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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 24, 2023

If You Have Faith, Exu Responds on-line: The Day-to-Day Life of Quimbanda on Social Networks

  • Joana Bahia and Farlen de Jesus Nogueira EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Theology


The present work analyzes the interface between Quimbanda and the digital environment in the daily life of a Quimbandeiro. Quimbanda is an Afro-Brazilian faith that has grown in the virtual universe through consultations and other uses of digital media. In addition to analyzing the Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram pages of these religious groups, we interviewed and followed the daily life of a teacher and also conducted bibliographic research on the subject. In their daily practices, Quimbandeiros use the internet as a space for interaction, quotidian practices of care, and the manufacture of spells. We analyze how digital interaction presents this religious belief in the virtual public sphere and the interconnections between religious and technological narratives. Quimbanda, a somewhat stigmatized religion, expands its boundaries in virtual mode. In the case analyzed in this article, Quimbandeiro work is directly linked to the movements of Exu, the entity who controls the crossroads. Through the mediation of the production of religious images, Exu expands his spiritual and technological presence offline, flooding online communities with meaning.

1 Introduction: The Daily Life of Quimbanda and its Place in the Social Network

Quimbanda is the denomination of Afro-Brazilian religious practices that uses the figures of exu, pombagiras, and eguns[1] in their practices. The word is sometimes also used in an accusatory manner both inside and outside Afro-Brazilian circles as a synonym for evil practices. There are religious people who identify themselves as Quimbandeiros, however for some authors, Quimbanda is directly associated with the European notion of black magic.[2] Parés,[3] however, argues that in making distinctions in the field of Afro-Brazilian studies, what we have are religiosities originating among the peoples of West Africa (the Gbe and Yoruba), and those marked by the traditions of Central Africa (the Bantu). In the first group, we have the Tambor de Mina, Xangô, and Candomblé. In the second, we have Candomblé de Caboclo, Macumba,[4] Quimbanda, and, finally, Umbanda.[5]

To understand how Quimbanda is practiced on a day-to-day basis,[6] we followed a Quimbanda master as well as studied the dynamics of the religion and its different aspects in the virtual world. To do this, we analyzed Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram pages referring to Quimbanda.

Among the research pages we looked at on Facebook were the Temple of Quimbanda, Domain of Exu Marabô, and Maria Padilha, belonging to Quimbanda Master N’Ganga Kilumbu, whom we accompanied in his virtual and face-to-face activities from 2020 to 2022 (the latter taking place in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro). This contact took place through Master Kilumbu’s social networks, through which we were able to carry out interviews and visits to his quimbanda temple. As a master of quimbanda, Kilumbu can initiate other children of saints. His page has 1,255 followers on Facebook, divided between the children of the saints and people who consult the Quimbanda master. On Instagram, we analyzed the pages Raízes da Kimbanda and TQMBEPN Casa de Pantera Negra, which have 2,960 and 2,300 followers, respectively. Both belong to groups located in São Paulo, and these groups represent different strands of Quimbanda in the southeastern region of the country.

A good portion of the Quimbadeiros are on Instagram, a place where they find greater visibility and can sell their services. Those still on Facebook are migrating to this network. In both networks, masters post their WhatsApp links to have a direct dialogue with future customers. In their daily practices, Quimbandeiros use the internet as a space for interaction in their constant search for legitimacy (and in some cases dealing with religious intolerance), to attract clients, and offer religious services. Here is an example of a post on Instagram (Figure 1).

Figure 1 
               Shall we talk about Exu? (Brazilian Quimbanda Instagram page: TQMBEPN Casa de Pantera Negra – 08/29/2022).
Figure 1

Shall we talk about Exu? (Brazilian Quimbanda Instagram page: TQMBEPN Casa de Pantera Negra – 08/29/2022).

The image is accompanied by the following post, which presents the Exu responsible for the house, answers customer questions, and sells Quimbanda religious:

Let’s talk about Exu?

A few days ago we opened up for questions on Instagram stories and more than thirty requests for information about Exus and Pombagiras came into us. We decided to share some relevant and precious information for those who follow the journey. Obviously, we won’t write on subjects that belong to Quimbanda (fundamentals) and for the sake of writing space, everything is very summarized. In the current sea of disinformation, however, every drop of water is precious.[7]

We will talk about an Exu that is hardly ever mentioned: Exu 7 Correntes.

