Abstract

Afro-Catholic syncretism has predominantly been analyzed through the metaphor of a mask in which African slaves ingeniously employed the traditions of Catholic saints to disguise their worship of African deities, ensuring the preservation of their traditions. The study of Brazilian Candomblé—primarily the work of Roger Bastide—has arguably been the most influential in developing this theory. However, this model assumes a Eurocentric framework of discrete, mutually exclusive religions. This article builds on and modifies the mask theory by applying indigenous Yoruba perspectives on cosmology, ontology, interreligious interactions, and masks as traditions that reveal truths more than disguise them. It draws on ethnographic research in Brazil and Nigeria with specialists and practitioners in orişa/orixa traditions and Catholicism. While Westerners may have only seen a mask that camouflaged African deities, Africans themselves created masks that maintained their traditions and revealed their deities, engaging in deep interreligious theology.

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