Umbanda (Portuguese pronunciation: [ũˈbɐ̃dɐ]) is a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African traditions with Roman Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous American beliefs. Although some of its beliefs and most of its practices existed in the late 19th century in almost all Brazil, it is assumed that Umbanda originated in Niterói and surrounding areas in the early 20th century, mainly due to the work of a psychic (medium), Zélio Fernandino de Moraes, who practiced Umbanda among the poor Afro-Brazilian slave descendants. Since then, Umbanda has spread across mainly southern Brazil and neighboring countries like Argentina and Uruguay.

Umbanda has many branches, each one with a different set of beliefs and practices. Some common beliefs are the existence of a Supreme Creator known as Olodumare. Other common beliefs are the existence of deities called Orixás, most of them syncretized with Catholic saints that act as divine energy and forces of nature; spirits of deceased people that counsel and guide practitioners through troubles in the material world; psychics, or mediums, who have a natural ability that can be perfected to bring messages from the spiritual world of Orixás and the guiding spirits; reincarnation and spiritual evolution through many material lives (karmic law) and the practice of charity and social fraternity.

Bandeira da Umbanda
RegionBrazil, Uruguay, Argentina, United States, Portugal
FounderZélio Fernandino de Moraes
Origin20th century
Niterói, Brazil

Basic beliefs and practices

Umbanda practitioners believe in a supreme creator god; the use of a medium to contact the spirits of deceased people; reincarnation and spiritual evolution through many physical existences; and the practice of charity.

The opposite side of the Umbanda (white magic), i.e., black magic – the practices that intended to cause evil doings, became known as Quimbanda. Umbanda is juxtaposed with Quimbanda which now reclaims its identity as a separate religion and distinct from Umbanda.

One hundred years after its establishment, Umbanda divided itself into several branches with different beliefs, creeds, and practices. Some of these branches are Umbanda d'Angola, Umbanda Jejê, Umbanda Ketu, and Umbanda Esotérica.

Three principal items

The three major beliefs claimed by Umbandists are: The Pantheon, the Spirits' World, and the Reincarnation.[1]


Umbanda has one supreme god known as Olorum (or Zambi in Umbanda d'Angola) and many divine intermediary deities called Orixás. Orixàs and spirits are organized in a complex hierarchy of legions, phalanges, sub-phalanges, guides, and protectors.[1] The exact order of the hierarchy varies by region and practitioner, but a generally agreed upon structure are the Seven Lines, or Sete Linhas da Umbanda. The first line is the top, usually associated with Oxalà, and the bottom is always the Linha das Almas, or Line of Dead Souls.[2] The other patrons associated with the lines are listed in 2-6 below. The lines are often divided up even further into a multitude of spiritual beings.

Main Orixás[1]

  1. Oxalá (Syncretized as Jesus)
  2. Iemanjá (Syncretized mainly as Our Lady of Navigators)
  3. Xangô (Syncretized mainly as John the Baptist)
  4. Oxúm (Syncretized mainly as Our Lady of Aparecida)
  5. Ogúm (Syncretized as Saint George)
  6. Oxóssi (Syncretized mainly as Saint Sebastian)
  7. Ibeji (Syncretized as Saints Cosmas and Damian)
  8. Omulu/Obaluayê (Syncretized mainly as Lazarus of Bethany)
  9. Iansã (Syncretized as Saint Barbara)
  10. Nanã (Syncretized as Saint Anne)
  11. Oxumaré (Syncretized as Bartholomew the Apostle)
  12. Exu (Syncretized mainly as Anthony of Padua)

World of the Spirits

Most followers of Umbanda believe that there are three distinct levels of spirits.

