Note from BW of Brazil: The death of one of Brazil’s most important religious leaders last week was rife with controversy. It’s a shame when a person dies and his or her passing can’t a peaceful process because of disputes and ill comments. Bu this is exactly what went down with the passing of Mãe Stella, the most important religious leader of the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé, at age 93, in Bahia. Her death was marked by a dispute between her family and her partner, that battled over where her remains would buried. Then there was the situation of the reactions and comments by people who demonized the religion. As has been reported in a number of previous posts, Candomblé, a religion of African origin, has always been a target of attacks in Brazil, both the governments as well as by adherents of other religions, most notably, Evangelicals.
When Mãe Stella passed away last week, not only did take advantage of the opportunity to make disparaging remarks about the religion, but negative comments were also made about Mãe Stella’s sexual orientation. A known lesbian in a relationship for several years, her life was an open target. Instagram comments such as “one less macumbeiro” and “satan is really brazen” were written on profiles of people defining themselves as Evangelicals. Many of the numerous comments would later be deleted. The term ‘macumbeiro’ is a pejorative term somewhat similar to calling someone a follower of ‘voodoo’ or witchcraft. Mãe Stella was married to psychologist Graziela Domini, 55.
“Now I understand the considerable increase in the number of homosexuals, I think it has to do with the exchange of the orixás in the making of the saint… It places a female entity in the man’s head and a male entity in the woman’s head. He starts to ‘feel’ like a woman and she starts to feel like a man,” wrote an Internet user. Other web surfers criticized the stances of the intolerance and made denunciations on the social network.
Below is a brief summary of the dispute over the religious leader’s burial place and eventual funeral.
Terreiro members wanted the burial of Mãe Stella in the Bahian capital of Salvador; her partner had announced her burial in the city of Nazaré
There was impasse between the family and partner of the ialorixá. In 2017, Mãe Stella went to live in the Bahian recôncavo region after a disagreement between filhos de santo (devotees/holy children) and Graziela Dhomini.
Courtesy of G1
The burial of Mãe Stella of Oxóssi was the target of a deadlock between relatives of the ialorixá and her partner.
The children of Mother Stella and members of the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá terreiro (temple of worship), which was commanded by her, want the body of the ialorixá (priestess), who died on Thursday, December 27th, at age 93, to be brought to Salvador, the city where the terreiro operates. Graziela Dhomini, her partner, announced her burial to be 4:00 pm on Friday, in Nazaré, Bahia, where she lived with Mãe Stella.
The wake was being held in the City Council of Nazaré since the morning of last Friday.
According to Ribamar Daniel, president of the Sociedade Cruz Santa do Mãe Stella needed undergo rituals of the camdomblé religion, before being buried.
“The family wants the body to come [to Salvador] to do the obligations, internal rituals, and precepts that nobody knows. We want her to have a dignified burial,” he said.
According to Ribamar, Mãe Stella’s sister and nephew filed a lawsuit to demand that the body of the ialorixá be brought to Salvador, but there was still no decision on the case. At press time there was still no confirmation as to the information on the receipt of the action with the Courts.
Graziela said that it was Mãe Stella’s will to be buried in Nazaré. She further stated that she hadn’t received any judicial determination. “It’s just the body. She inside of me. A person from the terreiro approached and asked if he could sing for her, and of course I wouldn’t deny, but about burial I am respecting her desire,” she said.
Contact was also made with Graziela’s lawyer, who said he was following the case, but emphasized that there was no ruling. The report also tried to talk to Mãe Stella’s nephew, but he hadn’t answered or returned the calls.
Mãe Stella de Oxóssi left the terreiro in the neighborhood of Cabula in the Bahian capital in 2017, and the act generated a conflict between Graziela and members of the temple. Since then, Mãe Stella had lived in Nazaré.
Crowd accompanies burial of Mãe Stella de Oxóssi in Salvador
Body was taken to Jardim da Saudade cemetery after a procession through the streets of São Gonçalo do Retiro. The Ialorixá was to be buried in Nazaré, in the Bahian recôncavo region, but was taken to the capital after a judicial decision.
Mãe Stella de Oxóss was buried at 11:30 am (12:30 pm Brasília time) on Saturday (29) at the Jardim da Saudade cemetery in Salvador. The body of the ialorixá, considered one of the most important in the country, was taken to the place after a procession that left the Ilê Opô Ajonjá Terreiro, in São Gonçalo do Retiro, through the streets of the neighborhood.
