Where’s the Trono?
A few years ago I went to a religious movie night hosted by a Lukumi Iyalorisha friend of mine. We watched documentaries about both Lukumi and Candomblé, and were able to do a little comparative study through them to learn about each religion.
One of the videos we saw was a drumming for Iemanja by Doté Luis de Iansã (a clip of the video is at the end of this article). After watching for a just a few minutes, someone asked, “So, where’s the trono?” In Lukumi, the trono (throne) is an altar that serves as the focal point of a drumming. Orisha vessels, food offerings, candles, and flowers typically make up a trono; at the drumming commemorating an initiation, the Iyawo is on the trono as well. When people arrive they salute the trono. When an Orisha arrives, they salute the trono too. In Lukumi, the trono is essential during a drumming. I completely understood the origins of the question.
In Candomblé, however, we have other focal points and norms. Because we have terreiros – a constant sacred space – the Orisha vessels stay in their rooms or houses (depending on the size of the terreiro) during feasts. In order to interact with the vessels, one must be both physically and spiritually clean (resting one’s body, taking an herbal bath, etc.), so it wouldn’t be feasible to have the vessels out in the middle of a crowd that has just come off of the street.
We don’t set up tronos because the Orisha are set up in their rooms. During a feast, we come to share in the axé of the ile by being in the presence of Orixá. A feast is typically part of a cycle of offering. Usually, a sacrifice was made to an Orixá prior to the feast, and the feast is the time for us to invite the Orixá to dance among us and share their blessings. At any candomblé feast, several Orixá will appear and stick around for a while.
The focal points in Candomblé are the Orisha (either rooms or houses), the ariaxé, and the atabaque (drums). During a Xire, participants will salute those spaces; when an Orisha arrives they will also salute those spaces as well. Each Orisha tradition has designated sacred spaces and rules for interacting with and/or saluting them. At a Xire, you’ll likely see lots of flowers, a beautiful cake, souvenirs, and other decorations, but you won’t see a trono because it’s not a part of the Candomblé tradition.
The video below is of a Iemanja feast. The clip begins with singing for Xango, then Iemanja arrives. She dances for a while, goes away and returns dressed in Iemanja’s clothes. This particular ile isn’t decorated as usual, because there are curtains on the wall to be able to portray background imagery for the video.