Saturday, December 1, 2012

AFRO-BRAZILIAN UMBANDA: THE AFRICAN YORUBA RELIGION THAT INCORPORATES CATHOLICISM,AMERINDIAN BELIEFS AND FRENCH SPIRITUALISM


Umbanda is a syncretic religion that incorporated Catholicism, Native South American beliefs and Kardecism -- French spiritualism -- into the African possession cults that survived Jesuit extermination. 
     The origins of Umbanda go back to the Yoruban religion, brought to Brazil by the African slaves in the 16th century.  This African religion, based on the channeling of deities who represent forces of nature while sharing, like the Greek gods,  human passions,  is the foundation for a variety of possession cults of which Umbanda is a later manifestation.

                                       Afro-Brazilian Umbanda devotees in worship


In order to escape persecution, the Yoruban Gods, called Orixás, "disguised themselves" as the Saints of the oppressor. For instance, Ogum, the warrior god is also Saint George; Yemanjá, mother and Goddess of the Ocean is equivalent to Mary. While some cults were formed out of the desire to preserve the African culture (and thus retained its homogeneity), Umbanda would emerge out of the significant encounter between the Africans that managed to escape slavery, the indigenous culture and an European component. 

                            Umbanda worshipper dancing and experiencing trance


     In the beginnings of this century, the infiltration of Kardecism, an European spiritist movement which was a mix of possession cult and evolutionary doctrine, along with the Catholic facade, brought Umbanda "to the surface" -- as an underground religious movement (Sales 16-19) . Esther Pressel points to the fact that the mix of Umbanda is not always a balanced one --some terreiros (temples or spiritual centers -- the root of the word refers to "earth")  are more Africanized, others more spiritist -- and that it was the spiritist element, since it presents possession as a calmer phenomenon, which made the religion more palatable to the more educated, and thus higher classes (218). In my opinion, it oriented Umbanda towards the middle class but it never excluded the lower classes who were the foundation through out the process of its formation.
                                Afro-Brazilians in Umbanda spiritual.

     The cosmologies of all Afro-Brazilian cults share the same Yoruban deities. However, in Umbanda, instead of the descent of the Orixás into the bodies of the "sons and daughters of saints," also called mediums or "horses," it is the spirits of the dead ancestors that come down to give advice and heal the adepts. The Brazilian anthropologist Lísias Negrão provides an insightful description of these spirit types in terms of their function and personality. One of the most famous types of spirits is the Caboclo, who represents the spirit of a dead Indian - He is young and strong, knows the mysteries of the forest and the healing power of plants. He gives advice on mundane issues that call for quick decision. The other major type is the Preto Velho spirit of the old black person, who is wise and calm and gives advice on greater issues. He also knows herbs but since he's been catholicized, he can speak of Jesus and even suggest western medicine. The third type is the "Child", who has no specific ethnicity. He or she just comes down to play and make people happy.
                                          Umbanda shrine

 The "Child," who isn't of any particular ethnicity, is considered simply Brazilian. Besides these major types, there are also the trickster spirits such as Exus and the Pomba Gyras, the prostitutes. Because they are considered the dangerous ones, most rituals start by "feeding them," meaning: paying them homage, so that they don't turn against the participants. There are other types of spirits that are characteristic of specific regions of Brazil such as the bohemian, smart-ass kind of spirit, known as Zé Pilantra, who is the stereotype of the natives of Rio de Janeiro (205-244). Kardecism brought, along with the doctrine of reincarnation present in many Asian religions, the emphasis on invoking spirits of dead intellectuals, such as those of doctors and professors, who are usually of European background. Given the multi-ethnicity of the cosmology, it isn't a surprise that the adepts and mediums are very racially mixed, and it is important to note that the fusion is magnified when a white man channels an Indian or when a black man channels a white and so on. 

   Xangô - Santuário Nacional da Umbanda

     
A similar dynamic causing a temporary erasure of class boundaries, probably facilitated the development of Umbanda as parallel to the growth of Brazil as an urban-industrial society. The class communion existent within the ritual ceremony balances out the extreme economic inequality of the society. However, it seems to induce a certain social conformity since the poor are content with their situation as long as it is cyclically overthrown during the ritual sessions. Besides, according to Leilah Landim, Umbanda presents a possibility of social mobility within its context, through the hierarchy of mediumship (104). This, in my opinion, also works in favor of the resolution of class conflicts outside the ritual context though it does not increase social mobility. Nonetheless, though the possibility for social change is diminished here, this temporary pods of class integration are still extremely valid and necessary.

                      Ogum - Santuário Nacional da Umbanda


     Besides being a stage for the communion of people defined by who they are rather than by what they have, Umbanda is the only place in Brazilian society that one escapes sexism, since in most terreiros "women are a majority among the mediums" (Pressel 217). While the Orixas have specific genders, the spirits of Umbanda, not only can be of both genders but also can be incorporated by a medium of opposite gender. Some anthropologists, who look at possession through a psychoanalytical perspective, assert that women are a majority simply because they are more repressed (217). Though it is a logical conclusion based on their reductive understanding of an extremely complex phenomenon, my personal experience rejects it. The female mediums I have met, including member of my family, were always very independent and strong -- their initiation was sort of a natural progression of their lives. Thus, the female predominance in mediumship points to a intuitive restoration of balance, that successfully expresses and resolves gender tensions in and outside of the ritual context.
                           Umbanda Devotees in worship

     Although the interchange of identities among people of different ethnicity, social class and gender is definitely the main agent of a coherent Brazilian identity, certain elements of the possession ceremony and the relations between its components are key to furthering our understanding of the social meaning of Umbanda. Even though the ceremonies vary a lot from terreiro to terreiro, the basic components of the ritual itself can be seen as the micro-dynamics of a societal urge for communion.  Group participation is a key element. All the individuals need to be concentrated to form a strong energy bond so that the horse -- the channeler -- can receive the spirit. The channeling is preceded by specific songs, drums or hand clapping, depending on the orientation -- more or less African. Once the spirit descends, the ritual assumes a more individualistic phase which consists of waiting to receive advice and be cleansed by the spirit that comes through the medium. In smaller terreiros, like the one I grew up around, after the individual advice and healing, the spirit gives general advice to the group as a whole and then the group concentration and faith is once again required so that the medium can come back safely. 
                                                 Umbanda devotee`s beads

     The relation between medium and spirit is well illustrated by Victor Turner's research on what he called "the dialectics of Umbanda": Whether conscious or unconscious, "Possession is at once a collective and an individual phenomenon, Velho writes, for the entities received belong to a mythological system, yet each medium gives the entity s/he personifies an idiosyncratic elaboration. Each medium has a preto Velho, but the medium Mario has his own Preto-Velho, 'Pai Benedito' " (qtd. in Turner 54). This clear analogy to the integrative function of theater is also reflected in the relationship between an adept and the entities. It seems as if the spiritual hierarchy, though existent is minimized by the possibility of audience participation. Anyone is capable -- most of the times involuntarily -- to receive an entity.  Besides, the feeling of communion is enhanced by the fact that the entities seem to live in a very similar material setting. I remember being struck at the age of eight by the humanness of these higher beings when my Preta Velha (channeled by my grandmother) said in a joking manner:  "Oh, I better go, 'cause Preto Velho is just sitting there on his tiny stool, smoking his pipe, staring at the fire waiting to come down."
              Umbanda devotee in a spiritual trance