1. Pure Spirits
This level includes the spirits known as the angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim, spirits that reached spiritual perfection.[1]
2. Good Spirits
This level includes the spirits that possess mediums (psychics) or initiates during the Umbanda ceremonies and act as Guias (guides) advising and helping the believers.[2] These are the following spirits:
Caboclos (Indigenous Americans)
Those are spirits of deceased Indigenous Brazilians or Mestizos. They are highly knowledgeable about medical herbs, often prescribing inexpensive remedies to ill people. Their speech is always based in truth and courage, and are widely sought after in cases you need strength, and counsel. When a caboclo speaks, you listen. When the medium incorporates a Caboclo, he/she, begins to walk around heavily, and the feature becomes more severe. They frequently smoke cigars and drink a mix of herbs the mediums make.
Preto-velho spirits
Preto Velho (Old Black Man)
Those are spirits of old slaves who died enslaved. They are wise, peaceful, and kind spirits that know all about suffering, compassion, forgiveness, and hope. Some of them are considered to be from Angola and Congo, others are considered to be the old Yoruba priests that were first brought to Brazil. They also often prescribe herbal remedies. The female counterpart of this spirit is the Preta Velha ("Old Black Woman") who demonstrates maternal compassion and concern.[3] In the beginning of Umbanda, Preto Velho introduced himself as an old slave who died after being flogged for some unjust accusation; today, Pretos Velhos introduce themselves as old slaves who died in persecution after they run away from the plantation. They are frequently the most loved entities in Umbanda and is very common to see a person consulting with the same preto velho year after year, and develop a love for them. When the medium incorporates a Preto Velho, he can not stand straight, has difficulty walking, and has to make consultations sitting down. They frequently drink coffee and smoke pipes.
Crianças/Erês (Children)
Those are spirits of great evolution, appearing as children, to reveal the pure side of life. They are not children who died at an early age. They speak of joy and hope. When they talk, they always intend to cheer you up and make you look at the bright side of things. They are generally characterized as being pure and joyful. Most people make the mistake that, since the medium (psychics) speaks funny, uses candies, lollypops, and ribbons in his head, that he is to be taken lightly. The Erês are evolved spirits who say very serious things, although in a funny way. When the medium incorporates an Erê, he laughs very much, dances, frequently appears with stuffed animals, and speaks with a child's voice. They frequently drink Guaraná and eat candy.
Baianos (People from Bahia State)
The spirits of people who were practitioners of Umbanda, also considered as the spirits of deceased ancestors. Since they are closest to our time (in comparison to the deceased slaves and the Indigenous Americans), they have a different manner in speaking. They are slow talking with the accent of Bahia. They talk about the need to know how to interpret and overcome the difficulties of life. They frequently drink coconut water, eat farofa, and smoke cigarettes.
The spirits of deceased gauchos who lived a hard life in the sertão, the arid hinterlands of Brazil. They speak of love, but are frequently harsh in their speech. They work in the spiritual cleaning of the person who is being attended, the medium, and the terreiro (the place where the Umbanda encounters, "gira" is held).
Marujos or Marinheiros (Sailors)
Spirits of deceased sailors or fishermen that use the power of the ocean to protect people from evil. The water (especially salty water) has its manner of protecting people, cleaning and cleansing. The Marinheiros work in the energy of Yemanjá. They are happy, funny, and easy going. When a Marinheiro talks, he sometimes appears to be drunk, but that's just his way. They can't stand straight and— frequently stumble as if they were in a ship, at high seas. They drink a lot of rum.
Zé Pilintra
He is widely reputed, as the patron spirit of the barrooms, gambling dens, and gutters (while not aligned with "evil" entities, however). The Zé Pilintra spirit is famed by its extreme bohemianism and wild partying persona, being a kind of trickster spirit.
Exu is a phalanx of spirits that are adjusted to Karma. They are messengers of the Orixas and they bring justice to wherever is needed. Offerings are made in the Small Kalunga (cemetery) or at crossroads. The offerings are done only when required by the spirits, never intending to harm anyone. They never use black magic or any animal sacrifice. They protect people while they are on the streets, roads, nightclubs, etc., and also protect them from evil spirits (called obsessing spirits which are spirits that weren't touched by the light yet and use people to feed their bad habits such as addictions to drugs or low emotional states like anger, rage, sadness, guilt, revenge, etc.) and help people opening paths full of learning and success. The female Exus are the Pomba Giras. Their action field is love, specially self love, but also romantic relationships; but under no circumstances will they perform black magic. Pomba Giras, like all Exus, undo black magic that exists in Quiumbanda.
3. Bad Spirits/Kiumbas
Some Umbanda believers avoid the spirits of this level, considered dark incarnations. Sometimes impure spirits can possess some psychics and cause many annoyances in a cult. So, priests and priestesses should know how to treat and send them to the correspondent evolved spiritual level which is connected to the Umbanda house, where they'll be cleansed by higher spirits, taught to find the light and evolve. So, the spirits of the city help during the process as much as the guides of the Umbanda psychics also help. The guides are responsible, in this case, for taking the darker spirits to the spiritual city and rebalancing the psychic.


Reincarnation in Umbanda is different from in Hinduism. The Law of the Reincarnation is the central point of the Karmic Law. It states that Olodumare creates spirits with Self Will all the time. The spirits universally pass through many stages of evolution, in many planets. It also states that there are parallel dimensions in this world where the obsessive spirits are, since they can't evolve. They have the choice of being good or bad, through ordinary acts and the love that they display towards other people. When they "die", the good ones advance to a superior stage of spiritual evolution, in other planets. Those that do not succeed should reincarnate until learning what they were supposed to.[1]

Umbanda temples, priests and priestesses

Umbanda temples are autonomous organizations that focus around a leader, mediums (psychics who are able to intermediate communications between the physical and the spiritual worlds), initiates (people with psychic abilities who are being taught in the ways of Umbanda) and lay members.

During its first years, the Umbanda rituals were performed in poor suburban houses because the followers had no resources, and also to avoid police persecution, since not being catholic was cause for arrest. Most often, the leader's own house was used as a place for religious meetings. The rituals were performed in the backyard. Sometimes, a tent was pitched to protect the meeting from rain. Today, the Umbanda religious buildings are still called Terreiro (backyard) or Tenda (tent). When the religion flourished, buildings were specially constructed for ritual use.

