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Afro-Brazilian Priestess Dies at 80

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    Afro-Brazilian Priestess Dies at 80 Sep 30, 11:47 PM (ET) By MICHAEL ASTOR RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2005
      Afro-Brazilian Priestess Dies at 80

      Sep 30, 11:47 PM (ET)


      RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) - Olga de Alaketu, the high priestess of one the oldest
      temples of the Afro-Brazilian religion Condomble, died of complications from diabetes,
      hospital officials said. She was 80.

      Alaketu presided over the Ile Maroia Laji "terreiro," as Candomble temples are known,
      which was established in 1636, making it one of the oldest in the coastal city of
      Salvador da Bahia, where the religion is based. She was buried on Friday.

      Alaketu's terreiro was frequented by prominent figures, including Brazilian writer
      Jorge Amado and French anthropologist Pierre Verger. Earlier this year, the terreiro
      was declared a national heritage site by Brazil's Culture Ministry.

      Candomble is an animist religion brought over with the African slaves, mostly from
      Nigeria and Benin. Followers incorporate spirits in ceremonies filled with music and
      dancing that often last throughout the night. The ceremonies can also involve animal

      "In the last 40 years, we can consider Mother Olga as the greatest proponent of the
      religion of the Orixas in all Brazil," said popular singer and Culture Minister
      Gilberto Gil at the ceremony declaring the terreiro a national heritage site.

      Historians said Alaketu was a fifth generation descendent of the royal family of Aro,
      from present-day Benin. Her family members were brought to Brazil as slaves and were
      instrumental in establishing Candomble in Brazil.

      For many years, Candomble was banned in Brazil and its followers practiced their
      religion by worshipping the Orixas - the Gods of their African ancestors - disguised as
      Catholic saints. The sea goddess Iemanja, for instance, became the Virgin Mary, Saint
      Antonio became the god of iron and war, Ogum.

      In the 1980s, spurred on by a growing black pride movement, Candomble moved to distance
      itself from Catholicism, eliminating the saints and worshipping the Orixas directly.

      Alaketu was buried Friday at the Bosque da Paz cemetery in Salvador. Information was
      not immediately available regarding survivors, although, media reported that her eldest
      daughter would assume the terreiro.

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