     The syncretism that characterizes Umbanda is not a closed system, it is a process that is in constant mutation and adaptation to particular regional needs.  "Umbanda doesn't search for legitimation in the keeping of tradition, but rather on the efficacy of its works" (Landim 101).  Although all terreiros share a similar cosmology each center is very independent from one another, very autonomous, unlike organized religion. There is no rigorous codification of the ritual sequence nor of the belief systems (Pressel 134).  In fact, the creativity in developing a particular ritual language is a form of acceptance.  Thus, Umbanda occupies the realm of art and theater, funneling the creativity of its members through a constant reassessment of the meaning of the ritual, which is to say, the meaning of their lives. 
     It is important to point out that, according to Turner, in spite of the integrative function of the autonomous and heterogeneous terreiros, they are neither free of internal conflicts nor of conflicts among themselves. They are a microcosmos of the society at large, but here the conflicts are mostly among entities, so they are supported by the mythological stories that are the backbone of the rites. Even the power struggle among the administrative representatives of the terreiros should be seen as an opportunity to "develop collective identity" (47). Thus, the power struggles within a particular terreiro and among terreiros for the influence over an area is a vital part of the dynamics though which Umbanda expresses and resolves social tensions.
                         Umbanda religion orixas

     What fascinates me the most about Umbanda is the elimination of racial boundaries.  What is especially intriguing is the very fact that there's no talk about multi-ethnicity within its circles. It seems that the process happened so naturally that nobody questions it -- I hadn't questioned it until after nearly twenty years of practice. Umbanda doesn't preach for racial mixture; Umbanda is ethnic fusion. Here, the dead spirits aren't only black slaves; they're Indians, cowboys, prostitutes, bohemians, professors, doctors, tricksters, and children. While some scholars, such as Bastide, find that Umbanda is a degeneration of the African heritage because it signifies a second subjugation to white values through its adoption of white and amerindian spiritism (qtd. in Landim 102), I think that the mediation by the spirit of the dead ancestors, while it distances itself from its origins, is actually a form of reaffirming the essence of the Yoruban religion: the very possession element. If possession is about being a vessel for that which is around us though we can't see it -- or most of the time refuse to see it -- how could the channelers, the mediums of this sacred art not be possessed by the racial tensions in its environment? According to Sheila Walker possession is the very opposite of religious passivity, for in the act of establishing communication with the gods (which, in this case is mediated by the spirits) humans are "taking positive constructive action in creating an order of which men are in control rather than helpless" (103). So, the great lesson of Umbanda lies in its deliberate interpretation of what "ancestry" means, since its realm embraces as ancestors people who live in the same land in spite of their ethnic roots.  Therefore, this redefinition of genealogy enables the ritual to function as an agent of integration of national identity.  Furthermore, perhaps what the existence of Umbanda is trying to tell us is that the survival of an ancient ritual in the context of a modern society has more to do with learning how to grow through a process of inclusion than with maintaining the purity of its roots through a process of exclusion.  --  Carla Melo
                           Afro-Brazilians in their ritual Umbanda worship

Works Cited

Landim, Leilah.  Sinais dos Tempos: Tradições Religiosas no Brasil.  Rio de Janeiro: Instituto de Estudos da Religião, 1989.
Negrão, Lísias Nogueira .  Entre a Cruz e a Encruzilhada.  São Paulo: Edusp, 1996.
Pressel, Esther.  Umbanda Trance and Possession in São Paulo, Brazil. Trance , Healing, and Hallucination.  Ed.  Irving I. Zaretsky.  New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1974.  134, 217-218.
Sales, Nivio Ramos.  Rituais Negros e Caboclos.  Rio de Janeiro: Pallas, 1984.
Turner, Victor.  The Anthropology of Performance.  New York: Paj Publications, 1988. 
Walker, Sheila.  Ceremonial Spirit Possession in Africa and Afro-America.  Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1972.

Oxum - Santuário Nacional da Umbanda


source:http://www.y2gypsies.com/html/umbanda.html
further reading:http://www.strategicnetwork.org/pdf/kb15781.pdf





Spirit Possession and Healing Cult among the Brasilian Umbanda

Horst H. Figge 
Umbanda is an animistic-spiritistic religion of Brazil with several million  adherents  especially  in  the  bigger  Cities. It  may  be characterized as an extraecclesiastic  consolidation of  popular catholicism within the vacant forms of ancient Afro-Brasilian sects. The central belief is the existence of all sorts of spirits; a central task is to give them the opportunity temporarily to take hold of human bodies. There may be a hundred thousand or more trained incorporation-mediums in Brazil by now, that is, people who in certain instances believe, and are thought by others, to be spirits. 
Umbanda devotee in spiritual worship

The Umbanda groups meet once to three times a week, mostly at night and in their Centers, which resemble Catholic chapels. The groups consist of ten to 50 or more spirit mediums and of fewer assistants. All the different sessions are open to the public. Passive believers prefer by far those sessions in which they are given the possibility to enter into direct contact with the embodied spirits. 
There are, roughly speaking, five categories of spirits called and embodied in Umbanda: deities of nature (who are seen in close connection to Catholic saints), old people, good and bad people of middle age, and 
children. All of them show a semi-standardized behavior. Personally known dead are seldom or never called. 
There is no cult session at all without the presence of embodied spirits. The priest himself always is a medium and he leads the group and the sessions mainly through his different spirit roles. Every developed medium is the 'horse', as it is called, of at least one spirit of each category, generally of more. Mediums are free to incorporate any spirit, male or female of any category - or in the language of Umbanda: the spirits are free to 
choose any medium. 

 Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religious devotee


Umbanda does not know any organisation or leadership above the level of the thousands of cult-groups. Groups form around certain priests called `chiefs' who train their mediums and later an ordain priests from 
among them. The new priests may form their own group or stay with their spiritual father or mother. The social background of members and of passive  visitors,  the  behavior of the spirits,  the   display of special 
clothing,  headgear,  etc.,  may  be  different  from  group  to  group, depending on the preferences of the chief, respective his embodied spirits. 
In well-organized groups the different categories of spirits are called one by one. If necessary, spirits appearing at the wrong moment, are more or less politely sent away. The sessions generally  are accompanied and guided in every phase by songs and rhythmic clapping of hands or drumming, which means that songs and rhythms are specific, e.g. to certain categories of spirits or even to certain individual spirits. A Session may last from 2-6 h or more. The sessions most appreciated by the mediums are festive ones in the open air: in the woods; at the seaside; on a street-crossing, etc., and they may last for a whole day or a whole night. Mediums may embody spirits for hours. The same way they are asked to incorporate, spirits are asked to retire, generally by songs. 


