The Social Impact of Afro-Brazilian Cult Religion

University of Miami

In the late nineteenth century, Brazilian élites, worried about their country's future, agonized over what they considered to be an unhappy coexistence of two nations: an urbane, coastal civilization, deeply influenced by European culture and reason, and the vast rural culture of the hinterland, as well as the poor throughout society, considered atavistic, prone to superstition, and hopelessly lost. Euclydes da Cunha summarized this view in his magisterial Os Sertbes, published in 1901, and it survived for decades. Convinced that the Brazilian racial stock was eugenically inferior to that of North America and Western Europe, intellectuals warned that the Brazilian povo was not ready for democracy, and flirted during the 1930s with such ideologies as corporatism, fascism, and paternalistic, authoritarian populism as a solution for what they considered to be the inherent flaws in the national character, caused by a deficient mass population.

Today, the Brazilian poor cope with the hardships of their lives with techniques that include not only innocent and ingenious ways to add income, but also the use of psychological devices and ruses to deal with individuals and institutions from the world from which the poor are excluded. Forced by the system to endure patronizing behavior and required by employment to hide their emotions behind a servile demeanor, members of the lower class whose work brings them into close contact with the afflúent often engage in role playing, assuming postures of deference and docility in the workplace and casting off these masks upon returning to their own world. Sometimes this has brutal consequences: the built-up stress of servile behavior day after day can lead to excessive drinking, or to the abuse of women and children at home, especially when males frustrated by forced demeanors of servitude take it out on these psychologically subservient to them.

Carnival in Bahia


In the days of slavery, the unmerciful regimen of forced labor was broken only by Sunday's as a day of rest - and this not always observed - and by the days in the annual calendar given to observances of religious origin, especially the exuberant festival of Carnival (from the medieval Latin Carne-vale, or "flesh to be shed'~ in the days preceding Lent. By the late nineteenth century, this pattern had been expanded to the larger population, and broadened to include not only Catholic festivals but also civic commemorations. During the twentieth century, the arrival of soccer as the national sport added still another set of days during which the playing of critically important matches galvanized national interest among almost all social groups. During World Cup play every four years, in fact, virtually all work ceases during important matches, followed by wild street celebrations and frenzied euphoria when the team wins.

These events, Robert Da Matta observes, are played out in zones of encounter and mediation, where rational, normal time is suspended and a new routine must be innovated and repeated; where problems are forgotten or confronted. The Brazilian social world is ritualized at Carnival time, when its national soccer team plays, when processions (or military parades) wend their way down the main streets of cities. The calendar anchors these events, three of which stretch for several days: Carnival before Lent; Holy Week following Easter, and Independence Day (September 7th), surrounded by a week of civic and military festivities, the Semana da Pátria. The national focus during these celebrations becomes holistic, suspending, if for brief moments, the acute sense of social division that characterizes Brazilian society, even if the events are celebrated strictly according to proper hierarchy.1 Whether the bread-and-circuses nature of the way Brazilians, rich and poor, were specifically permitted to rest and to blow off steam according to the religious, civic and sportive calendars was a conscious safety device by managers and officials is dubious. In any case, the effect remained salutatory. Brazilian celebrations, exuberant national rituals, have historically bound together members of disparate social groups and cancelled, if temporarily, the rigid unspoken rules of segregated Brazilian society that prescribed behavior and language in a world where everyone knew their place.

As a country in which Roman Catholicism is quasi-oficial, Brazil recognizes all of the important religious holidays, and in the tradition of civic pride and nationalism, it also celebrates many days on the civic calendar, some of which are national, others regional or state-wide. These rituals afke share the same characteristic: people use them to forget the difficulties in their lives. Some occur nationally; others, especially those celebrating a patron saint, are local. Some have become notorious: Ouro Préto's saint's day attracts so many drug addicts and other undesirable types that it has been dubbed "the Festival of the Policemen."2 In some localities, celebrations have become institutionalized ways of blotting out day-to-day existence, what Brazilians call realidade do dia-a-dia.

Saints' days are celebrated throughout Brazil. Some (Santo António, Sao Joao, and Sao Pedro) are universal; others depend on the locality and its patron saint or saints. The number of holidays in Brazil is among the highest of any country, and their impact on everyday life (not to mention employee productivity) is enormous. Public celebrations, especially for the poor, reveal an astonishingly independent spirit and resistance to imposed "colonial" behavior and practice.3

Consider Salvador, Bahia's capital, one of the poorest urban centers in the country. Bahia, where the legacy of African slavery was strongest and where African spiritism religion survived more tenaciously than anywhere else in the Afro-Brazilian culis of candomblé (related to the santería of Cuba and South Florida as well as Haitian voudon), tambor de Minas, jure~ xangó and other African-derived religions, offers full-time employees more days off from work than virtually any other place on earth. The cycle starts on December 31st, when not only do public employees stay home from work to prepare for the New Year, but thousands of the devout, many of them Afro-Brazilians, participate in the maritime procession of Senhor Bom Jesus dos Navegantes, a festivity brought over from Portugal around 1750, involving hundreds of boats and other craft, on two successive days, coming to be blessed. The city throbs with life. In Rio de Janeiro, members of all of the spiritist terreiros in the city come to the beach dressed in white for the rite of Iemanjá, the Yoruban goddess of the sea - although her formal holiday comes a month later, in the first week of February, when the rite is celebrated in Salvador. They then launch small boats and enter the waves, over which are strewn flowers. New Year's Day is spent by many on the beaches, since January marks the beginning of the hottest part of the summer.

For three days following January 3rd, Bahians observe the Festival of the Kings, commemorating the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus. There are masses, processions, and an enormous outdoor party. Then comes the even more frenetic Festa do Bomfim, in honor of Oxalá, the African counterpart of the region's patron, St. Anthony. The festival peaks on the 14th of January, when an immense procession of women and giris dressed in candomblé garb, as well as much of the population of Salvador accompanied by music and fireworks, arrive at the Bomfim church to wash the chapel. A mass follows, and an enormous public celebration. During the late nineteenth century in Salvador, Bomim was not only celebrated in January but every Friday. A cleric, Monsignor Brito, complained in 1893 that the celebration occupied his parishioners for the entire month, during which time they virtually did not cease. The only time the revelers stopped was when they moved to the Brotherhood of Sao Joaquim, to a celebration of the inauguration of its new building.4

In mid-January, on a movable date, the Festa de Ribeira occurs, when percussion baterías and amplified carnivalesque music thunder through the city. This is no religious celebration at all: the event is simpiy a local tradition as a prelude to the Carnival season. When orixás are celebrated, each one is associated with its own tempo; moreover, according to musician John Krich, every samba rhythm has as its subtext the call to one or another spiritist deity.5 Four additional religious festivals fall at the end of January: San Sebastian's Day, on January 20th, merged into the feast day of his African equivalent, Oxum (known as Katendé among some African sects); Nossa Senhora da Guia, celebrated on the Sunday following the Festa de Ribeira; Sáo Lázaro, paired with the candomblé spirit of Omulu, with a major festival at the Sáo Lázaro church; Sáo Gonzalo do Amarante, centered around a solemn mass. Finally, there is a regatta at the Porto da Barra, a touristic event staged late in the month, for which some municipal employees receive time off. By the last day of January, municipal and state employees, since December 31st, have already had between five and seven days off, not counting Saturdays and Sundays.

The first week of February brings the Festa de Iemanjá, filled with carnival music to honor the "Mother of Waters." A few days later, a mini-Carnival follows in honor of the church of Itapuá, on the Praga Dorival Caymmi. A similar celebration is held at the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Luz, starting about two weeks before the first day of Carnival. Then, the dates depending on the date counting back from Easter, comes Carnival itself, the major event of the Brazilian calendar, celebrated so exuberantly in Bahia that, since the governorship of Antonio Carlos Magalháes (1979-82), the state grants five vacation days in contrast to the three days ceded officially in the rest of the country. The entire population of the city participates, some congregating in the old city, or in the Farol da Barra, some remaining in their neighborhoods. There are afoxés, blocos, cordóes, batucadas, continuous dancing night and day, preceded by the washing of churches in the Porta da Barra, Tororó, Escadaria dos Teatro Castro Alves, and the Cruz da Redengao in Brotas. In the late 1980s, a sixth day was added to the official celebration, for the coronation of the Re¡ Momo, Carnival's rotund king, the modern version of the Greek god of debauchery and practical jokes. When it is genuinely celebrated, and not just a tourist event, Carnival frees men and women from the restrictions of everyday life. In Taubaté, all men dress as women for a day. Fools dress as wise men; servants as masters; celebrants of all social classes rub elbows in the street, hiding behind masks. It is a momentary abandonment to fantasy, an unspoken negation of the status quo.6

Additional saints' days are celebrated during this period, but they tend to be dwarfed by the steady buildup to Carnival. Sometimes drum beats and persuasive sounds are heard weeks before Carnival, building up to almost a frenzy. The day devoted to Sáo Brás, for example, is celebrated on February 3rd. Sáo Brás is considered the protector of throats, and people suffering from throat ailments go to mass and seek blessings from the priest in exchange for a promise of penitence.7 The supplicant usually takes the entire day off on such days, and sometimes children are kept out of school if school is in session.

March and April bring additional celebration, almost surpassing January's intensity. There is Ash Wednesday, then Ember Days (with the procession of Nosso Senhor dos Passos), and Holy Week: Wednesday of darkness, Thursday of anguish, Friday of passion, and hallelujah Saturday, or Judas Day, when effigies of Judas are bumed, hanged, and scourged throughout the countryside. In the interior they used to be known as the fuli8es cavalgatas, full-blown ceremonies with music, theater, and processions. A major religious procession is celebrated in Salvador on the Sunday following Easter, reenacting the stations of the Cross, leading to the Terreiro de Jesus at the heart of the old city. Then the anniversary of the founding of the city is celebrated, on the 29th, but most functionaries go to work. On April 21 st, all Brazilians celebrate the birthday of the national hero, Tiradentes. May brings three holidays, one on the 10th in honor of the patron saint Francisco Xavier, featuring a mass and an official ceremony at the municipal council, and Pentecost, with a religious procession on the Largo de Santo António, always led by a child.