Tendas or Terreiros usually look like ordinary houses when seen from the street. Some religious artifacts like African styled ceramic vases can be put on the walls or ceilings to give a touch of religious appearance to the house. A wood board with the name of the temple usually is placed over the main entrance. Larger Umbanda houses often are laid out in a fashion similar to a humble Catholic church. Even when the Tenda or Terreiro is specially built to be used in Umbanda rituals, a separated part is used as the home of the leader and his or her family. The areas for residence and rituals are close enough to be considered a single unit.

If a building is not available, rituals are still performed in a private backyard as well.[2]

Generally the Terreiro – the actual room used for rituals – is a large area covered by a simple roof of ceramic singles, with an altar at the back.[2]

Also, the Tendas or Terreiros is used directly or in a support capacity for charitable works to provide child care, medical clinics, assistance to orphanages, and distribution of medicines and/or food.[2]

The Terreiros have as their main leader a priest or priestess called "pai-de-santo" ("father-of-saint", if he is a male, referred to as "bàbálóòrìsà") or "mãe-de-santo" ("mother-of-saint", if she is female, referred to as "yálóòrìsà"). The initiates, men or women, are usually called "filhos-de-santo" ("children-of-saint", masculine plural form), to show the structure within the religion. This does not imply sainthood on the part of the priest or priestess, but responsibility for certain rituals related to each saint they serve, (also called Orixás), as well as the saints of the filhos-de-santo under his or her responsibility.

Umbanda developed with almost no sexual discrimination. The leader could be male or female, pai-de-santo or mãe-de-santo, and his or her prestige depends only on their psychic powers and the wisdom shown within their pieces of advice. Its main difference when compared to the Catholic Church is that in Umbanda, homosexuals face no prejudice, for Umbanda does not judge believers by sex, race or sexual orientation.

Each Umbanda Terreiro practices the same religion with variations, according to the policies of the pai-de-santo's or the mãe-de-santo's spiritual mentor, as well as in accordance with the teachings and philosophies of the various traditions within Umbanda. During these ceremonies, the priests, priestesses, and initiates wear white costumes and pay homage to the spirits and Orixás.[2]

Rituals & ceremonies

One hundred years after its establishment, Umbanda is divided into several branches with different rituals and ceremonies. As the Terreiros de Umbanda are loosely united by the Umbanda federations, there is not a strong adherence to a single code of rite, ceremonies and creeds.

The Umbanda Branca, the original form created by Zélio de Moraes and his group, adopts the worship of Orixás but rejects the black witchcraft, the colorful costumes, and the animal sacrifices practiced in the Macumba and Quimbanda rituals.[4] The babalorixás (Pais-de-Santo) and the yalorixás (Mães-de-Santo) always wear white outfits during the ceremonies of the Umbanda Branca. On the other hand, Umbanda d'Angola and Umbanda Jejê are newer sects with a body of rituals, ceremonies and philosophies that equate themselves with other religions such as Candomblé, Jurema, and Catimbó. Another recent branch, called Umbanda Esotérica, is heavily influenced by Eastern philosophies. The older Terreiros de Umbanda, those established before 1940, have not integrated these new trends and still practice the original rites and ceremonies in a simpler way, specially dedicating themselves to charity works, as preached by Zélio de Moraes and his group.

Sessão de umbanda
The gira or "work"

Umbanda ceremonies are generally open to the public and may take place several times a week.[2] Atabaque (conga drums) and chanting play a central role in some Umbanda congregations, but are almost non-existent in others. The ceremonies may include offers to the spirits comprising fruits, wine, farofa, cachaça, popcorn, cigarettes, hard cider and other types of food or beverages. Each Orixá or spirit receives a proper offering, and initiation rites that range from the simple to complex.

During the ceremonies the priests and priestesses (pai-de-santo, mãe-de-santo, filhos-de-santo, initiates) and the public attending the meeting sing together, dance, drink beverages and smoke cigars under the spirit's influence. However, the use of such elements by these spirits aren't due to any addictions - they are used as sacred elements that help the spirits to nullify any negative energies surrounding the assisted person. The priests and priestesses are separated from the attending public, usually by a small fence. The priests, priestesses and some of the public gradually get immersed in the singing and dancing, and suddenly get possessed by deities and spirits, starting to act and speak with their personas.[2] Those in the public attending who become possessed are recognized as owners of special psychic power and, usually, after the ceremony, are invited to become initiates in the Terreiro. Sometimes, an experienced pai-de-santo or mãe-de-santo can dance and sing all night without, for mysterious reasons, being possessed by deities or spirits.

There is also a rite leader called Ogã. His job is to organize the "gira" in a logistic way. He does not incorporate and he is respected by the entities who possess the medium.

