Bahian Fetishism

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A Barobyi fetishist priest, 1872

Bahian Fetishism is an umbrella term used to describe the pre-Irfanic animistic belief systems of the peoples of Bahia. Despite a lack of central codified texts or a unified clergy, the similarities between the religious practices of the subcontinent allow for a general classification. Bahian fetishism has also been referred to as Bahian Badi in some academic circles, due to Bahia's geographic proximity to Dezevau and the similarities in several religious practices, however this theory has been mostly discredited in favour of a shared origin in west Coian paganism. As suggested by the name, the defining trait of pre-contact Bahian religion is fetishism, a belief that certain objects possess supernatural power. This is primarily power derided from gods or nature itself. A belief in nature spirits and, often, multiple gods, is widespread amongst belief systems classified as Bahian Fetishism.

Fetishism was the original religious system of Bahia and played a core role in the development of the Saretic System which defined Bahian society until the Bahian Consolidation. During the consolidation, Fetishism was supplanted by Irfan in most of northern and western Bahia. It remained the dominant religion in the area under the Rwizi Empire, but with the Toubacterie Fetishism was prosecuted by the Euclean colonisers. Fetishism played a key role in the Sougoulic uprisings in Masamongo, and in the aftermath the faith was all but wiped out. Nowadays, the Fetishist population in Bahia is minimal. Despite this, Fetishist practice has led to significant influences on the practice of Irfan and Sotirianism in Bahia and amongst the diaspora.






A shrine in Rwizikuru, 2008

The two main gods worshipped among Rwizi fetishists were Mwari, who was worshipped as the god of creation, birth, fertility, destiny, and the rains, while Mhandu was worshipped as the god of destruction, death, drought, disease, and war, although there were numerous other deities worshipped at a local level, with anthropologists speculating they may have been ancestors of an entire village. However, the gods could not be asked to do things directly: instead, Rwizi fetishists had to ask their ancestor spirits to intercede on their behalf, in order to ensure a favourable outcome. If someone tries to get the attention of a god without having their ancestors intercede on their behalf, that person was believed to be cursed by Mhandu.

One's ancestor spirits were worshipped at shrines (Rwizi: rutumba), with offerings being left for the ancestors. Usually, the offerings consist of rice and sadza, but it is not uncommon for goats to be sacrificed to the ancestors in order to ensure that the request is fulfilled. However, the higher one's position is in the caste system, the more extravagant the offerings tend to be, as not giving sufficient offerings to one's ancestors would cause harm to be inflicted upon the offender. Thus, in a case of disease, one requests that their ancestors intercede to Mhandu to get him to stop harming their family. However, the ancestors can only intercede for as long as someone remembers them: once the last person to remember their existence dies, the ancestor spirit is returned to the world, where they reincarnate as another being. Shrines were generally placed near where bodies were buried.

Rwizi fetishists are expected to help Mwari manage the land: to this end, they must respect their elders, raise their children in a proper manner, being generous to other people, provide hospitality to guests, and to exhibit honesty, courageousness, and trustworthiness.





According to Rwizikuran cosmology, the universe, the gods, the plants, and the animals were created by Mwari ex nihilo. Mwari blessed the lands with rain, so that plants may grow to be consumed by the animals, and the animals were blessed so that they would be as fertile as the lands. As time progressed, despite the natural order, the amount of animals and plants proliferated to such a degree that the "lands and seas" were "infested" by animals and plants, even though old animals and plants died, which led to Mwari to create humanity, in order to prevent Mhandu from destroying life.

From the first forty men, ten were sent to the north, ten to the west, ten to the south, and ten to the east, each with a task to reduce the numbers of animals and plants to a manageable size. However, as time progressed, it became clear that forty men were not enough to control the proliferation of nature, requiring Mwari to create a group of forty women, sent to where the men were. This enabled human reproduction, and the beginning of population growth.

Within several generations, it became clear that humanity would contribute to the same problems that the plants and animals were: to deter this, Mwari made humans mortal. This led to older human beings becoming spirits, who were venerated by their descendants, and would intercede to Mwari on behalf of their descendants, in order to achieve a more favourable outcome, given Mwari is believed to control the destiny of everything, from fortune to journeys, to politics and religion. Occasionally, spirits will descend down to the world, where they will assume animal forms, usually snakes for commoners, and elephants for chiefs.

It is believed that the world will end when humanity "abdicates" their role given to them by Mwari, as Mhandu will bring drought and disease, which would kill plants, animals, and humans. As this is believed to be gradual, humans will fight each other for whatever resources were left, further weakening the world at large, until ultimately, after a pyrrhic victory by "the strongest," the last humans, plants, and animals die from thirst and/or starvation.