- Distribute the activity sheet, “A Brief Overview of Umbanda and Candomblé.”
- Have students read the information independently, in pairs, or as a whole class with one person reading. Stop periodically to discuss the material with questions such as those that follow.
- What are Candomblé and Umbanda? (Candomblé is (1) the Afro-Brazilian religious cults of Bahia, with origins in Yoruban religious ritual and belief, created by African slaves and their descendants; (2) the ceremonies honoring the Yoruban orixás; (3) the temple or cult center where the ceremonies are held. (Landes, p. 249). Umbanda is a cult that emerged in Rio de Janeiro in the 1930s and combines African possession religion with Catholicism, occultism, and Allan Kardec spiritualism; it has many regional manifestations.)
- How are they similar and different? (Candomblé and Umbanda are similar in many regards and share the same religious spirits. However, one easily defining difference is that Candomblé is practiced in Bahia, and Umbanda in Niteroi. In Niteroi, public offerings to the orixás are left on beaches on specific days pertaining to the spirit being honored. In Bahia, the only time offerings are made on the beach is on February 2nd, when the residents of Bahia turn out for a huge celebration to honor the Festa de Yemanjá (Festival of Yemanjá), the Candomblé spirit and the mother to the orixás. At this festival, devotees send boats full of flowers and other gifts to be offered to this sea spirit and her realm, the sea. Interestingly, the Festa de Yemanjá is the only festival not connected to Catholicism.)
- Candomblé finds its religious roots in which three religious traditions? (European, African and Indian Brazilian religious traditions)
- How many Brazilians self-identify as Roman Catholic? (124 million)
- How many Brazilians identify themselves as Candomblé practitioners? (127 million)
- Why is that number misleadingly low? (Many Brazilians declare themselves as Catholic, yet are practitioners of Candomblé.)
- What is syncretism? How do you think it works? (Syncretism is the blending of two very different religions such as Candomblé or Umbanda and Catholicism. Most Brazilians practice Catholicism and either Candomblé or Umbanda in their everyday lives. The orixás are related to Catholic saints. Many of their characteristics overlap. Some people attend both Catholic mass and ceremonies at terreiros.)
- Do Candomblé and Umbanda share the same pantheon of deities? Yes.
- When did the slave trade exist in Brazil? (From 1538 until slavery was abolished in Brazil in 1888) How many slaves were imported? (Almost four million slaves were brought from Africa to labor in Brazil.)
- Define the word “banzo”. (The deep sadness and pain the slaves felt when they were torn from Africa. They were uprooted from their culture, religion, beliefs, customs, family, and friends, without hope of ever returning home to Africa. As a result, some slaves became severely depressed, went mad, or died.)
- How did Candomblé help to heal “banzo”? (Candomblé became an alternative community and family for the slaves. In her book Refuge in Thunder, Rachel E. Harding describes Candomblé as a religion born out of the Diaspora of dislocated Africans and their descendants in Brazil. Harding understands Candomblé as a way the slaves could heal their pain from the crush of slavery.)
- At one time there were 200 orixá, or spirits, today there are how many main spirits? (There are sixteen main spirits today.)
- How are the beliefs of Candomblé passed on to participants? (There is no formal written record. Many of its teaching can only be passed on from one person to the next. Also, many of the teachings and rituals are secret. One can find books on Candomblé, although they are not viewed as authentic.)
- What happens during a ceremony? (Music, dance, drumming and singing are the foundations of the ceremony and run through out the “service”. There is no sermon or formal teaching.)
- How has President Lula helped to combat the religious persecution of Candomblé and Umbanda? (President Lula instituted January 21st as the National Day against Religious Intolerance).
- What elements present in the Candomblé and Umbanda ceremonies are similar to those of Catholicism? Similar to other religion? (Flowers, water, candles, food, symmetry, order, beauty)
- To summarize the discussion, assign partners one of the two religions. Have them write 4-5 facts they learned about it during the lesson.
Extending the lesson:
- Make a Venn diagram comparing Candomblé and Umbanda.
- Have students write a comparison essay of the two religions.