Friday, May 30, 2008

Communing with nature - and orixás

Luiz has a very special relationship with waterfalls. If we get within a mile of one we have to stop everything and seek it out so he can take a plunge into the falling water.

Boa Esperança has three waterfalls (three big reasons Sergio and Dora rent a little house here for the purpose of weekend getaways.)

Waterfalls are powerful. Oxum the goddess of sweet water, ever-present at waterfalls, is often appealed to for good health. Also, given that waterfalls generally include large stones and are typically located in jungles or forests there is also the presence of Oxóssi and Xangô (the hunter and the seeker of justice).

In the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion there are roughly 12 orixás (there is some variation from one house of worship to another and one nation to another.) Orixás are essentially the earthly ambassadors of Olórun, the unknowable creator of all things. The orixás are nature gods. They are associated with distinct provinces of the natural world – water, air, fire, and earth – and it is from these primary sources that they gather and impart their axé, or vital energy.

So Luiz will jump into a waterfall even if the water is freezing cold (like those around Boa Esperança) to receive the powerful axé of Oxum, Oxóssi and Xangô. And he can’t understand why I’m not always enthusiastic to join him. (Usually, if the water is super cold, I beg off.)

Others in our group this weekend shared Luiz’s enthusiasm for bathing in waterfalls, so most of them went for a dip as well.

I understand Luiz’s belief that Oxum’s presence at the waterfall offers him an opportunity to ask for a blessing. But I must confess a worry that swimming in frigid waters will lead to getting a cold, which he should be making great efforts to avoid. But I keep this to myself. His belief trumps my worry.
[Information about Candomblé and orixás for this post was taken from "Sacred Leaves of Candomble" by Robert A Voeks.]

1 comment:

Donna Jean said...

That's a handsome "Dude" in the waterfall