who come to the belief of the deities with faith, with the awareness they are doing, they have the taste, the desire to serve the Orixá, to do all in favor. I believe that very few people come to candomblé now with the intention of being a mother-of-saint. Who does not mind that. Because there is not a spiritual thing, becomes something to overcome. In Candomblé, is the people that overcomes, not have to overcome the other, has to overcome itself. Not have to try to overcome the other with the question of material values, is not nothing. And I never had this intention. My joy was to serve Orixá and my mother-of-saint, doing things within certain parameters. But why or what the Orixá through the Oluô, chose me as a leader here. The replacement here is done through the game of shells. As the White House, which is also through the game of shells. The Gantois, I can not say much, because he knows that it is a replacement family. Each house has a use.

AM – What about the house, the yard, as you define? Because anthropologists, writers, visitors speak a lot. It is a religious house? It has similarities to a school, a university, a home therapy, where people seek healing? How you define the yard? It is a family?

MS – The principle, every yard is a family, because it is a spiritual family. Our leader, our patron here Xangô. So, everything here is done with the blessings, the determinations of Xangô. He does not come and speak, but through the shells of certain practices, we can count on him. So here is everything that is done by spiritual guidance from Xangô. And, as in life, the community is a school axé. Here we learn the spiritual side – and spiritual just by itself is important – but not the only thing that exists in society, so we have a social side. We have the spiritual and social. So this space we occupy is like a small city. A city that has been time of Mother Aninha when she characterized here as in Africa, putting a box for each Orixá. While there, each tribe has its Orixá, your city, it has a space for each, where they have their rituals on different days, separated, each following their precepts. And also the resistance of the black race was more on religion, belief in deities. If it were not so, the woman’s belief in deities would not have such self-esteem. The staff of Candomblé has self-esteem, the staff of Candomblé is like, like himself and, even by osmosis, like the brother, because those who come here are all about advising Xangô or May. Are all brothers and the most normal thing in the world is like a brother to another, with rare exceptions, but in normal life.

AM-talk more about this strength through religion.

MS – This is the time of Mother Aninha, the founder, who at that time the prosecution sought to support with the president and is incorporated in the Catholic Church. At that time, be of the Catholic Church was to have status, because the bosses were white and that was the religion of white. Hence the brotherhoods were founded, such as the Rosary of Black Men, the Brotherhood of Barroquinha and more, where the black woman could do their worship. Was forbidden to worship those deities. Who rarefy was needed to find something spiritual to hold fast to and that is why the syncretism came when things were way masked. If you loved the Orixá a way, as if singing to the saints. And the thing was so secure that, currently, we are already free, but we have much work for the people of Orixá is aware of the importance of Orixá, force and energy. The Orixá is something independent of any other belief, like any other belief is independent of Candomblé. So, the good and beautiful is that each is set in its belief in its symbols, its energy and not have to hold the other to show potential.

AM-A woman had said that in addition to the spiritual, there is the social part of the yard.

MS – Yeah. Here, in addition to care from the Orixá – which are the festivals that you know, independent of domestic rituals that belong only to us – the people have the social part. Founded a school in an agreement with the city, which has 300 children. The teachers do a very good service and that the city has, so she went to school reference. It is a school of public and serve the law that says that freedom of worship must exist. There is not taught Candomblé or initiations, but much related to the African Yoruba culture. We are not Africans, we are Brazilians, african-Brazilians. It is bigotry to say that we are Africans. We are african-Brazilians, descendants of Africans. So something of African culture is passed in college, but we do not accept only students and people connected to the deities. It is an open space. We have teachers and students of other religions. They are learning not religion, because religion is not necessary. School for religion is silly. The professor and director of the college have to emphasize their culture, but do not force religion. They did that with the blacks, with the Indians, but that is against humanity.

AM – And you also have the museum, library, workshops …

MS – Yes, I’m talking about the school just to understand how you work. The director Marivalva is there and some for 20 years, since working in that place a crèche, an agreement with another body. As it was responsible for construction, bought the building, while here in the yard, to be added. As the school was a good experience – is good and will be better, with faith in God – we do the museum in 1983. Vera Happiness was the person responsible, a daughter-in-holy God. I was recently here in axé and made a trip to Africa, where I saw all those things. Here also I saw so many beautiful things thrown there by the corner. By that, talking to Vera, she took responsibility for themselves and created the Museum Ohun Lailai. We have a library too, which is responsible Luzia Leal, a retired librarian. Here are all volunteers. Luzia installed the library, given name and is taking hold. We received donations: I had my private library, which doei all, and many people have also donated many books and still want more. We also have a group of studies. Those responsible are Cléo Martins and Roberval Marino. Mostly these are ahead, which are our children-of-saint thinkers. Ana Rúbia we help, because it is all here. We also have a project with the Community Solidarity and Unicef. The responsibility is Tereza, another daughter-of-saint, he is doing several workshops to give these children the occupation. We are all concerned about that. We also do seminars here at home among ourselves, from time to time to chat. It is things like this that arise Alaiandê Xirê the Festival, a creation of Cléo and Roberval. This was the third year of Alaindê and is going well, so success is passed outside. We joined the fun with the spiritual and it worked, has been very accepting of people.

AM-Here in Afonjá men may exercise the office of OBA, oga, Alabi and axogum?

MS – Yes. Have more, but these are the key.

AM-You have any idea how many people are connected to the house, the insiders, the sons-of-saint?

MS – This is impossible, because here is a bridge, right? We actually made of the saint, the initiated, a very large group. But I do not know the number. We also have visitors, customers, and people need to come here. A transitional group, and they will return.

AM-Everyday people come here?

MS – Almost daily. My days of meeting was Wednesday, but so many people coming … I have pity to see people come back and crying. I pick it up and it prevents my life. I almost do not do anything not to be working here. Come a slave. But the compensation is that we have a sense of duty, see who has help some people. We are judged not omnipotent, but we give thanks to Orixá able to help. If anything, the well-being. Many people come here for nothing too, because like the space. Come, sit up there, spend the afternoon sitting in that area and goes quiet. It does not take a bath, do not do anything, just come by axé. Must be the astral which is good, right? (Laughter). Ready, IAIA.

(06 January 2001)

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. Agnes Mariano Says:

    In portuguese:

  2. Cherokee Says:

    I know it can be time-consuming to update your blog but thank you for keeping me informed and entertained!

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