Macumba ( Quimbanda )

When the Portuguese began shipping slaves to Brazil in the sixteenth century, the country already had an amalgamation of religions. Catholicism was desperately trying to rid the area of the native Indian beliefs. The slaves found their beliefs in spirits and magic synonymous with native faiths. The two intertwined; while the slaves outwardly worshipped under the Catholic faith, they covertly carried on their religious beliefs until their liberation in 1888. At least fifteen generations of slaves had grown up with a belief in the orishas.


Candomble , like Santeria, resembles Yoruban religions. The name derives from the celebration held on coffee plantations by the blacks. The first center for Candomble was in Salvador, the old capital city of Brazil. The religion's spiritual leaders are women, or high priestesses. Originally, the men held these roles, but as slaves they had to spend their days in the field.

Umbanda derives from the Hindu aum-gandha , meaning "divine principle." It gathers its beliefs about spiritism and spiritual healing from both African religions and Hinduism and Buddhism. Umbandistas also communicate with Catholic saints, but through intermediaries (ancestors). Umbanda began in 1904. Black magic, or Quimbanda originated earlier, and is still in use today.


Humans have both a physical and spiritual body.

Discarnate entities constantly contact the physical world.

Humans can learn to contact and incorporate the spirits for the purposes of healing and spiritual evolution.

Seal of Exu

Both groups call upon the deity Exus to protect their temples. Priests are called babalao and are in charge of handling animals that will be used as sacrifices in rituals. For members, rigorous devotion to ritualistic chants and dancing are required for initiation into the group. Abstinence from certain food and sex is also required.

Quimbanda altar to Exus

Umbandistas, like other Macumba groups, believe that there are no "evil" spirits, only misbehaving spirits that need to be educated. Quimbanda , however, uses this mischief for its own desires. Although considered black magic by many, Quimbandistas simply siphon power from spirits that are unruly, and therefore their practices are considered tainted.

Sacrificial offering to Yemanji

Remarks: Every year, on the 1st of January, a celebration for the orisha Yemanji, "water goddess" takes place in Brazil. Most of the events are filmed and broadcast in Rio de Janeiro, but the festival takes place in almost every community across the country.

More than one million celebrants dress in white and wade into the ocean at dusk. High priestesses initiate new members into the priesthood. Members sail little boats filled with religious artifacts (including statues of saints) into the surf. If the boats sink, the orisha Yemanji (who is associated with the Virgin Mary of the Catholic faith) has heard the prayers of devotees and will continue her support for another year.


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