Strings of beads made of plastic, glass or clay are the most common and visible material representations of the Candomblé orixás (deities) in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. At the most basic level, Candomblé beads are symbolic representations of the orixás. When they are consecrated with a bath of sacred herbs or blood from an offering, beads share in the axé—the spiritual force that resides in all living things and impregnates the entire Yoruba-Atlantic universe. With the appropriate offering, beads do more than represent the divine, they become the divine, providing their owners with a continual link to the spiritual force of the orixá and the Candomblé community. Based on extensive interviews and participant-observation, this fieldwork-based research focuses on Candomblé beads and the multiple roles they play in the lives of those who invest them with power and make them an important part of their spiritual lives. Ultimately, beads are symbols of status, protection, and affiliation with Candomblé, and to varying degrees they are recognized as such by people inside and outside of the Candomblé community.
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