Intervention by spiritual beings in followers' daily lives is a central belief, so participation in Umbanda rites is important to appease deities and spirits.[2]

Music and dancing are always present in the Umbanda rituals. The public sing together the "pontos", religious songs intended to improve the psychics' concentration level. These songs often are taught by the spirits themselves, and their lyrics tell about charity, faith, and the Orixás' deeds. The pontos should be sung or said in Portuguese for religious use. A ponto example is translated below:

Ponto de Mamãe Oxúm (Umbanda Song of Mommy Oxúm)
Water streams like crystal
Through Father Olorúm's feet
Father Olorúm created Nature
And made the Waterfalls
Which Xangô blessed
I am going to ask the permission of Oxalá
To bath in the waterfall
To clean all evil[5]


Historical background

Zelio de moraes
Zélio de Moraes

Umbanda originated in South America and developed in the Portuguese Empire. In the late-19th century, many Brazilian scholars criticized the African-Brazilian religions, claiming they were primitive and hindered modernization.[2] At the same time, Allan Kardec's Spiritism, a development of spiritualism creeds, was increasingly accepted by the Brazilian urban middle/upper-class with followers since 1865. Since that Spiritism came from Paris, with the upper classes, there was no integration with the lower classes.[4] The kardecists – followers of the Spiritism – were mainly middle-class people of European descent, many of them pursuing military and professional careers. They were deeply influenced by Auguste Comte's philosophy, Positivism, that aimed to join religion and science and to help the development of society to a higher level.


On November 15, 1908, a group of kardecists met at a séance in the neighborhood of Neves, São Gonçalo city, near the Federal Capital, Rio de Janeiro. Among them was Zélio Fernandino de Moraes, a 17-year-old boy who was studying to join the Naval Academy and later became an officer. During the séance, Zélio de Moraes incorporated a spirit who identified himself as the Caboclo das Sete Encruzilhadas (Half-Indian Peasant of the Seven Crossroads). After that, Zélio de Moraes incorporated another spirit who identified himself as Pai Antônio (Father Anthony), a wise old slave that had died after being savagely flogged by his master.[4][6]

First years and the development

The first Terreiro de Umbanda was founded by Zélio de Moraes in an uncertain date of the 1920s and named Centro Espírita Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Spiritism Center of Our Lady of Mercy). In 1940 Zélio de Moraes made a statute for this first Terreiro that was used as reference by the most of Terreiros that followed.[4]

The Umbanda religion started in a time when the Brazilian society was passing through a strong transformation process. The predominance of agriculture in Brazilian economy was decreasing and the first steps of a late industrial revolution was expanding the working class.[4]

The American anthropologist Diana Brown, that pioneered the studies of Umbanda in the 1960s, verified that the Umbanda founders were most middle-class people.[7]

The first Umbanda followers felt that the Macumba rituals were more stimulating and dramatic than the Spiritism séances, but they rejected the animal sacrifices and the incorporation of malevolent spirits, often called Kiumbas (Obsessing Spirits).[4]

According to the anthropologist Diana Brown, Zélio de Moraes had just a symbolic participation in the creation of the Umbanda, acting like the speaker of a group that previously participated in Macumba cults. A collective effort was made by Zélio de Moraes and his group to promote the Umbanda Branca, developing practices acceptable by the middle class.[8]

Expansion during Vargas dictatorship

The first stage of the Umbanda expansion coincides with the social and political changes that occurred in the 1930s and with the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas (1930—1945).

Getúlio Vargas became known as "pai dos pobres" (Father of the Poor) and, also, as "pai da Umbanda" (Father of the Umbanda) among the emergent urban and working class. Until 1966 many Umbanda Terreiros had a Getúlio Vargas picture in a place of honor.[8]

Despite the identification with the objectives of the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship, the Umbanda followers were persecuted. The police repression interrupted religious meetings, beat the psychics and followers and confiscated their instruments of Umbanda. An entire collection of icons, costumes, garbs, amulets, instruments, and objects of traditional religions confiscated by policemen is still kept in the Museu da Polícia (Museum of Police) in Rio de Janeiro city.[4]

A notable victim of the police repression was Euclydes Barbosa (1909—88). He was a great soccer back player known by the nickname Jaú, that played with the Corinthians team from 1932 to 1937 and with the Brazil's national team in 1938 World Cup in France. Jaú was also a pai-de-santo or babalorixá, priest of Umbanda, the founder of the Umbanda religion in São Paulo city and one of the first organizers in the 1950s of the Yemanjá feast in the São Paulo State beaches. Jaú was illegally imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and publicly humiliated by the police because of his religious activities. Some Umbanda leaders call him the great martyr of their religion.[4]

Prime years after the Vargas dictatorship

In the latter half of the 20th century Umbanda grew rapidly among transformation of Candomblé that was first noticed in Bahia.[9]

The independent Terreiros of Umbanda started to unite themselves in federations to strengthen its position against social discrimination and police repression. The first federation was founded by Zélio Fernandino in 1939.[4]

The end of the Getúlio Vargas Dictatorship and the reestablishment of democracy in 1945 advanced the religion freedom environment. In 1953, two Umbanda federations were founded in São Paulo. However, the Umbanda cults were still looked with suspicion by the Police Departments that demanded a compulsory registration of the Terreiros. Only in 1964, this obligation was released and just a civil registration in a public notary is required.

