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

Bunched Necklace for the Candomblé Goddess Nanã

Catalog Number: C103


necklace: 51.0" (circumference) x 0.37" (bead) 
pendant: 1.36" x 0.47"

necklace: 1,295.4 mm x 9.40 mm 
pendant: 34.47 mm x 11.98 mm

Religion and Denomination: Candomblé (Brazil)
Transatlantic Family of Religion: Orisha
Country of Origin: Brazil
Ethnographic Origin: Brazilian (Brazil)
Materials: Glass
Usage: Ritual (used)
Detailed Description of Significance:

In ritual contexts, Candomble initiates wear necklaces typically made of glass, crystal, or ceramic beads like these in order to invite the protection of the gods and to show their devotion, as well. These necklaces are a critical component of Candomblé practice. Before being worn, these necklaces will be consecrated by a pai- or maē-de-santo–that is, chief priest of the temple. 

Practitioners of Candomblé were long persecuted in Brazil, with instances of particular temples’ protection and sponsorship by the powerful.  However, this religion and its elaborate festivals for the gods have now become a tourist attraction, particularly in the state of Bahia.  So have the baianas de acarajé, street vendors of bean fritters, a food important in the worship of the gods.  These women are often Candomblé devotess, assigned by the gods to this career.  While frying and selling their bean fritters and other delicacies, they regularly wear Candomblé-related dresses and beads of this sort.  Similarly dressed women are a required element of Rio de Janeiro’s elaborate yearly Carnaval processions.  Candomblé has become an emblem of Black identity and the movement for racial equality in Brazil and throughout the African diaspora.  More recently, it has become a target of condemnation and persecution by the rapidly growing Protestant population of Brazil.

This necklace is for the orixá or vodum goddess Nanã. She is the oldest of the water dieties in Candomblé, and is a sort of ultimate mother figure. She is the goddess of death and the owner of the mud.  She helps Candomblé devotees to understand and accept death.  Consequently, she also commands fecundity, life and health, as well. Initiates whose dominant orixá is Nanã are reputed to be very calm, motherly, and slow-paced.

Finely striped beads allude to the skin diseases caused by Nanã’s son Omolú, the lord of pestilence.  The bone accent beads seem to be an allusion to death, the force that the goddess commands.