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Umbanda, a Source of Faith from Africa

Umbanda ceremony

The Registry celebrates the Umbanda religion, which dates from 1600, on this date. This is one of several Black African faiths practiced in the Americas.

It began flourishing in the South American cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.  Umbanda is an Afro Brazilian religion that mixes the teachings of Alan Kardec's spiritism, Catholicism, and sects brought by the African slaves.  The practice of Umbanda usually is directed by a man or woman called "Pai [or Mre] de Santo" (saint's father or mother), or "Chefe de Terreiro" (Yard Chief), a medium that could incorporate dead people's spirits, called "Entidades" (Entities).

These spirits can be Caboclos (Indians), religious figures, doctors, African or Brazilian Negroes as "Pretos Velhos"(Old Blacks), "Pai Joaquim", "Pai Arruda", "Tia Joana", etc. These incorporations happen in meetings called "Sessxes"(Sessions), in the "Terreiro", "Centro" or "Tenda" (Yard, Center or Tent), a big room with an altar, where members sing "Pontos" (Points, chants for an entity), dance or just hold the entity's counsels. During the Session, the medium is helped by men and women called "Filhos de Santo" (Saint`s Sons) or "Cambonos".

If these meetings happen on the street, forests, beaches, or external places in general, they are called Obrigações (Obligations), where the members pray and offer food, flowers, candles, and gifts to the entities. Umbanda is called "macumba" by some Brazilians, but this is wrong. The true Umbandists just practice sorcery rituals to improve the lives of others, to practice goodness not to harm anyone.

The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
ISBN 0-471-23924-0


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