They may, however, retire spontaneously after taking adequate leave. As the basic behavior of spirits of a certain category follows norms, so does the behavior shown at the alternation points between medium-role 
and spirit-role, the moment in which the spirit is thought to enter and to leave the body. Especially at the end of the possession most Umbandists must be helped by assistants, because otherwise they would seriously 
injure themselves. In the course of possession the  assistant is a sort of servant to the spirit; however, he also sees to it  that the spirit does not infringe the norms of Brazilian society and of the group, and that he does 
not damage his 'horse', etc. The declared main object of Umbanda is to do charity. This, however, in 
the first place means 'spiritual charity' and `charity done by spirits'. The greater part of passive believers come to the cult sessions only to be helped. They are not very much interested in a ritual they hardly 
understand, they have only superficial knowledge of the theological background. 

                                 Umbanda devotees dancing

We may distinguish four main kinds of treatment within Umbanda: countermagic, fluid manipulation, offerings and mediumship. Which one of those is prescribed in a given case depends on many things except on the problem itself as it is seen by us, the unbelieving. Unidentified pain, a badly healing wound, fear of dogs, lack of professional success may all be treated in the same way, but the headache of one person by a completely 
different method than the headache of another one. The spirits are not at all interested in what trouble or disease a patient really has, what the real reasons are or the historical developments. They are almost exclusively interested in what the patient thinks he suffers, what he thinks the reasons are, and finally what he can be made to think of as an effective treatment. The diagnosis, if we may call it thus, is always orientated by given possibilities of treatment. As spirits only dispose of spiritual means, the troubles have to be explained   spiritually to be accessible to the methods. 
                                             Umbanda religious followers

There must be mentioned a possible exception, because sometimes spirits prescribe household medicine. But even in these cases the intention is mainly spiritual: they may prescribe a tea of orange leaves and garlic, and when the patient utters his aversion against garlic, make him pour it out in front of the main cross of a cemetery at midnight. I have several times witnessed spirits ordering believers to see a doctor and inquire 
whether directions given by doctors were followed.  But 1 have also found pills and even catgut in offerings at the seaside. 
(1) Countermagic. Nearly every Brazilian is convinced of the possibility of helping and harming people by unnatural means. The  spirits generally confirm a patient's supposition to be the victim of a magic attack. The 
supposedly guilty person is rapidly found, when the patient names anyone he does not like. The spirit then invents a story of magic actions against the patient, which he can neutralize by stronger ones, and he is willingly helped by the patient who may have noticed something disturbing, the loss of a piece of cloth, a coloured ribbon in front of the door or the like. lt is important that differences between offerings and actions of positive or negative magic and countennagic are mainly spiritual, which means they cannot be recognized, at least not by a common believer. Thus, the countermagic that one of them puts somewhere, may by erroneously considered harmful magic by the next one. 

                                   Umbanda Ogun rituals


Actually there is quite a lot of destructive magic done too. But from the belief itself results that the person aimed at neuer perceives it, because otherwise he would be able to defend himself or even throw the spell back. Thus, results of black magic are possible only an the side of its originator and it actually may be considered one of the most lucky means of neutralizing aggressive tendencies. 
(2) Fluid manipulation. Umbandists believe that there are two kinds of spiritual energy in everything that exists. Living beings, objects, acts, thoughts, everything, are loaded with a certain quantity of positive and 
negative fluid and irradiate them onto surrounding or connected bearers. Indicators of bad fluids are, e.g., filth, ugliness, bad luck, remorse; indicators of good fluids are the contrary. Frech air, daily bath, pleasing 
conversation, constructive thoughts, etc., augment  the share of positive fluids. A positive balance of good fluids means well-being, contentment, freedom of pain and sorrow, etc. Only embodied spirits have the faculty to manipulate fluids directly. They do so mainly by so-called `passes'. Giving passes, the spirit moves his hands along the body-contours of the patient, by which procedure bad fluids are thought to be drawn out. They are thought to condense within the body of the `horse'  and by the special forces of the spirit to be thrown out into the universe by finger snaps or the like.
                               Umbanda devotees in water ritual act

 There are many variants of passes. Some spirits touch the patients more or less intensely, some even lift them up and whirl them around, some may intensely quiver all the time, giving the patient's head, his neck or other parts a vibration massage, still others prefer to treat with the smoke of their pipe or cigar or with water or brandy. Most of those procedures are accompanied by hardly understandable mutters of prayers, wishes and advices of unspecific content. 
Believers do not show any visible result afterwards, but obviously they must be convinced of the efficacy, because they come for treatment week after week or at least when in trouble which they see in connection with a personal surplus of negative fluids. Also the mediums themselves like to get passes. The fully developed ones, however, are  given passes only by their own spirits, that means the embodied spirits clean their own `horse'.

  Umbanda  devotee


Closely related to fluid manipulation is what is called `exchange of head'. Spirits claim to be able to take certain troubles,  which are considered things that one has and that can be taken away from one person and given to another one. This may be done secretly onto a known - mostly an unknown victim - by magic acts. If it is done openly, the patient can observe a medium wince, be shaken by clonic twitches, fall to the ground, 
etc., because, as he is told, the bad substance moves from him to the body of the medium. The medium is cleaned by his own good spirits later on. Often the exchange of head is done with animals which are usually killed afterwards. Longer lasting protection against evil is thought to be given by certain types of necklaces with iron links and amulets prepared or at least blessed and loaded by spirits or, e.g., by a glas of water put behind the entrance door. 

                                 Umbanda Ogun rituals


(3) Offerings. Quite often believers are instructed to offer candles, flowers, food, etc., to good spirits, to guarantee their help, or to bad spirits to calm down their temper and make them abstain from noxious influences. Although only few believers know, the spirits generally put much more importance on the act of preparation, time and place of deposition, and especially to the patient's attitude, than to what is offered. lt is 
amusing to see a poor patient bargain with the consulted spirit who may reduce his demand from seven black chickens to one brown one or even to three cheap cigars, as long as he is convinced of the patient's honesty. 



(4) Mediumship. The treatment that interferes most with the life course of a patient is his development as a spirit medium. In the eyes of Umbandists, every human  being  has  a  lot  of  guiding  and  guarding spirits,  the obligations against which, normally, are quite unimportant. In certain cases, however, it is believed that troubles are caused by those spirits as they want a person to develop into a medium and thus give them the 
opportunity to embody. Obviously this suggestion is only made when the chief (or his spirit) is willing to accept the patient as a member of his group. If the patient is not able to become a medium, e.g. because he 
cannot spare the necessary time or if he just does not want to, the way out is offerings. If he consents, he has to buy the cult clothes, accept certain regulations, and participate regularly in so-called developmental 
sessions. The training is all most exclusively done by embodied spirits, so the trainee always has in front of him an example of how spirits are thought to behave through his body. 