The populist character of the politics in Brazil between 1945 (the end of Getúlio Vargas Dictatorship) and 1964 (the start of the Military Dictatorship) supported the expansion of Umbanda. Then politicians became usual attendants of the Terreiros, especially before the elections.[8]

Research conducted by the anthropologists Lísias Nogueira Negrão and Maria Helena Concone revealed that in the 1940s in São Paulo, just 58 religious organizations were registered as Umbanda Terreiros, but 803 organizations declared themselves as Spiritism Centers. In the 1950s, positions inverted: 1,025 organizations declared themselves as Umbanda Terreiros, 845 as Spiritism Centers and only one Candomblé Terreiro. The apex was during the 1970s, with 7,627 Umbanda Terreiros, 856 Candomblé Terreiros and 202 Spiritism Centers.[4]

The period from the 1950s to the 1970s was the prime of the Umbanda religion. Police repression decreased, the number of followers soared, but the Catholic Church opposition increased. An intense religious campaign against the Umbanda cults was conducted in the pulpits and the press. Umbanda received criticism from the Catholic Church, which disagreed with the worship of spirits and the comparison that many Umbandistas made between Catholic Saints and Orixás.[3] Despite the criticism, even today, many Umbanda members also claim to be devout Catholics as well.[3] After the Vatican Council II (1962–65), the Catholic Church sought an ecumenical or tolerant relation with traditional religions.[4]


In 1974 Umbanda practitioners (Including declared and undeclared) were estimated to be about 30 million in a population of 120 million Brazilians.[2]

After the 1970s the Umbanda cults begun to be opposed by Pentecostals. Evangelical Pentecostal Churches have begun attempting to evangelize and, in some cases, persecute practitioners of Umbanda and other traditional religions.[2]

Umbanda practitioners have taken cases to national courts and achieved a high measure of success. In 2005 the Superior Órgão de Umbanda do Estado de São Paulo (Superior Organization of Umbanda in São Paulo State) won a judicial case in the Federal Court against the television broadcasting systems Rede Record and Rede Mulher, that belong to the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, a Neo Pentecostal Church. The Public Attorney (Ministério Público) denounced television programs that treated the traditional religions in a derogatory and discriminating way.[4]


In the 2000 Brazilian census, 432,000 Brazilians declared themselves Umbandistas, a 20% drop in relation to the 1991 census. Many people attend the Terreiros of Umbanda seeking counseling or healing, but they do not consider themselves Umbandistas.[4]

Despite all the troubles in the past or present, the Umbanda remains strong and renovated in Brazilian main cities like Rio de Janeiro (the greatest concentration of Umbandists) and São Paulo (the second greatest concentration of Umbandistas).[4] After the 1970s, Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost Brazilian state, became the base of expansion of the Umbanda to Argentina and Uruguay. Today, Umbanda followers can be found in the United States of America as well.[2]

The syncretic religious practice known as Santo Daime, founded in the 1930s by Raimundo Irineu Serra, has been incorporating elements of Umbanda in its rituals, especially in the line called “Umbandaime.” The use of ayahuasca is an important aspect of their ceremonies.

Notable Umbandists


  • DaMatta, Roberto. Religion and Modernity:Three studies of Brazilian religiosity. Journal of Social History. Winter91, Vol. 25 Issue 2, pp. 389–406, 18p.
  • Sybille Pröschild: Das Heilige in der Umbanda. Geschichte, Merkmale und Anziehungskraft einer afro-brasilianischen Religion. Kontexte. Neue Beiträge zur historischen und systematischen Theologie, Band 39. Edition Ruprecht, Göttingen 2009. ISBN 978-3-7675-7126-6
  • Maik Sadzio: Gespräche mit den Orixás: Ethnopsychoanalyse in einem Umbanda Terreiro in Porto Alegre/Brasilien, Transkulturelle Edition München 2012. ISBN 978-3-8423-5509-5


