Monday, April 21, 2008


Saturnino singing a hymn after a spiritual work in Vila Fortaleza

It is often said that the Santo Daime religion is based on a musical doctrine rather than a written text that is codified and frozen as a book. But what does it mean to have a musical doctrine?

That's a really difficult question to answer, so I won't even try. But I would like to share some glimpses that I captured with my camera
at Flor do Ceu during the February 2008 spiritual retreat in Santa Luzia, Minas Gerais.

My friend José Murilo has written a short treatise on the topic of a musical doctrine in which he points out that although receiving songs or musical calls is a common ayahuasca and shamanic experience, it has also acquired
in the Santo Daime the additional qualities of community-building -- moving level-by-level from an experience of great personal meaning into relationships, then into a broader sharing or learning from one another and finally into a ritualized ceremonial form. Thus, the hymns are often a vehicle for carrying the force of the forest from the hinterland to the cities and vice versa. Through sharing and performing music, relationships are built and harmonies are established that create a collective force or synergy that is much larger than any of the individuals involved and more than a mere "sum of the parts".

Here is Zuleide, who was in charge of the kitchen at this year's gathering, singing while she works. Indeed, it seems to me that Zuleide spends most of her awake hours, singing and working with indefatigable good energy. It was common to find her alone in the kitchen firm in her work while singing and perhaps floating through her own beautiful thoughts and memories. On this day, I asked if I could run some video while she worked. I later took the liberty of inserting a few images that "might have crossed her mind."

Geri and Gerismar are sons of Zuleide. They travel with the Luiz Mendes family as the musicians of the comitiva. Even though they know the hymns "backwards and inside out" they practice nearly every day, continuously perfectly their styles of working together. The occasion of the brothers practicing draws others to the area like bees to honey.

Often while traveling to other churches there will be a special rehearsal to share the local hymns with the visitors from the forest. In this way, the doctrine keeps evolving in all directions based on a sharing of music. Here is the comitiva gathered together to learn the hymns of Ademir who is a main musician at Flor do Ceu. It's a real treat hearing the way Jacequeline from Belgium, the comitiva from Amazônia and the folks from Minais Gerais, Europe and the USA are evolving the musical doctrine together. (There are two hymns pieced together in the video below and the words are about Fortaleza.)

In the end, all of this musical relationship-building will become a formalized ritual experience in which voices, bodies, musical instruments and teachings build a perfection of performance that transcends any individual.

The hymn, received by Saturnino, is about Pequenininho -- the tiny one -- and this is what it says.

Tiny One, Tiny One
Tiny One in order to follow the way

Great in joy
Great in truth
Great in harmony
Great in humility

Tiny One, Tiny One
Tiny One in order to follow the way

Great in firmness
Great in love
Great in certainty
Of our Father Creator

Tiny One, Tiny One
Tiny One in order to follow the way

NOTE: Perhaps you noticed some new techniques and an improved resolution in these videos? That's because my good friend Juba (Luis Eduardo Pomar) took time out of his busy schedule to teach me some tricks about video editing. Thank you Juba! Be sure to visit his visual blog. It's a real treat.


débora said...

My dear Lu xuxu,
I love your work!!!!!!!!!
I want to see more about Flor do Céu...

Anonymous said...


Marco A. said...

Hey Lou, great job!

I ll provide you a translation soon...

take care,