This November 15th, National Umbanda Day is celebrated, marking 115 years of history. The occasion is a reason for celebration among practitioners of the Afro-Brazilian religion, but it also carries the responsibility of promoting the message of combating religious intolerance to the entire population.
At the Nagô Afro-Brazilian Cultural Institute (ICNAB), in Pedreira, in Belém, the festivities began a week ago, with a diverse program with debates on religion, culture, gastronomy and Afro clothing, also addressing the meanings of colors, herbs and baths. Tonight, the closing ceremony will feature a mine drum in honor of Caboclo das Sete Encruzilhadas.
As reported by the president of ICNAB, Father Fernando de Ogum, “despite it being a specific day, the commitment is always to be close to the community”. “In this way we can share our beliefs so that, every day, we can move away from any form of prejudice and violence. We believe in freedom of belief and the security to believe what we want,” he said.
“Umbanda Day highlights this awareness of respect for us, who are Umbanda fans; we are from the mine drum; we are candomblecistas; the way we are; worship what lives within us, which is our ancestry. It is a time to bring to memory all the enslaved black people, who were expelled from their lands and brought their knowledge to us”, said Fernando.
Umbanda, a typically Brazilian syncretic religion, results from the fusion of elements of national religious culture, such as Catholicism, spiritualism and African rituals. In Brazil, there are different aspects of Umbanda, including caboclo, with indigenous influences; umbanda omolokô; esoteric or initiatory umbanda; and popular umbanda, which mixes several of these trends. Umbanda originated in 1908, on November 15th, through the medium Zélio Fernandino Moraes, under the guidance of the spirit identified as Caboclo das Sete Encruzilhadas.
For decades, Umbanda celebrations were not officially recognized politically, although they were widely practiced by followers of the religion. It only became official in 2012, with Law 12,644, which established the annual celebration of the Afro-Brazilian religion. This law was sanctioned in May of that year by then president Dilma Rousseff.
“Despite being created in 1908, the consolidation of the religion only occurred in the 1930s. The definition of Umbanda Day on November 15th was established in 1941 during a meeting of the Council of Umbanda Federative Entities. When the law was sanctioned by Dilma, the date was already recognized independently of public knowledge”, concluded Márcio Neco, historian and religious scientist.