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Type Syncretic
Classification Afro-Brazilian-witchcraft
Orientation Quimbanda-Occultism
Region Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
Origin 20th century

Macumba (Portuguese pronunciation: [maˈkũᵐbɐ]) is a word meaning both "a musical instrument" and "magic". It was the name used for all animistic-syncretic religious practices in Brazil during the 19th century. In the 20th century, these practices re-aligned themselves into what are now called Umbanda and Quimbanda. The term "macumba" became common in Brazil and it is used by non-practitioners as a pejorative term meaning "witchcraft" as they are both similar to each other, the basic difference being that macumba is rooted in African religious practices and did not originate in Europe.

In Brazil[edit]

A black hen sacrifice as a Quimbanda ritual in a graveyard in Florianopolis, Brazil

Macumba is practiced in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. There appears to be a relationship with the concept of the Boto (the fresh-water porpoise found in the Amazonas River and its tributaries) having shape-shifting abilities and then while in the form of a human male having sexual relations with young women. This belief was noted in several Indigenous American villages along the Amazonas (Solimões) River, Rio Negro, and Rio Japurá.

Macumba is widely practiced throughout the Southern Cone. Many practitioners continue to practice their traditional religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) but also practice Macumba, often violation of the tenets of their official religious affiliations but which their social environment appears to quietly accept.

Some practitioners purport to use Macumba to inflict harm, financial failure, illness, death, etc. on other people for various reasons. Commonly, a Macumba spiritual leader will ask for a picture of the person on whom retribution is sought, with the name of the person written on the back of the picture. This kind of practice is often seen as sorcery or black magic.

See also[edit]


  • Kelly E. Hayes, "Black Magic and the Academy: Macumba and Afro-Brazilian “Orthodoxies," History of Religions, 46,4 (2007), 283–315.

External links[edit]