Rachel E. Harding, assistant professor of Ethnic Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, gave a lecture on “A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé in Historical and Contemporary Context” in July at the Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York.
The religion known as Candomblé was first recognized in archival literature in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It cultivates the natural elements of the universe, such as bodies of water, mountains, wind and land, Harding explained. These natural elements that existed on Earth before human beings are understood as the ancestors of humans and manifestations of God and God’s energy.
“I think what many people find interesting in it is actually similar to many indigenous religions, in the sense that it’s a holistic religion,” she said. “Like many indigenous traditions around the world, there is this understanding that human beings are part of a much larger universal life force.
“A large part of day-to-day Candomblé life concerns bringing balance where there is imbalance,” Harding said. “This includes the recognition that the human body is part of the universe and a life force that ebbs and flows, and consuming herbal teas, taking baths and performing rituals that have to do with balancing individuals’ energies to maintain mental and physical stability.”
Earlier this year, Harding’s exploration of the sources and significance of women’s agencies and mysticism in the work of writer Lucille Clifton, titled “Authority, History and Everyday Mysticism in the Poetry of Lucille Clifton: A Womanist View,” appeared in Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, volume 12, no. 1.