Monday, 1 August 2011

participating in the Azorean Holy Spirit Cult…..

Due to some reasons, on the week of July 17th to July 24th I’ve participated as one of the main figures in the Azorean Holy Spirit Cult with my nephew W being the steward.

Being a brother of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of Lameirinho, W had the honour of being chosen to hold the Crown for one year. That period of time would end with a Coronation and a “Função”, where all the family and friends would participate.
Being in Canada, so far away and having a new baby to take care of (my niece was born at that time), my sister and her husband decided that the Crown would stay at my home for the year and than returned to the Brotherhood.
W was 6 years old at the time and there wasn't much that he could do...

But this was an unfinished business… so we all decided that it was time to finish it.

I guess some of you might be curious about this Cult so despite the long post and taking the risk of some get bored, I will try to explain it and showing some pictures of what we’ve done.

We, the Azoreans, were brought up revering the cult of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit Cult.
It is a cult of the people, made by the people and for the people, a religious democracy.

Linked to Franciscan mysticism and the charitable spirit of Queen St. Elizabeth of Portugal (14th c.), the Festivals of the Holy Spirit came to the Azores with the first settlers.
The invocation of the Holy Spirit at the time of the natural catastrophes that struck the archipelago and the fame of the consequent miracles, together with the hard life and isolation of the islands, all contributed to making the devotion sink deep roots and persist in the Azores although it has disappeared in Portugal mainland with rare exceptions.

Moreover, Azorean emigrants carried the devotion to Brazil, America and Africa, where the old ceremonies are now repeated in all their traditional splendour. The Holy Spirit Festivals are also held in Hawaii, where there is a large Azorean community.

The organization of the cult, despite small variations between the islands and the emigrant communities, is based on the following structures:


The Crown and Sceptre on a Plate, all silver made and also the Flag.

The Crown consists of three individual pieces. The Sceptre of the Crown is accented by a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Crown has a double significance: first, it represents the supreme dominion of the Holy Spirit and second, the Crown represents the royalty. The Plate, serving as a stand for the Crown and the Sceptre, represents the people. As a plate holds food which is given to the hungry, we are called to actively serve. Not only to be touched by God’s Holy Spirit, but to see that divine transformation into the visible reality of serving others in their spiritual, physical and emotional needs.

The Flag’s symbol is the white dove and the seven coloured ribbons, which are tied on the top of the flag, represent the seven divine gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Advise, Fortitude, Science, Piety and Fear of God.

The brotherhood

The brotherhood is the core organization of the cult. It is composed of brothers (men, women and children) who voluntarily enter and are equal in rights and duties. They have the task of organizing the festivities.

The Steward

It is one of the brothers who has been chosen to be responsible for the organization of the festivities. The choice is usually made by the withdrawal of paper tickets: a name is written, the paper wrapped and placed in a bag or hat from which the tickets are drawn by a child. Most sororities allow stewards to volunteer: they organize the festivity as a way of fulfilling their promise to receive a special grace of the Holy Spirit.

The Empire

Each fellowship is structured around an Empire of the Holy Spirit, usually a small building with distinctive architecture around which the activities of worship take place.

The architecture of Empires varies greatly from island to island.

The Coronation

The flag of the Holy Spirit and the Crown are taken to the house of the steward. Having arrived at the house of the steward, the crown is placed on a reinforced wooden throne covered with white paper and flowers that is on display all week. Before placing the crown on the throne, the sceptre is kissed, the sign of the cross is done and the forehead is touched with the sceptre. Every night, the neighbours and guests gather to recite the rosary and prayer in honour of the Divine Holy Spirit. On the following Sunday, the crown is taken again in procession to the church and are received by the parish priest at the door. The "coronation" ceremony is then held in the parish church, the crown is placed on the head of a child or adult - the "emperor" - who carries in procession the symbols of his dignity.

Our Throne

Waiting for the priest

After the Coronation

The “Função”

“Função” is a ritual meal served to a large group of guests by one of the brothers who was chosen to be steward or as a result of vote or promise. The meal consists of the Holy Spirit soup with the cooked meat, potatoes, vegetables and different pork sausages, “Alcatra” (a traditional meat dish), cornbread, bread made of water, sweet bread, wine and sometimes rice pudding. It is held on Sunday after the brother’s coronation.

At the place with the Symbols

The "Alcatra"

Rice Pudding decorated

Hubby and I

The Festivals of the Holy Spirit extend from Whit Sunday to the end of the Summer, spreading Joy all over the island.

I felt changed, it was a week full of wonderful experiences in a spiritual aura.



  1. Indeed it is a great post that gives us an insight into your culture. You look lovely & what a handsome husband you have. Nice family photo too... your sister & her husband, correct?


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