  1. ^ a b c d e Dann, Graham M.S. Religion and Cultural Identity: The Case of Umbanda. Sociological Analysis, Vol. 30, No.3, pp. 208–225.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Brown, Diana De G.; Mario Bick. Religion, Class, and Context: Continuities and Discontinuities in Brazilian Umbanda. American Ethnologist, Vol. 14, No. 1, Frontiers of Christian Evangelism. (Feb., 1987), pp. 73–93
  3. ^ a b c Hale, Lindsay Lauren. Preto Velho: Resistance, Redemption, and Engendered Representations of Slavery in a Brazilian Possession-Trance Religion. American Ethnologist, Vol. 24, No. 2 (May, 1997), pp. 392–414.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Beraba, Marcelo. O Terreiro da Contradição. Folha de S.Paulo; March 30, 2008
  5. ^ Umbanda Ritual
  6. ^ Oliveira, J. Alves; Umbanda Cristã e Brasileira; 1985; apud Beraba
  7. ^ Brown, Diana; "Uma História da Umbanda no Rio", 1985; apud Beraba
  8. ^ a b c Novo Preto Velho. Interview of Diana Brown in Folha de S.Paulo; March 30, 2008.
  9. ^ Troch, Lieve. Ecclesiogenesis: the patchwork of new religious communities in Brazil. Exchange 33, No. 1, 2004, pp. 54–72.

External links

1891 in Brazil

Events in the year 1891 in Brazil.


The atabaque (; Brazilian Portuguese: [ataˈbaki]) is a tall, wooden, Afro-Brazilian hand drum. The shell is made traditionally of Jacaranda wood from Brazil. The head is traditionally made from calfskin. A system of ropes are intertwined around the body, connecting a metal ring near the base to the head. Because of this tuning mechanism the drum is sometimes known as 'Atabaque de Corda'. Wooden wedges are jammed between this ring and the body and a hammer is used to tighten or loosen the ropes, raising or lowering the pitch of the drum.

In Africa, cord-and-peg tension atabaques had a distribution area roughly congruent with the iron double bell (Agogo). This included the Guinea Coast from the Niger River and west to Benin, Togo, and Ghana. Beyond West Africa, cord-and-peg tension drums appeared in Bahia, Suriname, St. Domingue, Cuba, and the southern states of America. These drums traveled with the Ewe, Fon, Akan, and Yoruba people during the New World diaspora.The atabaque is used in Capoeira, Maculelê and the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and Umbanda. It is considered sacred in Candomblé and Umbanda. The main instrument in Candomblé is the drum (Atabaque), skinned with cord-and-peg tension.There are three types of atabaque: rum, the tallest with the lowest pitch; rum-pi, of medium height and in the middle pitch range; and lê, the smallest and highest-pitched.In Maculelê and the rituals of Candomblé and Umbanda, as many as three Atabaques are used (usually one of each type), but in Capoeira, traditionally only one is used.

Cowrie-shell divination

Cowrie-shell divination refers to several distinct forms of divination using cowrie shells that are part of the rituals and religious beliefs of certain religions. Though best-documented in West Africa as well as in Afro-American religions, such as Santería, Candomblé, and Umbanda, cowrie-shell divination has also been recorded in other regions, notably East Africa and India.

Culture of Uruguay

The culture of Uruguay is diverse in its nature since the nation's population is one of multicultural origins. Uruguay has a legacy of artistic and literary traditions, especially for its small size. The culture of Uruguay is known to be heavily European influenced, mostly by the contribution of its alternating conquerors, Spain and Portugal.

However, from the year 1857 to 1940, large waves of European immigrants began arriving to Uruguay, with the majority of the immigrants coming from Italy. Minor European immigrant groups – Frenchmen, Germans, Swiss, Russians, Jews, and Armenians, among others – as well migrated to Uruguay. With the settlement of the European immigrants, this has resulted in traditions that integrate this diversity with the indigenous people or Charrúa elements. Uruguay has century-old remains and fortresses of the colonial era. Its cities have a rich architectural heritage, and a number of writers, artists, and musicians. Carnaval and candombe are the most important examples of African influence by slaves, as well as Umbanda religious beliefs and practices. Guarani traditions can be seen in the national drink, mate. The culture in Uruguay is very similar to that of the culture of Argentina.


Elegua (Yoruba: Èṣù-Ẹlẹ́gbára, also spelled Eleggua; known as Eleguá in Latin America) is an Orisha, a deity of roads in the religions of Santeria, Umbanda, Quimbanda, Candomblé and in Palo Mayombe. He is syncretized with either Saint Michael, Saint Anthony of Padua, or the Holy Child of Atocha.


Eshu (Yoruba: Èṣù, also known as Echú, Exu or Exú) is an Orisha in the Yoruba religion of the Yoruba people (originating from Yorubaland, an area in and around present-day Nigeria). As the religion has spread around the world, the name of this Orisha has varied in different locations, but the beliefs remain similar.


Ifá is a Yoruba religion and system of divination. Its literary corpus is the Odu Ifá. Orunmila is identified as the Grand Priest, as he is who revealed divinity and prophecy to the world. Babalawos or Iyanifas use either the divining chain known as Opele, or the sacred palm or kola nuts called Ikin, on the wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá.

Ifá is practiced throughout the Americas, West Africa, and the Canary Islands, in the form of a complex religious system, and plays a critical role in the traditions of Santería, Candomblé, Palo, Umbanda, Vodou, and other Afro-American faiths, as well as in some traditional African religions.