May 13th is a nationwide holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery by Princess Isabel in 1888, and is celebrated both civicly and religiously. Afro- Brazilian cults hold their annual Inhoaiba festival on the same date. Some of the ceremonies date back to the decade of abolition, when a sisterhood of freed slave women developed the "Feast of the Good Death," commemorating the Death and assumption of the Virgin Mary.8 June l0th, Corpus Christi, is a major municipal holiday, with Sáo Jorge's image borne on horseback in full military dress and heavy armor. June also celebrates the saint's days of St. Anthony, St. Peter, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Anthony's (Santo António) Day is celebrated with a special mass, but most observers do not take the rest of the day off. Sáo Joáo's Day follows the 24th, a state holiday in Bahia during which federal employees also are given the day off. Sáo Joáo is marked by fireworks and very loud noisemaking, as well as by traditional outdoor parties for children, sometimes following caipira (rustic) themes. July 2nd is state independence day, commemorating the day in which Bahia accepted Dom Pedro I's rupture with Portugal in 1824, and the Visitation of Nossa Senhora, celebrated with a procession. Indulgences may be secured on this day. July 21st is allotted to the Guardian Angel of the Empire; July 25th to St. James, and July 28th to Santa Anna, Mother of the Mother of God. August brings Sáo Roque Day, coupled with the Afro-Brazilian deity Obaluaé, so that the celebration occurs simultaneously in mainstream Roman Catholic churches and among practitioners of candomblé, and also Assumption Day, on the 15th, and the Most Holy Heart of Mary Day on August 25th.

Then comes September 7th, National Independence Day. The armed forces play a major role, organizing parades, ceremonies, and other forms of patriotic celebration. Three weeks later, Bahians celebrate the days honoring Sáo Cosme and Sáo Damiáo, the twins Cosme and Damian, with masses and special dinners served in private homes. The Bahian Fair, which occurs in September, sometimes brings with it municipal holidays or release time for schoolchildren. October 12 brings a national holiday celebrating Nossa Senhora da Aparecida, Brazil's national saint. October 6th is the day of the Most Holy Rosary, with a night-time procession; October 9th is the feast of St. Pedro d'Alcantara. November lst is All-Saints Day; the 2nd the Day of the Dead, occasions when virtually everyone in the city visits the Cmeteries where their loved ones are buried or whose bones repose in ossuary niches. Cemeteries become awash with bright-colored flowers as the life of the city virtually comes to a halt.

November 2nd and l5th are also national holidays. Bahia adds two more, on movable dates, Sáo Nicodemus and Dia da Baiana, formerly called "Dia da Baiana do Acarajé," a religious festivity mainly involving Afro-Brazilian women. December, to round off the calendar, sees Santa Bárbara Day, in honor of the patron saint of markets and matched with candomblé's lansá, accompanied by fireworks, a large procession, and municipal bands. There is a state holiday at mid-month, in honor of Nossa Senhora da Conceigáo, linked with the candomblé deity of lemanjá and marked by the Church with an elaborate procession involving images of the infant Jesus, Santa Bárbara, Joseph and Mary, accompanied by popular bands and sometimes Carnival harmony. Finally, Santa Luzia at mid-month, patronized by the military police, and given to pilgrimages, fireworks, music, and panties. Christmas on the 25th follows, and many government offices stay closed through New Year's.9

lf so many holidays and celebrations cut into employee productivity, there are benefits as well. One difference between the attitudes of Brazilian blacks and their North American cousins may well be what singer Gilberto Gil called the "cultural space" given to Africans in Brazil, the tacit agreement to permit them to practice their own religion, to maintain their psychological world. "You should not make it difficult for them to choose their king and to sing and dance as they desire on certain anointed days of the year," an eighteenth-century Portuguese Jesuit was supposed to have said about the Brazilian slaves he saw.10

Carnival in Brazil, exuberant and richly varied, continues to be the sole event, in addition to soccer, where rich and poor intermingle, a remarkably ordered system of disorder and social inversion.11 Most foreigners (and some locals) see it as touristic exotica, but in recent years international musicians have paid tribute to its gross-roots heritage of pagode samba (developed by slaves in greater Rio de Janeiro), northeastern forró, and the hybrid samba-reggae from Salvador.12 For decades, élites tolerated Carnival, except when particular aspects of its celebration threatened them. During the 1870s, for example, in Salvador, éditorial writers began to attack what they called the "savage, gross and pernicious" entrudos, whose celebrants overstepped the unwritten boundaries of behavior, by dousing bystanders with foul mixtures of flour, water, and sometimes urine, and by playing other rough tricks on fellow celebrants. In response, the police chief invoked stem countermeasures, including the organization of deputized posses. Foreign observers, as early as 1815, were shocked by seeing women participate in these "little wars" as well as men.13 Black youths also did, but they took care only to attack other blacks; white youths, of course, attacked anyone in their way. The levelling character of Bahian Carnival did not extend to relations between the races.

The élites response to the rising outcry against what proper citizens called the uncivilized and barbarous nature of Carnival was to retreat to theaters and private clubs where lavish, expensive masked balls were held, decorated with materials imported form Europe, held safely out of contact with the common people who remained in the noisy streets, tens of thousands of whom had come to the capital from different parts of the region. Paper confetti was substituted for thrown liquids. Not all Carnival conventions were dropped, though: at many of the masked balls, men dressed as women, as (in the Portuguese of the day) damas travesties. Once in a while, a gesture was made in the spirit of generosity. At the masked ball at Salvador's Polytheama, in 1887, the leader of the élite carnival club Fantoches mounted the stage and presented emancipation documents to two female slaves. "The act," the Jornal de Noticias commented the next day, "was received with general enthusiasm and concluded with the playing of the National Anthem."14

Following slavery's abolition in 1888, black street carnival clubs played such major roles that élites complained that they were taking over the celebration. The clubs included Embaixada Africana (African Embassy) and Plindegos d'África (African Clowns), the most famous, organized in the early 1890s; Chegada Africana (African Arrivals), between 1895 and 1897, and Guerreiros d'África (African Warriors), after the turn of the century. Newspaper editors complemented these clubs for their efficient organization and for the good behavior of their members. For a few years thereafter, Bahian Carnival came to represent a model for the rest of the country: spirited, open to all, and within the unwritten rules of the festivities (whites dressed as Europeans; blacks as "savage" Africans), egalitarian.

In 1904, however, things changed again when an editorial appeared demanding the prohibition of African drum corps (batuques), the use of masks after dark except at formal balls, and any act critical of or offensive to distinguished people. The chief complaint was that the Africanized carnival clubs were extolling primitivism in the place of civilization, producing great noise, and distorting the traditional samba. A year later, in 1905, the "shameful" Afro- batuques were banned by the chief of police. The Africanized clubs remained outlawed in most cities for nearly three decades, until they reappeared during the 1930s (in some places, notably Sáo Paulo, they survived out of sight of the police, in poor districts where police rarely entered).15 The reason that the batuques (later called afoxés) offended so many was that unlike their predecessors, the African-theme clubs of the 1890s, they were formed by "less decorous," "less civilized," and "poorly adapted" blacks in the language of the day. Salvador's black population continued to grow through the 1930s and 1940s, in part owing to a constant influx of migrants from the cacao zone in the southern part of the state, whose economic boom had peaked in the late 1920s. After 1950, the number of migrants levelled off at 15,000 per year, two-thirds from the interior of the state.16 Wags named Salvador "the Negroes' Rome." Music plays a major role in Brazilian culture, and accustomizes individuals to their understanding of the moods and dispositions of everyday life.17 During the period of military dictatorship from 1964 to 1978, Carnival samba lyrics composed for the leading escolas de samba became an outlet for frustrated expression of opposition to the regime. Although television and radio were subject to prior censorship; newspapers, books, magazines, and published song lyrics all were subject to after-the-fact censorship. At any time, a state interventor, or a member of the high military command, or even a police delegado, acting on his own, could interdict packages of newspapers ready to be shipped to street kiosks, or seize a warehouse stock of a newly published book, or raid a book store. As such, it became very risky financially to publish something that someone, even for foolish reasons, might consider hostile to the regime. When individual editors wanted to protest, they often ran recipes or other innocuous filler, or simply blank space, where a banned article or commentary would have appeared. Song writers used subtle euphemisms to record their protest, although in some cases the popularity of their songs (as in the case of Caetano Velloso, Gilberto Gil, Luis Gonzaga and Chico Buarque de Holanda) forced them into exile. In 1969, the Carnival verses of the Escola de Samba Império Serrano, an association dating back to 1947, had its entry for the annual Carnival competition banned by the DOPS, the political police, and its authors, Silas de Oliveira and Mario Décio da Viola, arrested. What offended the police were the lyrics of the song "Heroes of Liberty":


" longe, soldados e tambores/ alunos e professores/ acompanhados de clarim/ cantavam assim/ já raiou a liberdade/ a liberdade já raiou."( a distance, soldiers and drums/ students and teachers/ called by the bugle/ we have sung/ and freedom has dawned/ freedom has dawned."18

Escolas de Samba and other Carnival associations conscious of their African roots have faced trouble consistently, not only during periods of authoritarian rule. Black activists have remembered this legacy of discriminating against black-themed Carnival organizations, and in some cases have expressed outrage at the repressive measures aimed at independent black expression over the years.

Protests have been brief, however, and in the case of Salvador, the city with Brazil's highest percentage of black population, the struggle was limited initially to permitting freedom of expression for blacks only during Carnival.

