Friday, July 30, 2004

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The line of Pretos-Velhos is one, but each medium is governed by his/her own Orisha. Considering the Pretos-Velhos work under the Orishas, it is natural that some differences exist amongst the Pretos-Velhos.

Some ways to differentiate the Pretos-Velhos according to the phalange it belongs, we notice that the way they incorporate is different, as well as the way they work (with herbs, prayers, etc).

Some examples to better understand what was just said:

The incorporation takes place faster and they do not have a lot of patience with their medium or with the people who they are talking to.
They are very straight forward in the way they talk and sometimes it seems like they are fighting.

The incorporation takes place very slowly, as well as the way they speak, which transmits total serenity.

They are experts in the art of "making us think". There are lots of reflexion during a consultation with a Preto-Velho of Oxum. Sometimes we leave the consultation even more confused, which works as a way of development.

These are very difficult to see incorporated. They take over the medium in a very fast incorporation, such as the Preto-Velho of Ogum. They work to help the person to obtain material stability.

They are very fast to incorporate and to speak. As the Pretos-Velhos of Ogum, they do not have a lot of patience with their medium.
Usually their consultation has a big impact to the person, causing the person to think a lot and to change ideas very fast. This happens basically because this Preto-Velho who works under the Orisha Iansa knows a broad number of topics and discuss them very lively.
These Pretos-Velhos have a strong characteristic, which is to clean up the area and the persons around him/her. Some spirits that just recently passed away and do not accept that they have to go to another level are usually sent away by these Pretos-Velhos.

These Pretos-Velhos are more playful, with happy and fast incorporations.
They usually talk to many people at the same time. Their specialty is to prescribe natural medicine for the body and spirit.


When we speak about Pretos-Velhos (Old Blacks) we are speaking about a large number of entities that work under the same vibration. These entities usually share some characteristics, which we now try to explain.

As usually known, the Pretos-Velhos were slaves brought from various parts of Africa. Generally, this is a big part of the truth, but some other spirits, although not being slaves, are also Pretos-Velhos. Some of them were never slaves. Some were not even African! Or black!

These are spirits that share knowledge! Life experience! Patience! And that's why we call our loved Pretos-Velhos "grandma", "grandpa" amongst other things.

The way Pretos-Velhos work when incorporated in a medium is very simple. They do not require fancy and elaborated rituals. Usually the medium that is working with a Preto-Velho is dressed in white, with a necklace (guia), a pipe, a walking stick and a stool.

The way the Preto-Velhos incorporates their medium is very compact, without dancing or jumping. The vibration starts with a weigh in the medium's back, which makes him/her to bend forward. The feet are usually "fixed" on the floor.

After the incorporation takes place, the Preto-Velho moves only to make the necessary salutations: drums, gonga (the place where the images of the saints are displayed) and the head of the temple. After that, the Preto-Velho usually sits down.

It is possible to see some Pretos-Velhos dancing, but this dancing is totally subtle, with movements of the shoulders and legs while sitting.

The way the Pretos-Velhos work show us that charity is a very important way for our own spiritual evolution.

Introduction to Orishas/Orixas

Be aware that the concepts involving the Orishas vary from each branch of the African religion. Umbanda has its own ideas and rituals, which may or may not be totally different from closer religions.

The names of the Orishas will be kept in their Portuguese version: Oxala for Obatala, Oxum for Oshun, Ogum for Ogun, Iansa for Oya, Xango for Chango, Iemanja for Yemonja and Oxossi for Ochosi.

As many people may think, the Orishas are not gods. They are deities created by one God, Olodunmare. The name Orisha (Orixa in Portuguese) comes from the Yoruba OR or ORI, which means light or head and XA, which means mister, chief, owner. So, Orixa means the Owner of the Head.

There are 7 lines in Umbanda, each one governed by one Orisha. The description of each line will be given in the specific chapter of the Orisha.
In Umbanda the Orishas are deities from a superior astral plane called “Aruanda”, which in Earth represents the forces of Nature. Most of the time the Orishas are believed to be the forces of Nature itself – they are only a representation of those forces. For instance, Chango represents the power of the thunder and the fire caused by the flash lightning.

Each Orisha has its own characteristics, personality and behavior. These characteristics usually reflect in their sons and daughters (the medium protected by the Orisha).

Generally speaking the Orisha does not incorporate the medium in Umbanda. The medium are the people who are initiated in the religion and that are able to act as a link between the spiritual world and the physical one.

What we see controlling the medium during the rituals are the phalanges of the Orishas. These are elevated spirits that are authorized to do charity under the supervision of one Orisha.

The spirits of the phalanges represent the Orishas and sometimes they are even believed to be the Orisha itself, as its strength is the pure emanation of the Orisha. The spirits of the phalanges do not smoke, do not drink, do not speak.

The spirits that work in the temples and use smoking, drinking (amongst other procedures) to heal are usually called “entities”. They are the vibration or emanation of one of the seven Orishas.

UMBANDA - a religion is born - part 3 of 3

The Caboclo replied that what he medium was seeing was the remain of a previous life, when he was a priest. His name was Gabriel Malagrida and he was accused of being a witch and killed during the Portuguese Inquisition in the year 1761.

He came back as a brazilian native indian in his last life on Earth and now he was being allowed to help people through charity.

At this point he said what had brought him:
To start a new religion based on the fact that all spirits could work helping the living, following the determinations of a higher power in the spiritual realm.

He would return on the following day (November, 16th 1908), at Zelio's house, at 8pm and a new temple would be established.

UMBANDA - a religion is born - part 2 of 3

During the session that took place at the "Federation of Spiritism", Zelio was taken by a strong presence. He got up and said "There is a flower missing here". He went to the garden and brought back a flower.

After placing the flower in the middle of the table, some other people who belonged to the federation started to "receive" Indians (Caboclos - represent the spirits of the forest, the knowledge of herbs, plants and magic) and Old-Blacks (Preto-Velhos - slaves brought from Africa. Represent the experience of the elderly).

The Director of the Federation, who had never seen anything like that before, said that the attitude of those spirits only reflected the low level of spirituality where those spirits were, and requested the spirits to leave.

In the midst of the confusion that was taking place, one medium who was part of the Federation requested the spirit who had taken Zelio's body to identify himself. The spirit replied:
"If you want a name, you can call me the "Caboclo Seven Crossings", because for me there will never be a closed path".

The medium said that although the spirit identified himself as a Caboclo, she could see some remains of a priest's clothes.

UMBANDA - a religion is born - part 1 of 3

It is very hard to specify the exact date when the religion Umbanda was born. Below follows the "official" description of how it happened:

The year was 1908 and the city Niteroi, which is located in the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
All of a sudden a young 17 years old teenager called Zelio started acting strange. His family was very known and traditional in the neighborhood and his parents did not know how to deal with the unexpected "attacks".

The first attacks made the boy bend like an old person, and he started talking in a very different way, almost as someone from another time. Some other times the young Zelio would act almost as a being from the forest, with an amazing knowledge of herbs, fruits, vegetables and anything else related to Nature.

After checking Zelio thoroughly, his family doctor, which happened to be Zelio's uncle, suggested that the boy should be sent to a priest, considering he had never seen any kind of "madness" that would fit the profile known by him. The doctor believed that the boy was possessed.

The attacks continued though, even after the exorcism. With time, the boy seemed to be cured!

Some members of his family suggested that the boy's problems could have some relation to the spirits, and the boy was taken to the "Federation of Spiritism" in Niteroi, which is basically a study group with focus on what we call "White Spiritism".