This Exu’s name itself already indicates that this is a dynamic and expansive spirit (the characteristics of the number 7), belonging to the Kingdom of Crossroads, with power to blocked in all Kingdoms. It works together with Exu 7 Porteiras, Exu 7 Cadeados and Exu Tranca-Tudo. Little known, this Master is essential when we need to open or protect paths and gates, but one of its main functions is to protect what we conquer along the way. We also evoke it when we need to prevent ourselves from taking future actions, or rather, prevent our actions from causing disastrous consequences that we often cannot even imagine. We establish this Exu´s ponto with leaves of comigo-ninguém-pode and its candles are surrounded by chains. In offerings, we serve it rolled up pieces of meat tied together with black thread.[8]

In the comments of the post, we see interactions with possible customers and with the children of the saints, who ask for more information about various types of exus, which are described in new posts in a didactic manner. This thread shows that the internet experience is a way for practitioners to engage with real practices and with a religious community life.[9] The speed of responses to questions and production of new posts encourage both the creation and maintenance of a clientele and also cultivates the interaction of the pai de santo with his children.

It is worth remembering that the insertion of Afro-Brazilian religious groups in the “virtual world” since the 1990s has created new possibilities for them in the internet.[10] There are cultural sites and networks of traditional houses, which coexist with e-commerce home pages that sell all kinds of religious objects. There are humor blogs, white and black leaders working to publicize their books and ideas, courses on the production of structural racism, and many artistic collectives and productions. One finds applications and websites which offer services such as online consultations, spiritual consultations, “works,”[11] and ebós. For some, these services are removed from the play and rituals practiced in the terreiros. Others, however, see it as a new modus operandi employing webcams. Mediators of all types build home pages, forums, and disseminate academic and religious material, seeking to study issues related to the Afro-religious universe. According to Frigerio,[12]

Although the exchange of gossip and controversy exists in both, one medium allowed broader discussions with better arguments, while the other served short and more specific comments. In both, however, religious knowledge circulates in ways never seen before, new national and transnational identifications are formed and displayed, alliances are forged and broken, and new understandings are reached about beliefs, rituals, and history.[13]

In the following case analyzed in the mountain region of Rio de Janeiro, we observed a circuit that includes practitioners in the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, and the Brazilian northeast (Pernambuco and Bahia/Quimbanda das Almas), and in countries such as Portugal, Belgium, Australia, and England. Meirelles[14] observes that Afro-Brazilian religions assume different postures in migrating to other countries, but in most cases the guidelines given by their Brazilian origins persist. In addition, we found different Quimbandas spread across different parts of Brazil, such as the South region, the Northeast, and also the Southeast and Midwest.[15] Social media facilitates the possibility of contacts with other countries and with other parts of Brazil.[16] One network of clients runs brothels. Through social media, Quimbanda has expanded across Brazil’s borders, following the migration of Brazilians, and now incorporates other nationalities such as Australians, English, and Portuguese.

Some of the Quimbandeiros not only practice Quimbanda, but also often have knowledge of Umbanda, Candomblé, and Ifá.[17] This knowledge exchange allows them to easily move from one religious form to another, guaranteeing a greater network of protection for their lives and their terreiros and also allowing them to offer different types of religious services. It is difficult to interview a Quimbandeiro who does not master other religious subjects, including great knowledge of the Catholic universe (Figures 2 and 3).[18]

Figure 2 
               St. Anthony in Quimbanda (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).
Figure 2

St. Anthony in Quimbanda (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).

Figure 3 
               Hollow Wood Saint Anthony (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).
Figure 3

Hollow Wood Saint Anthony (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).

