The calungas, or dolls, of the maracatu Photo: Pio Figueiroa

One of the sacred elements of the Maracatu is the doll, called Calunga, and also boneca (doll). This element is always present in the courts of the African Nations, from which originated our Maracatu. 

Even until today, the Calunga is part of the Maracatu ritual and, like so many other sacred objects - axés, embodies the strength of the group's ancestors. Sacred songs are sung in honor of the Calunga within the headquarters of the group, at the moment the Calunga is taken down from the altar by the female dance leader. It is then passed to the hands of the queen, who then passes it to the nearest baiana2 woman. And thus, it is passed round from hand to hand, until it returns to the hands of the female sovereign. 

In the Elephant Maracatu, in a research carried out by the musicologist Guerra Peixe, between 1949-1952 , three Calungas featured most heavily: Emilia, Luis and Leopoldina.

A boneca é de cera      The doll is made of wax
É de cera e madeira     Of wax and wood
A boneca é de cera      The doll is made of wax
É de cera e madeira     Of wax and wood

The most attention was dedicated to the Calunga - Emilia. The first sacred song, mentioned above, was dedicated to her, during the ceremony also denominated "the dance of the doll". "The most powerful sacred songs were also dedicated to her - the most important doll, which was carried to the door of the church of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is with this doll that the Elephant Maracatu dances at the entrance of the African religious centers (centers dedicated to shango - God of lightning and thunder), which they visit. It is with these songs, offered to Emilia, that the musicians execute the rhythm of Luanda - the beat 'to save the dead' or eguns". 3 

"Luis", according to Guerra Peixe, represents "an African king" and is consequently considered the "King of the Congo" by the members of the group. This is certainly coherent with the recent interpretations of Alberto da Costa e Silva (op. cit.). He makes a clear reference to the very beginnings of these festivities, coinciding with the belief that the powers of the Calunga have a direct link to their African ancestors, as illustrated in the lines of this hymn: 
"A bandêra é brasilêra/ Nosso reis veio de Luanda / Ôi, viva Dona Emília / Princesa Pernambucana"               "The flag is Brazilian/ Our king comes from Luanda / Long live Emilia / Princess of Pernambuco".

SILVA, Alberto da Costa e. A enxada e a lança - A África antes dos portugueses. (The spade and the spear - Africa before the Portuguse) Rio: Nova Fronteira, 1992.
Broadly speaking, it is a woman who originates from the State of Bahia, and is a commonly used carnival female symbol. These women wear the traditional African costume still to be found in Salvador, Bahia.                                                                                         3GUERRA-PEIXE, César. in Maracatus do Recife. (The Maracatus of Recife) Prefácio de Leonardo Dantas Silva. Recife: Fundação de Cultura, 1981. 172 p. il.(Coleção Recife, v. 14).