Most of the different techniques to eliminate the patient's primary personality  by  trance  can  be  categorized  in  one  of  the  two  following possibilities:  (a) continuous and increasingly contrary tendencies of 
behavior are activated, by systematic humiliation or the skillful use of a strong aversion, until suddenly the possibility of showing any behavior at  all  collapses.  The  patient  may  show  abrupt,  uncoordinated 
movements, more or less generalized convulsions, states of stupor or swoon; (b) within the atmosphere of expectation and fright in which the patient thinks himself surrounded by invisible  beings, waiting for 
them to push him out of his own body, an instant is created in which he gets sure that the decisive moment has come and he  cannot resist any more. He may be startled by a cry or suddenly be drawn off balance. It is a most amazing misinterpretation of sessions of spirit-possession cults, to speak of a hypnogenous situation. There is an ear-deafening noise in the generally overcrowded room, the trainee has to stand, sometimes he is even pushed and pulled around. As soon as he starts to stagger or show other symptoms of his soul leaving the body (as Umbandists would say) bystanders intensify their song, shout salutes to the spirit they believe is starting to embody.
                     Yemanjá no Santuário Nacional da Umbanda

Later an the newly embodied spirit, which does not show any behavior at all, is asked for blessings, called `father', politely put in adequate positions, etc. And exactly the same way as a child's personality is created in the process of socialisation, without the educators knowing that they do not just form or modify a given object, the secondary personality comes into existence by supposed interaction. A difference lies in the 
fact that after the preliminary training the secondary personality may get access to contents of the primary personality, so the spirit need not learn all the particularities of his role, if and as his medium knows them. 
The ability to fall into trance more or less spontaneously, and to embody a spirit conforming to the individually felt necessity of the moment, is guaranteed by what we may call internalization of the releaser. This and the avoidance of any possible rapport is brought about by the fact that nearly everybody in the cult group participates in the development of the new medium and by frequent and complete alterations of the general situation. 

                                          Umbanda devotees


Furthermore, the development of mediums in and by the group guarantees that spirits do not enter into direct contact wich  the medium's soul (via hallucinations or automatisms) at least not outside the adequate group 
situation. 
Bibliography 
Figge,  H.H.: Geisterkult,  Besessenheit  und  Magie  in  der  UmbandaReligion Brasiliens (Alber, Freiburg/München 1973).


                                   


MYTHOLOGY AND KNOWLEDGE IN UMBANDA
An  Examination  of  Social Forces  in Brazil 
and the Emergence of Umbanda. 
Michael A. Nicklas 
Indiana  University 

The interaction among various imported and indigenous spiritual traditions in Brazil  has created  numerous distinct  and complex belief systems.  During  Brazil's  colonial period  (1530-1822),  African, Amerindian,  and European transplants were in direct contact, and the differential  interaction  of  their  beliefs  and  practices  has  made for  a distinct regional  pattern.  In  this colonial context,  diverse worldviews and previously well-defined spiritual beliefs  and practices  were  thrust together, and have developed syncretically and in juxtaposition. Several factors were  especially  important in  determining  the  nature  of  these syncretic interactions. These  included  the  geographical  and environmental  characteristics  of  the  various  regions,  economic considerations,  and  the  concentration  of  various  ethnic groups  in  a given area,  especially Africans  of  common  origin.

               Afro-Brazilian Umbanda devotees pouring libation as way of reaching their ancestor


This paper examines the ways in which two differing mythologies, Afro-Brazilian  and  Institutional  Roman  Catholic,  have  interacted in the Brazilian  cultural  context.  The focus is  on  Umbanda, a syncretic 
belief system which  has  developed primarily  in urban  Brazil  in  the nineteenth and  twentieth centuries.  Specifically,  the  birth  and development  of Umbanda is examined in terms of social forces which 
are  in opposition  because  of  their  different,  mythologically-based, conceptions  of  the relationship between  knowledge  and power: Afro- Brazilian  and Roman  Catholic  religious  traditions hold  contrasting 
conceptions  of  this relationship. This distinction has socio-political implications which highlight the relationship between marginal cultures and  the  more  dominant Catholic  one.' 
                               Afro-Brazilian young girl follower of Umbanda cult

 A  consideration  of  contrasting  social histories  of  Institutional  Roman  Catholicism  and Umbanda, and  of  their  differing perspectives  on  the  acquisition  of 
knowledge  and  power  provides insight  into  the  social  and  political tension  between  these groups.  This  implicit difference sheds light  on the historic marginalization  of  Umbanda in Brazil  and  on its  current 
growing  popularity. The predominance  of  different  ethnic groups in specific regions effected  the  emergence  of  distinct religious practices.  The  African Yoruba, originally from what is now Nigeria, were concentrated in the north-east  region  of Brazil known  as Bahia. The high  ratio of Yoruba to  other  West African  groups in  Bahia led  to  a  continuation  of Yoruban  cultural and  religious traits;  for  example,  the  religion Candomble, prevalent in this region, maintains the pageantry and color of the rich Yoruban pantheon. In contrast, the southern part of Brazil was  directly affected  by  the  importation  of slaves of  Bantu  cultural background from southern Africa. Falling sugar prices in the northeast led to a decreased need for slave labor at the same time that increased mining  in  the southern  region  created  a  greater demand for  slaves. 
                     Mother of "Saint".Priestess of Afro-Brazilian religion (Umbanda-syncretist worshipctholic saints and   african and indians divinities)
In African religion called Candomblé the Mother of Saint is better knows in Yourubá language as "Yalorixá".
This predominance of Bantu peoples explains, in part,  the dominance of Bantu spirit practices, known  as Macumba in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and  as CabulA  in the state of  Espirito Santo, in the southern part  of  the country.  The Amerindian presence was  most  pronounced in  the Amazon Basin  and  the interior northeast. Both fugitive slaves and those working on cattle ranches in these areas often had  extended contact with  Amerindian religious beliefs  and  practices.  The result of interaction between African  and Amerindian spirit beliefs is known in the  Amazon  Basin  as  Pajelanca  and  as  Catimb6  in  the state  of Pernambuco. Thus,  a geographical  consideration  of beliefs  and practices  in  Brazil  clarifies  the  emergence  of  this regional  pattern which  includes various Afro-Catholic,  Afro-Amerindian,  and 
Bantu-Yoruba syncretic  tradition^.^ 
During  the  twentieth  century,  as  the  result  of  both  widespread migration  to  urban areas and  improved  mass  communication, beliefs and  practices  involving  hypnomantic  knowledge--knowledge  gained 
through  possession  or trance-have  gradually  become  more uniform. The  development  of  an  industrial  economy  based  primarily  in  the corridor  between  Rio de Janeiro  and  Sao Paulo  has  led  to an influx 
of  people  to  this  area  from  around  the  country.  The  diversity of spiritual  practices  which  were  thrust  together  in the  Rio-Sao  Paulo area  has created  a rich  pool  of  knowledge from which  Umbanda  has 
been born. Umbanda is the name used by the modern, syncretic groups which  draw  on  Amerindian,  African,  and  European  sources for spiritual  knowledge and power.  This borrowing from multiple sources 
distinguishes  Umbanda  from  other  regional Afro-Brazilian  groups which  tend  to rely  predominantly  on one or two root sources. Beyond  the  blending  of  beliefs which  could  be  expected  from informal  contact among  individuals  in  an  urban setting,  another important vehicle of communication has emerged among Afro-Brazilian communities. A "spiritist press" has developed, publishing a wide range of  books dealing  with  hypnomantic  knowledge  and  drawing  upon European,  African, and Amerindian traditions. The Imprensa Espirita is not a single publishing group, but  rather an umbrella  term for the many small publishers who produce books dealing with hypnomantic knowledge  and whose wares  are sold  in specialized  bookstores which carry spiritual goods, as well as  at newsstands  and  on street corners. 
By  way  of  defining  Umbanda,  I  have  chosen  an  illustrative example from the "spiritist press," Malungo, Decodifica@o da Umbanda. 

