Umbanda Religion
A Brazilian Experience
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 Umbanda Religion

It was approximately 4:30 pm, when we headed out to attend an Umbanda ceremony in Goias, Brazil. Although the trip was long, the pleasant evening breeze and panorama made the car ride quite enjoyable.

When we arrived at our destination, the driver parked in front of a modest looking house. The front of the house was isolated. It appeared, we were the first to arrive.

The driver opened the front gate; and we proceeded to walk toward the back of the house. Upon arriving at the other side of the house, a man appeared. His name was Lazaro, a high priest. When Lazaro saw the driver, he gave him a warm friendly hug. Lazaro and the driver were old friends who had not seen each other for several years. After embracing and sharing pleasantries, we were introduced. Lazaro welcomed us warmly, and immediately made us feel at home.

Due to health reasons, Lazaro stated, he was no longer overseeing the activities of the Umbanda ceremony. The responsibilities were passed down to his daughter, Irene. A few minutes later, his daughter appeared. Just like Lazaro, she welcomed us with open arms. After a minute or two, she excused herself stating that she needed to prepare for the ceremony. Lazaro too disappeared.

As we sat waiting for the evening activities to commence, I started looking around. Pasted on a door was a sign that stated, “A person should not practice spiritual mediumship without being fully prepared.” My companion, who was also reading the sign, looked at me and smiled in agreement.

Shortly afterwards, people began arriving. As they marched in, they stopped and saluted a large wooden cross located next to where we were sitting. One by one, they touched the cross and bowed their heads in homage.

After paying their respects, they quickly entered a room, which appeared to be a dressing room. One by one, they marched out in full Umbanda attire. The men wore white tops and trousers, while, the women dressed in white blouses and long skirts. In addition, the women covered their heads with a white piece of fabric. Both, men and women, had numerous long colorful beaded necklaces hanging from their necks.

Before the commencement of the Brazilian religion Umbanda ceremony, we were escorted to a room that was detached from the main house. We were instructed to remove our shoes and sit in one of the many small benches located around the room. It was the room where the Umbanda ceremony would take place. The décor was similar to an African hut with dirt floors and straw dangling from the roof.

As I was making myself comfortable, my eyes zoomed into a sizable altar located on the far left of me. It was an extremely impressive sight. Illuminated by numerous candles, the altar contained several pictures of saints, statutes, and items unfamiliar to me. On the opposite side, hanging on the wall, was a large picture of Yemaya. The other walls were decorated with various spiritual pictures.

By now, the people dressed in white had gathered around the room. Then, Irene rang a bell to let people know that the ceremony was about to start.

The group formed a circle. A woman began reading a passage from a piece of paper. The first part of the passage was about the medium’s role. The medium’s sole purpose, she stated, was to serve God and His spiritual messengers with humility and love. The rest of the passage was about love, compassion and goodwill to God, self, and humanity. 

When the woman concluded reading, another woman read from another page. “It’s our duty to help each other, for we are one,” she said, visibly moved by what she had read. 

The bell rang a second time. It was a signal  to start the beating of the drum. The drummer began beating a drum at a slow pace, but quickly gained momentum with every beat.  The group began dancing and singing. Their songs were a calling to the spirits and prayers to God for His Divine blessings.

The dancing and singing continued, in full force. Soon, many of the dancers began to shiver and wobble as spirits took over their bodies. Most of the dancers went into a trance. They were no longer in control of their bodies. I was so engrossed in watching the transformation that I forgot to inquire as to the nature of the energy.

All the possessed individuals were given wooden swords. Swinging their swords up in the air, they continued dancing. Every movement was done in conjunction with the drumbeat. They  placed their swords on our shoulders and heads, as a form of greeting. 

After greeting everyone, they formed two rows. Visitors were instructed to walk between the rows and receive a blessing from the entities. Children were the first to be blessed. With the conclusion of the blessings, we were permitted to consult the spirits. 

 By the end of the consultation phase, the spirits departed. The mediums moved to the middle of the room and began dancing and singing. Once again, they were calling upon the spirits. Soon, they began trembling and jerking as the spirits entered their bodies. This time, it was spirits of children.

These spirits were not of children who died at an early age; instead, they were highly evolved spirits who manifested as children in order to bring us hope and joy. They tended to help us get in touch with our inner child.

“When they talk, they always intend to cheer you up and make you look at the bright side of things.”- Wikipedia

Those possessed by these spirits transformed into playful and childlike beings. Not only was there a shift in their mannerism, but also their tone of voice changed. They dropped to the floor, giggling and playing with each other. The assistants, individuals who attended to the needs of the spirits, began distributing candies to them. Upon receiving the candies, the possessed mediums stood up and began sharing their candies with the people in attendance. At one point, I closed my eyes, and actually felt the presence of small children in the room.

Irene, who was sitting and observing, suddenly began hitting a stick on the floor. It was a signal for the spirits to leave the bodies of the mediums. One by one, the spirits departed except for one who was hiding behind a drum. Irene started speaking to the spirit in a stern, yet loving tone, and soon the spirit released itself.

Once again, there was dancing, singing and calling out to the spirits. The drumbeat grew louder and more intense. Finally, the spirits arrived. They were the spirits of the Old Black Slaves. 

The Old Black Slaves, also known as the Preto Velhos, are spirits of old slaves who were believed to have been brought to Brazil during slavery and died enslaved. These spirits are considered the most beloved entities in the Umbanda religion. They are known for their compassion, kindness, and knowledge of herbal remedies.

Out of all the entities that arrived that night, I found the Old Black Slaves the most intriguing. The mediums, who were possessed, actually took on the physical traits of these spirits. It was extraordinary to see the transformation.

A fairly young strong man, who was playing the drum, dancing, and singing with much vigor, transformed into a decrepit being. Bent overhe moved very slowly across the room. His tone of voice was low and shaky.  I was convinced that spirit had taken over the man’s body completely. 

The assistants gave the possessed mediums walking sticks and pipes. Leaning on their canes, the mediums walked slowly to their designated sitting area. Upon reaching their seats, they sat down and placed the unlit pipes in their mouths. One of the assistants  informed the crowd that the entities were ready for consultation.

 I stood up and went to one of the possessed mediums. By now, the room was packed. Everyone seemed to have been waiting for the arrival of the Old Black Slaves.  Because of the noise in the room, I could not fully understand what was said to me. However, the cleansing from the entity was amazing. I felt a current of electricity  traveling all over my body.  When I returned to my seat, I was in a state of ecstasy. The energy of these entities was intense.

When the energy of the Old Black Slaves departed, the mediums spread out and began swaying back and forth. Although the drumbeat continued to increase in tone, the dancers were no longer moving around the room.

One woman began dancing around in a circular motion. She removed her headdress and let her long hair loose to hang down her back. There was something majestic about her demeanor. It was Yemaya. The energy of Yemaya had arrived and was now in the body of the young woman. She was given water, which she sprinkled around us. Since it was very warm in the room, the water felt  refreshing. As she continued dancing and blessing us with the water, the hairs on the back of my neck and arms stood up. When Yemaya departed, the session ended, but her energy continued to linger in the air. Yemaya, the Mother of all, had blessed us with her presence.

It was an unforgivable experience

 

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