Afro-Brazilian movements across the Atlantic: religion and healing

The recently arrived Afro-Brazilian religions are growing and becoming more popular in Portugal, and most of their followers are Portuguese. Among the many factors that attract the Portuguese to these religions most of them relate to conceptions of bodily well-being and balance, as these religions promote a holistic notion of health which attracts the Portuguese.

The rituals for healing /therapeutic purposes also give the possibility of expressing emotions openly, either through possession and the incorporation of entities whose performances are directly connected with the sense of emotional freedom.  These religions proclaim a clear openness and acceptance of different races, sexual preferences, other religious believes or even individuals who proclaim themselves as atheist and come to the temples in search for an alternative way of being and feeling the world, more in tuned with nature. Therapeutic practices stress the connections with New Age principles, as well as with other alternative therapeutic/philosophies such as feng shui, reiki, aromatherapy, gemotherapy, shamanistic healing procedures, etc. Most of the ritual leaders and  followers either practise one of theseor have previously engaged in them.

In some terreiros (temples) there are “cure groups”, that promote sessions entirely devoted to healing, and the organisers are often individuals who bridge between western medicine and the new alternative forms of healing as in these religions: doctors, nurses, and other health professionals. Furthermore, the followers of these religions rely on them to be healed, and talk of a “special energy” they receive from their healing practise.

In this paper I will analyse the several aspects of the healing practices set forth by these religions, in a scenario where such practices are fairly new to the Portuguese.