This excerpt summarizes the function  of  the various regional  or root traditions as  they  inform each  other  in Umbanda  cosmology. Specifically,  I  have  chosen  a passage exemplifying  Umbanda interpretation  and  assimilation  of new  spiritual  and  religious knowledge  through  the  mass media.  Malungo,  Decodificap30  da Umbanda was written  by  an Umbanda  practitioner, Dilson Bento, and was published  in  1979. 
Umbanda,  in Brazil,  designates a  complex of  beliefs and rituals of African roots, fruit  of  the  interaction  between Black,  Amerindian,  and European  cultures. Umbanda  is a religious movement  which is currently in a stage of  formation  and expansion with  a  greater  following in  urban areas.  As  a  social  phenomena 
[Umbanda] extends itself throughout the Brazilian territory, penetrating the various social classes, making followers amongst  both  the rich  and the poor. 
The new converts of European descent who interacted with Umbanda accepted its approaches  to "the mysteries" and attempted to translate  and  understand  the concepts according  to  French  spiritism [Kardecism].  These  individuals  drew spiritual concepts from  the most varied  of  esoteric traditions  in order to establish a  code  for Umbanda.  The  African  cults  assimilated  this  language  as  long  as it didn't  alter  the  African cosmogony  or  anything  related  to  possession.  In  this manner  Umbanda  gained  a  body of  doctrine,  more or less defined  but  extremely eclectic, based  both  on African  traditions  and other traditional  "schools." . . . Not  all teachings  of  diverse  nature were encountered  and incorporated  in 
the way just  mentioned. A part of our information came to us in a fragmented and chaotic  state  through  the  mass media system. However,  an elaboration  and comprehension  of  this information was  conducted  by  mediums outside of  their "ego" state, that  is,  in  a state  of  possession  or trance. It can  be  said  that  this 
information was processed  through  the  unconscious  by  "traditional wisdom!' 
                              Afro-Brazilian Young woman carries gifts to Yemanjá, in Salvador, Brazil.

 By traditional wisdom we mean the elaboration of information by psychic means. Such wisdom  is  highly  regenerative  when applied  to  knowledge which  has been fragmented and disassociated  by mass-media. The collective memory organizes this data (at the level of  the unconscious) in such  a way  as to always have available  a central body  of  experiences. This central corpus is, in Umbanda,  the structure of values  of Black  culture in Brazil presents a clear description  of  the  assimilation  of  spirit beliefs  and  practices  into  Umbanda.  The  interaction among  diverse traditions created a need for a framework which could incorporate and organize African, Amerindian,  and European conceptions of the spirit realm.  This  framework  was  based  on the  authority  of  individual mediums  who  decided how  new  knowledge would  be  treated:  After consideration by  the spirits,  new ideas might  be accepted  as received, rejected,  or  modified.  Before this  process  can  be  treated  in  more detail, it  is  important  to  examine  an  individual's  motivation  for investigating  or  appropriating  the  beliefs  and  practices of  another 
tradition. 
The common element among the traditions which  contributed to the formation  of  Umbanda,  and which  facilitated  their  blending, was the  use  of  hypnomantic  knowledge  (Obeyesekere  1981:169).The 
assimilation into Umbanda of the various approaches to hypnomantic knowledge was  possible  because  "the idiom  or  context  of  possession was  comprehensible  insofar  as it  was  crouched  [sic]  in terms  of  a larger  shared  culture" (Obeyesekere  1981:169).  The  contributing traditions-Amerindian,  African  (Bantu and Yoruba),  and French Kardecist--emerged  from contexts which allowed  for interaction  with 
a  spirit  realm.  In  Umbanda, as  in  these source traditions,  the interaction  between  people and spirits  provides  information  and empowerment  for  individuals  and  groups.  Moreover,  the  spirit traditions which inform Umbanda are open belief systems allowing and even encouraging the continual search for knowledge and thus for new, possibly more effective, power.

                        Blessed water Part II/Festa de Yemanjá


Power  in  this context must  be  understood  in  light  of  the underlying belief  in  the  Afro-Brazilian  complex  that  events  and occurences in the life of an individual are impacted by  the spirit realm.Knowledge  of  means  or techniques  to manipulate  the spirit realm  is then, in  a real sense, the power  to  control  one's own life. Attending  to  the  search  for  power  and  power  sources  adds significantly  to an understanding  of  Umbanda.  In  each of  the groups mentioned  above,  consulting  religious  specialists and  following their advice,  performing rituals,  using  herbal  medicines, etc. allows individuals to secure power. Some individuals are considered especially powerful because  of  their  success  in  making  contact  with power 
sources through lineage, spirit beings, magical paraphernalia, or ritual practice.  The search for power  is ongoing:  If  one source or technique becomes ineffectual,  it  is  necessary  to  search for a  more  effective 
means  of  exerting  control  over events  in  an  individual's life.  The growing  popularity  of  Umbanda in  urban  Brazil  is  not  surprising. Living  in  a  complex,  urban  world  produces  conflicts which  can  be  ritually addressed through the manipulation  of knowledge  and power. Thus, knowledge  becomes a desirable commodity and is appropriated as the occasion arises. 
This  pragmatic  approach  to  acquiring  new  knowledge exists  in both  the regional traditions  and  in  the more  widespread  practice  of Umbanda.  The  adoption  of  new  knowledge is  determined  by  the 
pragmatic test  of  applying  the  knowledge.  The  results  of  this test determine whether  the  new  knowledge  is  appropriated.  The process through which new knowledge is received and assimilated has become formalized within  the  Umbanda  movement.  This  process of assimilation  is  not  a significant  departure from the manner  in which the regional  Afro-Brazilian  traditions  negotiate new knowledge.  If  an 
outside alternative approach to a given problem  proves effective, it is generally  assimilated  into  the  ritual  or  magical  repertoire  of  the individual  or group who  discovered it. 
Umbanda has preserved this pragmatic attitude but has formalized the  process.  New  knowledge is  often submitted for comment  to  a medium who, in a  trance state, interprets and judges  it.  Since almost 
all Umbanda  members  receive spirits--experience  trance there  is  a broad base for interpretation. Every medium  has a special relationship to the belief structure, a sense of involvement and direct participation. 



