Export of Afro-Brazilian religions producing different syntheses for different audiences

Afro-Brazilian religions abroad do not only serve the religious needs of Brazilian diasporas, but also encounter the religious searches of diverse audiences for spiritual practices of Brazil, giving rise to new experiences and religious groups operating according to different logics, writes Amurabi Oliveira (Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, Brazil) in the International Journal of Latin American Religions (June 2020). Her observations are based on fieldwork in Brazil and elaborate on a discussion with the Uruguayan male priest of an Umbanda temple in Barcelona, Spain. Notwithstanding debates about an alleged “purity” of Afro-American religions, some Umbanda temples interact with the New Age movement in Brazil, too, reflecting the wide range of variations within Umbanda. The Barcelona temple shows characteristics of a New Age center and includes Umbanda. It presents itself as syncretistic shamanism—shamanism being seen as “a concept that people in Europe know about.”

The Umbanda temple is combined with an esoteric house, offering divinatory practices (e.g. tarot) as well as various esoteric products for sale. Those initiated into Umbanda also have access to the various rituals of the religion around the year. It is also an adjustment to a European environment, with elements of the New Age bringing legitimacy, but Umbanda being central in terms of ritual practice. Unrelated to actual shamanism, the concept of (neo-)shamanism is being used for engaging Umbanda “in an extensive dialogue with other cultural matrices.” Thus, the center functions both for a wider audience, with a version of Umbanda based on the concept of syncretistic shamanism, and for people initiated into Umbanda, who practice the rituals of Umbanda and of other Afro-Brazilian religions.

(International Journal of Latin American Religions – https://link.springer.com/journal/41603/)