Change came very slowly. In 1938, dictator Getúlio Vargas lifted the prohibition on African drums, through the personal intercession of his chief aide, a white, who was an acolyte of a black máe-de-santo in Rio de Janeiro. In 1949, a group of stevedores founded the first twentieth-century afoxé organized for blacks, which they named the Sons of Gandhi. Stevedores were better organized than other laboring groups, and they were important to the economy of the city. The choice of the Indian leader as their symbol was propitious, since it permitted members to dress in Gandhian white, also a symbol of homage to Oxalá, the father of all spirits and the bringer of peace. The club was attacked as being made up of "sorcerers" and "candomblé-practicers," but authorities did not suppress it. Challenging the city ban on "primitive" celebration, forty of its members, wearing turbans and electric blue socks, danced during the 1949 Carnival to African jongo music. In the same year of its founding, the group held a public march, which stretched four kilometers in length, scaring the daylights out of the city's white élite despite the explanations of its leaders that it was devoted to Mahatma Gandhi's peaceful creed, but otherwise uneventful.19

The "Largo do Pelourinho" (Pelourinho Square), where the salves were punished until 1889. The Church of Our Lady of Rosary built by freed negroes.


The Sons of Gandhi survived for twenty years, until the late 1960s. It revived again after the amnesty of the exiles from the military regime a decade later, and took on the role of an interest group speaking in the name of blacks to the white power structure, a clientelistic arrangement, in Christopher Dunn's words, providing the afoxé with material benefits (a building in the black center of the old city, Pelourinho, as part of a $30,000,000 pledge from Governor Antonio Carlos Magalháes for historical restoration and rebuilding) in exchange for political support.20 The symbolism of naming the association for the Indian advocate of passive resistance has itself faded. "Gandhi was an African chief," one member answered to a query about the groups namesake; "I think he must have been some sort of god," said another.21

Salvador's black clubs continued to be faced with many obstacles placed in their paths. In 1972, a member of an all-white women's club complained to the police that a member of a black afoxé club had tried to rape her; as a result, police arrested more than 3,000 members of black groups. But, more recently, Afro-Brazilian carnival clubs (blocos) have fared better. The first black club to win the annual Carnival competition in Salvador was Afoxé Moderno in 1977. The small movement for black power - termed bleque pau ("bleque" an imitation of the English "black" and "pau, "meaning a stick) - at first met with resistance even within the 44% of the national population considered Afro- Brazilian; few wanted to abandon the racial denmocracy myth. By the late 1980s, though, the movement, shifting its emphasis to raising black awareness, grew in support, even attracting some whites to its carnival merrymaking. It was influenced by the early 1970s cultural and separationist movement "Black Rio," linked to the black power movement in the United States and to the soul music of Caribbean reggae and the American James Brown. "Black Rio" (which spread to other Brazilian cities as well, including Sáo Paulo) encouraged blacks to dress in an Africanized manner, use afro hairstyles, and in general to resist the intrusion of upper-class whites into Rio de Janeiro's Samba Schools.22 Another carioca drum corps, Kizomba, bases its themes on African nationalism, and engages in Soweto-style chant and response sessions. Singer Margaerth Menezes has become a symbol of black identity, embracing black-power lyrics that would have been banned a decade earlier.

In a study of Ilé Aiyé (Yoruba for "House of Life'~ and Olodum, the two leading blocos afro in

 Salvador, Brown University's Christopher Dunn emphasizes the distinctiveness of black carnival organizations established during the military dictatorship in the 1970s as a protest against the established groups that historically have held official sanction. Formerly members of blocos indios, rowdy gangs dressed in Hollywood-style Indian costumes, young blacks now turned to the groups that welcomed them, even if they were poor. Starting in 1974, when Ilé Aiyé was founded, the success of the black carnival groups carne as a defensive reaction to the physical segregation of Carnival newly imposed by city authorities, when bandstands mounted on custom-built trucks in various parts of the city were cordoned off to block the entry of undesirables. Unlike Rio de Janeiro, where poor blacks traditionally spent nearly all of their disposable income to imitate not only whites but white historical figures of the upper class, members of the black carnival drum corps in Salvador now started to dress in African-style costumes and affirm their pan-African roots, although their knowledge of African history was actually quite limited, "hazy and fragmentary at best, often a maze of stereotypes and half-truths."23 In Bahia, Carnival has come to mean less a mixture of "rich and poor" than "blacks and whites." Institutionally, these groups now remain as segregated in Carnival as they do during the remaining fifty-one weeks of the calendar.24

Less important than the inaccuracies of the black carnival groups' references to African history were their results. They built pride and a positive ethnic self-image, offering a courageous alternative to the Brazilian history completely lacking in black role models, except for the patronizing reference in history books to the fact that Brazil was built by the "arms" of slaves. They did not achieve complete victory, however. Black consciousness has yet to spill over from Carnival to everyday life, and even the underfinanced blocos afros lose out to the electrified tríos elétricos - the electrified, high-volume music trucks- that dominate Carnival in the city. Salvador, a city of 2.5 million, more than 70% of black or mixed race origin, has a 35-member city council, all but these of whom are white. A white élite dominates the city and the state, from the judiciary to the legislature, to the executive, to television broadcasters, to university faculty.

The 3,100-strong Olodum, a semi-martial Carnival drum corps with political goals, was started in 1979 with 475 members. The narre is derived from the Yoruba term for "God of Gods." Olodum's newspaper, published fortnightly, reaches 5,000 subscribers in and around Salvador. Its colors are Africa's black, yellow, and Breen. Olodum's president, Joáo Jorge Santos Rodrigues, exemplifies the still-rare figure of a Brazilian from black, clwer-class origins, who has achieved a measure of political prominence, mostly because of his visibility abroad. The New York Times called Rodrigues "a spokesman for Brazil's invisible half - the estimated 70 million Brazilians who trace al] or part of their ancestry back to West Africa."25 The average employed black Brazilian man, it was noted, earned in 1993 $163 a month, half the wage of white Brazilians. Rodrigues, 36 years old in 1993, has dedicated himself to pointing out the unwritten rules governing race relations that substitute in Brazil for any official form of racial discrimination. Rodrigues admires and follows closely the activities of black leaders in the United States, but so far he has been frustrated by the lack of interest in Brazil shown by militant African Americans. Olodum has started a school for young black children to teach self-esteem and Afro- Brazilian culture; Nelson Mandela visited it in 1991, and it has become the building block for a new generation of black awareness.

Olodum and Ilb Aiyé represent, literally, the next generation beyond the Sons of Gandhi's timidity.118 Aiyé does not permit white members, although there is another afoxé organization in Salvador, Ara Ketu, that welcomes whites. It is located closer to the white-dominated downtown of Salvador, and it is led by a woman, a former musicologist specializing in African music in Zimbabwe and Senegal. Ara Ketu, named after the Nigerian Ketu tribe, uses electric instruments in their productions and seems to be attempting to bridge the gap between Salvador's racial groups by being up-to-date.26

Not all groups dedicated to black cultural expression represent tools for survival. Some critics disparage present-day escolas de samba, with the subsidies from tourist boards and alliances with political factions, as "apologists for national development" and instruments manipulating "mass culture."27 To be sure, much of the old spontaneity dissipated in 1935, when the central government under Vargas required each samba association to register as a "Grémio Recreativo Escola de Samba, "subject to regulation and scrutiny. Nor did trappings of African culture necessarily carry with them race consciousness as time passed. The leading recent example is Sáo Paulo's Zimbabwe Soul. That group, boasting a mixture of rap, funk, and break-dancing music, accompanied by aggressive dancing and the wearing of menacing clothing, has attained enormous popularity among affluent youths between the age of ten and eighteen in Sáo Paulo, and similar bands have captured middle-class youths in Rio de Janeiro. The trouble is that there is no racial content at all: the musicians simply borrowed the trappings of Salvador-basad musical groups in order to be trendy.28

Folk Refgion and Popular Culture

Long considered the world's largest Roman Catholic country, Brazil nonetheless has not been especially fertile ground for Catholic orthodoxy. Only during the Babylonian Captivity between 1580 and 1640, when the zealous Spanish Crown acquired tutelage over Portugal under the temporary dynastic merger which saw Spanish monarchs rule over Portugal jointly for sixty years, did the Church in Brazil act aggressively to curb unorthodox religious practices among its flock. Men and women importad from Africa as slaves brought their own spiritist religions with them, and, although most were nominally converted to Catholicism, the fact that by 1818 one out of every two inhabitants of Brazil was a black slave meant that African spiritist ritual and cosmology not only imbued everyday Catholicism with its own particular flavor, but in many cases - not only among slaves but among the free poor- the resulting blended forms of religious expression were more African and indigenous than Roman Catholic. Usually, officials left blacks to their own practicas, but occasionally they cracked down, as in 1785, when the Calandu cult in Bahia's Recócavo was ruthlessly suppressed.29 Ironically for the Vatican, the strong structural parallels between Catholicism and West African religious culture, as well as the lack of clerical authority at the parish level, due in part to understaffing, made it easier for people to drift from Catholicism to religious practices of African origin.30

Brazil, of course, is steeped in five centuries of Catholicism, starting when the discoverer Pedro Álvares Cabral implanted a cross in Brazilian soil in 1500. Half of Brazil's sixteen national holidays are Catholic. Ten per cent of all Brazilian cities and towns are named for saints. Crucifixes are displayed on walls in rooms in state hospitals, in classrooms, and in public offices, despite formal separation of Church and state in 1891. As Smith noted, the presence of Catholic churches near the center of every village and town does not mean complete unity of religious belief and practica in Brazil. Citing passages by the Alagoas-born Arthur Ramos, later appointed the director of UNESCO's Brazilian office, who wrote, in 1940, with characteristic bluntness: "Besides the official religion there are subterranean activities, among the backward strata, among the poorer classes, or, in heterogeneous peoples, among the ethnic groups that are most backward culturally." "This fundamental form - incarnations of totemic, animistic, and magical beliefs- survives in spite of the most advanced religious and philosophical conceptions of the superior strata of societies."31

If the Brazilian state has been characterized by abrupt changes in orientation and direction over the centurias, the same may be said for the Brazilian Catholic Church. Institutionally, it was not nearly as wealthy as its Spanish-American counterparts during the colonial era. Until relatively late in the colonial period, Brazil was a backwater in the Portuguese overseas empire, and, in any case, much less missionary zeal emanated from Lisbon than from Madrid. The Jesuits made an impact in rural frontier areas, but then they were expelled. During the nineteenth century, the Church remained understaffed and underfinanced. With the exception of one seminary, in Fortaleza, Ceará, where new priests were instilled with a good dose of orthodoxy, church practices (and the personal morality of priests) tended to be lax. European-born missionaries from such regular orders as the Franciscans, Selesians, and Dominicans, arriving in the nineteenth century from France, Italy, Germany and other Western Europeán countries, were often scandalized by the living habits of native-born priests and by what they considered to be the frightfully primitive nature of the religious expression of the povo.

