Pagan Paths

Delve into a fascinating cultural force and deeply spiritual tradition that comprises the axe--power--of Brazilian magickal religions. Followers of all paths will find something unique to incorporate into their lives.

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More on Orixas

b2ap3_thumbnail_carolcloisters.JPGHello Everyone!

You haven’t heard from me for a while because I have been in New York City. While I was there, I visited with my agent, and now have a new book contract. The book is called THE HEALING POWER OF TEA and will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide. It is the follow-up book to my TEA LEAF READING FOR BEGINNERS. I’m so excited to write it, but at the same time it means a lot of work and writing to deadline. I will try to include some Brazilian recipes in the book.

Back to Brazilian magickal religions. I was going to start profiling each of the orixás, beginning with the warrior Ogum, as I did with Yemanjá, but realize that I never completed the introductory material on the orixás and their meaning to these religions. My bad! So I will try to rectify this in the next couple of blogs. And hopefully, I won’t wait until the last day of the month to get my blog in to my readers!

Rooted in Brazilians’ sense of community and their conviction of the importance of spiritual values is the determination to help others lead more spiritually and materially fulfilled lives. In order to accomplish these aims, sect members dedicate themselves in a very physical way to worship, by offering themselves as mediums for the representatives of the elements of Nature. These representatives are the orixás, or nature gods. (Some mediums can also become the vehicles for spirits of the dead, sort of like in 19th century Spiritualism—more on that later when I discuss the Pretos Velhos, Caboclos and Eguns.)

Through the spiritually prepared vessel of the medium, the African entities transmit knowledge and solace to human beings. They also can make changes on the mundane plane to aid their worshippers and anyone else in trouble who seeks an audience with them. In this sense, worshippers’ goals approach those of Western Witches and Ceremonial Magicians, who also strive to make changes in consciousness in accordance with the will.

Many adherents of these sects, especially Umbandists, perceive themselves as catapulted into the struggle between opposing forces of Nature. Some see these energies as good versus evil; others as neutral forces, not confined by the morality and prejudices of this world. The warrior mentality, based on the contention between good and evil, is reflected in the way these religions organize the hierarchies of the entities they venerate.

The principal orixás are separated into Lines (Linhas), which they command, and which further, are divided into Legions (Legiões), or Families (Famílias) headed by minor orixás. The beings within the Legions represent great armies of perfected spirits that are attracted to, or vibrate on the same frequency as the gods to which they are united.

Actually, the Lines constitute vibrational bands, or the forces of Nature which flow within the universal spiritual current. The Portuguese term for these vibratory currents is irradiação, “irradiation,” “wave”. The word also means “emission of heat or light rays.” Western Occultists might call them cosmic vibrations. The most concentrated form of energy that each deity embodies is interpreted as a spiritual being, or chief. This chief is endowed with a human form and personality. The concept is translated in this way so that the average person can more easily comprehend it.

I see I’ve run on a bit long, as usual. I will finish this introduction in my next blog. Look for it by next week. In the meantime, here is a photo taken of me at the marvelous Medieval Cloisters, part of the New York Metropolitan Museum, but located on the startlingly wild north end of the island of Manhattan. Anybody who is interested in any form of religion really needs to pay this beautiful place a visit.


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Caroline Dow holds a Ph.D. in Luso-Brazilian Studies, is a former Fulbright Fellow to Brazil, professor at Brown and Pittsburgh universities, and current intercultural trainer and assessor. She has authored 15 books on Wicca, Magick, Brazilian traditions, and mystery novels. As a Wiccan High Priestess and Ceremonial Magician, she brings an unique perspective to the study of Brazilian folk traditions.
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