Candomblé scam alert


It has come to our attention – that as more and more Brazilians arrive in the US – many have a golden opportunity to milk the pockets of the unwary faithful searching for new Orisha experiences – and since many of the hoodwinked are familiar only with the structure and function of either Lukumi or traditional Ifa – they haven’t got a clue about how to know if a Brazilian who claims to be initiated in Candomble really is a priest (since all initiates aren’t priests in the Lukumi sense of the term)  nor do they have a clue about how to verify any and all claims.


We don’t mean to infer by posting this that Brazilians themselves are all scammers – since there are many well known legitimate priests in the US who are also known by the Brazilian community in Brazil – we are only attempting to send out an alert about those who are trying to pull a fast one.  Lukumis have plenty home-grown Orisha charlatans (but the internet is already beginning to put a cramp in their style).  Americans are however quite naïve about things Brazilian – that relate to Candomble and Umbanda (which are confused – more on that later)


We are sharing this information – to alert the US Orisha community to be careful and to ask questions of those people who claim to be Candomblé priests. 




The only person who can initiate someone to the different priesthoods of Candomblé (which itself is a made up term covering a wide range of specific “nations”) is an Iyalorisha or Babalorisha (or Pai or Mae de Santo).  There are not two godparents (like in Lukumi), only one. 


Not all Brazilian initiates have the path to become Pai or Mae de Santo.

Let us repeat that - Not all Brazilian initiates have the path to become Pai or Mae de Santo.  In fact most don’t.  And many initiates become either Ogans or Ekedis.




The few that do have (based on divination and specific initiation) the path to ultimately become Pai or Mae de Santo are the ONLY priests who can do divination with shells. 

Before they can function as adult priests – they have to complete a 7 year obligation to their Orisha.  This obligation may not get done till they have 15 or 20 years of initiation.  Before they can open a terreiro – they must have their Pai or Mae – or elder if the godparent is not living, come and plant the ache of their lineage in the ground of the new terreiro, and consecrate the communal Orishas – which gives them the license for it to function.    The growth process is not rapid – for they must then initiate other priests necessary for the running of the ile. 


It would be extremely difficult for someone to be initiated into Candomble here in the US – since you need a lot of priests – who perform different functions – for that to occur.  This may happen in the future here, but isn’t possible now. 


Iyawos (those people who actually become possessed) are the ONLY priests who can ultimately become Pai or Mae de Santo.  Not all Iyawos however have been given the road to open a house in the future. 


Those Iyawos who have not done their obligation of 7 years cannot have godchildren – nor can they initiate others – nor can they read with dillogun (shells), nor can they do anything, nor can they have their Orishas at their home, nor can they throw Obi etc. 


Ogans and Ekedis are respected priests – however they do not get mounted – nor can they crown (initiate) others.  Nor can they divine.  They have other functions in an ile.

Many Ogans are respected ritual drummers.  Many Ekedis run the daily functions of the ile.  They are considered to be elders as soon as they are initiated and are addressed as “Mae” and “Pai” but they are NOT Pai or Mae de SANTO. 


ALL initiates including Maes and Pais de Santo should be able to name their nation, lineage, house descendancy.


For example they should be able to say something like “I’m of the Ketu nation, descended from Gantois, son of so and so, grandson of so and so” – up to the person who established Gantois.   They should be able to say “my outing was on such and such day”, with the names of community witnesses. 


This is the way that Brazilians check the legitimacy of priests.  We here in the US should do the same.


In Candomblé one only salutes – foribales, their own elders (different from Lukumi) and only people who are over 7!


There are many ways to identify an elder in Brazil – certain beads, certain names, certain clothing, length of skirt, embroidery etc – but folks here in the US don’t know the cues and therefore are clueless.  Wearing a Bahiana dress doesn’t mean a person is even in the religion – this is the traditional dress of women from Bahia .  Wearing beads doesn’t mean the person is a priest (just like Lukumi). 


Nor do beads mean they are in Candomble, since Umbanda practitioners also wear beads (just like some Espiritistas).  Candomble does not do Misas.  Umbanda does “giras”. 

Neither Candomble nor Umbanda uses the word “Padrino” or “Madrina” nor the term “godchild or ahijado”.


So – how do you check someone out? 


Contact legitimate priests – if they say the terreiro that they are supposedly from is in either Sao Paulo or Rio – contact Mae Maria de Oxala who participates and moderates several online forums.


If the person says they are from Bahia – there are well- known priests initiated in Bahia here in the US,  like Manny Vega, Pai Paulo Bispo in NY or Gamo da Paz in CA. 


If they say they are from other parts of Brazil contact Mae Maria – and also do a search on Orkut which has a huge Brazilian Candomble presence.  Or do a google search – most terreiros have websites. 


But do check.  Or your checkbook may be emptied.


Respectfully submitted,


Mae Maria & Denise