Brazil's lower classes, especially the descendants of aboriginal peoples and the slaves kidnapped from Africa, have never historically been orthodox, mono- theistic Christians. This is true, although to avoid suppression, non-European cults adopted outward Catholic symbols, especially representations of New Testament saints. African slaves brought with them a complex of religious beliefs and practices centered around fetishes, prepared objects believed to be endowed with magical powers. Many of these religious systems used anthropo- morphic representations of deities (orixás), of Yoruban or Dahomeyan origin, each one representing one of the forces of nature. Over time, different cults established themselves in different regions. Candomblé, for whose faithful the achievement of a state of trance represented divine intercourse with the gods and rebirth, flourished in Bahia among the large Afro-Brazilian population. Xangós predominated in Pernambuco. In Maranháo, a transitory zone between the sertáo, the Amazon, and the Caribbean, with the largest concentration of blacks outside Bahia, the cult called minas de criollas flourished. Catimbós dominated in other parts of the Northeast, and were brought to the lower Amazon by migrants. During the 1930s, the most celebrated xangó priestess from ábidos to Paraitins, who was consulted by the high society of Pará, including the wife of the governor of Amazonas, was a woman from Ceará. In Rio de Janeiro and Sáo Paulo, macumba, brought to Brazil by Bantu-speaking peoples of the Congo River basin and Angola, and less ceremonially elaborate than the Yoruban (Nagó) cults, carne to predominate along with umbanda, a newer hybrid combining fetishism, Catholicism, and animism, popular not only among the poor but among the middle class. Macumba emphasizes possession, akin to charismatic Pentecostal sects. Less African but rooted in indigenous practices and deities were the caboclo cults, many of which acquired as well aspects of spiritualism.

Religious cult leaders manipulated the supernatural to solve worldly powers. Practices and even the names of saints and gods varied widely from region to region. The deity corresponding to the Roman Catholic "Senhor" (God the Father) was called Ganga Zumba in Salvador, Oxum in Recife. In coastal Bahia, Oxum was paired with the Virgin Mary, celebrated as Yemanjá in Recife and Rio de Janeiro, also known as Sereia do Mar in Recife. The deity called Odé in Pará was called Umulu and also Sapatá in coastal Alagoas.32 Sertanejos in southwestern Brazil believed in the existente of a special group of man-like grizzled monsters called pé de garrafa ("bottle foot'~, believed to practice witchery. Millions of poor Brazilians accept the existente of the mñe d'Agua (water mother), a fatal temptress who lures men to watery deaths, a figure akin to the Sereia do Mar. In the Amazon, it is believed that there are male counterparts to the water mothers, called bótos. Rural Brazilians often believed (and continue to believe) in werewolves and other devils. Northern chapbook literature is filled with them.

Like the backlands penitential Catholics, the zealous personal faith of the followers of spiritist cults encouraged them to concentrate on the here and now. Omulu was the orixá (the Yoruba intermediaries between heaven and earth) of communicable diseases, assisted by subordinate deities (exus) such as Exu Pemba (specializing in venereal disease), Exu Tata Caneira (narcotic addiction), and Exu Carangola (mental distress and hysterics). This had little in common with the city-based spiritism which by late century had gained a hold on a certain portion of the affluent classes. African-derived spiritism was strongest in the slave-holding regions of monocultural agriculture on the coast and to some degree further beyond, in pockets inhabited by former slaves and their descendants.

Spiritism influenced Brazilians in three distinct forms in the late nineteenth century, mostly in urban places but also among some élite members in the interior. A certain portion of the upper classes practiced European mesmerism, which emphasized mediumistic healing, beliefs in reincarnation, and individual self-contro1.33 In regions where the numbers of slaves were highest - in Bahia, mostly along the coast as well as in the capital-, the African-derived cults flourished. More faint instantes of cult worship penetrated the sertáo, although matutos borrowed from the Bantu-Yoruba panoply of spirits, especially the orixás invested with healing powers. But in the hinterland, folk religious practices borrowed from Amerindian beliefs, mostly animism in the form of anthropomorphic hawks, jaguar, turtles, songbirds, and wandering supernatural personages - werewolves, headless she-mules, the Devil in all guises; boitatás, able to protect or to destroy pasturage, caaporas, mounted demons crossing the plains on moonlit nights; and the diabolic sací, attacking belated travellers on Good Friday eves.34

Yoruba ritual, holding sway over the greatest numbers of Afro-Brazilians, as well as other African and indigenous forms of spiritist expression, not only substituted orixás for the saints and icons of Roman Catholicism, but represented itself as possessing two levels of understanding: that held by the believer, and a deeper, hidden knowledge, protected by its priests, priestesses, diviners, and herbalists. Knowledge makes ritual powerful. Spiritism, with its hidden, protected, knowledge grants the members of its community a secret power of unprecedented force.35

The Afro-Brazilian religions that have thrived in Brazil since the days of slavery are cults of spirit possession, and are rooted in a nation-wide network of religious houses, or centros, especially in the major cities of the coast. There are differences between the older, African candomblé and its twentieth-century variant, umbanda, which subordinates African spirits and deities to Western religious symbols. Candombés, macumbas, and their sisterly expressions of ritual power provide a major coping mechanism for the devout, a form of cultural resistance for its practitioners, especially working-class black women. These women have greater access to status, power, and authority in candomblé language and religion than from anywhere else in society.36 No matter what temporal figure may seek to exercise his authority, believers know that a deeper devotion must be reserved for the voices of deep knowledge within the occluded spiritist world. On the surface level of public ideology, festivals of deities represent collective renewal and empowerment, the closing of one part of the calendar, the opening of a new. But beneath the surface of these events, a deeper drama takes place, involving witchcraft known only to the priestly class, paralyzing the faithful with awe and power.37 In this arena, efforts by the Catholic (or any other Christian) Church to make greater inroads are doomed to failure. The secret power of the African religion, on the other hand, serves as a masterful coping mechanism, protecting its believers from the rough buffeting of the day-to-day world and intimidating those who would drift from the traditional secret world.

Spiritism in Brazil, introduced in the 1870s, soon became a pastime for the élites, although it welcomed members of all social groups. It took the form of the scientific-minded philosophy of the pseudonymous Alain Kardec (Hippolyte León Denizard Rival¡), brought to Latin America by Comtean positivists during the 1860s, and also reincarnationism. Spiritism was initially an upper-class fancy, linked as well to the art of homeopathic medicine. Emphasiz¡ng mediumistic healings, it drew the fire of the Catholic Church, but eventually found a niche between formal Catholicism and what élites considered to be the "lower" religions of Afro-Brazilians.38

An important question about the impact of Afro-Brazilian religion among the poor, who mostly are non-white (or, in the term increasingly used in Brazil, negro), is whether these forms of religious expression inhibit (or contribute to) the development of autonomous racial pride. The traditional literature agrees with this, arguing that the popularity of such Afro-Brazilian spiritist sects as umbanda, along with surviving cultural attitudes denigrating non-white racial characteristics, serve to idealize whiteness and help construct a vehicle for white hegemony.39 Reginaldo Prandi has shown that candomblé and its related sister religions of African origin have been diffused through a process of secular adaptation to the metropolitan areas of the South, to which thousands of migrants have come.

Once the religion of the marginalized, an illicit form of cultural survival, they have grown to the point where they collectively represent a universal religion open to members of all races and socio-economic levels. In Sáo Paulo's case, this change has been relatively recent: as late as the early 1940s, there were more than a thousand Kardecist spiritist places of worship but no candomblé terreiros (centers) at all in that city. Since then, millions have come to Sao Paulo from the Northeast and from the interior of the state, as well as from rural areas of neighboring Minas Gerais. Curiously, Afro-Brazilian religions were introduced not primarily by there migrants, but via umbanda, transmitted from Rio de Janeiro as well as from Kardecism. The presence in umbanda of pretos velhos, crianVas, exús, caboclos, models of behavior to practitioners, was a practice borrowed from European-inspired spiritism, and it filled a great need in the tumultuous world of Sáo Paulo's urban explosion. In a manner akin to the Northeastern's devotion to his or her personal saint, at the center of the Afro- Brazilian religions was the relationship of the individual to the orixás, givers of assistance, in exchange for offerings and demonstrations of homage.40

The steady growth of umbanda and candomblé, combined with the counter- culture of the 1960s and the influence of the black power movement in the United States, awakened blacks in Sáo Paulo and other southern cities (as well as members of the middle classes alienated by the stress of life under the authoritarian regime) to new ways to express personal feelings and to seek help. Terreiros sprouted all over the metropolitan region, visited by individuals seeking solutions to their personal problems. Candomblé hierarchy forms the role of an extended family, with participation by women as well as by men, and therefore offered a positive counter to the impersonal aspects of industrialization and urban sprawl. Candomblé cult leaders, the máes and paes-do-santo, function as agents for the faithful, helping them to receive material as well as spiritual benefits. These ritualized fictive kinship patterns provided strong psychological reinforcement for efforts to preserve old values, and helped build a sense of community, even if the terreiros were often persecuted by police under the dictatorship. Candomblé, unlike Catholicism, centers its attention on life in the present, helping believers to attain earthly goals and improve their lives, rather than dealing with questions of morality, sin, and the afterlife. Unlike Pentecostalism, candomblé does not impose behavior or forbid practices deemed harmful; it does not insist upon austerity, and it is not puritanical. As such, it is a natural and free-flowing relationship that brings self-esteem and feelings of relief to devotees.

