Candomblé Ketu (or Queto in Portuguese) is the largest and most influential branch (nation) of Candomblé, a religion practiced in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. The word Candomblé means “ritual dancing or gather in honor of gods” and Ketu is the name of the Ketu (Benin) region in Nigeria. Its liturgical language, known as Iorubá or Nagô, is a dialect of Yoruba. Candomblé Ketu developed in the early 19th century and gained great importance to Brazilian heritage in the 20th century.
Queto is a system of beliefs that merges the Yoruba mythology (brought to the New World by Yoruba slaves) with Christianity and Indigenous American traditions. Queto developed in the Portuguese Empire. Yoruba slaves carried with them various religious customs, including a trance and divination system for communicating with their ancestors and spirits, animal sacrifice, and sacred drumming and dance. Its origins are entwined with the religious and beneficent brotherhoods (irmandades) organized by the Roman Catholic Church among ethnic Yoruba slaves; the Order of Our Lady of the Good Death (Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte), for women, and the Order of Our Lord of the Martyrdom (Nosso Senhor dos Martírios), for men. The religion grew popular among slaves because it was a way for Yoruba slaves to maintain their culture and express independence.
Numerous terreiros of the Ketu branch of Candomblé have received historic status and government protection from the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN). Ilê Axé Iyá Nassô Oká in Salvador was the first non-Roman Catholic and first Afro-Brazilian religious place of worship to receive protected heritage status in Brazil. Ilê Odó Ogé, also known as Terreiro Pilão de Prata, has protected heritage status from the state of Bahia.
As the largest branch of the Candomblé religion, Ketu origins have a major influence on the religion as a whole. Although there are various branches of Candomblé, the foundational beliefs are the same. They differ based on names, songs, and rituals primarily due to no written scripture. Each branch possesses a unique deity under the Supreme god Olódùmarè who is seen as unequaled and beyond all existence. Ketu’s deity is named Orisha. Orishas controls the destiny of the people and acts as a guardian. Orishas also represent different forces in nature, foods, colors, animals, and days of the week.
In Ketu, Candomblé storytelling and animal sacrifices are important. Storytelling is expected to be done in a clear and precise way in order to be passed down to further generations. Animals such as pigs, goats, cows, sheep, and chicken are often sacrificed. Animals are seen as sacred, so they are often sacrificed as a way to transfer energy between nature, humans, and Orishas.
There was a great deal of Catholic resistance due to the belief that the religion was devil's work. Slaves often incorporated Catholic Saints in order to keep their practices a secret. Catholics wanted to slaves to convert to their religion and feared retaliation if slaves became too independent.
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