Divination Ceremony and Dance, Brazil, 1630s
Men, women, and children dancing; group with various musical instruments, including drums, sitting on tree trunk (left). Of this illustration, Wagener/Wagner writes When the slaves have carried out their arduous duties for weeks on end, they are allowed to celebrate one Sunday as they please; in large numbers in certain places and with all manner of leaps, drums, and flutes, they dance from morning to night, all in a disorganized way, with men and women, young and old; meanwhile, the others drink a strong spirit made with sugar, which they call 'garapa'; they spend all day like that in a continuous dance . . . (vol. 2, p. 194). Wagener was a German mercenary for the Dutch West India Company; in 1634, at the age of about 20, he went to northeastern Brazil and stayed there for 7 years. James Sweet identifies this scene as depicting a calundu, a divination ceremony that involved spirit possession, and notes that several of the Africans appear to have already been possessed by ancestral spirits. In particular . . . the man with the crest of feathers on his head and the woman at the center of the painting. The feathers indicated possession by a powerful ancestral figure, perhaps a former chief or king. Also . . . the man on the far left, imbibing what may be the ceremonial drink alua from a clay jar ( Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African Portuguese World, 1441-1770 [University of North Carolina Press, 2003], pp. 144, 150).
C. Ferrao and J. P. Soares, eds., Dutch Brazil, The "Thierbuch" and "Autobiography" of Zacharias Wagener; D.H. Treece and R. Trewinnard, English translators (Rio de Janeiro, Editora Index, 1997), vol. 2, p. 193, plate 105."
Image is in the public domain. Metadata is available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.
"Divination Ceremony and Dance, Brazil, 1630s ", Slavery Images: A Visual Record of the African Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Early African Diaspora, accessed December 1, 2023, http://www.slaveryimages.org/s/slaveryimages/item/1018