Image of the Day – Quimbanda

Quimbanda is closely related to Umbanda, though it is not as well-known or widely-practiced. Both belief-systems had their origins “Macumba,” a loose term used in the 19th century that applied to all religious practices/beliefs that had their roots in African religious beliefs and practices; in this regard, “Macumba” stood as the Afro-descendant “other” to “white” Catholicism in Brazil . Through the late-19th and early-20th centuries, a division between Umbanda and Quimbanda emerged.  Whereas Umbanda incorporated Catholic elements, Quimbanda did not, making it more similar to Candomblé in this respect. Whereas Umbanda focuses on ritual address one’s own spiritual matters and difficulties, Quimbanda focuses more on human and material matters here on earth and involve prayers and sacrifices for more self-centered issues. Another difference between the two is that Umbanda has a hierarchy of spirits that resembles Christianity’s hierarchy, while spirits in Quimbanda demonstrated more human flaws before becoming spirits. Animal sacrifice, offerings (often of alcoholic drinks), and a complex system of symbols are part of Quimbanda’s ritual practice. For these reasons and others, while Umbanda has become associated with “white” magic, Quimbanda continues to be associated with “black” magic, and in some areas, over time the difference between the two has become stark enough that some scholars consider them two distinct religious systems.

A Quimbanda altar in Brazil.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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