There are critics as well. Blackness in umbanda, some argue, is reserved mostly for `pretos velhos, " old black men and women who died while still slaves and therefore submissive and conformist, at the lowest point of the spiritist hierarchy, while similar figures in candomblé respect the old black men and women and are paid homage, especially on the anniversary of the abolition of slavery on May 13th. Other umbanda deities include the exús, scoundrels and petty thieves who in life were marginalized and nonconformist "bad" negroes, exactly in the manner that slaveowners saw them.41 But, as Diana Brown demonstrates, the racial identification of the observer determines whether an Afro-Brazilian symbol is taken in a positive or negative light; her research shows that in real life, umbanda often plays a very positive and reinforcing role.42

Umbanda is not merely a lower-cases phenomenon, although it evolved out of macumba rituals brought over from Africa by slaves. Its following among members of the professions, the bureaucracy, and even members of the police, is very strong. Its own firm identity evolved around 1930 in Rio de Janeiro, when it incorporated European and Asian spiritist practices; by the 1980s, it had had several million adherents and more than 20,000 cult centers (terreiros) in the city alone. Thirty thousand persons participated in the Yemanjá festival in the port city of Santos in 1975, with more than 3,500 buses used to transport the faithful from the city of Sáo Paulo and other locations. Umbanda's popularity extends beyond the lower classes to tens of thousands of persons on every level of social and economic status. These individuals visit umbanda ceremonies to obtain spiritual aid, often to solve specific problems. Some visitors experience spiritist possession; others rely on spirit consultants, full-time umbanda practitioners who act on behalf of the visitor client. Some people come seeking relief from illness, or economic misfortune, or family problems. Clients receive spiritual relief (cleansings, exorcisms, herbal remedies, religious obligations) and also, in certain cases, loans, access to favors, or jobs. Some of the wealthier centros, Diana Brown notes, provide medical and dental care, psychiatric aid, legal services, and food and clothing.43 Interventions are individualized, but also derivative: thus, persons coming from strong Catholic backgrounds find Catholic prayers and figures of saints, always with a dual African character (Ogum is St. George; Yemanjá, the goddess of the waters, is identified with the Virgin Mary, and so on), and either the Catholic or the African nature of the deity is emphasized, depending on the particular centro. Negative spirits, in fact, often are portrayed as agents of the Catholic underworld, as devil figures.

Umbanda also borrows from other religious traditions, including Kardecist spiritism. More than anything else, what people who visit umbanda centers want is personal help from supernatural patrons, a survival, in many ways, of the traditional patron-client relationships so important in social relations in Brazil. Since many patrons of umbanda, especially from the prestige-conscious middle class, deny their participation in the cult, it is difficult to measure levels of participation. But theie is little doubt that umbanda, as well as all related spiritist religions, have a major impact in the lives of millions of Brazilians.44

What is perhaps most characteristic of the practice of popular religion in Brazil is the eclectic, open approach of the faithful. Many individuals drift from one re ligion to another, or combine them. Many consider themselves faithful (if not observant) Catholics, while at the same time visiting candomblé centers. Others borrow from several different religions, choosing what feels good or suits their purposes. Priests at Aparecida do Norte, the enormous shrine in Sáo Paulo's Paraíba Valley, have long been accustomed to finding evidence of penitents on pilgrimages also making candomblé sacrifices outside the church. Devotees drift from one cult to another.45

Umbanda itself was spawned by two very different traditions: French spiritism, which came to
Brazil in the mid-nineteenth century and took hold among the emerging urban middle class, and, roughly at the same time, diverse Afro-Brazilian cults pejoratively lumped together as macumba by persons hostile to them. Because umbanda is open and eclectic, it differs widely from region to region, since it is so adaptable. It was influenced not only by Catholicism, but has absorbed elements from many religious traditions of Asia and Europe, including Jewish mysticism and the occult sciences.46 Umbanda's openness may be the greatest reason for its success. Unlike Roman Catholicism and most forms of evangelical Protestantism, highly prescriptive in their demands of observance, umbanda (and most of the other spiritist cults) welcome and blend aspects of other forms of religious experience. This dovetails nicely with Brazilian social norms, which, historically, have tended to ignore people at the bottom and leave them to their own devices.

Especially since the 1970s, cults not connected to historical roots have sprung up, some of them hallucinatory. They seem to be characterized by a racially- integrated membership, with middle-class whites taking the lead. Black and pardo followers tend to be from lower economic groups. One of the more successful sects is Santo Daime, headquartered in Rio de Janeiro's Floresta de Tijuca, where it holds an outdoor tabernacle. Cultists dress in white, wear biblical sandals, and sit with women segregated from men, flanked by a nave covered with flowers. Male ushers with felt stars sewn on their shirts enforce behavior: no crossing one's legs, for example. Followers inhale a drug made from an Amazonian plant, whose effects last as long as ten hours. There is singing, and mundane ceremonial music, and sermons about nature and peace.47 Thousands of initiates join this cult every year; the novitiates take it very seriously.

One branch of spiritism, which lives in the shadows but which is extremely active in the lives of large numbers of Brazilians, mostly in cities, is quimbanda, the darker form of spiritism dedicated to casting spells on one's enemies. A form of witchcraft, its mediums are expert in this practice of sorcery, using a variety of potions, incantations, and other means to conjure up the evil eye, and to cast spells on persons designated by clients who come to the practitioners willing to pay for such services.48 Witchcraft has also long been practiced in the countryside.

Afro-Brazilian religious cults also revere old age, a trait not usually found in Western culture. Within candomblé, for instance, May l3th is celebrated not only as the anniversary of slavery but as the day of elderly blacks. Old people gather at the cult centers, smoke pipes, talk, and watch reenactments of the events of 1888. Then they are served a meal of fish with rice and beans, consumed with the heads, without utensils, as slaves did. Ceremonies throughout the year also extol the Máe Senhora, the epitome of African culture in Brazil, the repository of ritual and culture. Black heads of families receive homage as Pai Joaquim, King of Angola. In Rio de Janeiro, they are celebrated on Abolition Day at the Inhoaíba festiv..l as spirits of the past days, remembering their contributions to folk healing, their loyalty to those they served, and paying respect for their wisdom. This is unique within Brazilian culture: in no other manner are elderly people, black or white, so touchingly embraced as within Afro-Brazilian religion.49


  1. Roberto Da Matta, Carnivals, Rogues, and Heroes: An Interpretation of che Brazilian Dilemma, Tr. John Drury (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 4, 26, 33. BACK

  2. John Krich, Why is this Country Dancing? (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1993), 126. BACK

  3. Cf. Richard Price, Alabi's World (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990). BACK

  4. Quoted by Jaime de Almeida, "Há Cem Anos, O Quarto Centenário: dos horríveis sacrilégios ás santas alegrias," Fstudos Históricos (Rio de Janeiro), 5:9 (1992), 14-28; 25. BACK

  5. John Krich, Why is this Country Dancing?, 93. BACK

  6. Allison Raphael, "Carnival in Rio: Myths and Realities,"Institute of Current World Affairs, New York, Apri16, 1976. BACK

  7. Ineke van Halsema, Housewives in ¡he Field: Power, Culture and Gender in a South-Brazilian Village (Amsterdam: CEDLA,1991), 63. Sáo Brás Day is celebrated mostly in the South, but it is also observed in Bahia. BACK

  8. See Sheila S. Walker, "The Feast of Good Death: An Afro-Catholic Emancipation Celebration in Brazil," Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, 3:2 (1986), 27-31. BACK

  9. Calendar furnished by Bahiatursa. Courtesy of Consuelo Novais Sampaio, January 12, 1993. BACK

  10. John Krich, Why is this Country Dancing?, 167. BACK

  11. For a recent analysis of this phenomenon, see Peter Fry, Sérgio Carrara and Ana Luiza Martins-Costa, "Negros e brancos no Carnaval da Velha República," Joáo José Reis, org., Fscravidáo e invengáo da liberdade: Escudos sobre o negro no Brasil (Sáo Paulo: Editora Brasiliense, 1988), 234-263. BACK

  12. Christopher Dunn, "Afro-Bahian Carnival: A Stage for Protest,"Afro-Hispanic Review, 11:1-3 (1992),11-20. BACK

  13. Henry Koster, Voyages dans la Partie Sepientrionale du Brásil Depuis 1809 Jusqu én 1815, Vol. 11 (Paris: Delaunay Lib., 1818), 213. BACK

  14. Jornal de Noticias (Salvador), February 21, 1887, cited by Peter Fry et al., 249. BACK

  15. Ari Araujo, As Escolas de Samba: Um Episódio Antropofágico (Petrópolis, RJ: Ed. Vozes, 1978), 36. BACK

  16. Oceplan/ Pandurb, RMS: Evolugdo demográfica (1940-2000) (Salvador: Prefeitura Municipal do Salvador, 1976), cited by Jefferson Bacelar, Etnicidade. Ser Negro em Salvador (Salvador: Ianamá (PELABA), 1989), 74. BACK

  17. See Irene M. F. Silva Tourinho, "The Relationships between Music and Control in the Everyday Processes of the Schooling Ritual," Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1992. BACK

