Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian syncretic religion, practiced chiefly in Brazil by the povo de santo (saint people). Enslaved Africans brought their beliefs with them when they were shipped to Brazil during the slave trade. The name Candomblé means dance in honour of the gods.

Candomblé originated in the city of Salvador, the capital of Bahia, which remains its main spiritual center. Although Candomblé is practiced primarily in Brazil, it is also practiced in other countries in the Americas, including Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama; and in Europe.

Candomblé may be called Macumba in some regions, notably Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, although Macumba has a distinct set of practices more akin to European witchcraft. Candomblé can also be distinguished from Umbanda, a religion founded in the early 20th century by combining African elements with Kardecism; and from similar African-derived religions such as Quimbanda, Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santería, and Obeah, which developed independently of Candomblé and are virtually unknown in Brazil.


Practitioners of Candomblé believe in one all powerful God called Oludumaré or Olorum (in candomblé ketu) who is served by lesser deities. These deities are called orixás (also orishas, viduns or inkices) and serve as intermediaries between earthbound humans and the all-powerful. Orixas are deified ancestors from recent or ancient history. Each orixa is also connected to a force in nature including a certain food, animal, and more. A person’s personality is a reflection of their orixa. Orixas are collectively called Baba Egum or Egungun. The moral code of Candomble is regulated by the Baba Egum, who ensures the continuity of morals from one generation to the next.

In many parts of Latin America, Orishás are now conflated with Roman Catholic saints.

  • Olokun – guardian of the deep ocean, the abyss, and signifies unfathomable wisdom,
  • Obatala (Obatalá, Oxalá, Orixalá, Orisainlá) – arch-divinity, father of humankind, divinity of light, spiritual purity, and moral uprightness
  • Orunmila (Orunla, Ifá) – divinity of wisdom, divination, destiny, and foresight
  • Eshu (Eleggua, Exú, Esu, Elegba, Legbara, Papa Legba) – Eshu is the messenger between the human and divine worlds, Undergod of duality, crossroads and beginnings, and also a phallic and fertility Undergod (an Embodiment of Life) and the deliverer of souls to the underworld (an Embodiment of Death). Eshu is recognized as a trickster and is child-like, while Eleggua is Eshu under the influence of Obatala.
  • Ochumare (Oshumare, Oxumare) – rainbow deity, divinity of movement and activity, guardian of children and associated with the umbilical cord
  • Nana Buluku as Yemaja, the female thought of the male creator Ashe and the effective cause of all further creation. Sometimes considered to be the same as the Fon Mawu-Lisa who is, however, most usually depicted as her child or children. [1]
  • Iemanja (Yemaja, Imanja, Yemayá, Jemanja, Yemalla, Yemana, Yemanja, Yemaya, Yemayah, Yemoja, Ymoja, Nanã, La Sirène, LaSiren, Mami Wata) – divine mother, divinity of the sea and loving mother of mankind, daughter of Obatala and wife of Aganju.
  • Aganju (Aganyu, Agayu) – Father of Shango, he is also said to be Shango’s brother in other stories. Aganju is said to be the orisha of volcanoes, mountains, and the desert.
  • Shango (Shangó, Xango, Changó, Chango, Nago Shango) – warrior deity ; divinity of thunder, fire, sky father, represents male power and sexuality
  • Oba (Obba) – Shango’s jealous wife, divinity of marriage and domesticity, daughter of Iemanja
  • Oya (Oyá, Oiá, Iansã, Yansá, Iansan, Yansan) – warrior deity; divinity of the wind, sudden change, hurricanes, and underworld gates, a powerful sorceress and primary lover of Shango
  • Ogoun (Ogun, Ogúm, Ogou) – warrior deity; divinity of iron, war, labour, sacrifice, politics, and technology (e.g. railroads)
  • Oshun (Oshún, Ọṣun, Oxum, Ochun, Osun, Oschun) – divinity of rivers, love, feminine beauty, fertility, and art, also one of Shango’s lovers and beloved of Ogoun
  • Ibeji – the sacred twins, represent youth and vitality
  • Ochosi (Oxósse, Ocshosi, Osoosi, Oxossi) – hunter and the scout of the orishas, deity of the accused and those seeking justice or searching for something
  • Ozain (Osain, Osanyin) – Orisha of the forest, he owns the Omiero, a holy liquid consisting of many herbs, the liquid through which all saints and ceremonies have to proceed. Ozain is the keeper and guardian of the herbs, and is a natural healer. He sometimes appears as a beautiful wood sprite when in female form.
  • Babalu Aye (Omolu, Soponna, Shonponno, Obaluaye, Sakpata, Shakpana) – divinity of disease and illness (particularly smallpox, leprosy, and now AIDS), also orisha of healing and the earth, son of Iemanja
  • Erinle (Inle) – orisha of medicine, healing, and comfort, physician to the gods
  • Oko (Okko) – orisha of agriculture and the harvest
  • Ori (Yoruba) – Ruler of the head


On the day of the ceremony, starting in the early morning, cowrie-shell divinations (jogo de búzios) are performed, and sacrifices are offered to the desired Orixás, and to the messenger spirit (Exú in Ketu). The worship takes place in the form of dances and songs. Dances call the orixa to enter the body.

During major rituals, priests and priestesses disguise as Baba Egum. Saint-children (mediunic priests) invoke and "incorporate" Orixás, falling into a trance-like state. After having fallen into trance, the priest-spirits perform dances symbolic of the Orixá’s attributes, while the babalorixá or father of saint (leading male priest) leads songs that celebrate the spirit’s deeds. The ceremony ends with a banquet.  

The sacred places for followers of Candomble are called houses (casas), plantations (roças), or yards (terreiros). Inside the place of worship are the altars to the Orixás, or Pejis. Worshippers enter the terreiro in clean clothes. They also splash water on themselves before entering so they clean themselves from the impurity of the outside world.

There are generally two types of priesthood in the different nations of Candomble, and they are made up of those who fall in trance by the Orixá (iyawo) and those who do not (Oga – male/Ekeji – female).

Candomblé priesthood is organized into symbolic families, whose members are not necessarily relatives by the blood. Each family owns and manages one house. In most Candoblé houses, especially the larger ones, the head of the family is always a woman, the mãe-de-santo or ialorixá (mother-of-saint), seconded by the pai-de-santo or babalorixá (father-of-saint). The priests and priestesses may also be known as babalaos (interpreters of búzios), babas, babaloshas and candomblezeiros. Some houses have a more flexible hierarchy which allows the male pai-de-santo to be the head priest.