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Holy Harlots

Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil

Kelly E. Hayes (Author)


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Holy Harlots examines the intersections of social marginality, morality, and magic in contemporary Brazil by analyzing the beliefs and religious practices related to the Afro-Brazilian spirit entity Pomba Gira. Said to be the disembodied spirit of an unruly harlot, Pomba Gira is a controversial figure in Brazil. Devotees maintain that Pomba Gira possesses an intimate knowledge of human affairs and the mystical power to intervene in the human world. Others view this entity more ambivalently. Kelly E. Hayes provides an intimate and engaging account of the intricate relationship between Pomba Gira and one of her devotees, Nazaré da Silva. Combining Nazaré’s spiritual biography with analysis of the gender politics and violence that shapes life on the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, Hayes highlights Pomba Gira’s role in the rivalries, relationships, and struggles of everyday life in urban Brazil.

A DVD of the film Slaves of the Saints is included.
Kelly E. Hayes is Assistant Professor of Religion at Indiana University.
“A book outside of the box that will evoke the Pomba Gira in all its readers.”—Nacla/Report On The Americas
“A clearly written and exciting book, filled with major insights, which will inspire further scholarship.”—Frank A. Salamone Missiology
"Holy Harlots is an engaging and much needed exploration of the Queen of the Catacombs and the Lady of the Raggedy Skirt..."—Stephen C. Wehmeyer Western Folklore
"An enthralling account of the spirits of the street, whose stories are as complex as those of their human hosts. Long ignored both by governments and by scholars, here these spirits and persons finally acquire full rights to a rich representation. There is no book quite like it." —Paul Christopher Johnson, author of Secrets, Gossip and Gods: The Transformation of Brazilian Candomblé and Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa

"Hayes constructs a cogent and passionate account that masterfully weaves the daily struggles, hopes, and resilience of women living in a favela with keen, unassuming, and often witty insights about fieldwork and the ethnographic encounter." —Raquel Romberg, author of Healing Dramas: Divination and Magic in Modern Puerto Rico

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