Friday, July 28, 2006

Umbanda according to Wikipedia


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Umbanda is a religion that blends Catholicism, Kardecist Spiritualism, and Afro-Brazilian religions . It originated in Brazil in the early 20th century among the Afro-Brazilian population of Rio de Janeiro but has now spread across Brazil and to Uruguay and Argentina. The term "Umbanda" derives from Kimbundu, an Angolan language, and means "religious practitioners".

Umbanda is a syncretic religion based on the worship of Angolan spirits, brought to Brazil by the African slaves during the colonial period, and on elements drawn from Brazilian popular culture. Additionally, Orixás, from the Yoruba pantheon, are given token rule over the various legions of spirits and are associated with a Catholic saint under whose guidance the spirits work. This association started during the time when the african slaves in Brazil were persecuted by their owners for practicing their religion. The solution they found was to hide the original worshipping objects that represented the spiritual entities under different Catholic saint statues in order to give the slave owners the impression that they were worshipping that saint, which had the same personality or qualities of the worshipped entity.


Basically, the spiritual universe of Umbanda is divided in 'falanges' or legions of spirits, which 'work' under the command of a higher spirit. The main 'falanges' represented in Umbanda are as follows:

  1. Caboclo (native Brazilian) - linked to the Catholic saint San Sebastian and representing spirits of native Brazilian indians. They are highly knowledgeable about herbs, often prescribing herbal remedies.

  2. Preto Velho (Old Slave) - linked to Saint Anthony and/or Saint Benedict and representing spirits of old slaves who died in captivity. These are very peaceful and kind spirits, that know all about suffering, compassion, forgiveness and hope. They also often prescribe herbal remedies.

  3. The Yabas:
    1. Yemanja - linked to the ocean and mermaids, it represents the feminine universal principle. It is considered patron of fishermen. Once a year on February 02 and/or December 31, people in Brazil go to the beaches by the thousands, dressed in white, to offer gifts of flowers, candles, perfume, mirrors, etc. to this entity.
    2. Oxum - linked to the rivers and waterfalls, it also represents the feminine principle. The entity was one of Xango's wives in the African pantheon.
    3. Iansan - linked to the wind, tempests and lightning bolts, this is the Orisha of passion, a warrior, and has absolute power over Exus. She was Xango's other wife in the African pantheon.

  4. Xango - linked to St. John the Baptist, this is the Orisha of justice and represents rocks and mountains.

  5. Ogun - linked to St. George, this orisha is protector of people in the military and is usually evoked when someone wants to win some sort of battle or struggle.

  6. Omulu/Abaluaye - this 'falange' is linked to St. Lazarus and rules over diseases, epidemies, illnesses, etc.

  7. Exus - This 'falange' has female and male spirits which seem to be linked to the devil in the collective consciousness but is also described as a servant to the other seven falanges.


Umbanda is an urban phenomenon grounded in Central African influences but borrowing heavily from European influences and is integrated into urban environs. Many ritual sites (called tendas or terreiros) look like ordinary houses when seen from the street, and some often indeed double as dwellings. Larger, more middle class Umbanda houses often are laid out in a fashion similar to a church. Atabaques (Conga drums) and chanting) play a central role in some Umbanda congregations but are almost non-existent in others. The head of the terreiro is called "pai-de-santo" ("father-of-saint") or "mãe-de-santo" ("mother-of-saint") and his or her intiates are usually called "filhos-de-santo" ("children-of-saint", masculine plural form), just to show the structure within the religion. That doesn't mean that they are considered saints, though, but only that they're responsible for certain rituals related to each saint.

Each Umbanda terreiro practices the religion with slight variations according to the policies of the pai-de-santo. Worship may involve sacrifices to the deities (such as hens, cheap wine, farofa, cachaça, popcorn, cigarettes, hard cider and other types of foodstuffs or beverages, depending on the 'falange' or "saint") and has initiation rites that range from the simple to complex. "Pais de santo" and "Mães de santo" also play divination using the "jogo de búzios" Ifá (the reading of the arrangement of small sea shells), give advice to those who seek it and produce "strong prayers" (Rezas fortes) for those who need them to evade troubles with the other people, lack of money, sexual impotence, and other challenges people may face in their lives.