Quimbanda is a fluid, multiple, and diverse religion that is part of the greater Afro-Brazilian religious field. Quimbanda occasionally appears as an accusatory category in Umbanda, sometimes being considered black magic and sometimes as a minor part of Umbanda.[19] Afro-Brazilian religions were historically persecuted in Brazil, and both State and Catholic intellectuals, as well as Evangelicals, were central in shaping this scenario of discrimination and religious intolerance.[20] For some authors, it is necessary to “review the assumption that the sacred in Umbanda and Quimbanda fit into antagonistic categories such as “good” and “evil.”[21] Quimbandeiro masters constantly argue that their religion does not fit into dominant Christian moral dogmas. Although exus and pomba giras are important in Umbanda, these spirits are still under Christian influence and occupy subordinate positions in relation to the spiritual hierarchy. They are considered to be evolving spirits who need to attend to and practice charitable actions. In Quimbanda, these same entities govern the faith. They have primacy and spiritual leadership and are the “big dogs.”[22] Those who are initiated in Quimbanda soon become masters,[23] but to learn the religion they need to improve daily under the command of more experienced masters who have more time of practice. As the religion has several different ritual lines, there are different initiation processes. After initiation and some time spent with the master, the rest of the initiates’ learning will take place online, through handouts, books, digital platforms, video conversations, WhatsApp, and telephone. Learning also takes place through constant trips where older and more experienced Quimbandeiro masters and younger ones meet and seek to learn/teach as much as possible. These trips generally result in parties dedicated to exus and pomba Giras, the initiation of new Quimbandeiros, or in other celebrations related to other Afro cults in which Quimbandeiros can participate. We will explain how mestres, exus, and pomba giras occupy the internet in this context, describing how the faith is practiced by a master and his followers on the internet, highlighting the importance of spiritual agency in the virtual world in the production of spells.

2 Exu is Movement: Quimbanda and the Various Ways of Doing and Learning Spells

As we have seen, the presence of Quimbanda in the virtual world can be observed on different internet pages created and managed by Quimbanda masters from different ritual lines. These pages seek to disseminate different conceptions of Quimbanda and ritual work.[24]

This virtual presence ends up being a mechanism for teaching Quimbanda, since the masters create WhatsApp groups with their future and already initiated followers in order to circulate knowledge of religious practices. This knowledge includes pontos [25] for Exus and Pombas Gira and how to do many spells. These groups sometimes end up becoming spaces for discussing the teachings of religions like Candomblé and Umbanda that are at least partially oral traditions, even though there are also ritual books and handouts[26] created by Quimbanda masters and circulated between students and masters. Some of these handouts contain secrets specific to the religion that are initially only circulated between masters and future initiates. Other handouts, written without the secrets, end up being transformed into doctrinal books. These circulate beyond the virtual world and end up being published, ratifying the authority of religious leaders over the occult[27] and the limits of its negotiation. The virtual presence also includes the performance of religious works, since these are sometimes made for clients who are in other regions of Brazil and the world. Orders are made via WhatsApp and Facebook. The masters have Instagram and Facebook accounts connected to WhatsApp where customers place their orders, which can be sent via internet to the Quimbandeiro.

In the event that objects belonging to the person who makes the request or to whom the request is directed are needed, packages with clothes, photos, or personal objects can be sent by post. This form of shipping took place even before the Covid pandemic, when in-person consultations were more frequent. With the coming of the pandemic, the sending of materials by mail increased, both between customers and Quimbandeiros and between initiates and Quimbanda masters. In the latter case, works, tools for exu, and initiation and altar materials are sent by mail.[28]

Sometimes, however, works cannot be sent by mail, and it thus becomes necessary for the client to go to the Quimbanda temple. This is the case, for example, with regards to initiation rituals in which the presence of the future initiate is essential. In this case, only the post-initiation tools are sent by post, which is considered to be the best way to preserve their integrity, given that shipping by bus or plane can damage them.

According to the master, even those tools consecrated to entities or force points can be sent by mail, since Exu is movement. The material to be consecrated will only be effective in the hands of the person for whom it was prepared. According to the master, when the clients are located in Brazil, this process is easier. The master related cases where sons of saints from England came to his house to be initiated in Quimbanda. Clients from the other countries mentioned above were only attended through remote work, since mooring, spiritual healing, and spiritual cleaning (among works) can be done remotely. Some works can be made using the clothes worn by the person, or with nail clippings, hair, and personal objects such as combs. All these situations need to be scrutinized by the master’s Exu, Marabô, who will determine whether or not the work can be carried out.

Marabô also suggested filming part of the religious rituals through WhatsApp, in order to give clients some sort of guarantee that they were undertaken, while keeping certain aspects of the ritual secret. The spirit thus directs the actions of the pai de santo in mediation between him and his clients via WhatsApp and social networks.