  18. Istoé, February 5, 1986, 52. BACK

  19. Anamaria Morales, "O afoxé Filhos de Gandhi pede paz," in Joáo José Reis, org., Escravidño e invengño da liberdade, 264-274. BACK

  20. Christopher Dunn, "Afro-Bahian Carnival," 13. BACK

  21. John Krich, Why is this Country Dancing?, 165. BACK

  22. See Michael J. Turner, "Brown into Black: Changing Racial Attitudes of Afro-Brazilian University Students," in Race, Class and Power in Brazil, Ed. Pierre-Michel Fontaine (Los Angeles: UCLA-CAAS, 1985), 79. BACK

  23. See Daniel Crowley, African Myth and Black Reality in Bahian Carnival (Los Angeles: Museum of Cultural History, 1984), 26, cited by Christopher Dunn, "Afro-Bahian Carnival," 12. BACK

  24. Peter Fry, et al., "Negros e brancos," 233-34. BACK

  25. James Brooke, "The New Beat of Black Brazil Sets the Pace for Self-Affirmation," New York Times, April I1, 1993, D-7. BACK

  26. John Krich, Why is this Country Dancing 174. BACK

  27. Ari Araujo, As Escolas de Samba: Um Episódio Antropofágico (Petrópolis: Ed. Vozes, 1978), xvi. BACK

  28. See Brasil Agora, 2:42 (July 5-18, 1993), 16. BACK

  29. See Joáo José Reis, "Magia Jeje na Babia: A Invasáo do Calundu do Pasto de Cachoeira,1785," Revista Brasileira de História, 8:16 (1988), 57-81. BACK

  30. See Evandro M. Camara, "Afro-American Religious Syncretism in Brazil and the United States," Sociological Analysis, 48:4 (1988), 299-318. BACK

  31. Arthur Ramos, O Negro Brasileiro (Sáo Paulo: xxx, 1940), 35. BACK

  32. Ari Araujo, As Fscolas de Samba, 8-9. BACK

  33. Donald Warren Jr., "The Healing Art and the Urban Setting, 1880-1930," ms., courtesy of author, p. 42. The Brazilian Spiritist Federation was established in 1884, linked closely to the French movement founded by Alain Kardec (1804-1869), immensely popular in Brazil in the 1850s, and carried forward by the "Brazilian Kardec," the Ceará-born Adolfo Bezerra de Menezes. See also Eugene B. Brody, The Los¡ Ones (New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1973), pp. 351-462 and Frances O'Gorman, Aluanda, A Look al Afro-Brazilian Culis (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria Francisco Alves, 1977); Pedro McGregor, The Moon and Two Mountains, the Myihs, Ritual and Magic of Brazilian Spiritism (London: Souvenir Press,1966), pp. 86-119. BACK

  34. Ann Q. Tiller, "The Brazilian Cult as a Healing Alternative," ms., p. 9; Da Cunha, Rebellion, p. 110. BACK

  35. Andrew Apter, "Reconsidering Inventions of Africa," Critical Inquiry, 19:1 (Autumn 1992), 87-104, esp. 97. BACK

  36. See Jeanette Parvati Staal, "Women, Food, Sex, and Survival in Candomblé: An Interpretative Analysis of an African-Brazilian Religion in Babia, Brazil," Ph.D. diss, 1992. BACK

  37. Andrew Apter, "Reconsidering Inventions of Africa,"98. BACK

  38. See David Hess, °The Many Rooms of Spiritism in Brazil, "Luso-Brazilian Review, 24:2 (1987), 15-34. BACK

  39. See, for example, Roger Bastide, The African Religions of Brazil (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,1978); Renato Ortiz, A Morte Branca do Feiteceiro Negro (Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 1978). BACK

  40. See Reginaldo Prandi, Os Candomblés de SFo Paulo: a Velha Magia na Metrópole Nova (Sáo Paulo: Ed. HUCITEC/ EDUSP, 1991). BACK

  41. Roger Bastide, The African Refgions of Brazil, 317; Paulo Montera, Da Doenga á Desordem, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Sáo Paulo, 1983, 210. BACK

  42. Diana Brown, presentation to Conference on Black Brazil: Culture, Identity, Social Mobilization (Gainesville: University of Florida, April 2, 1993). BACK

  43. Diana Brown, "Umbanda and Class Relations," 280. BACK

  44. Diana Brown, "Umbanda and Class Relations," 282-84, 297, 303 notes 3 and 10. BACK

  45. See Sidney M. Greenfield and Russell Prust, "Popular Religion, Patronage, and Resource Distribution in Brazil: A Model of an Hypothesis for the Sutvival of the Economically Marginal," in M. Estellie Smith, ed., Perspectives on the Informal Economy, Society for Economic Anthropology Monograph No. 8 (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1990),123-146. BACK

  46. Diana Brown, "Umbanda and Class Relations," 277-278. BACK

  47. John Krich, why is this Country Dancing?, 86-87. BACK

  48. For umbanda, see Fernando Brumana and Elda González, Marginália Sagrada (Sáo Paulo: Editora da Unicamp,1992), and Diana Brown, Umbanda, Refgion, and Politics in Urban Brazil (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, Studies in Cultural Anthropology No. 7, 1986). BACK

  49. See Yvonne Maggie, Guerra de Orixás (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar Editores, 1989), and "Preto Velho: Símbolo de Bondade e Esperanga," Tempo e Presenja, 14 (July-August 1992), 28-29.



Article in Portuguese - Artigo em Português


Cultos Afro-Brasileiros

Os cultos afro-brasileiros são sistemas de crenças herdados dos africanos, que foram trazidos como escravos para o Brasil a partir do século 16. A maior parte desses negros era proveniente da costa Oeste da África, onde predominavam dois grandes grupos: os Sudaneses e os Bantos.

Os sudaneses vêm da região do Golfo da Guiné, onde se situam hoje a Nigéria e o Benin. Pertenciam às nações Haussais, Jeje, Keto e Nagô, e foram os principais precursores do Candomblé.

Os bantos agregam as nações de Angola, Benguela, Cabinda e Congo. Dessas nações, herdamos, entre outros elementos culturais, a capoeira e a congada.
Os cultos religiosos trazidos por esses povos sincretizaram-se com o Catolicismo, dando origem aos chamados cultos afro-brasileiros.


O Candomblé foi introduzido no Brasil pelos negros ioruba, na Bahia. Basicamente, é uma religião que cultua os orixás, deuses associados às forças da natureza, e sua liturigia é realizada no interior dos terreiros, também conhecidos como roças.
Da Bahia, o Candomblé se disseminou por muitos outros estados brasileiros - aliás, tornou-se uma presença marcante no Rio de Janeiro. Em Pernambuco, o Candomblé é chamado de Xangô, nome de um dos orixás mais cultuados na tradição afro-brasileira.


Os orixás


Filha de Oxalá e Iemanjá, é uma deusa casta, que tem o poder de se tornar invisível e de penetrar nos mistérios de Ifá (o deus da adivinhação). Seus domínios são as ilhas e penínsulas, o céu estrelado, a chuva e a faixa branca do arco-íris. No sincretismo religioso, está associada a Nossa Senhora das Neves.


Filho primogênito de Oxalá e Iemanjá, Exu é aquele que abre os caminhos. Por isso, é sempre o primeiro orixá a ser invocado nas aberturas dos trabalhos, nas oferendas e na leitura do oráculo de búzios. Simboliza a energia dinâmica, o impulso sexual, o fluido vital. Também está associado à comunicação, por ser o intermediador entre os homens e os orixás.


Filha de Oxalá e Iemanjá, Iansã tem os atributos da sensualidade, do dinamismo e da coragem. É uma deusa guerreira, representada sempre como uma mulher forte, que porta uma espada e um iruexim (espécie de chicote). Também é senhora dos eguns, os espíritos dos mortos. Seus domínios são os ventos, as tempestades, os raios e o fogo. No sincretismo religioso, está associada à católica Santa Bárbara.


São os orixás crianças, filhos gêmeos de Iemanjá e Oxalá. Simbolizam a dualidade: o quente e o frio, a luz e a escuridão, o masculino e o feminino, o divino e o humano, o início e o fim. No sincretismo religioso, estão associados a Cosme e Damião.


Esposa de Oxalá e mãe de quase todos os orixás, Iemanjá tem diferentes manifestações, nas quais recebe os nomes de Inaê, Janaína e Oloxum. Seus atributos são a feminilidade, a generosidade, a abundância e a maternidade. No sincretismo religioso, está associada à Virgem Maria.


Deus da advinhação, Ifá é o "dono" do jogo de búzios. Seu principal atributo é o conhecimento: ele sabe o que espera cada divindade e cada ser humano, pois é o senhor dos segredos do destino.


Filho de Oxóssi e Oxum, tem os atributos da elegência, da beleza e da sedução. Durante seis meses do ano, ele assume a forma masculina e caminha pelas matas, domínios de seu pai caçador. Nos outros seis meses, assume forma feminina e parte para as águas doces, que pertencem à sua mãe. É sempre representado como um adolescente, e também é chamado de Logunedê ou Logun-Edé. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a São Miguel Arcanjo e a Santo Expedito.


Também chamada de Nanã Burukê, esta é uma orixá muito antiga, que em diversos mitos aparece como co-criadora do mundo (no mesmo patamar de Oxalá e de Olorum). É uma das esposas de Oxalá (ao lado de Iemanjá) e em muitas regiões brasileiras recebe o carinhoso apelido de Vovó. Tem como atributos a fecundidade, a riqueza e o ciclo de morte e renascimento. Seu domínio é a lama, mistura de terra e água que simboliza a origem da vida. No sincretismo religioso, está associada a Santa Ana, mãe de Maria.


