Cognition of Spirit-Possession [Batuke etc.]

p. 9 the 2 great curing-spirits from the forests

"the great curer Tuparaci, who was "from the village of Tupinamba`s and was touched with all kinds of illness, but cured by the herbs and animals of the forest, observing how the animals cured him, becoming the greatest of all the curers," and

Inhandijara, "the white spirit of the forests.""

p. 10-11 a curing session by a spirit possessing a medium

p. 10

The spirit-medium "appeared to be jolted forward on his stool, and with a grunt was ... possessed. ... Rompe Mata announced his arrival in song, introducing himself as a curer and sorcerer. His voice was remarkably gruff yet frail, and as he rose to his feet, he took on the appearance of an old, stooped man ... . ... Leaning forward he asked ... to locate the source of ... pain. ... He ... blew the smoke directly onto the area ... . He drew close ... and began to suck gently. ...

p. 11

His work completed, Rompe Mata offered some words of comfort and blessing ..., instructing them all to keep well and to wish him a good journey. He was being called to return to the city of the spirits. He sang a doutrina song to that effect then breathed in deeply, trembled, and left."

p. 33 the setting

The authoress was thus informed : "the voduns have brought you here, and they are probably more interested in the research than you."

pp. 44-47 the biography of a curing master at Bele`m

p. 44

He "was possessed for the first time at four years of age by ... Mestre Juvenal, the river dolphin spirit (boto encantado). ...


At fourteen years of age, a different kind of "manifestation" (manifestac,a~o) occurred, in which ... a caboclo, or the spirit of an indigenous backwoodsman ... identified himself as Juremeiro.

Then came Jose[`] Tupinamba`, ... in

p. 45

which [the recounter] describes himself as being ... shaken from the inside as he entered a state of possession. Tupinamba` announced that he had been sent by the curing mestres. ... [The recounter] recalls ... :

... that entity ... ordered me to light candles, gave me messages, told me to buy ... images of caboclos ... . ...


[The recounter] sought the orientation of a local ma~e-de-santo (female terreiro leader) and personal relative under whom he would develop his mediumistic ability and eventually be initiated into the Afro-Brazilian tradition of Umbanda. ... In the Umbanda house he had been attending, it had taken some time for his entidades to grow accustomed to the drumming at the mediumistic development sessions and parties. ...

p. 46

[Further narrative by recounter :] From there we took a car to the house of ... a man from Maranha~o ... . He used to have a terreiro near the port of Itaqui` in Maranha~o. ... His chefe [chief caboclo spirit] was in his head [na cabec,a dele], the caboclo Baiano Grande, Jose` Constantino, and said, "... I’m going to tell you three things that will make you believe." And really, he touched on three things of great importance that had taken place in my life and that few people knew. And he had never met me. "Ok," he said, "... Now I want you to go to your house, and there in the back yard is a papaya tree. You will go behind the tree and dig down. There in the soil you will find a rock of yours, sacred, the rock of an Indian that you carry."

p. 47

... True enough, it was the stone of Jose` Tupinamba`, a large stone ... . When Jose[`] Tupinamba` started to manifest in me, he consecrated this stone for me.


[The recounter’s] treatments ... eventually led to his initiation into the Tambor de Mina, an African-derived tradition that originated in the neighboring state of Maranha~o. A year later, ... at the recommendation of his dying pai-de-santo, [he] was initiated by a pai-de-santo of Candomble` Nago[^] into this, the most African ... of ... Brazilian traditions. At the anniversary ceremony (obrigac,a~o), marking his seven years of initiation, and in which he was bestowed the right to initiate his own filhos, [he] swore a personalized, private oath in the presence of Oxala`... . ... he started to study at the feet of the masters, traveling back and forth from Bele`m to Sa~o Luis in Maranha~o, back along the trail that the famous Maranhense, Ma~e Doca, took nearly one hundred years previously to bring Afro-Brazilian religion to Bele`m."


"he simultaneously takes the title of

shaman in pajelanc,a,

pai-de-santo in Umbanda and Mina, and

babalorixa` in Candomble`".

pp. 50-51 minor officials in the terreiro

p. 50

"drummers (atabazeiros) ..., and ogas and ekedis.

... an oga is invariably male and is present at rituals and other religious activities as percussionist ... .

p. 51

The ekedi is always female, and it falls to her also to assist persons from the moment they first become possessed in a ceremony, through the various procedures that must accompany this transformation. If required, she also leads them in their movements between the dancing area and the runkol, the sacred "room of the orixa`s."


