Showcasing the art and ritual of the African and African-diaspora religions

Amulet (Pátua) Invoking Protection by the Candomblé Goddess Iemanjá

Catalog Number: C129


1.69" x 1.39" x 0.45"

42.87 mm x 35.18 mm x 11.44 mm

Religion and Denomination: Batuque
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Country of Origin: Brazil
Ethnographic Origin: Bahian (Brazil)
Materials: Cloth
Usage: Ritual (non-yet-used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

This amulet, called a pátua, used the power of the Brazilian goddess Iemanjá to protect the owner. The decorative choices are all associated with power and stability. The name of the goddess is stitched in white thread onto a blue vinyl fabric. 21 stitches hold together the edges of the amulet. Iemanjá’s sacred colors are blue and white; her sacred number is 7 and the multiples thereof, including 21. 

The wood pieces at the top of the amulet recall the pieces of the sacred cross that have long circulate as relics in Roman Catholic communities. These objects channel the protective powers of Jesus. On the back of the amulet is the Star of David. This image is powerful not only due to its association with Judaism, the religion of a prosperous immigrant community in Brazil, one that has roots as far back as the Inquisition and one that is counted among the collective ancestors of the Brazilian nation.  The Star of David is also found on old British Colonial coins that now adorn sacred clothing and paraphernalia in West in Africa. Old money has spiritual power in Candomblé and other Afro-Atlantic religions, and using imagery from this money is a way to invoke its power. The cowry shell on the front further illustrates the sacredness of old money in these traditions. Cowries are instruments of divination and embodiments of the gods.  And they were once a major currency of the slave trade on the Gulf of Guinea coast, the locale from which the founders of Candomblé originated.  Since the 19th century, this part of West Africa continually exchanged merchandise, people, and ideas with Brazil.  It is not unlikely that the sacred use of British colonial coins embossed with the Star of David, and this African-inspired use of the Star of David, reached Brazil through this ongoing traffic during the 19th, 20th and 21 centuries, amplifying the existing, post-Inquisition meanings and uses of this imagery in Brazil.