Filha de Oxalá e Iemanjá, deusa guerreira das águas revoltas, Obá é uma sofredora. Conta a lenda que ela era uma das esposas de Xangô, mas sofria por ver que o marido só tinha olhos para a bela e ciumenta Oxum. Inocentemente, foi se aconselhar com a favorita do esposo, e perguntou-lhe qual o segredo para conquistar o coração de Xangô. Astuta, Oxum sugeriu que Obá cortasse a própria orelha e a servisse como um quitute sangrento para o marido - diante desse gesto, ele ficaria louco de paixão! No entanto, Oxum sabia muito bem que Xangô não tolerava ver sangue, e depois que Obá seguiu o maquiavélico conselho, o deus guerreiro criou verdadeira repulsa por ela! No sincretismo religioso, Obá está associada a Santa Catarina, Santa Joana D´Arc e Santa Marta.


Filho de Oxalá e Nanã, esse orixá, que também é conhecido pelos nomes de Omulu e Xapanã, é o senhor da morte e da vida, da doença e da cura. Seu rosto se oculta sob uma vestimenta de palha, material empregado nos ritos fúnebres africanos. Conta a lenda que, ao nascer, Obaluaiê era tão feio que sua mãe não suportou olhá-lo, e quem o criou foi a doce e maternal Iemanjá. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a São Lázaro e a São Roque.


Filho de Oxalá e Iemanjá, Ogum é o desbravador de todos os caminhos. Tem a coragem, a força e a impetuosidade como atributos. Segundo os africanos, foi o criador do ferro e da metalurgia, tendo aberto novas perspectivas para a civilização humana. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a Santo Antonio e a São Jorge.


É o orixá que simboliza o céu. Não é representado sob nenhuma forma material, e seus atributos são a totalidade, a perfeição e a universalidade.


Filho de Oxalá e Iemanjá, este orixá, que também recebe o nome de Ossanha, tem como atributos a cura e a magia. É o orixá das folhas, e portanto, das ervas medicinais. De acordo com os mitos africanos, ele é muito respeitado por todos os outros deuses, pois até os orixás dependem do poder das folhas para se revigorarem. As palavras que ativam o poder curativo das plantas é um mistério dominado exclusivamente pelos sacerdotes de Ossaim.


É o pai supremo, que separou o mundo material do mundo espiritual, criou os seres vivos e gerou os orixás. Tem o poder de reger a vida e a morte, e ao mesmo tempo em que é bondoso e tolerante, também pode tornar-se firme e severo. No entanto, Oxalá prefere sempre seguir o caminho do amor. Suas esposas são Nanã e Iemanjá, e o único orixá que se encontra acima dele é Olorum (o céu). Quando representado em sua forma jovem, Oxalá recebe o nome de Oxaguiã. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a Jesus.


Filho de Oxalá e Iemanjá, é o orixá provedor, cuja habilidade em caçar garante a alimentação de todos os outros deuses. Seus atributos são a fartura e a perseverança (afinal, é preciso saber a hora certa para atirar a flecha!). Seus domínios são as matas. É considerado como o guardião da agricultura e da natureza. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a São Jorge e a São Sebastião.


Filha de Oxalá e Iemanjá, Oxum tem como atributos a beleza, a fertilidade, a riqueza e o poder de gestação. É uma deusa vaidosa e sensual, que personifica a feminilidade. Seus domínios são as águas doces (que irrigam e fertilizam os campos) e o ouro. No sincretismo religioso, está associada a Nossa Senhora das Candeias e a Nossa Senhora Aparecida.


Filho de Oxalá e Nanã, ele é o arco-íris que liga o céu e a terra, a serpente que fecunda o solo e gera riquezas. Feminino e masculino ao mesmo tempo, simboliza a interação das energias. Além disso, é senhor da dualidade, do movimento, do girar incessante da vida, da perpétua renovação. Em forma de serpente, Oxumaré morde a própria cauda e assume uma forma circular que lhe permite manter em equilíbrio os corpos celestes. No sincretismo religioso, está associado a São Bartolomeu.


Senhor dos raios, do fogo e das pedras, Xangô é um dos orixás mais populares do Brasil. Seus atributos são a firmeza de caráter, o senso de justiça, o amor à verdade, o orgulho e a autoridade. No sincretismo religioso, está associado São Francisco de Assis, São Jerônimo, São João Batista e São Pedro.


Os preceitos

Cerimônias Privadas: São os ritos realizados pelos membros do terreiro sem presença do público. Normalmente acontecem como preparação para os cultos abertos. Destas cerimônias, fazem parte a preparação e a oferenda de comidas para os santos e os sacrifícios ritualísticos.

Ebós: Oferendas para os orixás. Geralmente são comidas, nas quais se incluem os animais sacrificados para esse fim.

Incorporação: Durante os rituais, são entoados cânticos de louvor aos orixás. Geralmente, as letras dessas cantigas ressaltam as características de cada divindade, e destinam-se a invocá-las. Costuma-se entoar de três a sete cânticos para cada uma delas. Quando a entidade finalmente "desce", incorpora-se nas filhas-de-santo a ela consagradas. Assim, as filhas de Iansã "recebem" Iansã, as de Oxalá, incorporam o próprio, e assim por diante. Depois de todas as filhas (e filhos) de santo estarem incorporadas e devidamente paramentadas, elas dançam em roda no barracão, ao som as cantigas e dos atabaques, e dessa maneira os orixás asseguram sua proteção a seus descendentes.

Jogo de Búzios: Oráculo usado como canal de comunicação entre os homens e os deuses. É comandado por Ifá, o orixá da adivinhação.

Quizilas: Coisas que desagradam aos orixás. Nesse grupo, se incluem certos tipos de alimentos, além de cores, perfumes e uma infinidade de elementos. Por exemplo: O sangue é a quizila de Xangô.

Obrigações: De tempos em tempos, o adepto do Candomblé tem o dever de prestar certas homenagens e de fazer oferendas para seus orixás, de modo que possa contar sempre com seus favores e sua proteção.

Raspagem: É a Iniciação efetuada no Candomblé. O aspirante é submetido a uma série de processos ritualísticos, entre os quais se inclui a completa raspagem de sua cabeça e seu recolhimento à camarinha, onde permanecerá durante um período preparatório. No dia de sua saída, é dada uma festa (a chamada "Saída de Santo"), e a partir dessa ocasião o filho (ou filha) de santo torna-se capacitado a incorporar seu orixá durante os trabalhos.

Elementos que fazem parte de um terreiro

Agogô: Sineta de ferro dupla, que é acionada pelo alabê para dar início à cerimônia.

Atabaques (rum, rumpi e lé): Instrumentos musicais tocados durante as cerimônias por filhos de santo designados especificamente para essa função.
Barracão: Grande sala, onde ocorrem os rituais, inclusive as cerimônias abertas ao público.

Camarinha: Pequenos "quartinhos" espalhados pelo terreiro, dentro dos quais os filhos e filhas de santo se recolhem por ocasião de sua iniciação.

Peji: Altares das Divindades. Nos pejis são depositadas as oferendas.

Alabê: Responsável pelos atabaques e pelo toque do agogô, que marca o início dos trabalhos.

Axoguns: São os filhos-de-santo encarregados de executar os serviços sacrificiais. Trabalham sempre sob a supervisão do babalorixá ou da ialorixá responsável pela casa.

Babalorixá: Chamado também de zelador do terreiro ou pai-de-santo, é o dirigente dos trabalhos. É sobre ele que recai a responsabilidade pelos trabalhos espirituais realizados na casa. Aplica-se essa expressão somente para o sexo masculino.
Ekede: É uma espécie de "monitora". Durante os rituais, ela conduz as iaôs incorporadas até seus respectivos pejis, e as paramenta com as roupas e as armas correspondentes ao orixá incorporado.

Ialorixá: Exatamente a mesma coisa que babalorixá, só que neste caso, trata-se de alguém do sexo feminino. Também é chamada de "mãe-de-santo" ou zeladora.

Iaôs: Filhas-de-santo, que entoam os cânticos de louvor aos orixás e dançam em roda, durante os trabalhos. Em geral, são entoadas de três a sete cantigas para cada orixá. Quando este "desce", incorpora-se nas iaôs correspondentes. Vale ressaltar que as iaôs dividem todas as atividades realizadas no terreiro, inclusive limpeza, preparação das oferendas, etc.

Ogans: Filhos-de-santo encarregados de garantir a manutenção do terreiro, por meio de contribuição financeira ou de algum benefício obtido por meio de seu prestígio pessoal. São sempre designados pelo responsável da casa. Cabe ao Conselho de Ogans garantir a subsistência material do terreiro.

Pai-pequeno (ou mãe-pequena): Assistente direto do babalorixá ou da ialorixá.
Existem ainda os "Candomblés de Caboclo", típicos dos cultos trazidos pelos negros de Angola. Nessas cerimônias, as filhas e os filhos de santo incorporam não apenas os orixás (que jamais conversam com os presentes), mas também os espíritos de "caboclos", que seriam entidades de luz da corrente indígena.

Culto Vodu

Tem sua origem entre os negros do Daomé (atual Benin) e se baseia em dois pilares principais: a incorporação dos próprios deuses pelos fiéis e a invocação dos espíritos dos antepassados, com o objetivo de se fazer consultas oraculares.Essa crença se disseminou largamente no Haiti, onde ganhou os contornos de uma religião afro-cristã repleta de mitos supersticiosos e demonstrações exageradas de força e poder.

No Brasil, esse culto não é tão popular quanto o Candomblé e a Umbanda, mas conta com um bom número de adeptos, sobretudo na região de São Luis do Maranhão. Foi lá que, em 1796, foi fundado o culto Mina Jeje, pelos negros fons, originários de Abomey (à época, capital do Daomé). A família real Fon trouxe consigo o culto às divindades (voduns, equivalentes aos orixás) e à Serpente Sagrada, denominada Dan (correspondente ao orixá Oxumaré).

