|Doctrines|| ||The Umbanda believe in the existence of one invisible world and one visible world, that interact with each other. In the invisible world, there are spirits of life and spirits of darkness. The spirits of light or the higher spirits are developed spirits.|
The spirits of darkness are spirits of dead people that are still close to matter. They can, however be thought Umbandas doctrines and then become higher spirits.
All these spirits of the supernatural realm can communicate with human beings, and act in the natural world.
Umbanda is a cult of possession. There can be two types of possession. One is the trance that is a possession by the higher spirits. The other one is the obsession that is the possession by the spirits of darkness.
The possessions take place in the terreiro (yard) -their special place for worship - where they have public as well as private ritual. Most of the sessions are trance sessions, that are opened with the chanting of the Umbanda hymn and other cabalistic prayers. In the sessions, where they are generally dressed in white, they ask questions, make offerings, teach the lower spirits, ask favors, all of which aim for material and spiritual healing. In addition to the ceremonies of possession they have baptism, consecrations, and weddings. They also perform some rites that are called "despachos" (contests). These despachos that generally happen at the corner of the cross roads consist of offerings made with foods , candles, cigar, etc.
The higher spirits are classified into lines and phalanxes. There are seven lines. Some of these lines are headed by an African deity that belongs to the Candomblé, and some of them are headed by a generic idea; such is the line of the souls, or African line, such is the east line, or the line of children. From each line derives phalanxes that are related to the lines because of their characteristics. These falanxes are composed of spirits of pretos-velhos (old-blacks), caboclos (mixture of indigenous and Africans), slaves, Indians, ancestors, guias (guides) -deities belonging to the African pantheon such as exus. It is possible that these spirits might have existed, but, most important, they are archetypes. The pretos-velhos, for example are humble, wise, sympathetic with the miseries and sufferings of people. The indigenous are lovers of liberty.
Like Candomblé, they believe in one supreme God (Zambi or Zambiãpongo), but they generally worship the intermediaries spirits.
Their religious hierarchy is composed of: the "pai de santo" (father of saint) that is the spiritual leader, next comes the "pai pequeno" (little father) and "mãe pequena" (little mother), than is the "cambonos" who are the cult assistants, and the mediums. There is also a bureaucratic hierarchy with a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and the members that have to contribute with fees.
|History|| ||Umbanda is a syncretic religion that emerged from the Macumba which in turn, originated out of the African Banto religions.|
The word Umbanda started to appear in Rio de Janeiro around the 1920s to designate various syncretic cults. In the Angolan, quinbundo language, however, it means "the art of healing".
The Umbanda has established itself through Umbanda Federations working in Rio and in Sao Paulo, and also through assemblies that took place in 1941, 1961, and 1973. Although it started in Rio it is now spread though out the whole Brazil. In the sixties it was included in the official list of registered religions.
There are basically two tendencies in Umbanda. One lies in the African tradition, the other on the kardecist tradition.
|Symbols|| ||Umbanda is very rich in symbols and in cabalistic symbols. Elements like crosses, stars, arrows triangles, circles, etc. are combined in different ways creating a variety of meanings. Some of these elements, however, tend to keep the same meaning despite the different combinations they may undergo. They become symbols in themselves. The heart is the greatest example of all human feelings; for instance, charity. The stars are generally related to the east. the Cross represents the faith, the anchor represents hope.|
Each deity has its own group of symbols that is called "point risked" (risked point). Point risked is a diagram drawn with the cabalistic symbols. As a syncretic religion in the "conga" (altar) are found images of Christ, Mary, and Various Saints from the Christian tradition, Buddha, from the Buddhist tradition, Iemanjá and others from the Candomblé tradition, indigenous and pretos-velhos (old-blacks) from the Brazilian tradition, gypsies and dissimulated representations of demons. Because of the syncretic characteristics of Umbanda, the images do not have exactly the same characteristics that they have in their original tradition, but become something different.
|Adherents|| ||The movement has in excess of 20 million adherents (Harris et al 1994, 254).|
| ||Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil|