Patron Saint of Slaves
Saint Anastasia is still worshipped by a secret sect of Catholicism in Brazil today. There are many versions of her story, as is often the case with oral history, but some details emerge again and again. Among them:
- She was of the Bantu people who came to Brazil on a slave ship from the Congo in 1740.
- She was very young and very beautiful. A plantation owner bought her as a gift for his son.
- She violently and loudly resisted her new master, screaming and fighting hard against the rape.
- Her punishment was to be muzzled for the rest of her life, the perforated iron plate over her mouth being removed only for feeding.
- She was kept muzzled as a sex slave until she died at the age of 82 or 83 (in a country where the average life expectancy of a kidnapped African was 4 or 7 years, depending on the region.)
- The master's wife was jealous of Anastasia's beauty and put a heavy iron collar on her. It's also said that the wife cut off Anastasia's nipples to disfigure her beautiful breasts for fear her husband would fall in love with Anastasia.
- Still others say she was muzzled, not for fighting the rape, but for teaching the Old African religion and openly rejecting Catholicism imposed on the slaves.
- She is always depicted with dark black skin, blue eyes and a heart-shaped head, her skull deformed by the muzzle that was put on her in her youth.
- She died in Rio de Janeiro and was buried under the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and the Brotherhood of Saint Benedict of the Black Man. (The Black church founded in 1639 and finished in 1737, which still stands on Rua Uruguaiana in downtown Rio de Janeiro.) The church was completely destroyed in a fire in 1967, at which point the Catholic Church declared that no remains were found and that Anastasia was a mythical figure who had never existed. The Church banned her image and her cult.
- Her cult went underground in 1968 and continues to worship her and recognize her as The Patron Saint of Slaves everywhere.