A crowd attended the ceremony. White dresses, as the tradition of the religion commands, filhos e filhas de santo (holy sons and daughters)of the religious temple led by the ialorixá, in addition to representatives of terreiro brethren, accompanied the last tributes.
Upon arriving at the cemetery, Mãe Stella’s body was taken to one of the chapels, but remained for a short period, taken by friends, family and admirers of the religious leaders. Soon after, the burial ceremony began.
The ialorixá was buried to the sound of the atabaques (drums) and the traditional songs of candomblé. After lowering the coffin, a wooden board and dozens of flowers were placed on it. Then the filhos e filhas de santo embraced in a moment of absolute silence, in respect to the memory of Mãe Stella. Before they leaving, they lit candles by the side of the grave.
The vice mayor, Bruno Reis, the rector of the Federal University of Bahia (Ufba), João Carlos Salles, Senator Lídice da Mata and singer Tonho Matéria participated in the ceremony.
The ialorixá was to be buried in the city of Nazaré, in the Recôncavo region of Bahia, but the burial was transferred to the Bahian capital after a decision by the Courts. The lawsuit was prompted by a deadlock between Mãe Stella’s partner, Graziela Dhomini, 56, and the filhos de santo of the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá terreiro, founded by the family of the religious leader.
The decision of the Justice was released on Friday afternoon (28), during the wake of the ialorixá, realized in Nazaré’s city council. The ceremony was open to the public and included the participation of the filhos de santo, who took the body from the location after becoming aware of the judicial determination. At the location, the weather got tense.
Mãe Stella’s body was taken from the wake directly to Salvador. Upon arriving in the capital of Bahia, he was taken to a funeral home and then transferred to the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá terreiro, in the neighborhood of São Gonçalo do Retiro. At the site, the filhos de santo participated in a ceremony in honor of the ialorixá.
According to Ribamar Daniel, president of the Sociedade Cruz Santa do Afonjá, responsible for the maintenance of the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá terreiro, Mãe Stella’s burial was as ordered by the tradition of religion.
“We [the terreiro community] are immensely gratified by what happened, because our ialorixá could never fail to receive an homage worthy of this, of her importance. This homage is glorious, it is an homage to any filho de santo born in the religions of the orixás [and could not be different with an ialorixá]. Mãe Stella reached the top of the candomblé hierarchy, becoming the most important ialorixá in Brazil, perhaps in the world. She is known throughout the world,” said Ribamar.
Graziela didn’t attend the funeral. On the phone, she said she wasn’t going to compromise with something Mãe Stella did not want.
“In the face of what they did with Mãe Stella’s body, with the request she made [to be buried in Nazaré], would I be content with this? Why did they do that (transfer the body)? What law allows this? Eu sou a esposa dela (I am her wife), with the proxies all in my hand, with her audios and videos saying that she wanted to be buried here [Nazaré], and I was not heard,” she said.
With the death of the ialorixá, the terreiro will undergo a series of rites, such as the Axexê, a ceremony in the religion after a funeral. According to Urandir Vasconcelos, holy nephew of Mãe Stella, the ritual marks the passage from the earth to the sky.
“[Axexê] begins today and continues for another seven days in a row. Axexê is the passage of the earth to the sky, to meet with Olorum, the supreme god. It is a ritual made so that the passage is in a calm and dignified way,” said Urandir.
“The initiates of the mystery never die. Because of her being an ialorixá, the matriarch of the terreiro, during the next week obligations will be made, when her name will be invoked again to the earth to receive the obligations,” added Diego Oliveira, filho de santo of the Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá terreiro.
Mother Stella died at age 93 on Thursday (27) at the INCAR Hospital in Santo Antônio de Jesus, also in the Bahia Recôncavo region, where she had been hospitalized since December 14, when she was admitted with an infection.
Since 2017, Mãe Stella lived in the city of Nazaré, which is about 130 miles from Salvador. She moved from Salvador to there because of the disagreement between the filhos de santo and her companion, Graziela.
With the death of the ialorixá, the Ilê Axé Opó Afonja terreiro will be closed for a year, in mourning. In this period, there will be no cults or festivities, according to which the candomblé tradition determines whenever an ialorixá or a babalorixá (priest) dies.
Only at the end of 2019 will the terreiro have a new ialorixá. The substitution will be determined by the orixás, with a jogo de búzios (cowrie-shell divination). The leadership is given to a woman because Ilê Axé Opó Afonjá is a house of feminine tradition.