Nazaré, Maria Escolástica Da Conceição (1894–1986)

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Nazaré, Maria Escolástica Da Conceição (1894–1986)

Brazilian spiritual leader. Name variations: Mãe (means mother) Menininha do Gantois or Mother Menininha; Mãe Menininha do Gantois; Maria Escolastica Da Conceião Nazare or Maria Escolástica da Conceição Nazareth. Born Feb 10, 1894, in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil; died Aug 13, 1986, in Salvador; dau. of Joaquim de Assunc'ão and Maria da Glória (spiritual leader); thought to be descended from noble Nigerian lineage; m. Alvaro MacDowell de Oliveira (lawyer); children: 2 daughters, including Cleusa Millet (c. 1931–1998, spiritual leader).

Beloved Afro-Brazilian spiritual leader who sought to preserve cultural identity of Afro-Bahian people, was initiated into candomble (term used for Afro-Brazilian religion) at 8 months; at 28, assumed leadership position of iyalorixá (mother-of-saint) in Alto do Gantois terreiro (sacred space for candomble ceremonies), following footsteps of mother, grandmother and great-grandmother; experienced police persecution of religious practice (1920s–30s), but managed to skirt restrictions and continue to celebrate candomble; opened up terriero and received visits from artists, intellectuals and politicians after 1945, when Brazilian society began to liberalize and democratize and repression of Afro-Brazilian religion lifted; became most famous iyalorixá of Bahia region of Brazil; did not permit commercialization and thus degradation of candomble in Alto do Gantois terreiro, gaining respect for fidelity to origins; was skilled at using sacred divining shells and sought out by many for advice; opposed to use of spiritual power to do evil; celebrated 50th anniversary of Alto do Gantois terreiro with massive gathering, attracting Brazilians and foreigners from all walks of life, including writers, musicians and artists such as Jorge Amado and Mário Cravo; died after long illness (1986); popularity was such that 3 official days of mourning were decreed by government. Honored when Brazilian Mail and Telegraph Corporation placed her image on stamp (1994).

See also Caetano Veloso, et al., eds., Memorial Mãe Menininha do Gantois (Fundação Cultural do Estado da Bahia, 1993).

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Nazaré, Maria Escolástica Da Conceição (1894–1986)

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