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Orishás : Verger and Candomblé

61915Opô Aganju, Lauro de Freitas, Brasil, 1986 - Photo Lázaro Torre"Candomblé is very interesting for me as it is a religion exalting the personality, where one can be truly him/herself, and not as the society would like one to be. For those who have something to express through the unconscious, the trance allows it to manifest itself." During his intimate contact with candomblé and the world of the Orishas, Verger as an admirer, friend and initiate (Babalaô and Oju Obá) acquires a great knowledge and is granted respect and protection. To honour the trust invested in him, he spends the rest of his life collecting legends, liturgies and ritual sequences, all scrupulously documented in his books and photographs, that will become an invaluable source of information for other researchers and followers of the cult.
"It is only in 1948, two years after my arrival in Bahia and following a long trip to Recife, Haiti and Dutch Guyana, that I started to realise the importance of candomblé and the role it plays in conferring a special dignity to the majority of the African descendants living in Bahia." It is also in 1948 that he goes for the first time to the terreiro Ilê Axé Opô Afonjá, shortly before his departure for Africa, where he is given a grant to deepen his research on the multiple links between Brazil and the Black Continent. Mãe Senhora lends his head to the god Shangô, marking the beginning of a long friendship with the members of candomblé.
In Africa, he meets with descendants of ancient kings who were at the origins of the Yoruba myths, visits sacred places, witnesses and participates in numerous rituals. Back in Bahia, he continues his apprenticeship: "What is interesting is to share people's life, to do the same things as they do and to participate without intending to understand. When one participates, things become completely different. This is what happened with me. I was living with the community at the terreiro Opô Afonjá, doing the same things as people there, without knowing why or how. I was living with them, sharing their concerns and beliefs".
Com Obarayin, Opô Aganju, Lauro de Freitas, Brasil, 1992 - Foto Marcio LimaWith Obarayin, Opô Aganju, Lauro de Freitas, Brasil, 1992 - Photo Marcio Limaio LimaBesides the Opô Afonjá, Verger frequently visits many other terreiros, such as those of Casa Branca, Joãozinho da Goméia, Joana de Ogum and Catita where he has many friends. Then a few years later he helps his friend "father of saints" Balbino Daniel de Paula to found the Opô Aganju. Until the end of his life, Verger would declare to be a sceptic devoid of "strong religious feelings", "a rationalist Frenchman who's not buying into that", but to many, the depth of his knowledge, associated to a bare lifestyle and a mysterious personality would turn him into a reference as well as an example.