"the pegi-ga ... position was held by one of the most senior members of the terreiro and entailed ... the maintenance and care of the runkol and its orixa` inhabitants."

p. 102 personal experience of a possessing-spirit’s praescience

"someone tells you that the friend who is sitting chatting in front of you is not the person you know her to be. In fact, you are informed that the person is not actually "here" but is currently being animated by a spirit being who normally lives an incorporeal existence on another dimension. ... this being has special powers or qualities that allow it to exceed normal human capacities. ... the being speaks through your friend to reveal some hidden thought you hay have had at that moment, ... with impressive accuracy. You relate the incident to your friend at a later point, but your story apparently triggers no recollection in her mind. It really is just as if she had not been there. You tell other people and find ... that your experience is not isolated, and that these people seem to be quite content with the explanation offered to you previously. The notion that a spirit being really possessed the person starts to seem more plausible".

"Indeed, ... this story portrays a situation that occurs frequently in spirit-possession traditions and distils the essence of numerous personal accounts related to me throughout research in Bele`m."

pp. 102-103 the possible nature of a spirit

hypothetical spirit [somewhat unrealistic]

{actual human, in relation to being possessed by a spirit}

p. 102


the spirit lives in a dimension within which he has no awareness of activities on earth.

{Humans have no direct awareness of activities of spirits in the spirit-worlds.}



the spirit is a thinking being but forgets his thoughts the moment they occur.

{Humans afterwards forget what their bodies thought or did while possessed.}

pp. 102-3


the spirit only has these thoughts in dreams as he always sleeps, even when in possession. ...

{While humans dream, however, they are visiting a spirit-realm.}

p. 103


when in possession, the spirit can perceive all musical sounds everywhere on earth but cannot comprehend, or have, any verbal communication.

{Humans can become possessed by a spirit through use of music; but cannot communicate with spirits by mere verbal prayers.}



the spirit only exists – in any dimension – for the first half of every month."

{In some cultures – e.g., Madagascar -- humans reach spirits only at certain times of the year or of the week.}

pp. 104-105 hierarchy of ranks of spirits {this similar to the Taoist rankings of various kinds of Immortals – caelestial, terrestrial, etc.}

p. 104

"the orixa`s were considered to be the most powerful, ... the entities who, for example, "ruled over" (reger) certain months of the year and phenomena".

p. 105

Spirits known as vodunsus ... described as "almost voduns" ... are believed to have lived on earth as great legislators ... and to have passed through a "portal" into another dimension withtout having died. They comprise various "families," or named groups of aggregates ... .


Lower down the hierarchy are the groups of spirits commonly referred to as caboclos. ... In everyday culto discourse, this term is extended to include a collective of spirits, such as "Old Blacks" ..., spirit guides, and other spirirt entities more strictly referred to as "encantados" – spirits who are believed to have ... passed into the spiritual dimension, the "encantaria," without having physically died. Guia is a generic term that is frequently used to refer collectively to named and unnamed spirit beings who accompany and guide one through life.


Child spirits complete the hierarchy of regular visitors to the terreiro. Like the caboclos, certain child spirits are associated more closely with the widespread Afro-Brazilian tradition of Umbanda ... .

The child spirits of Candomble` are known as ere^s, and

in the Gege "nation" they are called toque^ms.

Represented as children, they are "born" as such at initiation and comprise a mixture of the initiate’s and the orixa`’s personalities. These are unique to each initiate and cease to exist one his or her death."

pp. 106-107 worshippers’ personal relationship with deities

p. 106

"You often see that a person has a great devotion for a Preto Velho ["Old Black"], or with a cabocla, cabocla Mariana, or an entidade. Why? Because that entidade is right near him, listens to his problems, knows his wrongs {his having been wronged}, his failings and also affirms that it can’t do everything."

p. 107

"The relevance of the entidades to the rank and file of the cult practitioners was ... to be found ... in how they could exercise their powers to influence people’s immediate circumstances, life situations, even their character."

pp. 108-110 myths of specific deities in Lukumi`

p. 108

"Yemanja` ... had ... son and daughters ... from the Nago^ nation and

the sons and daughters of Nana~ are from the Gege nation ... .


... Oxum ... was Oxossi’s wife. With her, Oxossi had a son called Logun. ...


Ossain received the secret of the leaves from Olodumare`. ...

Xango ... told his wife, Iansa, the lady of the winds, ... that on certain days Ossain suspended a gourd containing the most powerful leaves from a branch of Iroko [a tree]. "Unleash a severe storm on one of these days," said Xango. ...

p. 109

The wind blew ... – releasing the gourd from the branch where it hung. The gourd rolled a long way and all the leaves flew around. ... but Ossain remained lord over the secret ... of the words that must be pronounced to cause their action. In this way he continued to reign over the plants".

pp. 109-110 traits of specific deities in Lukumi`

p. 109

"Nana~’s languid dance speaks of her senior years ... .


