Accepted Paper:

Closer to Africa or to Rome? Syncretism and religious practice in Portuguese Umbanda and Candomblé  


Clara Saraiva (ICS, University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

The Portuguese followers of the Afro-Brazilian cults balance between Umbanda performances, closer to the catholic matrix, and the Candomblé ones, incorporating aspects closer to the African cults. Drawing on field work conducted in Lisbon I will explore some aspects of this new “Portuguese” syncretism.

Paper long abstract:

The Afro-Brazilian religions, that entered Portugal in the last 20 years are becoming more and more popular. The temples are full with Portuguese followers that, after going through the initiation processes, become important in the organisation of the religious community and, with time, may themselves become priests. Most of them previously believers of the Catholic church, their turn to the Afro-Brazilian cults most of the time does not keep them from sustaining their regular church going practices. As such, many prefer Umbanda, closer to the catholic matrix, while others turn to Candomblé and to African performances, rather new to them. Drawing on field work conducted in Lisbon in temples and with followers of these cults, this paper will explore some of the aspects of this new syncretism and the hermeneutical process of influences coming from Brazil to Portugal and returning back to their roots again. Drawing on A. Frijerio´s notions of secondary religious diasporas, the processes of re-africanization of such religions in Portugal and the tension between such tendency and the wish to cling to the Christian side will be analysed.

Panel W029
African Christianities in Europe: the politics of religious recognition