When Dona Maria descends to take care of you: Caboclos and emotional interconnectedness in Tambor de Mina
Matan Shapiro (University of Bergen)
Paper short abstract:
Tambor de Mina is an Afro-Brazilian religion drawing on divinities called caboclos, who temporarily incorporate practitioners during rituals. Mina practices suggest that the human capacity to ‘feel the sacred’ necessarily also involves the imagery of a divine agent feeling the mundane. I offer the term emotional interconnectedness to analyze such interchange, which constantly reshapes structured local social hierarchies.
Paper long abstract:
Tambor de Mina is an Afro-Brazilian religion drawing on divinities called caboclos, who manifest themselves through practitioners' bodies by temporarily possessing them within or in the proximity of the terreiro. Through recurrent manifestation Caboclos generate continuous affective relationships with terreiro visitors and sometimes they even marry flesh and blood wives/husbands or nurture babies as godmothers/fathers. Caboclos thus assume a decisive role in practitioners' familial, emotional and carnal lives. Consequently, Mina practices suggest that emotional experience of the sacred is not solicited exclusively by mundane stimulations. Rather, it also depends on an active, often unexpected sacred/divine agent, which penetrates involuntarily into social reality to reconstitute the profane. Under such terms Mina rituals cannot be described as a structured vehicle for the 'expression' of certain idiosyncratic emotional dispositions, but as emotion 'descending through' practitioners' bodies to operate temporal or even long-lasting change in the world. For example, most practitioners report that emotions associated with depression and sadness, as well as corporal symptoms such as headaches and nausea simply disappear forever when a practitioner submits his/her body to the flow of caboclos. Based on 13 months fieldwork in Maranhão, northeast Brazil, I offer the term emotional interconnectedness to analyze Mina possession rituals, demonstrating that 'feeling the sacred' necessarily also involves the imagery of divine agent feeling the mundane. I argue that such dynamic interchange suggests that emotions work to constantly reshape structured social hierarchies, rather than simply 'validate' or 'express' them through instituted ritual practices.