A nomenclatura correta para a nação Jeje seria Ewe-Fon. Em seu dialeto, a casa de Candomblé é denominada kwe, e segundo sua tradição, ela deve ser construída em meio à floresta, numa área repleta de árvores sagradas e rios. Essa grande área é chamada de Runpame, que significa "fazenda". Os animais também ocupam papel de destaque na tradição Jeje, havendo inclusive cultos em que os voduns são identificados com certas espécies (leopardo, crocodilo, pantera, gavião, elefante e outros).

No Maranhão, a sacerdotisa - que equivaleria à mãe-de-santo do Candomblé - é chamada de Noche. Quando o homem ocupa este cargo, recebe a denominação de Toivoduno.

A mais famosa Noche da História do culto vodu maranhense foi Mãe Andresa. Acredita-se que tenha sido a última princesa de linhagem direta da família real Fon. Morreu em 1954, aos 104 anos de idade.

Alguns Deuses voduns

Vodun da nata da terra.

Vodun do trovão.

Vodun da folhagem.

Vodun do tempo.


A Umbanda é uma religião tipicamente brasileira. Na verdade, pode-se dizer que ela não existe em nenhuma outra parte do mundo. Além do sincretismo clássico entre a herança religiosa africana e o Catolicismo, a Umbanda absorveu elementos do Espiritismo kardecista, de modo que, no decorrer dos rituais, o fiel se comunica com espíritos desencarnados.

O sincretismo entre orixás e santos católicos é muito forte. Veja as principais correspondências:

Euá - Nossa Senhora das Neves.
Iansã - Santa Bárbara.
Ibejis - Cosme e Damião.
Iemanjá - Virgem Maria, principalmente Nossa Senhora da Conceição e Nossa Senhora dos Navegantes.
Logum - São Miguel Arcanjo e Santo Expedito.
Nanã - Santa Ana, mãe de Maria.
Obá - Santa Catarina, Santa Joana D´Arc e Santa Marta.
Obaluaiê - São Lázaro e São Roque.
Ogum - Santo Antonio e São Jorge.
Oxalá - Jesus.
Oxóssi - São Jorge e São Sebastião.
Oxum - Nossa Senhora das Candeias e Nossa Senhora Aparecida.
Oxumaré - São Bartolomeu.
Xangô - São Francisco de Assis, São Jerônimo, São João Batista e São Pedro.

As práticas existentes dentro dos terreiros de Umbanda variam muito. Alguns demonstram uma ligação mais forte com o Espiritismo, outros se aproximam mais do Candomblé. Em comum, têm a força dos rituais, denominados giras, em que os filhos e filhas-de-santo entoam cânticos e dançam ao som dos atabaques. As cerimônias geralmente acontecem à noite e se estendem madrugada adentro. Os espíritos que "descem" incorporam-se nos fiéis que estão participando da gira.

Aqueles que "recebem" os espíritos são chamados de cavalos. Durante a incorporação, o "cavalo" permanece inconsciente, e quem fala através dele é seu "guia", ou seja, a entidade espiritual a ele associada. Para auxiliar os cavalos, existem os cambonos, que ocupam papel relevante na hierarquia do terreiro. Mas a posição mais elevada cabe à mãe ou ao pai-de-santo, que é a pessoa responsável pelos trabalhos espirituais.

Nos terreiros umbandistas, o ponto focal é o congá, altar profusamente enfeitado com flores, velas acesas e colares de contas coloridas, que simbolizam os diferentes santos e orixás. No congá, imagens de Jesus, Nossa Senhora e santos católicos dividem espaço com estatuetas de pretos-velhos, caboclos, ciganos, marinheiros e outras entidades espirituais.

A hierarquia do terreiro

Babalorixás (Babalaô, quando homem, e Ialorixá, quando mulher) - São os dirigentes.

Zeladores (jibonã e sidagã) - Auxiliam os dirigentes.

Ogã e Sambas - Tocam os atabaques e observam a disciplina.

Pais e Mães-Pequenas (Baba Mindim) - Assistentes do dirigente. Em geral, ajudam no trabalho de desenvolvimento da mediunidade dos filhos de fé.

Cambonos e coroados (feitos e / ou confirmados) - Prestam assistência aos cavalos, durante a gira.

Filhos de fé (aceitos) - São aqueles que se preparam para entrar em desenvolvimento.

Filhos de fé (em observação) - Freqüentam os trabalhos para o desenvolvimento de seus dons mediúnicos.

As sete linhas da Umbanda

A Umbanda se divide em sete linhas, ou "bandas", sendo que cada uma delas é consagrada a um orixá. Cada uma dessas divindades, por sua vez, comanda sete falanges.

Uma dessas falanges corresponde à vibração original do orixá (por exemplo: linha de Ogum). As outras seis falanges do orixá significam o cruzamento da energia original do orixá com as dos outros seis orixás (exemplo: a linha de Ogum Beira-Mar é o cruzamento da linha de Ogum com a de Iemanjá). Temos assim um total de 49 falanges.

Como o orixá nunca incorpora no ritual da Umbanda, a função das entidades pertencentes às falanges é justamente descer à Terra e executar o trabalho ordenado pelo orixá. Elas são portadoras da força da divindade.

Existe ainda uma outra subdivisão, que diz respeito à faixa etária das entidades. Desse modo, temos as crianças, os adultos e os velhos. Por exemplo: podemos ter uma criança de Xangô, um Caboclo de Oxóssi e um Preto Velho de Oxalá.

Os orixás que comandam as falanges são Iansã, Iemanjá, Ogum, Oxalá, Oxóssi, Oxum e Xangô.

Veja mais sobre os orixás e as entidades que integram as falanges da Umbanda:

Cor: Branca
Domínios: Todos os campos da natureza.

Cor: Vermelha
Domínio: As matas.

Cor: Marrom
Domínio: As pedras.

Cor: Verde
Domínio: As estradas.

Cores: Rosa e branco cristalino
Domínio: O mar e as águas em geral.

Cor: Azul
Domínio: As águas doces.

Cor: Amarela
Domínios: Ventos e Tempestades.

Cor: Lilás
Domínio: Lama.

Cores: Preto e branco
Domínio: As cavernas.

Cor: Azul claro
Domínio: As chuvas leves.

Cor: Branco perolado
Domínio: As montanhas.

Cores: Preto e Vermelho
Domínio: Os descampados.

Cores: Preto e Vermelho
Domínio: Os descampados.

Cores: Preto e vermelho
Domínio: Os descampados.

Cores: Azul e branco
Domínio: As emoções.

Cores: Marrom e Vermelho
Domínio: A força bruta.

Cores: Todas do arco-íris
Domínio: A liberdade.

Cores: Variadas
Domínios: A esperança e a coragem.

Cor: Verde
Domínio: A simplicidade.

Cor: Branco
Domínio: A sabedoria.

Cores: Variadas
Domínio: A pureza.

OBSERVAÇÃO: Essas correspondências, embora sejam as mais difundidas, podem sofrer variações em diferentes terreiros.


Quando as entidades que compõem as diferentes falanges estão incorporadas, elas se prestam a aconselhar seus consulentes e a realizar alguns rituais. Nestas ocasiões, utilizam-se dos quatro elementos básicos da Natureza - ou seja, AR, TERRA, FOGO e ÁGUA.

É por isso que, muitas vezes, essas entidades solicitam cigarros, bebidas, alimentos. Cada item pedido corresponde a determinados elementos naturais. Veja os exemplos:

Água e bebidas não-alcoólicas: Servem para a cura, pois simbolizam a força, o remédio e o poder gerador.

Bebidas alcoólicas: Pertencem ao elemento Fogo e permitem transmutar as energias.

Cachimbo, charuto ou cigarro: Une o Fogo, a Água, a Terra e o Ar, sintetizando, assim, os elementos de todas as linhas.

Quimbanda, ou as "linhas de esquerda"

Nunca se deve confundir o orixá com as entidades que integram sua Linha de Força.

A questão mais polêmica, sem sombra de dúvida, cerca o orixá Exu. Ele é uma força da natureza, imaterial e incorpóreo, como os demais orixás.

Dentro da Umbanda, a Hierarquia deste orixá denomina-se Quimbanda, recebendo ainda os nomes de Banda dos Exus e Falange dos Exus.

Na Umbanda, entende-se que este orixá e as entidades que fazem parte de sua falange atuam "à esquerda". Isso, porém, não significa que sejam de agentes do Mal!

Simplesmente, o orixá Exu - que erroneamente tem sido associado às forças diabólicas do ideário cristão - é uma força complementar às Linhas da Direita. Do mesmo modo que homem e mulher são opostos-complementares, e que tudo no Universo interage e se interpenetra, também as forças da "Direita" e da "Esquerda" se unem e se completam.

As entidades que constituem a Quimbanda são denominadas Exus, Pombas-giras e Exus-mirins. Têm missão cármica definida e trabalham no sentido de evoluir no plano espiritual, exatamente como os integrantes de todas as outras falanges.

Os Exus são responsáveis pelos trabalhos de proteção, além de terem energia vitalizadora e promoverem a desagregação de energias maléficas. Existe ainda um outro papel, muito delicado, que cabe aos integrantes desta hierarquia: é o de liberar o consciente e o inconsciente do fiel que estiver se preparando para desenvolver um trabalho mais ativo no terreiro. As entidades de Quimbanda podem trazer à tona os traumas e os segredos reprimidos - conscientemente ou não - pelo "filho de fé".

Sendo assim, pode acontecer de os "cavalos" que estejam incorporando essas entidades de Esquerda usarem linguajar torpe ou adotarem comportamentos duvidosos. Nestes casos, deve-se entender que aquele não é o procedimento da entidade em si - na verdade, pode tratar-se de uma "faxina" no inconsciente do próprio médium.

É bom ressaltar, porém, que a natureza complexa da missão confiada aos espíritos da Quimbanda os torna bem mais difíceis do que as demais entidades. Sendo assim, é necessário ter muito CONHECIMENTO e, principalmente, DISCERNIMENTO, para lidar com essas forças