The idea of filming the works and sending them via WhatsApp was something the Exu came up with to make himself better understood and to gain public space, where he could be more readily seen and valued. Exus’ use of images which are to be greeted and admired has been recurrent since the 1980s, the decade in which Quimbanda grew and became more elaborate. In the following decades, it became normal to display an elegant, decorated Exu, distinct from the images employed in the past, or which are stereotypically thought of as representing this cult.[29]

Exu interferes in the filming. In fact, it is the spirit that authorizes the production of its photo when its medium incorporates it. We must remember that Exu is the Yoruban orixá responsible for the paths and, given this, the digital world is simply another path where this spirit is present in Quimbanda. According to the Quimbanda master, Exu is not an enemy of technology, because everything that exists in the material world is also present in the spiritual world. In other words, all the technology that exists here is also already present on the astral plane.

The ritual blood sacrifice[30] is not filmed. On some occasions, however, depending on the client, its initial part is shown. When it is necessary to give a client more details, the animal and the knife are shown in a close-up, but the details of the slaughter ritual remain hidden. All images involving the substance or the so-called binding element that transforms materialities, animals, and other things into a spell are not shown.

Those minutes in which the sorcerer activates the right elements and transforms them all into a spiritual work, of whatever kind, are not filmed. Therefore, this moment is understood as a moment of secrecy by the adherents of the religion. The substances used that bind the spell and connect them, like a key that starts a car engine, are vital. They can be of different orders. Powders, oils, and other types of elements are produced as components of the spell.

“Cooking someone” is a popular expression in Brazilian life that means postponing a decision, interfering with a person’s life, or purposefully leaving a person waiting for a long time for a resolution of a situation. In national politics, we use the idea that “someone can be fried or burned,” when they do not conform to the rules of a game, or when they come into direct conflict with someone more powerful. There are many metaphors in Brazilian society about food and social life, which remind us of how much a spell makes the sorcerer a cook who employs multiple substances while coordinating temporalities and actions under spiritual guidance. The spell-cooking process produces the gift and the counter gift (Figure 4).

Figure 4 
               Offering to Lucifer (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).
Figure 4

Offering to Lucifer (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha).

Eating together with entities (which is, of course, a gift) is something that is positive and is celebrated as such. It is a dialogue with the entity. You eat a little of each food and leave the rest until it is dispatched to the entity. Photos of the meals are taken and posted by the pai de santo (when not incorporated by the spirit) or by an assistant, with the authorization of Exu. These are used as a guarantee of completion of the service that has been previously paid for. Counter Asè and counter-gift cannot be shared and the way of choosing the culinary elements, objects, and parts of animals changes in the production of a so-called counter-spell.

For some adherents of the religion, the world is in constant balance. So when you ask the Exus and Pombagiras for something, something is taken away or given to someone else. The world needs to keep itself balanced in a logic of gift and counter-gift. In other words, for one side to achieve spiritual and material success, another side needs to lose something for the world to balance itself.

As examples of these photos and videos, we have the images presented in Figure 5, which were made in the course of a spiritual bonding work focused on love:

Figure 5 
               Strong bonding in Quimbanda (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha – 08/17/2021).
Figure 5

Strong bonding in Quimbanda (Collection of the Templo de Kimbanda Domínio do Exu Marabô e Maria Padilha – 08/17/2021).

In the post in question, in addition to presenting the photo, the Quimbanda master explained the role of bonding as a practice of this faith. These types of posts attract new customers and are also commented on by those initiated by the master, or by people who are interested in the religion. The meals are beautifully organized and the photos evoke sensations and the sorcerer’s expertise.

Come-se a foto” (“one eats the photo”). The esthetic presentation here recalls food as a basic principle in the production of Axé and its opposite. One’s senses are sharpened by the images, but their beauty and perfection also incite the imagination about what is shown in it and what is not. We don’t see the pai de santo eating in the photo, or even the entity coming to eat (which can often happen). We see the organization of the elements in perfection and refinement, focusing our imagination on appetite. The client who sees the image is empowered by what they have seen (and even by what they have not seen) of the spell: its coming-to-be. According to the master, bonding is the “princess of Quimbanda” (“the Princess of Quimbanda”): one of the most powerful requests, and one most requested by the clientele.