Moreover, this  process  of  consulting  the  spirits concerning  new knowledge  has allowed the incorporation of more esoteric knowledge, which  cannot  be  tested  pragmatically.  The  way  this  knowledge is ordered derives from Kardecist influences in which a spiritual hierarchy exists.  Umbanda  is  divided  into  seven lines which  group  spiritual beings  according  to  geo-cultural criteria.  Each  of  the seven lines  is divided into legions or phalanxes. Legions exist for a variety of African deities, Catholic saints, and Amerindian spirits, as well as a legion for each of the following groups: Egyptians, Aztecs, Incas, Hindus, and the Orient  (see Bastide  1987: 323-24). Thus it  is possible  for ideas from Hinduism  or  Buddhism,  for  example,  to  be understood  by  and incorporated into Umbanda.  In  the regional Afro-Brazilian  structures which lack  a  defined system for  ordering  new  esoteric  knowledge,  it would  be  much  more  difficult  to  assimilate such non-pragmatic religious  elements. 
Historically,  the Afro-Brazilian complex, including Umbanda, has been characterized  by  its  position  as  a marginal  culture,  while  the dominant culture  has  been  defined  by  Roman  Catholicism  and Comtean  political  philosophy  (Order  and  progress)'.  This marginalization has been shaped  by  economic, political,  and  cultural factors. Recently, this position has become largely cultural, rather than !XI  Folklore Fonun  23:1/2 (1990)  Michael  A.  Nicklas economic  or  political.  Raymond Williams addresses  the  issue  of 
marginalization  with  a  more precise vocabulary: "We  have  to  think  about the  sources  of  that  which  is  not corporate,  of  those practices,  experiences, meanings, and values which  are  not  part  of  the  effective 
dominant culture.  There  is clearly something that we  can  call alternative  to the effective dominant culture and there is something we can call  oppositional in the true sense. The degree of existence of these  alternative and  oppositional forms  is itself  a  matter  of  constant historical variation  in  real circumstances."(Williams 1980:40) When situated against the dominant  culture of Catholicism, Umbanda can  be seen as  an  example  of  such  an  alternative and  oppositional form. 
During  the  era  of slavery in  Brazil  (1606-1888),  the  practice  of traditional religious rituals or ceremonies by slaves was banned because it  provided  organizational structures which  could  be  used  against  the 
slave owner. Afro-Brazilian religious groups were, therefore, viewed as oppositional by both secular and religious powers within the dominant culture;  however,  even  in  this  climate, Afro-Brazilian religion  and 
culture persisted. With  the  emancipation  of  the slaves  in  1888, Afro-Brazilian groups were  able  to  begin  the  long  struggle towards  attaining legitimacy.  This  process was  part  of  a long battle for  civil  rights  and for racial and social equality in Brazil. During this time Afro-Brazilian communities  gradually  came  to  be seen as  alternative  rather  than oppositional by  the secular state; however, the other component of the dominant culture, the Roman Catholic Church, has continued  to view the  regional  Afro-Brazilian  groups,  as  well  as  Umbanda,  in clearly oppositional  terms. In  contrast  to  Umbanda,  Roman  Catholicism  has  a  radically different understanding of knowledge and power. Sources of power and means  of  controlling such  power  are codified  and  closed.

                  Afro-Brazilian   Umbanda syncretic religion


 In  Roman Catholicism  there is only one legitimate, acceptable power source-the Holy Trinity,  all  knowledge  of  whom  was  revealed  in  the  past.  It  is believed  that an individual cannot possess power originating outside of the framework  of institutional relationships.  If  anything, the existence of another means of knowledge or power only strengthens the Catholic system by  reinforcing  notions  of evil. Knowledge of  alternative power sources is seen as contamination and therefore a threat to institutional power.  Instead  of  deriving  vitality  from  new knowledge,  this  closed system affirms  and strengthens  itself  through  the expulsion  of foreign knowledge. 
From this historical perspective it is now possible to examine how one component of the dominant culture, the Catholic Church-because of a different mythological conception-has  attempted to influence the 
government  in  restraining  the  growth of  Umbanda.  Until  the latter part  of  the  1960s,  the  Catholic influence  was  so  prevalent  in  the dominant culture that the Afro-Brazilian  groups, including Umbanda, 
were thought  not to represent a religion. Because Catholic mythology revolved around a unified system of knowledge and power, and because Afro-Brazilian  traditions  held  quite disparate  beliefs, they  were 
classified as cults and forced to register with state and local authorities through  police  departments.  Section  7,  article  141 of  the  Brazilian constitution guarantees freedom  of  conscience  and religious belief  to 
all, but with  a limiting clause:  "There will  exist freedom  of  religious practice  except  for those  groups which  behave in a  manner  contrary to  public  order  or  good custom"  (Kloppenburg  1961:58).  The 
legislative assembly  of  the state  of  Pernambuco  used  this clause  to require  certified  psychiatric exams as  a prerequisite  for leadership  in an Afro-Brazilian  group, and it was  not  until January  15, 1976, that 
the governor  of  Bahia revoked  a regulation requiring  the CandomblC terreiros  of  Salvador to be registered  at the police section for games and customs. (O'Gorman  1977:27)  An interesting parallel can be seen here  with  the  birth  of  state  control  of  mechanisms  of  discipline  in 
Europe: 
In England, it was private religious groups that carried out, for a long time, the functions 
of  social  discipline (Radzinovitz:  203-214);  in  France, although  a part  of  this  role 
remained  in  the  hands  of  the  parish  guilds  or  charity associations, another  -  and  no 
doubt the most  important  part  -  was very  soon  taken  over  by  the police  apparatus. 
(Foucault  1972213) 


During the colonial period  in Brazil, the Catholic Church easily marginalized  other  religious belief systems. However, with  the transition to a secular state mandated by  the separation of church and state in the Constitution  of  1891, it  has  become  increasingly difficult to  repress  other  religious beliefs.  The  Roman  Catholic  Church  has exploited  the vagueness  of  the  constitutional  clause which  limits the freedom of religious practice. It has accused the Afro-Brazilian groups of illegally practicing medicine, of committing ritual crimes, of causing psychological damage to members, of promoting immoral conduct, and of  financial swindling. In  these  cases,  the Church  is powerless  to  do anything except pressure the authorities to take a narrow definition of "public order" and  "good  custom" and to intervene  accordingly.

               Afro-Brazilian  boy in Umbanda worshiping prostration


In some instances,  the Church  has  acted more directly  and has taken  the  Afro-Brazilian groups  to  court.  One such case concerns  "intellectual property"  and  religious  knowledge.  The  following  are 
excerpts  from  the ruling  in  the Roman Catholic Church v.  Umbanda Federation  of  the  state  of  Scio  Paulo  (1946), concerning  the  use  of Catholic  images  in  an Umbanda  procession.  Here,  Section  7 Article 141 is invoked:  The  borrowing  of  religious  imagery  with  intent  to deceive  is  considered  injurious  to the rights  of  other  groups and  an improper appropriation of knowledge. Section  1:  In  response  to a protest  entered  by  D. Idilio Jose Soares, Bishop  of the Diocese of  Santos, against  the acts committed  by  the  Federado Umbandista do Estado de S5o Paulo,  of  the  use in  their  public  ritual  of  images of  Catholic origin  and  which  are  distinctly  associated  with  the  Catholic faith  by  religious 
association.  The intent, undoubtedly, is to mystify or blur, causing  the impression that  the procession  is  being organized  by  the Apostolic Roman  Catholic Church. The terreiros of  SHo Miguel  Arcanjo  and  Nossa Senhora da  Aparecida, shall no longer be known by  those names and the respective saints shall be removed  in light  of  the  fact  that  the  names  of  the saints and  the  cult  of  their  images  are exclusive to the Apostolic Roman Catholic Church and therefore not  available for use by  the Umbandistas.(Kloppenburg  11:246) 

