Umbanda Turns 100

The Miami Herald does a profile on the Afro-Brazilian religion of Umbanda, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Founded in 1908 after a teenager was possessed by an indigenous spirit named Caboclo das Sete Encruzilhadas (“Indian of Seven Crossroads”), the faith now boasts around 8 million devotees in Brazil, with a variety of off-shoots and unique traditions.A practitioner possessed by the spirit of the Caboclo Sete Flechas.”Umbanda has been a natural fit for a country where many believe in the everyday presence of spirits and omens. What’s drawn the interest of international scholars is the religion’s unmistakably Brazilian bent, which has won it fame as the country’s only home-grown faith. Umbanda’s Brazilian focus is most obvious in its pantheon of spirits, which includes popular folk figures such as the rogue, who’s a fixture of street culture here; the freed slave known as the preto velho; and an indigenous warrior known as the caboclo, who can appear adorned with feathered headdresses and bows and arrows. Worshipers also can be possessed by someone from the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, a cowboy from southern Brazil or a poor ranch hand.