Boa Morte Festival in Brazil

South America - Editor - 23 July 2008

Boa Morte Festival in Brazil

Starting on the Friday closest to 15 August each year, the charming town of Cachoeira on the banks of the Paraguacu River in Bahia, Brazil, hosts the three-day Boa Morte Festival. The cane-growing area around Salvador, Bahia, was the destination of countless numbers of black slaves that had been brought from Africa. It was during this time that the town of Cachoeira was built, and it is here, during the Boa Morte Festival, that female descendants of African slaves remember the past, while savoring their freedom.

The secret society known as Irmandade da Boa Morte (Sisterhood of the Good Death), organize the festival, which attracts participants and observers from far and wide, who readily agree that it is an unforgettable experience. The Sisterhood of the Good Death is a group of African-Brazilian women who have descended from African slaves, practicing a form of worship which is a blend of Catholicism and the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The church-sponsored sisterhood was founded in the early part of the 19th century specifically for female African slaves and has endured as an active society through to current times..

Pre-festival celebrations start off at the beginning of August each year with a program of public events of feasting, parades, religious rites, masses, processions and traditional dances such as the samba-de-roda. Due to the fact that the sisterhood is a secret society, it is not known what religious rites are observed in private, however, the public celebrations include distinct elements of both Catholicism and Candomblé. Confession at the parish church is an important feature of the festival, as is a vigil followed by a supper of bread, wine and seafood in accordance with religious customs.

The members of the sisterhood wear their white ceremonial clothing, beads and white head-scarves for the burial procession of Our Lady of the Good Death. Holding candles and flowers and carrying a life-sized figure representing Our Lady of the Good Death, the procession winds its way through the colorful streets of the town.

After the more serious religious rites have been observed, the festival takes on a lighter note, with the people of Cachoeira and visitors enjoying the food, music and dancing that are all part of Brazil’s Boa Morte Festival.


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