Umbanda, Portugal and Health

Doctor Sousa Martins (7 March 1843 – 19 August 1897) became a holy man after he’s dead and a popular source of power among popular rituals.

In all studies concerning Afro-Brazilian religions in Portugal (Pordeus, Saraiva, Guillot, et. al.) — in particular Umbanda, the most connected to the catholic framework – there is an undeniable emphasise to a widespread popular theology (as I think we may call it) of healthiness. Any sociologist, anthropologist or even a non-scholar Portuguese person will confirm that complains of any kind of disease or illness are a popular unlocker for conversations.  This means that health is a central part of Portuguese identity. Such cultural attitude is a leitmotiv for the popular Catholicism, full of ‘demons’, ‘bad spirits’ and ‘spiritual diseases’. In the native religious beliefs is common the expressions as “go to the witches”. This is a popular language code to communal and well-known practices, especially found (but not exclusively) in rural areas. Any village has its own healer, called rezadeira (prayer), a woman or a man that is communally accepted as someone with particular power.

With Umbanda’s arrival to Portugal theology of welfare became part of the speeches of all priests in the accommodation to the religious communal psychology. The practices of cure are now the central point of all Umbanda temples in Portugal. The charity, which was so important to the spread of Umbanda in all-over Brazil, in Portugal became less important thanks to the affirmation of those theology and rituals of healthiness. This expresses well Umbanda’s plastic identity. While Candomblé presents itself as an African-oriented religion, with a nostalgia feeling and a traditional root, Umbanda reveals a dynamic attitude that produces an easy and strong appeal in the Portuguese community, not only because of it DNA marked by Portuguese Catholicism but also and most important of all trough a capacity of dialogue and absorb local non-orthodox beliefs such as the healers and those one arise with the New Age.

Cite this article as: João Ferreira Dias, "Umbanda, Portugal and Health," in Adarrum , Dezembro 21, 2013,

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