Salve Brazil!: From Spiritism to Umbanda, Candomble, Quimbanda

Delve into a fascinating cultural force and deeply spiritual tradition that comprises the axe--power--of Brazilian magickal religions. Followers of all paths will find something unique to incorporate into their lives.

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Caroline Dow

Caroline Dow

Caroline Dow holds a Ph.D. in Luso-Brazilian Studies, is a former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, professor at Brown and Pittsburgh universities, and current intercultural trainer and assessor. She has authored 15 books on Wicca, Magick, Brazilian traditions, and mystery novels. As a Wiccan High Priestess and Ceremonial Magician, she brings an unique perspective to the study of Brazilian folk traditions.

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Well, I’m finally getting more or less accustomed to the new system on the new computer. Still a lot to get used to, and I’m afraid it is slowing me down.

 

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Hi Everyone!

I've just switched computers and am checking to see if this blog actually posts. If it does, expect a new blog from me by the weekend. Salve!

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Sorry I've been a bit remiss with my blogs. Crazy times, as with everyone. But I've decided to definitely continue on. I'm hoping to write somewhat shorter blogs, but with more frequency. So, here I go:

Since the season of Brazilian Carnaval is upon us, I thought I might spend the next few sessions discussing the history and meaning of this tradition. Wait, you say! Aren't you supposed to be blogging about Brazilian folk religions? Well, yes I am. And you really cannot separate the Carnaval celebration from the Afro-Brazilian religions. The music played, the rhythms, the instruments, the dances, the costumes, and more all cross over into the Brazilian religions. So bear with me while I talk about the history, what Carnaval is like today, the Samba Schools. and the story of the parades. After that, I'll talk about various instruments and their functions both in the celebration of Carnaval and in the religion. Besides, this stuff is interesting and will give you a more in-depth picture of Brazil and Brazilians (at least I hope it will).

History of Brazilian Carnaval

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Hello again. Hope everyone is having a fine Memorial Day weekend. I’m spending mine between weeding, running and working at the computer.

 

In my April entry, I was working my way around to talking about the orixás of the Afro-Brazilian pantheons, prior to focusing on individual ones. One question that seems to arise frequently is how an individual orixá can descend into the place of worship (terreiro); that is, put in an appearance by taking possession of a medium’s body, actually many, many mediums’ bodies at the same time? Isn’t the orixá a single entity? Well, yes and no.

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  • Caroline Dow
    Caroline Dow says #
    Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog, Jamie. Alas, I only have time to blog once a month, but I try to pack in a lot of
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge! While my own religious beliefs lean toward Hellenistic Platonist Paganism, I make it my bus

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b2ap3_thumbnail_carolcloisters.JPGHello Everyone!

You haven’t heard from me for a while because I have been in New York City. While I was there, I visited with my agent, and now have a new book contract. The book is called THE HEALING POWER OF TEA and will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide. It is the follow-up book to my TEA LEAF READING FOR BEGINNERS. I’m so excited to write it, but at the same time it means a lot of work and writing to deadline. I will try to include some Brazilian recipes in the book.

Back to Brazilian magickal religions. I was going to start profiling each of the orixás, beginning with the warrior Ogum, as I did with Yemanjá, but realize that I never completed the introductory material on the orixás and their meaning to these religions. My bad! So I will try to rectify this in the next couple of blogs. And hopefully, I won’t wait until the last day of the month to get my blog in to my readers!

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Today I would like to complete the information I have to give you on Yemanjá, the sea goddess. As I have mentioned, each orixá is associated with different aspects of the natural world, in the same way as the planets in Ceremonial Magick have correspondences. In the mineral kingdom, Yemanjá is associated with aquamarines, diamonds, pearls, silver, and sapphires. You can always substitute a necklace made of shells.

I gave you some ritual meal offerings last time. Here let me add white corn mixed with virgin olive oil or honey, white hen and duck, she-goat stew, mullet simmered in olive oil and seaweed, sardines, shrimp, white rice, and papaya.