Umbanda grew rapidly in the latter half of the 20th century. Brazil went from having around 50,000 terreiros in the 1960s to 300,000 by the early 1980s. At that time there were also 300 terreiros in Uruguay and 200 in Argentina.

Until the second half of the 20th century, all Afro-Brazilian religions were considered criminal activity by the Brazilian government and periodically repressed. More recently they have become part of popular culture as many novelists and songwriters have written or sung about them. Several of Jorge Amado's works, for instance, are concerned with the trials and tribulations of the Afro-Brazilians. From the 1960s, many songs about Umbanda and the other Afro-Brazilian religions became popular. Among the famous Brazilian composers who treated the subject, Tom Jobim, Toquinho, Vinícius de Moraes, Geraldo Vandré and Clara Nunes are the most widely known. In the 1970s, poet Vinícius de Moraes married his last wife, Gesse, in an Umbandist ceremony witnessed by many prominent figures of Brazilian culture and politics.

Umbanda is juxtaposed with Quimbanda which now reclaims its identity as a separate, more African religion and distinct from both Macumba/Umbanda and Candomblé.

In recent times, some evangelical Christian groups, which have gained many adherents in Latin America in the last decade, have begun attempting to persecute practitioners of Umbanda and other African-derived religions. Some persecutions have involved violence. Practitioners of these religions have taken cases to national courts and achieved a measure of success.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Umbanda - a basic study - chapter 1


The word “Umbanda” comes from the Adamic alphabet, maybe the oldest known written method.

The word Umbanda means:

  1. The mother science
  2. The generating magic
  3. The one who begun before all others
Because its written origin comes from such an old alphabet, the original way of writing Umbanda was written using signals instead of the letters we use today; hence we say Umbanda is a type of Kabala.

The term Umbanda is universal while science, but Brazilian when observed as a religion only. European Kardecism brings some aspects to Umbanda, but in such a small scale that it is almost imperceptible.

Umbanda and Candomble are different mainly because in Candomble there is a direct contact with the Orixa, while in Umbanda our contact is made with the deities, or entities. Another difference between Umbanda and Candomble is that while Candomble follows the Yoruba (African) tradition, Umbanda follows the language of the place it was born, Brazilian Portuguese.

There are many differences between Umbanda and Candomble, but their main goal is the same: the communication with the Divine!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Umbanda - A basic study

I would like to give you some more "technical" information about Umbanda. I found a nice, simple document in Portuguese entitled "Umbanda - A basic study," which I am going to translate and post here.

So, let's get to it.



The Umbanda movement began in Brazil in 1908 when the first “gira” (1) took place.

The first person that we know of to work with a spiritual entity was Zelio Fernandino de Moraes. A Caboclo (2) worked through his medium Zelio and thus our beloved Umbanda was born. The name of the Caboclo was Caboclo 7 Encruzilhadas. Some time after this first manifestation, Zelio opened Brazil’s first Terreiro, Tenda Nossa Senhora da Piedade.

Sometime after that, the newspaper Umbanda no Brasil (Umbanda in Brazil) was created. This newspaper contributed to the spread of Umbanda throughout Brazil for more than 20 years.

Umbanda today is known anywhere in go in Brazil and many countries are also getting acquainted with this wonderful religion due to the migration of Brazilian followers to other countries. One can find Terreiros in the USA, Europe and Japan. But even being so widespread does not help this religion of being seeing as pagan. We still have a long way to go to show that Umbanda is a religion based on Christian love. Jesus Christ is our Oxala and we base all our dogmas in the context of being humble and solidarity.

Even with all the misconceptions, this religion brings more people to the Terreiros every day. Today millions of followers attend weekly or bi-weekly giras all around Brazil. Some of these followers go to the giras whenever they need help, but many are an active part of the giras.

Another aspect that helps the spreading of our beautiful Umbanda is the number of books written about it, as well as magazines with a regular circulation and distribution. The more accessible information about Umbanda becomes, the easier it will for people to understand what the religion entails and that there is nothing to fear, but much to learn.

