Amazonian Santeria

First Nations peoples in the Amazon basin practice an enormous number of spiritual pathways. Many tribal peoples have developed their practices over thousands of years. At the same time, they have been influenced by African practices imported by slaves, folk practices brought from Spain and Portugal, Catholicism, and beliefs and traditions borrowed from neighbors. All of Brazil is a place of blending. Peoples intermarry. Languages creole. Information flows in all its many forms.

Many peoples in the Amazon have been influenced by Santeria. Local practice frequently includes “being ridden” by spirits. In this process, a spirit enters the body of a practitioner who is entranced. The channeled deity interacts with persons seeking healing, frequently asking probing, even embarrassing questions, questions that seek the heart of the matter. The deity will then instruct the practitioner to offer sacrifices, provide medication, or take other action on the part of the person seeking aid.

Some practitioners combine “being ridden” with a more conscious interaction with spirits the practitioner sees as interfering negatively in the lives of persons requesting healing. Such intervention may take on the appearance of a power struggle, in which the practitioner drives away the offending spirits. Another strategy is to bargain with the spirits. Some spirits demand vast payment to relinquish their hold on a human being. Fortunately, spirits who wish payment will usually accept an exchange of energy from a skilled practitioner. Thus, luxury boats, mansions, and airplanes may make their way to the spirit world.

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