Summarized History Of Umbanda Religion

By Janine Hughes


Umbandism is a combination of religious believes borrowed from Catholicism, African tradition religion and native Brazilian religion. It has an added flavor of Spritualism and also closely resembles Candomble. The history of Umbanda dates back to 1900 with the origin being Brazil under Zelio Fernandino. During its expansion years, it spread to Argentina and Uruguay.

There appears to be discrepancies in the manner of worship and belief across different regions. This religion has borrowed heavily from Catholicism which has caused most followers to regard themselves as Catholics. What unifies the faithful is the belief that there exists a supreme God called Olorum or Zambi. He manifests through his multiple representations.

The belief in saints is one of the aspects that can be traced back to Catholicism. These saints are referred to as Orixas and they come with magical powers and energy. Faithful believe that the dead still have a stake in their lives and are thus a part of their worship rituals. It is through their intercession that the living get their daily provisions.

Two central tenets of Umbanda are reincarnation and karma. This explains their constant interaction with the spirits of their dead ancestors. By karma, they believe that the good deeds a person performs will return or turn back to him in one way or the other.

The origin of Umbandism appears to be an attempt to reconcile Catholicism, Spiritualism and Brazilian traditional religion. The aspect of spiritualism is heavily manifested in communication with dead acquaintances and relatives. Within their temples are psychics and mediums who talk to ancestors on their behalf. It is Catholicism that gifted them the belief in one God while native Brazilian religion, blended with African rituals after years with slaves, gifted them the Orixas.

It is Zelio who founded the religion in 1900 while in Rio de Janeiro. He acted as a psychic under Allan Kardec and therefore had influence over his followers. This explains the presence of spiritualism which resembles what the followers of Kardec Allan did. Brazilian religions had been influenced by slaves from African and were therefore not purely traditional.

The precise date for formation of Umbanda is said to be 08, November 1908 during a seance in Rio. Zelio, the psychic, was 15 years of age. He had the power to manifest in two spirits that followers of Allan regarded as inferior. This did not deter him from commencing the journey towards own religion. It did not gain momentum until 1930 when Brazilians needed a unifying factor during political turmoil. The religion by Zelio was the only authentic Brazilian focal point they could find.

Umbanda temples are built like Catholic churches and have priests and priestesses to intervene on behalf of the living. These temples are referred to as terreiros and are used for sacrifice ceremonies. The ceremonies involve sacrifices of different foods, songs and dances. During the sacrifices, the priests and priestesses chant to summon the spirits. Visitors who manifest a spirit are asked to join the church.

Opposition against Umbandism comes from Protestants, Catholics and evangelicals on different grounds. Catholics oppose what they consider as mockery of sainthood beyond regarding their Spiritualism as pedestrian. Evangelicals are opposed to their practice of spiritualism and consider it demonic. Their numbers have stagnated with little or no expansion.




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