She also governs many botanicals. There are different ways to use her botanicals. For example, you may add some to water for bathing in order to prepare yourself to receive the orixá. You can carry some of them in a talisman bag along with an appropriate mineral. You can also prepare offerings for her using some of the herbs, keep some on your altar—in short, the ways to use them are many.

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  • Jenise
    Jenise says #
    Caroline, buenos dias. Your blogs are so insightful and have helped me tremendously in my worship of Yemaya. I want to thank you f

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Necklace-of-Yemanja.JPGb2ap3_thumbnail_Necklace-of-Yemanja.JPGI know it’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged. Things have been so super busy here, as they probably also are in yours and everybody’s lives. I was asked by my publisher to create an outline for a new book on tea to complement TEA LEAF READING FOR BEGINNERS, which has been rather successful. This book, if the acquisitions committee agrees to it, will be on tea and health. It hasn’t gone to the Vision Committee yet, but I’m keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed for a favorable outcome.

 

Now back to my favorite orixá Yemanjá. Last time around I promised I would list some of her characteristics. These are important because despite a few variations from group to group and sect to sect, these characteristics make this entity recognizable anywhere. Also if you think of these entities as representing spiritual concepts or spiritual energies, then building a complete picture of the orixá in your mind will help you draw on her energy, power or whatever you wish to call it. If you have any familiarity at all with Ceremonial Magick, you will recognize the concept. By the way, you do not have to be female to be a devotee of Yemanjá.

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  • Jenise
    Jenise says #
    Caroline, I like, very much, what you write about honoring Yemaja. I am a Wiccan Priestess and for years I have worked with the ce
  • Caroline Dow
    Caroline Dow says #
    Hi Jenise - We have similar backgrounds. I, too am a Wicca priestess and have worked with the Celtic pantheon for many years. But
  • Jenise
    Jenise says #
    Hi Caroline - it is always very interesting to me how people are thrown together - to learn and to share. I was wondering if you c

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Iemanja.jpg

As we further submerge ourselves into the study of Brazilian folk religions, you should know that many traditions and strands of traditions within traditions exist in Brazil, Africa, Latin America, the U.S., Europe, and beyond. While all have beliefs in common, they differ on many of the details. In my blogs I try to strike a balance somewhere in the middle. This is not an easy task. You may disagree with some of my statements about the orixás, and this is fine by me. I welcome open discussion and viewpoints from all who follow these paths. I learn much that way.

 

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First of all, I want to wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year. We all could probably use a bit of joy and prosperity in our lives this year. Today I was going to blog about the differences between various sects of Brazilian folk religions. However, I see that the calendar has made it to December 31, which in Rio de Janeiro is Yemanjá Day. She is one of the two “saints of my head” (I’ll explain that in forthcoming blogs), so to honor this incredibly beautiful and powerful orixá, in this blog I will describe her day.

 

If you need to get to the beach by taxi in Rio on the night of December 31, you’ll have a hard time finding a conveyance because the entire city throngs there. Among other entertainment, fireworks are set off at midnight atop the tallest hotels, and the sparkling color and popping sound dazzle the senses. At the same time, entire terreiros (temples of worship of the orixás) pick up stakes and more to the beach to perform rituals (with drumming) in honor of Yemanjá. They even plant palms in the sand and set up little tents. The public lines up to have their fortunes told (for a price). These rituals are more of the commercial type with lots of glitz and show, but they do give the tourist, who otherwise would never be able to find a terreiro, let alone participate in a rite, a very general idea of what goes on.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Wonderful post. And that sounds like a wonderful New Year's Eve. It reminds me a lot of Apuleius' description of the Isidis Navig
  • Caroline Dow
    Caroline Dow says #
    Hi Rebecca - It does sound rather like that now that you mention it. The occasion gets the New Year off to a roaring start.
  • Ms. Lilypads
    Ms. Lilypads says #
    I definitely want to hear more about Yemaya, my favorite orisha. I first learned of her from the book "Jambalaya." As far as I'm c

