Brazil has always been a vast melting-pot of various Spiritist
and psychic traditions, from the shamanistic magic of the original
Tupi Indians, to the mixture of the beliefs of many different
African tribes brought to Brazil as slaves by Portuguese settlers,
to the French Spiritism that developed from circulation of the
works of Allan Kardec in the nineteenth century.
Through the twentieth century, there have been two main
strands of occult religion in Brazil the magical Afro-Brazilian
groups, Umbanda and Macumba, both analogous to Haitian
voudou, and Kardec-style Spiritism. Both have possession by
spirits as central to their practice. Brazil is officially a Roman
Catholic country. Still it is estimated that there are nearly four
million people following these various alternative religions,
many continuing to regard themselves as nominal Catholics.
The complex interchange of religious and cultural traditions
over the centuries makes precise distinctions difficult, since
many nominally non-Christian blacks incorporate the figure of
Jesus into tribal magic, while many Christians have fused tribal
magic with Catholicism.
One of the most striking developments of the last few decades
has been the emergence of a form of psychic surgery in
which it is claimed that psychic healers without medical training
perform surgical operations, sometimes with their bare
hands, or with such primitive instruments as old penknives.
Bram Stoker Club Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
The wounds, it is claimed, are paranormally closed and healed.
Two of the most famous Brazilian psychic surgeons are Edivaldo
Oliveira Silva and Jose Arigó, who performed thousands
of operations. Although psychic surgery remains a controversial
subject and there have been accusations of fraud, there is
also strong evidence of genuine operations, endorsed by competent
American and European investigators.
Psychic healing has flourished in Brazil, in spite of the fact
that both the Roman Catholic Church and the medical society
have brought lawsuits for witchcraft or for illegal practice of
medicine. Many high officials believe in the efficacy of such
healing, a fact illustrated by former Brazilian president Juscelino
Kubitschek’s bringing his daughter to Arigó for psychic
healing. Arigó has also successfully treated statesmen, lawyers,
scientists, and doctors from many countries.
A Brazilian of Italian parentage, Carlos Mirabelli, emerged
in the 1920s and 1930s as the most remarkable physical medium
in the world. Due to the Roman Catholic state, Mirabelli
was brought to court 15 times to answer charges that were
raised against him. Because of his extroverted behavior and
ways that were considered wildly Bohemian, even Brazilian
Spiritists often avoided him. Yet documentation of his remarkable
gifts and the phenomena that surrounded him—he was reported
to be able to literally light up a room as he glowed in
the darkness of a seance—was respected by researchers and investigators
In 1939, the S˜ao Paulo State Spiritist Federation was
founded to provide information and assistance to those in
need. It has 200 unpaid volunteers and deals with some 1000
individuals daily. In 1963, Hernani Guimàraes Andrade, a S˜ao
Paulo engineer and civil servant, founded the Brazilian Institute
for Psycho-Biophysical Research. Since then, the institute
has collected many case histories, conducted research, and
published theoretical papers. Unfortunately most of Andrade’s
writings have yet to be translated into English. Andrade has
been joined by Waldo Vieira, who concentrated his study on
out-of-the-body travel. Today, the Institutio de Pesquisas, Interdisciplinares
das Areas, Fronteiricas ca Psicologia (Rua Vicente
Jose de Almeida 226, Jardin Cupece-Sao PauloSP, CEP
04652-140) is an active if not overwhelming presence in Brazil.
The population at large remains hesitant to engage in practices
so long associated with the superstitions of the uneducated, and
the unorthodox practices of the Spiritists.
Andrade, Hernani Guimàraes. A material psi. Matao Clarim,
———. Novos rumos à experimentacao espiritica. S˜ao Paulo
Livraria Batuira, 1960.
———. Parapsicologia experimental. S˜ao Paulo Calvario,
———. A teorià corpuscular do espirito. S˜ao Paulo The Author,
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Fuller, John G. Arigó, Surgeon of the Rusty Knife. New York
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1972. Reprint, London Panther, 1975.
Kardec, Allan [H. L. D. Rivail]. The Book of Spirits. N.p.,
Langguth, A. J. Macumba White & Black Magic in Brazil. New
York Harper and Row, 1975.
McGregor, Pedro. Moon and Two Mountains. London, 1966.
Noah’s Ark Society (Great Britain). ‘‘The Mediumship of
Carlos Mirabelli.’’ httphome.freeuk.netnoahsark
mirab.htm. June 6, 2000.
Playfair, Guy Lyon. The Flying Cow. London, 1975. Reprinted
as The Unknown Power. New York Pocket Books, 1975.
St. Clair, David. Drum and Candle. Garden City, N.Y.
Doubleday, 1971.