(1) Gira – Gira is one of the names we give to a gathering in an Umbanda Temple (or Terreiro). There are many types of giras, including “development giras,” where the mediums that are members of the temple learn how to work with their entities, for instance.
(2) Caboclo – Entity that represents the indigenous inhabitants of the Brazilian forests.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Zé Pelintra - A Brazilian Saint of the Streets

Seu Zé Pelintra is a modern day Brazilian Nkuyu. In Kongo traditions, the nkuyu is a spirit which may be worked with as either an ancestor or a spirit of the environment who often was at one time a living person. While in Africa, these were often spirits who resided in the forest, in the diaspora, especially in contemproary Brazil, these entities have adapted to the urban and suburban environments in which the marginalized blacks and other poor live. This type of entity is called Malandro, which is usually translated as Bohemian, is an artistic, stylistic outsider, who lives a pleasure driven and non-conventional lifestyle. First appearing in a Catimbó song collected by the MPF folklorists in 1938 in Paraíba from mestre Manuel Laurentino da Silva, Zé pelintra has spread from being a Northeastern Spirit of Catimbó (an Afro-Indian religion) to being found in most Afro-Brazilian religions today. He is most widely known in Umbanda and Quimbanda, traditions in which he appeared somewhat later and continues to be popular as both a Caboclo spirit and as an Exú spirit, and is called upon for both good and ill.

In Life, Zé Pelintra loved to drink, smoke fine cigars and cigarettes, play cards, in fact one form of divining with cards is credited to him, and kept the company of women of the street. He is called upon to resolve love affairs, for luck with money and is an ardent protector of women. He is closely associated with Santo Antonio de Padua, who was widely known as "Santo Antonio, o santo Congo".

Many stories of his life include violent encounters with the police in which he annihilated all his opponents only to escape capture. He was famous as a capoeirista. One story common in Rio is that he died when he was crushed by a trolley car he was trying to jump on sometime in the 1920s. Shortly after his death he began to possess various mediums in macumba rites, and eventually became one of the most beloved spirits in Umbanda and Quimbanda. His figure was the inspritation for Chico Barque's widely successful Opera do Malandro, set in Rio de Janeiro and which was based upon Brecht's Three Penny Opera. Zé Pelintra even provided the inspiration for the character Jose Carioca in Walt Disney's 1944 animated film, The Three Caballeros.

Recognized for his distinctive white suit, red tie, red hatband and often wearing a red flower in his lapel or jacket pocket, Zé Pelintra is a powerful spirit who is called upon and loved by many. He is renouned for performing many miracles.

Sarava Seu Zé Pelintra!

source: -

Monday, July 10, 2006

New video sequence - 6 of 6

This is the last video of this shows a medium dancing in the moment that the deity (in this case, an Ibeiji) is leaving his body.

ps. Please note that when a spirit/deity is working through a medium, it does not take over the people's body/mind. The spirit "approaches" the medium's body and work, side by side, with the medium's own spirit.

New video sequence - 5 of 6

More of the Ibeijis...they are wonderful!

New video sequence - 4 of 6

This video shows the deities called "Ibeiji." These are the spirits of the children who work through mediums to solve very big problems. These are extremely powerful deities, so don't let their playfulness deceive you. When it is time to work, they work really seriously!

New video sequence - 3 of 6

Caboclos represent the indians who lived in the Brazilian forests. That's why this medium, after "receiving" his Caboclo, wears the feather thing (I don't know the name of that thing in English).

New video sequence - 2 of 6

In this sequence you see a medium standing in the middle of the temple. The other mediums are singing for a Caboclo to come and work through this medium standing in the center.

Once the incorporation begins, the medium is shaken, which means the deity (Caboclo) is taking over (there are different levels of mediunity, which I will discuss some other time).

You will notice that the Caboclo walks in a specific way. You will notice that each deity has his/her own way of walking, talking, greeting, etc. These differences are what make each deity unique.

New Video Sequence - 1 of 6

This video shows the Ogas (drum players) playing and singing. The Oga is one of the most important members of the Umbanda ritual.

More on Ogas later.

New video sequence

I just got these 6 short videos. I will try (I know I promised that before for the previous videos) to explain what is happening later on.

Enjoy the videos. Please contact me if you have specific questions about Umbanda - if I don't know the answer, I will dig it for you!

And let me know if you have any videos that are related to Umbanda.