Jaú (footballer)

Euclydes Barbosa, known by the nickname Jaú (Portuguese: [ʒaˈu]; December 7, 1909, São Paulo – February 26, 1988) was an association footballer who played in the central defender position.

In his career, he played for Brazilian teams Corinthians (1934–1938), Vasco da Gama (1939) and Santos FC.

He won two São Paulo State Leagues (1937, 1938) and one Rio de Janeiro State League (1939). Barbosa was on the Brazil national football team roster for the 1938 FIFA World Cup where he played one match.During his life, Barbosa was persecuted by the Brazilian governments due to his practice of Umbanda. He died at age 78.


Jongo, also known as caxambu or tabu, is a dance and musical genre of black communities from southeast Brazil. It originated from the dances performed by slaves who worked at coffee plantations in the Paraíba Valley, between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and also at farms in some areas of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo. Jongo is a member of a larger group of Afro-Brazilian dances, such as batuque, tambor de crioula, and zambê, which feature many elements in common, including the use of fire-tuned drums, the call-and-response form of group singing, the poetical language used in the songs, and the umbigada, a distinctive step whereby two dancers hit their bellies .

Jongos usually take place during a nightlong party in which several people dance in pairs or in a circle, to the sound of two or more drums, while a soloist sings short phrases answered by the group. The drums, built from hollow tree trunks covered with animal hide in one of the extremities and tuned by the heat of a bonfire, are called caxambu or tambu (the bigger one) and candongueiro (the smaller one). Other instruments can also be used, such as a large and low-pitched friction drum, called puíta or angoma-puíta, and a rattle made of straw and small beads, called guaiá, inguaiá, or angóia. Jongo songs, also called pontos, are sung in Portuguese but may include words of African origin. Often improvised, they are of several types, each one with a particular function: the pontos de louvação are used to salute spiritual entities, the owners of the house and the ancestors; the pontos de visaria or bizarria are sung for fun purposes, to enliven the dancers or as a vehicle for satirical commentaries; the pontos de demanda, porfia, or gurumenta are used by singers who challenge each

On the coffee plantations during the nineteenth century, jongos occupied an intermediate position between religious ceremony and secular diversion. Performed on weekends or on the eve of holidays, they were often the only form of entertainment available to the slaves, and also the only opportunity to perform forbidden African religious rites, even if disguised as profane dances. The use of African terms, combined with a rich metaphorical language, made jongo songs obscure to the white masters, thus providing a means for the expression of social criticism and cryptic messages from one slave to the others.

Though in the twentieth century jongo became essentially a profane diversion, it never lost completely its religious aspects, and is closely related to umbanda, a syncretic religion mixing African, Catholic, and spiritist beliefs born in the first decades of the twentieth century. Jongo and umbanda share a common cosmology, and many jongueiros are devout umbandistas. Today, jongos continue to be performed by descendants of slaves in a least a dozen communities, in rural settings as well as in the periphery of cities. Since the 1990s jongo has experienced a revival and become more widely known as a hallmark of Afro-Brazilian culture.


A Mãe-de-santo (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈmɐ̃ȷ̃ dʒi ˈsɐ̃tu]) is a priestess of Umbanda, Candomblé and Quimbanda, the Afro-Brazilian religions. In Portuguese those words translate as "mother of [the] saint[s]", which is an adaption of the Yoruba language word iyalorishá, a title given to priest women in African religions. Iyá means mother, and the contraction l'Orishá means "of Orishá". As a product of the syncretism, the word Orishá (elevated or ancestral spirit) was adapted into Portuguese as saint.

The priestesses mães-de-santo are more venerated in African-Brazilian religions than the male priests, the pais-de-santo.

In the Afro-Brazilian religions the priests are the owners of the tradition, knowledge and culture and the ones responsible to pass it on to the new generations because there are no sacred written books.


Òrìṣà (original spelling in the Yoruba language), known as orichá or orixá in Latin America, are the human form of the spirits (Irunmọlẹ) sent by Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi in Yoruba traditional identity. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). Most Òrìṣà are said to be deities previously existing in the spirit world (Òrun) as Irunmọlẹ, while others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.Many Òrìṣà have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of orisha is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.

Pomba Gira

Pomba Gira is the name of an Afro-Brazilian spirit evoked by practitioners of Umbanda and Quimbanda in Brazil. She is the consort of Exu, who is the messenger of the Orixas in Candomblé. Known by many names, or avatars, Pomba Gira is often associated with the number seven, crossroads, graveyards, spirit possession, and witchcraft.


Quimbanda (Portuguese pronunciation: [kĩˈbɐ̃dɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian religion practiced primarily in the urban city centers of Brazil. Quimbanda practices are typically associated with magic, rituals with Exus, and Pombagiras spirits. Quimbanda was originally contained under the religious tradition of Macumba. In the early years of the 21st century, some began to assert, despite historical records to the contrary, that Quimbanda was totally separate from Umbanda. Umbanda represented the more Europeanized traits of the religion. Quimbanda has continued to insist that it is a distinct religion, while rejecting Catholic and Kardecist Spiritist influences that have penetrated Umbanda and other Afro-Brazilian religions.