                                    Umbanda baptism


This  court  case can  be seen as  an  example  of  the  dominant culture using  the judiciary  means  to prevent  the co-opting of  knowledge and the  assimilation  of beliefs. The Catholic reasoning  regarding  the  use  of  Catholic saints in Afro-Brazilian  ritual  betrays  an  intense fear  of having  "Catholic" knowledge and access to power used  in an alternative way. A Catholic bishop's  remarks about how Umbanda groups employ Catholic imagery are revealing? The  diabolic  idea which has modified overnight  the  development  of  "Spiritism  or Umbanda"  was  born  of  an  ambition  to  become  greater  than  the  Catholic Church. A 
catholic would never enter a terreiro de Umbanda to ask for the help of  Ogum, nor give money  to  a  terreiro which  supported  Oxossi.  A catholic  however  does believe in  SHo Jorge or would give money to an organization whose patron saint was SHo Sebastiao. The ingenious device used  to subvert the  catholics has been  to take advantage of  the strong association Brazilians have with  the various saints. The filling of  their terreiros with  the images of  the saints while  at the same time professing  a  doctrine of spiritism has been effective  to the  extent  that  today  sixty  per  cent  of  practicing  catholics  also  attend terreiros on a regular  basis.  (Kloppenburg  11:250) 


This commentary represents a notable denial of the historical use of Catholic imagery  in Brazil  and  a misunderstanding of  the syncretic nature  of  Umbanda.  The  dualistic  use  of  images  was  one  of  the 
earliest forms of interaction between Catholic and Afro-Brazilian ritual and  is  widely  practiced  throughout  Brazil today. In  fact,  there  is  a long-standing  similarity between what  is  considered  popular 
Catholicism  and  Afro-Brazilian  religion.  The Catholicism  which was brought  to Brazil  by  the Portuguese colonists beginning  in  1530 was a  folk  Catholicism  which  in  many  ways  only vaguely  resembled  the 
institutional  Roman  Catholic stance.  The  Iberian peninsula  had developed  as a remote,  outlying region  of  the Roman Empire; it had not only become Christianized at a late date, but  also had struggled to 
preserve  the polytheistic base of  the previous  "pagan" faith. 
The historical interaction of beliefs and approaches to knowledge and  power  can  be related  to Raymond Williams's  notion  of  residual cultural traits within  the dominant  culture: 
The distinction between residual  and emergent can  be  applied to both alternative 
and oppositional cultures. By  "residual" I  mean that some experiences, meanings, 
and  values, which  cannot be  verified  or  cannot  be  expressed in  terms  of  the 
dominant culture,  are  nevertheless  lived  and  practiced  on  the  basis  of  the 
residue-cultural  as well  as social-of  some  previous social  formation.  (Williams 
1980:40) Raymond  Williams's  notion  of  residual  culture  exemplifies  the historical  relationship  between official Catholicism  and  popular Catholicism, as well  as Afro-Brazilian  traditions,  and their differential 
approaches to the acquisition  of  knowledge  and  power

                      Afro-Brazilian girl devotee of Umbanda religion


A change in this relationship was acknowledged when the Vatican I1  pronouncement  of  1965 recognized  the  undeniable interaction between Catholicism and local religious traditions  (Levine 1986:8-10). 
The Latin American  Bishops Synod issued  a similar statement at the Second  General Conference  of  Latin American  Bishops  at Medellin, 1968: 
Religious  expressions  may  be  deformed  and  to  some  extent confused  with  an 
ancestral heritage in which tradition plays an almost tyrannical role. They are easily 
influenced  by magic and superstitious practica . . . and a certain fear of the divine 
which  necessitates  more  visible  concrete  expression  . . . desire  for  security, 
contingency,  importance, and  simultaneously  the  urge  to  adore  and thank  the 
Supreme  Being.  These  religious expressions  may  be  the  stammerings  of  an 
authentic  religious  sense  expressed  by  means  of  the  cultural  elements  at  their 
disposal.  Faith  always  reaches  man  clothed  in a  cultural  language.  (O'Gorman 
1977:lOO) By  accepting the continuing impact of traditional  religious beliefs on Catholic practice, the bishops essentially recognized  that a residual culture exists.  "A residual culture is usually at some distance from the effective  dominant culture  but  one  has  to  recognize  that,  in  real cultural activities,  it may get incorporated into it" (Williams  1980:41). 


In  the  Brazilian  context  discussed  here,  the  issue  of  pragmatism  in relation to new spiritual knowledge is a legacy of  popular Catholicism as well  as the Afro-Brazilian  and Amerindian  belief systems. The fetishization  of  power  in the popular  Catholicism of Brazil evidences this legacy of pragmatism. The most  common recognition of the power  of  the spirit  realm  and  of  spirit-directed energy  has  been the widespread use  of  amulets. The amulets, worn  near  a  pulse point (on  the wrist  or  around  the  neck)  attract and  contain  any  harmful energy which  might  be focused  by  a witch  or warlock  upon a  victim. 
These amulets from popular Catholicism thus fetishized power against a perceived  evil spirit realm.  Another  example of  pragmatic action in relationship  to  power  appears  in  the  travelogue of  an  American 
visiting Brazil  in  1850: 
My  friend the vicar had a lad long troubled with a bruised leg  The sore resisted all  his  attempts  to  heal  it.  As  a last  resource,  a  colored  "wise  woman" was consulted. She  raised a  smoke  of  dried herbs, muttered over  the wound,  made motions as if  stitching its lips up, put on a cataplasm of  herbs, sent him home and in  a week  he was well.  Another young slave had a  diseased foot; nothing seemed to do it good;  and  at  length his  owner gave him leave  to visit a  dark sorceress, who talked  to it, made signs over it, rubbed  it with oil, covered it with plaster, and in a  few  days  he was sound  too. (Ewbank  1856:247) 
This  example  illustrates  the  Catholic  vicar's  willingness  to  work pragmatically  and  to  seek  a  solution  to  his  problem from  an alternative source, thus  acknowledging  a source of  power  outside the Catholic Church. When  accepted means  of  treating the illness proved futile, the vicar sent for a  "wise woman." This pragmatic relationship to  power  is  a residual  element  of  both  Iberian  and  Afro-Brazilian 
culture;  in  this instance,  it  was  used  by  a member  of  the  dominant culture. 


In  contrast  to this use  of power,  the interaction with  the spirit realm through possession or trance has not been incorporated into the dominant  culture.  Popular  Catholicism, for  the  most  part,  rejected 
interaction  with  the spirit  realm,  although  it  recognized  its  existence and  took  great  measures  to  prevent its  influences.  Thus,  spirit possession  represents  a  non-incorporated  residual  element. Historical 
factors, such  as  the  advent  of mass  media  in  Brazil,  are working  to allow the integration of these residual  elements, whether incorporated or non-incorporated,  into a  new, revitalized  culture. The  marginal  cultures  in Brazil  share  the  residual  element  of pragmatic action with  the  dominant  culture.  The vicar,  for  example, used a  power  source  which  could  never  be  incorporated  into  the Catholic  structure  of knowledge.  This  pragmatic  use  of  power  also underlies  the  African  and Amerindian  belief  structures  in  Brazil. Because they  are  based  on  interaction  with  spirits,  these  marginal cultures allow for  the ongoing incorporation  of  new sources of  power in  their  knowledge  structures.  Only  European Catholicism  lacks  a system for handling  knowledge  derived from the spirit world. 

