Lindsay Hale. Hearing the Mermaids Song: The Umbanda Religion in Rio De Janeiro

Lindsay Hale.  Hearing the Mermaids Song: The Umbanda Religion in Rio De Janeiro.  Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 2009.  6 x 9 pp208.  $26.95 paperback.

Taylor Schlichter
Indiana University

Umbanda is a complex and unique religion popular in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It involves mediums who summon spirits of old slaves, Indians, saints, and even young children through trance. It is a mixture of traditional African religious practices brought over by slaves, Catholicism, and sometimes the writings of Allen Kardec; full of African rituals and magic, it still manages to tie in Catholic ideas.  Many Afro-Brazilians particularly identify with this religion because of its undeniable African roots.  Recently, however, Brazilian people of European descent have begun to practice Umbanda. The spirits talk to members of Umbanda centers through the mediums and help them work through issues and problems they are experiencing.  Mediums take on the full mannerisms of the spirit they are channeling during the trances. They talk, sing, move, and even eat like the spirit. There are multiple kinds of spirits that serve different purposes. Old slaves, or pretos velhos, are kind, gentle spirits who are wise and patient.  Indian spirits, or Caboclos, are arrogant and brave.   All spirits, however, serve the Orixas, or gods, and console people about how to live the right way. Continue reading “Lindsay Hale. Hearing the Mermaids Song: The Umbanda Religion in Rio De Janeiro”

Thomas Hart. The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya

Thomas Hart.  The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya.  Albuquerque:  University of New Mexico Press, 2008. Pp 290.  $45.00 hardcover.

 Kristina Downs
Indiana University

The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya by Thomas Hart profiles the persistence of traditional Mayan religion in contemporary society.  Hart, who has lived and worked in Guatemala since 1993, conducted most of his fieldwork in Guatemala among the K’iche’ Maya, but argues that many of the concepts he discusses are relevant to the Maya more generally.  Although the title stresses the endurance of Mayan Spirituality, the central theme of the work seems to be change, which is often framed as a detrimental decline of the old ways.  His collaborators repeatedly mention that because of social changes, things are not seen the way they should be, the way they once were. Continue reading “Thomas Hart. The Ancient Spirituality of the Modern Maya”

Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House

Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House

Mary Mesteller
Indiana University

A version of this paper received the prize for Best Poster at the 2010 IU/OSU Student Folklore Conference

Abstract:

Local Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study on the Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House analyzes The Hell House Outreach, an Evangelical Christian outreach tool, a folk drama that has become widespread in churches throughout the United States during the Halloween season. The Hell House Outreach’s popularity and traditional aspects are because of the The Hell House Outreach, which became available for purchase in the 1990s. Variation exists in content as well as context in individual hell houses, though a traditional form is maintained. It is within the adaptability where the producers of The Hell House Outreach believe the power of the ministry lies. The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House in Southern Indiana is an excellent example of a hell house that altered the The Hell House Outreach Kit in order to highlight controversial moral and political issues unique to Monroe County of Southern Indiana. Continue reading “Variation of Manufactured Folk Drama: A Case Study of The Ellettsville House of Prayer Hell House”

Public, Private; Contemporary, Traditional: Intersecting Dichotomies and Contested Agency in Mainline Protestant Worship Music

Public, Private; Contemporary, Traditional: Intersecting Dichotomies and Contested Agency in Mainline Protestant Worship Music

Deborah Justice
Indiana University

Abstract:

The current ‘contemporary’/’traditional’ worship music controversy, although cloaked in the guise of novelty, illustrates how the historical  interplay between embracing and abandoning black-and-white oppositions is unfolding within post-millennial Western Christianity. Over the past forty years, mainline Protestant churches have used worship music to negotiate a culturally-relevant space for themselves within the contemporary reconfiguration of American religious practice. As such, many North American and Western European Christians have come to conceptualize their current religious practices through the ‘traditional’/’contemporary’ dichotomy. Praise-band-led ‘contemporary’ worship contrasts with organ-and-choir-based ‘traditional’ worship in visible and audible ways: musical style, text, instrumentation, dress, and physical space. This ‘contemporary’/’traditional’ binary’s pervasive themes resonate with previous dichotomous models applied to religious study, such as Weber’s routinized/charismatic, Benedict’s Apollonian/Dionysian, Sachs’ logogenic/pathogenic, and sociologist Mark Chaves’ intellectual/emotional. Yet, while current mainline Protestant organizational and expressive behavior resonates with these historical dichotomies, it also moves beyond explanation by any of these theories alone (as well as moving beyond the fundamentally group-defining “us” versus “them” opposition). This paper suggests the public/private opposition as an analytical tool to cut in a slightly different direction against the grain of the oft-dichotomized sphere of mainline Protestant religious musical practice. While no single dichotomy can explain current mainline Protestant practice – subjectively, emergently employing overlapping dichotomies to create and negotiate meaning – the public/private binary probes fundamental points of differentiation. Continue reading “Public, Private; Contemporary, Traditional: Intersecting Dichotomies and Contested Agency in Mainline Protestant Worship Music”

Healing Charms and Family Legends: Passing on Beliefs Through Québécois Maternal Lineage

Healing Charms and Family Legends:
Passing on Beliefs Through Québécois Maternal Lineage1

Julie LeBlanc
Memorial University of Newfoundland

Abstract

This article examines how emotions in fieldwork may both prevent and encourage the transmission of folklore.  It illustrates a specific healing charm legend told by the author’s maternal family members in the province of Québec, Canada.  Through her family members, Julie M-A LeBlanc examines the sense of sorority and the role of women in storytelling, a tradition mainly associated with men in Québec.  This article also discusses bonding experiences as they are created amongst women when sharing family narratives as a cathartic response when faced with a family member’s fatal illness.  She argues that a sense of urgency may stimulate spontaneous storytelling, such as the case with family members when death or the fear of losing memories is present. Continue reading “Healing Charms and Family Legends: Passing on Beliefs Through Québécois Maternal Lineage”