According to Wikipedia, "Umbanda is an Afro-Brazilian religion (influenced by Kardecism, but not limited to) and mathat blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism ny indigenous lore."
It is a relatively new religion that originated in Brazil in the early 20th century. It blends the best of Candomble and Spiritism creating its own unique identity. David St. Clair, in his book Drum and Candle, wrote, “…more sophisticated than African ritual and more understandable than French-implanted Spiritism.”
Zelio de Moraes, under the guidance of a spirit guide, is believed to be responsible for the creation of Umbanda. According to Davis St. Clair, Caboclo, a spirit guide who was an Indian half-breed native Brazilian in his last incarnation, revealed to Zelio that neither Candomble nor Spiritism, “was right and proceeded to dictate a brand new set of rules, regulations, rituals, chants, drumbeats, herbal cures, curses, dance steps, etc.”
Although to an outsider Umbanda looks similar to Candomble in style, it is very different. In Umbanda religion, “both men and women participate in the dancing and receive the spirits into their bodies, unlike the Bahian Candomble, where women rule completely” (Drum and Candle).
It’s belief system consists of a Supreme Creator, deities called Orixas, Catholic saints, spirits of the deceased, spirit guides, reincarnation, spiritual evolution and the practices of charity and social fraternity.
Recently, I was invited to attend an Umbanda ceremony. Appreciating new and adventurous journeys, I gladly accepted the invitation. When we got there, we were welcomed by friendly smiles. We were told to have a seat. As I sat patiently and waited for the ceremony to commence, I noticed several paintings hanging across the room. Later, I discovered that the loft was an art gallery. For the next hour or two, the art gallery would come alive with the energy of spirit.
In front of the seats was an area roped off. Inside the forbidden area was an altar. The altar consisted of an Indian statue, a glass of water, a stone, a large necklace enclosing the mentioned items, flowers on both sides and a large piece of chalk.
The ceremony was about to start. People dressed in white began entering the room. The men as well as women were dressed in white pants and white shirts. The last four individuals to enter the room were dressed in colorful attire- the women with full long skirts and the man with a colorful shirt and cap. The people dressed in white began to take their respective places outside the roped area, while the remaining four entered the enclosed area. One of the women began to address the visitors. She thanked us for attending, and briefly explained what was about to happen. Without a doubt, she was the priestess in charged.
In minutes, the climate of the room had changed. There was singing and dancing. As we sat in our seats, we began to join in by clapping our hands to the rhythm of the music. The sound began to take a stronger tone as the singers began calling out the names of Oshun and Yemaya.
Shortly after, the spirits arrived. They had taken over the bodies of the man and priestess. Both were given chalk by their assistants. They began drawing symbols on the floor. Each symbol represented the name of the entity that was present.
By now, visitors were allowed to enter the forbidden area and approach one of the two possessed mediums. I quickly got up and went to the woman. She held my hands and proceeded to talk. Her assistant who was sitting next to her was carefully paying attention to everything that was said and done. When the spirit demanded an item, she got it without any hesitation. It seemed to me, as if she was honored to serve spirit.
After the consultation and spiritual cleansing, I returned to my seat. When everyone had finished consulting the spirits, the spirits released themselves from the mediums’ bodies.
Next, the people dressed in white began entering the enclosed area. The singing and dancing continued. Within minutes, they were under the influence of spirit. It appeared that the spirits were not ready to depart. I remained seated observing everything that was going on.
After a few minutes of spirit possession, the spirits began leaving the respective bodies of their hosts. Although the ceremony had ended, the spiritual energy remained in the room and around us. We thanked the umbanda group and said our farewells.
On our way out, my friend asked for my opinion. I was without words. Although I felt a sense of inner peace, I could not describe fully what I was truly feeling.
It was much later that I was able to
TO BE CONTINUED
To be continued