Accepted paper:

Ritual creativity in Umbanda spirit possession


Patricia Lerch (UNC WIlmington)

Paper short abstract:

Ritual creativity and emotion are evident in spirit possession in the Brazilian religion of Umbanda. Spiritual entities express their emotions and feelings by dramatizing important events in their former lives. Stories about the suffering of orixás like Xangó model pathways to healing.

Paper long abstract:

Ritual creativity and emotion are evident in the embodiment of spirits during Brazilian Umbanda possession rituals. Umbanda rituals allow spirits to express their emotions and feelings in creative and dramatic possession of mediums. Such possession episodes provide a way for suffering spirits to tell their story and find the path to spiritual enlightenment. At the same time, a kind of healing occurs when a spirit medium's own social problems and issues are publicly aired and perhaps resolved at the Umbanda center, too. Secondly, another kind of healing may happen in the telling of common stories about powerful Orixás like Xangó that provide a model for how to overcome physical and spiritual problems in one's own life. The ethnographic examples drawn from the author's fieldwork in the 1970s offer historical perspective on some contemporary ethnographic examples drawn from a number of current studies on Umbanda.

panel P210
Ritual creativity, emotions and the body