Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 1, No 2-3 (2005)

Priests and Stars: Candomble, Celebrity Discourses, and the Authentication of Religious Authority in Bahia's Public Sphere

Mattijs van de Port
Issued Date: 3 Feb 2007


This article discusses the inextricable entanglement of religious and media imaginar¬ies by pointing out how, in a thoroughly mediatized society such as Bahia (Brazil), the public articulation of religious authority comes to depend more and more on celebrity discourses. Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian spirit possession cult on which this article focuses, is an intriguing example of this trend. The cult has become the main “symbol bank” of the Bahian state, and groups have increasingly sought access to its rich arse¬nal of images, sounds, myths, and aesthetics. Disconcerted by this development, Candomblé priests have sought to publicly assert themselves as the only authentic representatives of the cult. Whereas within the temples, their religious authority is rmly rooted in the performance of ritual practice and constantly reconrmed in the rigid and minute prescriptions as to how the different ranks in the temple hierarchy should interact, the public sphere requires the mobilization of other resources to back up claims of religious authority. The author argues that Candomblé priests are very successful in “colonizing” the tremendous appeal of celebrity discourses. Exploiting the society-wide interest in Candomblé, they create media events that allow them to dis¬play their contacts and afnities with the stars. They thus nd their religious leader¬¬ship authorized in terms that are well understood by the consumers of modern mass media.

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DOI: 10.1558/post.v1i2_3.301

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