Two-hundred and twenty-two
years ago, a group of venerable women of African ancestry pledged
eternal devolution to the Virgin Mary and held an elaborate feast to
celebrate her "good death" and the assumption of the Holy
Mother's body and soul into Heaven.
Founded by pios emancipated slaves women
who pledged rigorous oaths of devolution, the sisterhood of our lady of
the good death is the oldest existing religious confraternity in the
country. The women in this society, bound by kinship and a hierarchical
social order, uphold their commitment to an ethical and moral order.
The Sisterhood originated in Salvador at
a time when blacks were denied access to catholic cerimonies.
Consequently religious rituals combining Catholic and Candomblé
pratices were carried out in secret.
Soon several churches, including
Barroquinha, Saúde, São Domingos and São Francisco de Sant'Anna,
opened their doors for the festivals that emerged from the singular
processions and promisses of the Sisterhood's religious order.
As time passed by the Sisterhood of the
Good Death in the back-bay city of Cachoeira was the only one to survive.
Their annual festival, held in August, is a grand happening led by the
sumptuously bedecked Sisters, whose conspicuous gold tiligree and coral
jewelry belies the reserved dignity of these religious women.
Besides the festival's outward
expressions of joy and revelry, the Sisterhood of the Good Death's
inestimable value lies in its perseverance in maintainning the
indivisible mark of the Saints and Orixás, characteristic of
Afro-Brazilian syncretism, guarded in secrecy and taboos.
Mr. Joel Gondim with some of
the Good Death's
during the 1999's festival of
Death's Sisterhood in Cachoeira.
In masses ans processions of a Catholic
character, in ritual feasts prepered in the Candomblé tradition, in the
Sister's traditional black and white robies, in the candles and
and in fundamentals and cerimonies, the Good Death Festival emanates the
unique character of the sole surviving Sisterhood of Afro-Brazilian
women, united in their ardent faith and devolution to the Holy Mother.
It is an original outpouring of faith in the city of Cachoeira, Bahia.