Religion in Brazil

Christianity is the largest religion in Brazil, with Roman Catholics having the most adherents. Brazil possesses a richly spiritual society formed from the meeting of the Roman Catholic Church with the religious traditions of African slaves and indigenous people. This confluence of faiths during the Portuguese colonization of Brazil led to the development of a diverse array of syncretistic practices within the overarching umbrella of Brazilian Roman Catholicism, characterized by traditional Portuguese festivities. Until recently Catholicism was overwhelmingly dominant. Rapid change in the 21st century has led to a growth in secularism (no religious affiliation), and Evangelical Protestantism to over 22% of the population. The 2010 census indicates that under 65% of Brazilians consider themselves Catholic, down from 90% in 1970, leading Cardinal Cláudio Hummes to comment, "We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country?"In 1891, when the first Brazilian Republican Constitution was set forth, Brazil ceased to have an official religion and has remained secular ever since, though the Catholic Church remained politically influential into the 1970s. The Constitution of Brazil guarantees freedom of religion and strongly prohibits the establishment of any religion by banning government support or hindrance of religion at all levels. In the 2010 census 64.63% of the population declared themselves as Roman Catholic, 22.2% as Protestant, 8% as non religious, and 5.2% as followers of other religions (mostly Spiritists or Kardecists who follow the doctrines of Allan Kardec, Umbandists, Candomblers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and minorities of Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, and other groups).

Brazilian religions are very diversified and inclined to syncretism. In recent decades, there has been a great increase of Neo-Pentecostal churches and a thriving of Afro-Brazilian religions, which have decreased the number of members of the Roman Catholic Church. The number of Umbandists and Candomblers could be significantly higher than the official census figure, since many of them continue to this day to disguise their religion under "Roman Catholic" syncretism. About ninety percent of Brazilians declared some sort of religious affiliation in the most recent census.Although the Federal Constitution guarantees religious tolerance to all its citizens (see article 5, item VI), it expressly prohibits all entities that make up the Federation to found and finance public cults and state churches controlled and coordinated by the Government - as do China and other socialist countries, for example - (see article 19, I), since until now the Brazilian State recognizes the "peculiar character" of the Catholic Church under the other religions in its legal system (see Article 16 of Decree 7107/2010), which is why the law recognizes the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the "patroness of Brazil" (see Article 1 of Law 6,802 / 1980); the Constitution is sworn "under the protection of God" (see Preamble of the Federal Constitution); Catholic holidays (such as the day of Our Lady of Aparecida and the day of our Lord's birth) are recognized as national holidays by law (see Law 10.607 / 2002, Law 6.802 / 1980); the Catholic religion has an exclusive status for itself (see Decree 7107/2010); cities and states bear the name of Catholic saints; Catholic statues are exposed in public offices; the expression "God be praised" is present in all real notes; and religious teaching exclusively Catholic in public schools is permitted in the country (see ADI 4439).

Religion in Uruguay

Christianity is the largest religion in Uruguay, but over 41% of the population is irreligious. Church and state are officially separated since 1916.


A veve (also spelled vèvè or vevè) is a religious symbol commonly used in different branches of Vodun throughout the African diaspora such as Haitian Vodou. Veves should not be confused with the patipembas used in Palo, nor the pontos riscados used in Umbanda and Quimbanda since these are separate African religions. The veve acts as a "beacon" for the Loa, and will serve as a loa's representation during rituals.

Yoruba religion

The Yoruba religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practice of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in present-day Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, commonly known as Yorubaland. It is similar to the Vodun practiced by the neighboring Fon and Ewe people to the west and to the religion of the Edo people to the east. Yoruba religion is the basis for a number of religions in the New World, notably Santería, Umbanda, Trinidad Orisha and Candomblé. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of Itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories, and other cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba society.

Zé Pilintra

Zé Pilintra is a spiritual being in Brazilian syncretic religions, such as Umbanda and Catimbó.He is widely reputed, especially among Umbanda followers, as the patron spirit of the barrooms, gambling dens, and gutters (very aligned with "evil" entities, however). Zé Pilintra's spirit is famed by its extreme bohemianism and wild partying persona, being a kind of trickster spirit.

The entity is summoned when his followers need help on domestic, business, or financial affairs and is generally regarded as enforcer of charity and is considered to be the protector of the poor.

Zélio Fernandino de Moraes

Zélio Fernandino de Moraes (10 April 1891– 3 October 1975) was a Brazilian medium who is considered the founder of the Umbanda religion.

Diverse roots
Yoruba religion (Orisa-Ifá)
Countries of development
Sacred sites
Legendary figures

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