Child participates in Yemanjá Festival dressed in typical bahian dress with Oshun colors.


The introduction  of Kardecism into Brazil  in the mid-nineteenth century  provided a  missing  component  which  led  to  the  birth  of Umbanda. Kardecism, the complex of beliefs dealing with mediumship and  "spiritist" interpretations of  the Bible,  originated  in  nineteenth- century  France  and  rapidly  gained popularity  among  the  upper socioeconomic levels in Brazil. Allan Kardec, who wrote The Christian 
Scriptures According  to Spiritism, believed in  consulting the spirits  of the  dead  to  gain  advice  relating  to scriptural  interpretation  and  to diagnose spiritual illness. Kardec claimed that Espiritismo  "counts as its 
own  those  adherents belonging  to  all varieties of religious  belief  and who  still practice  their  other  faith. Catholics,  Protestants,  Jews, Muslims and even Buddhists.  All of them  can potentially  be spiritists" 
(Kloppenburg 1961:70). Kardecism was open to other religions because it  focused  on  the spirits  of  the  dead.  Moreover,  it  was  attractive  to people  of many  religious backgrounds,  since anyone  might  be 
interested in contacting dead  relatives  or  other  spirits.  Although Kardecism  was  introduced  into Brazil  in  the  late  1860s, it  remained distinct  from  the  other  spiritual traditions  which  dealt  with 
hypnomantic knowledge until roughly  1908. In that year, a boy in Rio de Janeiro became possessed  by  an Amerindian spirit while consulting a Kardecist medium. 
According to legend, the young man, Zelio de Moraes, was taken to the Spiritist Federation when  doctors  failed  to diagnose a strange illness which was plaguing him.  During  the session,  Zelio  went  into trance  and communicated  a  message  questioning  the  refusal  of  the spiritists  to  accept  messages  from African  and Amerindian  spirits. After the spiritists present failed  to indoctrinate the spirit, it spoke of establishing a  new  religion  in  which  African,  Amerindian,  and European spirits would  be  given  equal recognition. (Brown  1986:40) Although  Kardecism in Brazil provided  a  European approach to understanding  the  spirit  realm,  it  was  closed  to  other  spirit  belief systems.  Additionally,  the  spirits in  European  Kardecism  were considered by many Brazilians to be overly concerned with complicated doctrinal matters.  The  eventual incorporation  of  African  and Amerindian spirits into early Umbanda, however,  allowed for a focus on  healing  and curing  which had  practical applications. Thus, as Kardecism became incorporated into the emerging Umbanda tradition, it  underwent  a significant change  which  can  be  attributed  to  the 
residual influence  of  African, Amerindian, and European culture still present  in Brazil. 
Mass culture in Brazil can be characterized by the acceptance and embracing  of  this emerging culture. It  is  estimated  that there  are roughly 300,000 Afro-Brazilian groups in Brazil. Some of Brazil's  most famous writers (Jorge Amado) and singers (Caetano Veloso  are "sons of saint,"  that  is,  initiates  in  the religion  (Bramly  1977:4).  Similarly, politicians are constantly trying to associate themselves with the Afro- Brazilian  complex  as  they vie  for  popular support.  The widespread presence  of  this emerging  culture  will  soon  bring  into  question  the validity  of  the natural equation  of  the Roman  Catholic Church with the dominant culture. As  Umbanda continues to grow, the "dominant" culture,  lacking  an  open  framework for  integrating  new  knowledge, may soon find  itself  both  marginal  and residual. An  important  aspect of  this emerging Afro-Brazilian culture will be the success  of  Umbanda outside of  the Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo 
corridor where  it was  born.  Umbanda, with  its  potential  to  embrace and order  new religious  practice  and  doctrine  is  spreading  rapidly throughout  Brazil.  This  is  in part  due to the  Umbanda-dominated 
"spiritist press,"  which has  penetrated  into all regions of  the country. Umbanda,  which  traditionally  has  been  an  oral  culture,  is developing  an eclectic yet well  defined  body of written doctrine.  The implications of this developing body of written  literature for the Afro- Brazilian complex  as a whole, and the internal dynamics of Umbanda in  particular,  remain to be seen.
                                          Afro-Brazilian Umbanda worshipper in spiritual trance
Notes 
For  the  purposes  of this  paper,  domhmf culnue  refers  to the state  apparatus and 
those empowered by it and to the institutional Roman Catholic Church. When dominunt 
culnue  is employed without  a specific reference  to either of  the individual  components, 
the reference can  be understood  as the combined influence of  the same. 
For an  excellent  framing  of  regional/historical  impact  on syncretism in Brazil,  see 
Roger Bastide  [1978, ref. cited].


On the other hand,  an open  belief  system  can produce  anxiety as well  as certainty. 
A terreiro  is the name given the locale where Umbanda  meetings occur;  this location 
may vary in size from a single room  to a  multi-room complex. 
"Order and Progress" is a Comtean motto, which appears on the Brazilian flag. Auguste 
Comte (1798-1857) was a French social thinker who developed  the philosophical  notion 
of  positivism, a  theory whcih  became highly influential in Brazil. 
Ogun and Oxosi are deities in the vast pantheon  of the Afro-Brazilian  traditions; they 
also exist  among  the Yomba.  They are frequently associated with the saints listed  here.  
' Son of saint  is  term  designating a  man who  has been initiated  in  Umbanda. Women 
initiates  are called daughter of saint. 
References Cited 
Bastide,  Roger.  1978.  The  Afrcan  Religions  of  Brazil:  Toward a Sociology  of  the 
Interpeneaation  of Civilizotwns. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. 
Bento, Dilson.  1979. Malungo, Decodjica~rio da  Umbondo. Sio Paulo:  Imprensa  Eco. 
Brown, Diana.  1986.  Umbanda: Religion  and  Politics  in  Urban Brazil.  Ann Arbor: 
University Microfilms International Research Press


Ewbank, Thomas.  1856. Sketches of Life in Brauau&  A  Journal of a  Vuil to the Land of the 
Cocoa and Palm.  New  York:  Harper & Brothers. 
Foucault, Michel.  1972. Discipline and Punish. New York:  Pantheon. 
Kloppenburg, Boaventura.  1961. A  Umbandn no Brm'& On'entacrio para  Catolicos. V o m  
em Defeso da Fd. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Vozes. 
k i n e ,  Daniel  H.  1986. Religion,  the Poor, and  Politics  in  Latin  America Today.  In 
Religion and Political Conflict in Latin America  Chapel Hill: University of Chapel 
Hill Press. 
Myscofski, Carole. 1988. Pomcguese Messianism in Brazil. Atlanta: Scholars Press. 
O'Gorman,  Frances.  1977. Aluondo. Rio de Janeiro:  Franciscn  Alves Editora. 
Obeyesekere,  Gananath.  1981. Medusa's Hair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
Williams, Raymond.  1980.  Bases  and  Superstructure  in  Marx's  Cultural  Theoty.  In 
Problems in Materialism and  Culture. London: Verso
                             Umbanda devotees




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  Afro-Brazilian Umbanda follower




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