Festa do Divino (Feast of the Holy Ghost)

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This is an old Catholic celebration - brought over from Portugal in the eighteenth century - that is still very much alive in the colonial town of Paraty, on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro. It takes place 50 days after Easter and lasts for a whole week, beginning with food preparations that involve the entire population of Paraty and culminating with a procession and the election of the new "festeiro" (or "festeira"), the person who'll be in charge of the following year's celebrations. It's the most important folkloric festival in town and attracts huge crowds of tourists.

As part of the festivities, a young boy is crowned "prince" and bags of sweets are given to all children; meals of meat are cooked in homes and distributed to the needy, and there are processions of Holy Ghost Flags and folkloric dances in the streets every day.

The festa do Divino in the small town of Pirenópolis in the state of Goiás attracts large crowds every year. The celebrations culminate in the famous "cavalhadas," a recreation of battles between Christians and Moors, with men in elaborate customs on horseback. We brought back a small figurine (see photo on the left) and a beautiful print.

The Holy Ghost is also celebrated in the state of Maranhão, in the cities of Alcântara and São Luis, and in some suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, where the tradition is still very strong.  We found the book, "Divino Toque do Maranhão," when we visited an exhibition in Rio about the festa do Divino in both states. It's about the women drummers called "caixeiras," (see photo above) who play such an important role in the festivities, and the relationship between this Catholic festival and local Afro-Brazilian cults.

Music & Folklore