If you’ve ever wondered where Pelourinho vendors get their fitas (colored ribbons), look no further than the 18th-century Igreja NS do Bonfim. Fitas are a souvenir of the church and have come to symbolize Bahia itself. Bonfim’s fame derives from its power to effect miraculous cures, which has transformed it from a rather ordinary church into a popular shrine.
In the Sala dos Milagres (Room of Miracles) on the right side of the church, devotees leave photos, letters and ex votos – wax replicas of body parts representing those that were cured or need curing.
Due to Candomblistas’ syncretization of Jesus Christ (Nosso Senhor do Bonfim) with Oxalá, their highest deity, Bonfim is their most important church. Huge services are held here on Fridays, Oxalá’s favorite day of the week.
If you tie a fita around your wrist, you are making a commitment that lasts for months. With each of the three knots a wish is made, which will come true by the time the fita falls off. Cutting it off is inviting doom.
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