Oxossi, the god of ... the forest, carries ... a flywhisk made from a bull’s tail – the insignia of royal dignity ... as king of the African nation of Keto.


Iemanja`, goddess of the waters, imitates the movements of the waters with her arms.


Oxumare` points to the heavens and the earth, demonstrating his/her duality as both male and female ... . (... he/she was actually considered to be male for six months of the year and female for the other six months.)" {Earthworms likewise alternate their sexual gendre.}

p. 110

"Oxumare` ... is a large mythical serpent that left the depth of the earth and ascended in the direction of the sky, girdling it about with its long tail-end that was shaded with various colors, and then returning to the earth from where it came. He/she originates in Dahomey, in a place called Dan."

p. 117 transcendence into immortality

"[The spirit-medium] offers a description of what happens when a person becomes an encantado, as related to him by one of the encantados who regularly possesses him : "... When he went there [to the dwelling place of the encantados, the ‘encantaria’], he was no longer a person (gente). He became an encantado -- he lost his physical nature, but he didn’t die. His body wasn’t buried. He passed from one dimension into another.""

pp. 123-125 spirit-medium’s absence from the body

p. 123

"People refer to possessing spirits in particular episodes as "Spirit X in the head of Person A." Spirits are said to "throw themselves into the body" (se jogar no corpo da pessoa), to "come into the head" (vir na cabec,a) of the medium, and "to descend in a person" (descer na pessoa). People are said to "catch" (pegar) or "receive" (receber) spirits. When in doubt about whether a person is possessed, one can check by asking, "Who is it?" "Who is speaking?" or "Who’s there?" ... If the person is possessed, the interlocutor may pick up conversation from where he left off the last time he chatted to that particular spirit. He may recount secrets that he wouldn’t otherwise disclose, or he may ask for advice."

p. 124

"The possessing spirit entity refers to the host-medium in the third-person singular. for example, when [a spirit-medium] was possessed once, the possessing entidade offered his opinion about some issue, adding, "I don’t know if [the spirit-medium] would agree" (Nao sei se o pai-de-santo vai achar a mesma coisa)".


"One medium describes the changeover as follows when she is possessed by her ere^ (child spirit) :

I don’t know where my spirit goes ... . I only know that I switch off. I don’t remain in me. When the ere^ is close to me, I feel like eating sweet things, I feel like being mischievous ... you can be sure that the ere^ is coming."


"On a number of occasions, people recounted how, when they had mistaken a spirit for the medium, or not realized that the medium was possessed, they would be firmly told, "I am not [medium’s name], I am [spirit’s name] (Eu na~o sou ... eu sou ...).""


"When an observer can barely detect that the medium is possessed, the medium is accredited with an advanced degree of mediumistic development." ["On one occasion, a filho publicly addressed {scil., a possessing-spirit, within the body of a spirit-medium} as follows : "I hope that you continue to be this caboclo of great patience within our house and, principally, to be a great friend, often making us think that we’re dealing with a human being"" (p. 218, n. 7:9).]


An informant "once stated, "Possession for me is a state of unconsciousness ... .

p. 125

We don’t have control of our bodies anymore. ... Something else controls – it is the spiritual being.""

pp. 142-143 explanations for apparent variability of a possessing-spirit

p. 142

"When two people are said to be possessed by the same spirit, differences in mannerisms and behaviors of the spirits are common. ... Stark variations in the behavior and performance of one spirit as manifest in different individuals trigger reflection on possible explanations. ... Participants might resolve such inconsistency, or dissonance, by showing that the perceived incongruence is illusory. ... Another

p. 143

possibility is that the spirit is deliberately disguising his identity. When two people are simultaneously possessed by the same entidade, one may be presumed to be the true entity and another to be the messenger of that entity." {In spirit-possession cults of African derivation in Cuba and in Haiti, variations (in behaviors of the same spirits occupying various humans) are conventionally ascribed to the existence of a variety of "paths" (which are correspondingly named and described) for each possessing-spirit. If such a named and described variety of paths is not conventionally known within Batuque of Brazil, then the Batuque there is lacking as yet in a full cultic development.}


