Practicing Macumba Magick

Brazilian Magick

Brazil is popular for many gifts to the rest of the world. Brazilian coffee being one of the first that comes to mind. It is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. Brazil boasts gorgeous beaches and stunning mountain views. It also is home to a black magic known as Macumba.

From an Instrument to a Religion

The name “Macumba” is believed to derive from Africa at a time when slaves were being transported to South America in the 16th century. Christians were afraid of the rituals they witnessed and demanded that the masters force Christianity, or Catholicism on their slaves in an attempt to control them. Not to be deterred, the slaves outwitted their masters by formulating this new practice, Macumba ( The religion continues to thrive to this day.

Macumba is also a wood instrument with origins in West Africa. In Portuguese, Macumba means “a musical instrument”. Cylinder in shape, it is a very beautiful percussion instrument, when played reverberates a hollow yet ritualistic sound. It is easy to see why the practitioners of the Macumba religion would turn to this instrument during their rituals as well as when naming their new practice.

Two Groups

As with most other religions, there are groups within Macumba. The first is Candomble. Candomble is the most African in characteristic and is believed to be the version that came to Brazil with the slaves in the 1500’s. Candomble unites traditional beliefs of Yoruba, Fon and Bantu from multiple regions within Africa, and incorporates some of the beliefs of the Catholic religion( The name “Candomble” means ‘dance in honor of the gods’. Ceremonies involving music and dance are very important parts of the religion. The creator and leader of Candomble is Oludumare, who is served by lesser gods and goddesses named Orishas.

The worshippers of Candomble were persecuted right up to modern times if they were found to be practicing. It wasn’t until 1970 that the police were no longer allowed to take action against these believers. Today Candomble is thriving with around two million followers. Though it is primarily in Brazil most specifically Salvador da Bahia, people from African countries come to Brazil to learn more about the faith of their ancestors. The leaders of Candomble are working towards removing the Catholic imagery from their services to allow them to return to the traditional origins. By being forced to adopt Catholic customs, the practitioners of Candomble were essentially stripped of their identity and hope to return to their cultural and historical roots.

The second branch of Macumba is Umbanda. This is most commonly practiced in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. This branch unites African traditions with Roman Catholicism. Nicknamed the “white magic”, Umbanda is popular with the middle class and share beliefs with Buddhism such as reincarnation and spiritual evolution. Umbanda also shares a common belief as Voodoo in that they seek the counsel of deceased spirits for guidance and wisdom.

Candomble and Umbanda are the two most popular groups within Macumba. There are many other groups, though these two hold the most sway. In either group, ritualistic ceremonies are performed including a medium that may fall into a trance to allow spirits to enter their body allowing others to communicate with the dead. The ceremony, known as gira, includes smoke from special herbs, music and prayer around a circle. On the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, such circles may be found in the evenings. Candles encircling offerings to the spirits may include cigarettes, cachaca, popcorn or farofa. The circles on the beaches are known as despachos. The offerings are specific to the person presenting it. They may be asking for money, love, strength, and even at times to cause harm to another individual.

Macumberan Rituals

A macumbera, or witch doctor, is sought within this religion when a need arises. The macumbera will prepare herbs based on the request and will instruct the worshipper to bathe using those herbs for 7 days. It is believed that as long as the individual has followed the instructions, they will find that their request has been fulfilled. The request can be anything from riches, to health, to bad luck to someone else.

If a macumbera is asked to assist with causing another individual harm, a picture of that person is required. Because of this, many Brazilians will not allow their picture to be taken or provide a picture of themselves to anyone they do not personally know ( To keep from becoming a victim of such harm, they use great caution when it comes to photography.

Though it is not common, unfortunately animal and human sacrifice have been known to occur. During a human sacrifice, the one sacrificed is typically an infant, or a toddler is forced to eat an item which should not be consumed ( Most sacrifices do not involve humans but rather small animals. It may include the smearing of the blood from the animal on the skin during the initiation process in becoming a Shaman.

Shamanism is a widely accepted in Brazil. A shaman is usually a man but may at times be a woman. It is hereditary, though at times the power of a shaman may be recognized in another person. If this should happen, the shaman will take that individual under their tutelage and teach him how to open himself up to his own spirit (   

Some Parting Notes: The Defiance

Macumba is recognized in Brazil as the religion brought there by slaves from Africa. These slaves were forced to give up their own beliefs and take on the beliefs of their masters. In most, they portrayed an image of acquiescence in public and in private continued worshipping their gods and goddesses. Though they incorporated much of the imagery they were introduced to from the Roman Catholic religion, one of the groups today is working towards removing that influence from their ceremonies. The men that enslaved these people believed that by forcing them to become Christians, they would be able to control the slaves. Little did they realize that by forcing their religion on the African people they were feeding their hunger for revenge.

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