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Hi All! I’m back from my trip to the West Coast. While I was there, I managed to meet Anne Newkirk Niven, the editor and owner of these important Pagan magazines and who runs this blog site. I must say she is a delightful woman overflowing with knowledge about Paganism and the Craft to communicate to you all. If you ever get a chance to see Portland, do visit the Japanese Gardens, where we went on a rainy day. The rain barely penetrated the thick foliage, and made everything look misty and mysterious. Such a treat! Don’t miss the Chinese Garden, either. It’s in the middle of town, and only a block long, but is indeed, a jewel. As I get more familiar with blogging, I will try to upload some photos. But as usual, I digress from my principal topic of Brazilian religions. So here goes another entry.

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My last post was about Spiritism, which tells only a very small part of the story of Brazilian folk religions. Spiritism is of European origin, and I must underscore the fact that although it somewhat influences Brazilian folk religions, much more important are the influences of various African sects, which are then translated through a uniquely Brazilian lens.

Probably the most familiar form of worship, at least to the outsider, is Umbanda. The origin of the word that defines this religion may possibly have originated in Angola, although even this is not certain. By the 19th century, the term had come to mean the art of consulting spirits of the dead, the power of spirits to cure, and the art of persuading spirits to influence the living. However, other Umbandistas (followers of this religion) insist that the word is borrowed from an Indian word, aum-bandha, which refers to the limit of the unlimited, or the divine principle. Because of my background in Ceremonial Magick, I especially favor this definition.More importantly, what Umbanda has come to mean for Brazilians is the union of all the bandas, or groups or rituals.

A common view of this religion, taken mostly by outsiders, is that Umbanda is a pastiche of Espiritismo and Roman Catholicism with a dollop of Eastern, African, and Brazilian Native religions thrown in. Although Umbanda does include elements from all of these faiths, I find this viewpoint somewhat facile. The very fluidity, indivduality of interpretation, and elusiveness of Umbanda forms the essence of its distinctive character.

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I’m new at blogging here, so please bear with me. I didn’t realize that the blogs should be longer, as my other blog at www.carolinedowbooks.com is short, but I do more frequent postings. So I am going to start over again with popular religions in Brazil.

 

By “popular,” I mean religions that are practiced by the people in general. Practitioners can come from any socioeconomic or ethnic group, but generally, all but Espiritismo contain a large African influence. Espiritism is more European because it was founded by a Frenchman, but even this religion is somewhat influenced by African precepts and practices.

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  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    @Caroline: actually, I don't know much about Maria Lionza either. There just isn't much about her in English, aside from a short
  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer says #
    How wonderful to see good, solid writing about Brazilian spiritual and folk traditions in English! Muitíssima obrigada!
  • Caroline Dow
    Caroline Dow says #
    Thank you so much, Theresa. I am honored that you enjoy my writing. I'm sorry for this late reply. I did not know until recently h

Since this is my first post, I thought it a good idea to introduce myself. I'm Caroline, but have written books under the names Carolina da Silva, Morwyn, and Carol. 

My Brazilian mother, though happy to pass along family traditions, never evinced much interest in Brazilian magickal traditions. When reading novels and essays while studying for my doctorate in Luso-Brazilian Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, I ran across my first references to these traditions, both in literature, music, and in the general culture. This tantalizing information was mostly glossed over by my professors, so it wasn't until I went to Brazil on a Fulbright Dissertation Research Grant to research 19th century Brazilian literature for my thesis that I came to appreciate how magickal traditions and spirituality in general permeates the entire society, no matter the individual's background.

I soon realized that in order to really be able to communicate to others as a professor the  splendor and beauty of this society, one really must understand and gain an appreciation of  Brazilian spiritual life.

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  • Caroline Dow
    Caroline Dow says #
    Thank you Elani. I'm just feeling my way around the site and find it to be awesome.
  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance says #
    Welcoem to PaganSquare! I look forward to your posts

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