top of page

Cultures of Brazil's   

 northeast coast  


Religions of the Northeast


​History is the dominant creator of a nation's culture. 

Brazil’s past reveals greatness as well tyrannous acts against its people. Out of such oppression new religions often take root. ​

  African Gods

"No richer source of the African traditions exists in the Americas than Brazil."​    Molefi Kete Asante, Temple University​​

1. ​Brief History: When the Portuguese began shipping slaves to Brazil the country already had an amalgamation of religions. Catholicism was desperately trying to eradicate the native Indian religion. The slaves, mainly from Muslim west Africa brought their own religious beliefs. The three intertwined; while the slaves outwardly worshipped under the Catholic faith, they covertly carried on their religious traditions. Today this religion is known by many as Macumba and is ranked as a polytheism (many Gods) religion. Millions of Catholics continue to worship these gods or Orixás privately while maintaining their Catholicism publicly.​

2. Name: Macumba​ is the term coined for two principal forms of African spirit worship in Brazil: ​Candomble (condome-BLAY) ​and Umbanda. There is a third element that is called Quimbanda or the worship of black magic. Candomblé and Umbanda can be compared with catholic and evangelist Christianity whereby Quimbanda with the Satanism of Christianity.​

3. Founder:​ Black slaves shipped to Brazil brought their worship of African Gods (Orixás) to Brazil.

4. Sacred Text: Much of the teachings are oral but there is a recent movement toward written text.

5. Orixás: Orixás worship, is common in Brazil with elaborate costumes, used in rituals and celebrations.There is a calendar celebration for all the gods, which generally coincide with the Catholic celebrations. Curiously, nothing coincides with Christmas.





















Portuguese arrival

Colianist failed attempt to enslave their Native American hosts.

Trading for african slaves begins creating the largest slave population in the world.

Slave fishermen start a revolt near Salavador.

Four year Balaiada Movement begins. Led by the infamous abolitionist, Cosmo Chagas who united Red, Black and Whites against slavery.

Zumbi is killed and beheaded. Zumbi of Palmaras was the king of a large Quilombos or community of escaped slaves.

Slaves are promised freedom by joining the fight against Paragua in the Triple Alliance War. Large numbers enlist.

Muslem Slave rvolt in Salvador.Some histrians believe it was a jiad or hol war. Subsequnt court documents records the accused statement of cultureal social economic and religious oppression.

Lei Aurea (the Golden Law). Slavery was abolished but the law was ignored for 20 years. 

of the Tupi


1. Brief History: The Tupi were the first people the Portuguese came in contact with when they touched brazilian soil. Controlling the entire Brazilian coast, they were divided into many tribes who were always at war with one another. A nomadic people, the Tupi did not establish cites like the Aztecs or Incas. Their Religious beliefs were well chronicled by Jesuits during the 1600's contradicting the opinion by some that they lacked religion at all.

22. Name: Catimbó (Toré): Originated in Northeast region and is the oldest Indian religion based on the worship of healing spirits in Brazil. Magicians not priests prepare a psychotropic tea from the Jurema tree root that induces visions of the seven enchanted kingdoms.  Healing rituals are simplistic compared with African religions and call upon numerous spirits or mestres to heal afflictions. There is a black magic element to Catimbo that is practiced today. 

 3. Supernatural beings:  The Tupi felt themselves surrounded by benevolent supernatural powers. The demon of Thunder (Tupa), who causing thunder, lightning and rain. After White contact, this demon became the Christian God and as such still survives among Tupi descendants.

4. Great medicine men: Shamanism (Pay-wasu), is the intermediary between earth and the supernatural world wielding immense power within the community. These shamans were rainmakers, diviners and above all else healers.  It was believed that a shaman's breath, loaded with tobacco smoke, had magic power especially to cure the sick.  Healing by scarification and fire was also used. Patients were stretched on a barbecue under which a slow fire was lighted and roasted until the wounds dried.

5. Mythology: Tamoi or Mythical Grandfather is the mighty creator whose name is synonymous with the following culture hero's: Monan, Maira-monan, Maira-pochy, Mairata, and Sume. Monan, though an exalted creator, does not rank strictly as a God because he was not worshiped. He made the sky, the earth, the birds, and the animals: but neither the sea, clouds nor mankind. Interestingly, Europeans were also called Maira by the Tupi. Mara-monan was a great medicine man and benefactor of mankind whom he bestowed agriculture and laws. He imposed severe taboos, including the prohibition of eating slow moving animals. Curiously, the people were ungrateful and burned him on a pyre. The bursting of his head originated Thunder and fire. Interestingly the Jesuits missionaries believed Maira-monan was the famed St. Thomas who they believed brought Christianity to the Tupi long before the discovery of America.

6. Revivalism: At the height of colonizing oppression the Tupi saw a religious crises that curiously coincide with the similar movements in North American tribes. Prophets arose among them promising a golden age in which arrows would kill the game without intervention of hunters. The Tupi were assured of immortality and eternal youth.  The followers of the messias gave up their usual activities, dedicated themselves to constant dancing and even started mass migrations to reach the mythical land of the culture hero. 

7.Cosmology: The tupi believed there is a correlation between the eclipses and the end of the world which marked the beginning of a new era of peace and happiness. Whenever an eclipse occurred the men chanted a hymn hailing the mythical  "grandfather," and the women and children moaned in hopeless despair.

8.Tupi Constellations: Recorded by friar Claude d'Abbeville - 1614. Most of them were named after animals. Eclipses were explained as a celestial jaguar (a red star) to devour the moon.     

9. Sacred text: Tupi society lacked written texts much what we know is due to the Jesuits. Due to the Jesuits' tremendous capabilities with the indigenous language and the extended time periods that they spent among indigenous groups, the amount of written records available and the accuracy of the ethnographic data presented. In addition, the Jesuits in the early missions were not writing for pleasure, but were ordered to write letters to their superiors, recording events as they happened. The Jesuits had a duty to be truthful in their letters and to objectively record events of the mission,















Several thousand Tupi left the coast of Brazil for Peru to find the earthy Paradise.

Frier Andrie Thevet's writen first hand accounts remain an important description of early Tupi culture.

The Tupi led by a prophet, whom they worshiped as a deity, left the pernambuco to invade the territory held by the French.

Catimbó begins in villages of tupi who had been nominally converted to Catholicism  Today it is most prevalent in the northeast where Amerindian identity has been preserved the longest.

Pombline Laws. Officially prohibiting Indian slavery.

By the 18th century the great Tupi nation was nearly extinct.

10. Cannibalism: There is little dispute today concerning the practice of cannibalism by the Tupi nation. Moved not by hunger but by the belief that the strength of their enemies could be had by consuming their flesh. But when the Portuguese arrived they had nothing to fear from the docile Tupi who were welcoming even encouraging miscegenation with the strangers as was their tradition. It was not until the Portuguese turned on their hosts and began enslavement did the colonist have reason to be afraid.



Resources: (Métraux 1948) The Tupinamba. (Tshombe Miles 2002) The Fight against Slavery and Racism in Ceara (1838-1884). (Anne B. McGinness) Christianity and Cannibalism: Three European Views of the Tupi in the Spiritual Conquest of Brazil (1557–1563) .

bottom of page