1780. The Recôncavo, Bahia. African-born slaves go to the forest to worship through music and dance. In chapter 32 of my novel  I have attempted an imaginative reconstruction of the origins of Candomblé.

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Judith Gleason is the author of a remarkable (and, regrettably, out of print) novel, called Agotime, Her LegendAgotime tells the story of the eponymous historical queen of Dahomey who, on the death of her husband, is enslaved and shipped to Brazil.  Highly recommended to all with an interest in Candomblé.

I did a search on Judith Gleason at the Amazon site and this is what it turned up, in addition to Agotime.MH

This Africa, 1965

Orisha: The Gods of Yorubaland, 1971

Santeria, Bronx, 1975

Leaf and Bone : African Praise-Poems, Judith Gleason (Editor), published 1980 and 1994

A recitation of Ifa, oracle of the Yoruba

Oya : In Praise of an African Goddess, 1992

There is a review of only the last of these, which reads as follows: from USA , June 21, 1998

Very good and interesting reading. Hepan Heyi !!

This is the best book written on the matter of the goddess Oya. I am an Oya priestess and I have not only found this book to be very illustrative, it contains prayers, patakis, and a totally different version of the "Oya" then the one the western world has attempted to illustrate.

The author is very well informed and the context is well written.

However, I would have given it a higher rating should the author not have gone into the lengthy discussion of Oya's role in the winds and atmosphere. Although the author's information on the matter is quite good and informative, I would have liked to have seen more context on the works, principals and patakis of Oya than a lengthy discussion on her role in the winds and atmosphere.

Nonetheless, I would recommend this book to any Oya priest/ess or follower , student, or practicioner of the Yoruba religion.
H-NET List for African History and Culture [H-AFRICA@H-NET.MSU.EDU]
Date:   Fri, 05 Nov 1999
From:   Mamaissii Dansi Hounon
"Wonders of the African World": Reply

As an initiated and practicing Mami Wata and Vodoun priestess, with direct ancestral roots in this particular branch of African religion, I too found Gates' treatment of West African Vodoun to be both condescending, and stereotypical of how most in the world have been socialized to view African Traditional Religions and cosmology.

What is more tragic, is that someone of Gates' professional stature, going to Africa, and publicly undermining the traditional spiritual treatment by the "fetish" priest ( i.e., "I think he might have malaria" . . . as oppose to a "spirit" foundation for the client's illness), and his atrocious treatment of West African Vodoun, (as superstitious "magic" focused primarily on debauchery),  has made our job, and attempt at gaining respect and visibility even more difficult.

Thousands (if not millions) of Africans brought to the "New World" as slaves were threatened, beaten, maimed, tortured, murdered and legally prohibited from practicing  their African religions, (i.e., honoring their gods and ancestors) in an orchestrated attempt to disconnect and "de-africanize" them from the vital source of their profound connection to their homeland.

The religious persecution of Africans is the most underreported crime in the annals of slave, colonial and modern history.  It is spuriously unquestioned, and even acceptable dogma for some to proclaim  that perhaps our ancestors' "conversion" to Christianity was, though forced, a lamentable necessity, and is even viewed as something "good" that evolved from slavery.

Additionally, today, African Traditional Religions are still one of the only major, ancient spiritual traditions that are fair game for horrific malignant, "superstitious study" and debasement by many a "researcher" and popular Western culture. "Fortunately,"  they have Gates to thanks for validating that even he found them "interestingly trivial,"  and unworthy of serious examination, respect and dignity.


Gbadegesin, Segun, African Philosophy: Traditional Yoruba Philosophy and Contemporary African Realities.  New York: Peter Lang (1991) 

Herskovitz, Mellville J The Myth of the Negro Past Beacon

Thompson V. B., The Making of the African Diaspora in the Americas 1441-1900 Longmans

Valladares, Clarival Do Prado (ed) The Impact of African Culture on Brazil, Rio de Janeiro 1977