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Candomblé is a pantheistic religion that venerates the Orixás. It is one of the main afro-brasilian religions practiced Brazil by the Povo de Santo and also in other countries like Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.


This religion is based on the soul, the anima of Nature, and was developed in Brazil by the slaves that came from Africa. Though it was forbidden by the Catholic Church and even criminalized by some governments, Candomblé prospered for four centuries and considerably expanded since the end of slavery in 1888. According to recent surveys, approximately 3 million Brazilian (1.5% of total population) declared Candomblé as their religion. In the city of Salvador there are 2230 worship houses (Registered in Federação Baiana de Cultos Afro-brasileiros and cataloged by Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais da Universidade Federal da Baía). The Orixás of Candomblé, the rituals and the feasts are now part of the Brazilian culture and folklore.


Sometimes Candomblé is mixed up with Umbanda, Macumba and Omoloko, other afro-brasilian religions that share a similar origin, or with afro-brasilian religions from other countries in the New World, such as Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santeria, Obeah of Trinidad and Tobago, Shangos or Ourisha. The latter have their roots in yorubá and developed independently from Candomblé and are virtually unknown in Brazil.


Candomblé is a monotheistic religion, the Ketu Nation (the biggest and most popular “nation” of Candomblé) considers Olorum their only God. Some defend that several gods are worshipped although the majority of devotees consider Olorum the only God, and the same God of the Catholic Church.


After the liberation of slaves, the first houses of Candomblé started to arise and Candomblé incorporated many Christian elements over the centuries. Crucifixes and images were shown in the temples and the Orixás were frequently identified with Catholic Saints. However, there were persecutions by the authorities and the Church that saw Candomblé as paganism and witchcraft. Over the last years, some houses of Candomblé rejected the connection to Christian elements and tried to recreate a more purist Candomblé based exclusively on African elements.


Candomblé is divided in different branches called “nations”. The worship places of Candomblé are called “casa” (house), “roça” (country) or “terreiro” (yard). The federal law number 6292 of December 25th 1975 protects the worship spaces of Candomblé in Brazil against any kind of change of his material or immaterial formation. The Instituto do Património Histórico e Artístico Nacional (IPHAN) and the Instituto Património Artístico e Cultural da Baía (IPAC) are the responsible ones for their recognition. They can be matriarchal, patriarchal or both: 
- The Small houses. Independently owned and administered by Babalorixá or Yalorixá and by the main Orixá (Babalorixá - Pai de Santo in the case of men, and Yalorixá - Mãe de Santo, in the case of women. Equivalent to a Priest.). In the case of owner’s death, close relatives guaranty the succession. 
- The Big houses. They are not property of the priest and can be a Civil or Benevolent Society with a rigorous hierarchy. 
- The Matriarchal houses, where only women can be the leaders like Yalorixá.

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