What is Umbanda?

June 21, 2024

What is Umbanda?

Umbanda is a syncretic religion that originated in Brazil in the early 20th century. It combines elements of African religions, indigenous beliefs, and Catholicism, creating a unique and diverse spiritual practice. Umbanda is known for its emphasis on spiritual healing, mediumship, and connection with the spirit world. Followers of Umbanda believe in the existence of spirits, orixás, and guides who can provide guidance and assistance in their lives.

History of Umbanda

Umbanda was founded in the early 20th century by a group of spiritualists who sought to create a new religious movement that would incorporate elements of African and indigenous spirituality. The religion quickly gained popularity in Brazil, attracting followers from diverse backgrounds. Over the years, Umbanda has evolved and adapted to changing social and cultural contexts, but its core beliefs and practices have remained consistent.

Beliefs and Practices

Central to Umbanda is the belief in the existence of spirits, orixás, and guides who can communicate with humans through mediums. Followers of Umbanda participate in rituals and ceremonies that involve singing, dancing, and offerings to the spirits. These practices are believed to help individuals connect with the spiritual realm and receive guidance and healing from the spirits.

Mediumship in Umbanda

Mediumship plays a central role in Umbanda, as mediums are believed to be able to communicate with spirits and orixás on behalf of individuals seeking guidance or healing. Mediums may enter into trance states during rituals, allowing spirits to speak through them and provide messages to the congregation. Mediumship is considered a sacred and important practice in Umbanda, and mediums are highly respected within the community.

Orixás in Umbanda

Orixás are spiritual entities that are worshipped and revered in Umbanda. Each orixá represents a different aspect of nature and human experience, and followers of Umbanda may invoke specific orixás for guidance and protection. Orixás are believed to have the power to influence the lives of individuals and bring about positive changes through their blessings and interventions.

Spiritual Healing in Umbanda

Spiritual healing is a key aspect of Umbanda, as followers believe that spirits and orixás can provide healing and relief from physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Healing rituals may involve the use of herbs, crystals, and sacred objects, as well as prayers and invocations to the spirits. Followers of Umbanda seek out spiritual healers and mediums for assistance with health issues and personal challenges.

Community and Rituals

Umbanda is a communal religion that emphasizes the importance of community and solidarity among its followers. Rituals and ceremonies are held regularly to honor the spirits and orixás, and to seek their guidance and blessings. These rituals often involve music, dance, and offerings of food and drink to the spirits. Followers of Umbanda come together in these rituals to celebrate their shared beliefs and connect with the spiritual realm.

Role of the Priest in Umbanda

Priests, or “pai de santo” and “mãe de santo,” play a central role in Umbanda as spiritual leaders and guides for the community. Priests are responsible for conducting rituals, ceremonies, and consultations with the spirits on behalf of their followers. They are trained in the practices of Umbanda and are believed to have a special connection with the spirits and orixás. Priests are highly respected within the community for their knowledge and spiritual abilities.

Umbanda in Modern Society

Umbanda continues to thrive in modern Brazilian society, attracting new followers and adapting to changing cultural norms. The religion has gained recognition and respect for its contributions to spiritual healing, social justice, and community empowerment. Umbanda practitioners are active in social and political movements, advocating for the rights of marginalized groups and promoting environmental sustainability. The teachings of Umbanda continue to inspire individuals to seek spiritual growth and personal transformation.

Challenges and Controversies

Despite its popularity and influence, Umbanda has faced challenges and controversies in Brazilian society. The religion has been criticized and misunderstood by some who view it as superstition or witchcraft. Followers of Umbanda have faced discrimination and persecution, leading to efforts to protect their rights and promote religious tolerance. Umbanda continues to navigate these challenges while remaining true to its core beliefs and practices.


In conclusion, Umbanda is a vibrant and diverse spiritual tradition that combines elements of African, indigenous, and Catholic beliefs. The religion emphasizes spiritual healing, mediumship, and connection with the spirit world, offering guidance and support to its followers. Umbanda continues to play a significant role in Brazilian society, inspiring individuals to seek spiritual growth and personal transformation.

Tatiana Cesso

As a journalist, I've made it my mission to explore and share stories that inspire, inform, and entertain. You may have stumbled upon my work in esteemed publications such as InStyle, Marie Claire, Bazaar, L’Officiel, and Vogue, among others. Having called the U.S. home since 2010, I've lived in Chicago, LA, and currently, Miami. But my heart always beats to the rhythm of Brazil. It's where I was born and raised, and my love for its culture, people, and energy knows no bounds. To share this passion, I've founded Brazilcore, a platform aimed at bridging the gap between Brazil and English speakers worldwide.