"As a medium increasingly "gives passage" to his or her entidades, the spirit entity is said to become progressively more accustomed to the material it occupies. ["This is reflected in the increasing ... overall competence and performance of a host when possessed (according to how this is assessed for each category of spirits)." (p. 218, n. 7:5)] ... This principle is presented as the "theologically correct" version of what happens when someone is possessed." {The spirit-entities’ familiarity is basically mutual, a sharing among those spirit-entities themselves. While the spirit-medium continually is increasing a repertoire of spirit-entities frequenting the same human body, because of those spirit-entities’ mutual community, those spirit-entities’ mutual intercommunication would result in increased overall competence and better performance of a human host when possessed. So the evident variation in performance of hosts in the direction of increasing competence is really the spirits’ own doing.}

p. 148 ability to perform properly when possessed by a spirit is dependent on the quality of ritual initiation into spirit-possession initially undergone by the performer

The circumstance of a woman, although she "had clearly become possessed" "with an orixa` Candomble` ceremony", did not properly perform, was thus explained by an authoritative spirit-medium : "he went on to suggest that such behaviors may be the result of the errors inherent in the initiation procedure she had performed {undergone} under an incompetent ma~e-de-santo from another house."

pp. 159-160 functions of a terreiro; diagnosis of underdeveloped mediumship

p. 159

"The terreiro ... is simultaneously a house of worship, workplace, social club, hospital, sanctuary, spiritual retreat, and home. All those who regularly use the limited terreiro space are expected to ... [be] attending the menial but essential tasks that allow the terreiro to fulfill all the above functions."

p. 160

"In a number of cases, mediumship, or mediunidade, was declared to be mal trabalhada, or underdeveloped. This ... occurs when a person is aware that he or she is a medium but is inexperienced and does not develop the mediumship, for example, in possession ceremonies or through ritual obligations to the spirits (obrigac,o~es). Alleged symptoms such as ... confusion and dizziness, and unexpected and chaotic trance states are often reported."

pp. 165-166 onset of spirit-mediumship; motivations of spirits

p. 165

A "triangular relationship among filho, pai-de-santo, and spirit is often established at the first indication of possession and the onset of mediumship. ... Local account of spirits frequently describe them as beings that possess humans to satisfy a desire temporarily to return to earth. Reasons given may vary, from notions that they were once humans and now grieve or pine for earth ... . The spirit is not generally summoned initially but is believed to make his or her presence felt of his or her own accord and in his or her own time. ...

p. 166

Arrival of the spirit is frequently described ... as embarrassing, inconvenient, or incriminating. Spirits tend to make their presence felt ... by causing ill-health, trance or trance-like states, strange dreams, or irregular behaviors. Whatever the case, the spirit’s arrival demands the attention of a qualified spirit expert or ritual specialist. In the culto, filhos described the first approximations of the spirits as erratic, untimely, and uncontrolled cases of trance, or as the onset of chills, headaches, or nausea when observing a possession ceremony, or as the message behind a series of ill-fated incidents. The person afflicted would inevitably be forced to seek out the guidance and instruction of a local pai-de-santo in order to confirm his or her doubts and remedy the situation. On confirmation that a spirit had chosen the individual as a potential host, the individual would ideally begin to cultivate the requirements of the spirit and to develop his or her mediumistic competencies. ... With obedience to the desires and demands of the spirits, and appropriate guidance, preparation, and schooling with the pai-de-santo, the host would eventually become a competent medium."

pp. 172-174 carousel of possessing-spirits with unpossessed humans

p. 172

"When the gods and spirits speak directly through divination methods and ... possess people and speak through them, the causes for misfortune and fortune become potentially knowable. ...

p. 173

The entidades are not expected to be aware of everything that may be relevant to one’s problem, but there is always a chance that, with their bird’s eye view of the world and their elevated wisdom, discernment, and foresight, they will be able to contribute to the successful identification of causes and remedies for one’s misfortunes. As one participant told .., "When the entidade is cahtting to you, she ... has clairvoyance ...; she sees what happened; she has a deep connection with what happened. ..." ... This ... ability made them potentially excellent counselors."

"Friends and entidades exchanged secrets, gossip, and jokes. The entidades were recognized as owners of the terreiro, having bought it with donations they had been offered. ... The supernatural agents were present, interested, watching, powerful, intentional, and often incarnate ... . They would ... know about the difficulties one was enduring and would have the power ... to intervene".

p. 174

"Mediums in the culto often appeared to use the power of the spirits to their advantage, ... to add the authority of the spirits to their statements. ... The respect that apparently resulted from people’s deference to the entidades superior status was also a calculated attempt to curry the entidades[’] favor."

Emma Cohen : The Mind Possessed : the Cognition of Spirit-Possession in an Afro-Brazilian Religious Tradition. Oxford U Pr, 2007.