The “Prayer to Time” by Caetano Veloso and the sacred trees

The “Prayer to Time” by Caetano Veloso and the sacred trees

The serpentine fire’s dry trunk can become the cross of victory by the endura, a process that leads to rebirth.

In Brazil, the religious cult of African origin called candomblé uses a tree, the white gameleira, to symbolize one of its deities, the Iroko. This tree is considered mythical, primordial, and represents the longevity, the durability of things through the passage of time. The white gameleira inspired one of the greatest Brazilian musicians of today, Caetano Veloso, to compose one of his most beautiful songs, “Prayer to Time”. Candomblé’s belief says that in the canopy of this tree lives the sorceress of the forest and through it all the deities descended to Earth.


Like a ritual invocation, the singer repeats 80 times the word “time,” 8 times in each of the 10 stanzas. The listener is led to the sensation of circularity – like the trunk of the trees, or a song without chorus.  The melody and harmony are practically without tension points, as in oriental songs. In the first stanza, the lyrics make clear that it will be a request and in the middle of the song, the request is made:


I ask for the legitimate pleasure

And the precise movement

Time time time time

When the time is right

Time time time time


So that my spirit

Gain a defined brightness

Time time time time

And I spread benefits

Time time time time


What would be the legitimate pleasure desired by the singer, who would brighten his spirit, allowing him to distribute benefits, and who could be given to him by time? The answer is simpler than we can imagine at first glance.

The Brazilian musician is not the first nor the only one to be enchanted, to sing and to find meanings in the trees. Many myths relate the history of man to trees, like the tree of Paradise.

In the Latin American continent we find the tradition of the Tupi indians. In the book The Land of a Thousand Peoples, by Kaká Wera, it reads that “Thunder-being, who inhabits us when he creates, forms a vibratory tree, an energetic field, an inner tangle.” This inner tree is human consciousness: it structures beliefs and values, visions of oneself and others. For these indians, consciousness is more important than time. The latter is responsible for connecting the rhythm with the action and the inaction, coordinated by the heart. The inner tree of each being is vivified by the vibration of his thoughts, feelings and sensations.

In the Edda – a collection of Scandinavian songs of the twelfth century –, the ash is considered the first tree of the Earth, an image of the tree of paradise and the sacred serpentine fire system, which, in Indian tradition, symbolizes the creative energy of the human being. As the tree was cut down, man lost his divinity, becoming only a shadow made of earthly matter. However, the serpentine fire’s dry trunk can become the cross of victory by the endura, a process that leads to rebirth.

This line of thought is found in many other beliefs and in it may be the explanation for Caetano Veloso’s longing. In order to perform the endura and return to the divine state which would bring him the “legitimate pleasure,” he would need the help of time, for the development and maturation of his consciousness through lived experiences, for reconnecting himself with the divine seed that inhabits his heart is different from simply turning a switch on. You must find the path during your life and make the decision to tread it.

As a vibrational, conscientional tree, which Caetano and all beings are, he chants a song of praise and beauty to time, seeking its help. Quoting Kaká Wera, “the more beauty, gratitude, and praise emanate from the word, the more that quality resonates and manifests itself in nature and the time-space of life.” Caetano would sing to time asking for time so that he could find his legitimate pleasure.

This idea can be expanded to the interpretation of death as legitimate pleasure – not the death of the body, but that of the old man for the emergence of the new one. When the request is made, the artist finishes his verses by projecting the day he would leave the circle of time:


And when I have gone

Out of your circle

Time time time time

I will not be and you will not have been

Time time time time


Though I still believe

Being possible to reunite ourselves

Time time time time

In another level of bond

Time time time time


The present relationship of man with time imprisons him, more from his own point of view than from the reality of this mysterious deity which is time. For this reason, the lyrics is reassuring when referring us to the possibility of man and time to find themselves in another level of bond, perhaps that of eternity, freer than the time counted in a clock? So, let’s now get in tune with the timeless: the god Tupã, the universal sound, the music of the spheres, the tree of life.

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Date: February 21, 2024
Author: Grupo de autores LOGON (Brasil)
Photo: Klaus Hausmann via Pixabay CCO

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