We can thus see that one of the strategies employed by the religion in making its works and making them visible has been to use digital media. This form of exposure on social networks has also been a way of deconstructing the strong prejudice that exists against Quimbanda. It is a way to give value to the more Africanized side of this belief, and also a way for mediation and spiritual agency in the production of the religious[31] phenomenon itself.[32]

An important dimension of these agencies and contacts between masters and clients occurs through WhatsApp in the face of the need for some confidentiality. The master interviewed by us said that some customers keep their WhatsApp without a profile picture and without a username. The customer’s photo or name only appears after the master quotes a price for the work and confirms that they can perform the requested service. Afterward, some customers delete the conversations and again hide their profile pictures and usernames.

Often, what customers will ask for are things considered to be socially reprehensible: the death of a relative, illness, or other harm to co-workers or very close family members. This type of request and the physical proximity of the customer with the target of the work makes this writing/deleting a constant movement on social media. Often, screen shots are taken before the message is deleted. In order for the pai de santo to remember the request, he archives the screenshot in his WhatsApp collection or in his cell phone’s photo gallery.

Public and private messages come and go, driving the pai de santo to distraction with the need to record requests and the names and photos of those involved. In this sense, being online or offline, revealed[33] or anonymous, is all part of virtual life,[34] guaranteed by Facebook[35] Messenger and WhatsApp (both services used by customers to send orders to the pai de santo).[36] These are means that are employed not only to explain the dynamics of the spell, but also to produce it. In a way, all these media, messages, recordings, photos, and posts create the spell. They are the instruments upon which the pai de santo depends to give materiality to the request,[37] transforming words, powders, posts, photos, and worn clothes into a spell. It is difficult to try and understand the production of this religiosity without dealing with the technologies and media that produce the relationships between visible and invisible beings[38] and things.[39]

Knowing what each element means in each request is fundamental, as mediation triggers multiple forces, substances, and entities that make the spell to happen. Often, an entity’s interference is vital in order to alert the pai de santo about the effects of the work that has been undertaken.

The death of a third party may be momentarily beneficial for the person requesting it, but it is not always so. Often, what is thought to be good will later on turn out to be negative and affect the future of the person requesting the spell. Perhaps the person who dies is someone who, in the future, could have brought benefits to the customer. Good and evil are momentary and relative. The volatility of passions makes customers change their minds. Untangling and undoing the counter-gift or untying amorous ties are things that the pai de santo doesn’t always like to do or can carry out, because they give him double the amount of work and wear, in addition to the client having to spend more money. Exus and Pomba Giras, in general, give warnings to pais de santo and customers, especially when they do not intend to turn or undo spells once these are made. In this mediation, the entities set the tone and limits of the execution of spells.

Clients who insist on certain spells are warned that these have limits. For example, in the case of bindings, the bewitched person might remain by the side of the one who requested the spell, and yet still be unfaithful. All these effects and their reverberations are indicated by the entities. Exus and Pomba Giras often refuse to do as service in order to prevent the pai de santo from the annoyances that a given client might bring to him. In this case, the value of a given work can be set high enough to dissuade a client from asking that it be performed.

The irreverence, unpredictability, and humor[40] of the entities[41] are unique and the way they interfere in consultations and requests is quite peculiar, somehow regulating this ebb and flow in moralities. Good or bad, this ambiguity is a tool for their works. For example, if a woman asks to be bonded to a boyfriend, the entity warns that it will do this, but that it will not change the sexual preferences of the man: if he is gay, he will continue to be gay, even while bonded to the client. This way of talking about the situation, the jocularity, the predictions about the possibilities of the future life of the client, and the issues of options available in the sexual/affective market are all forms of knowledge[42] that the Exus and Pomba Giras can access and employ.[43] Another example can be seen in a woman who wanted a certain boyfriend. The entity told her that she´d get a man that very day, but that the one she wanted was no good, so it wouldn’t give her that man. All advice, messages, and choices are weighed upon by the spirits, giving agency to the emotional life of the consultants. Life is tense and often at odds with spiritual action,[44] but this give and take is part of the daily routine of consultations until initiation, which leads to more direct action in the lives of the consultants who become Quimbandeiros. These then start to take care of their Exus and Pomba Giras directly.

We must remember that the Exus and Pomba Giras are understood in the Afro-Brazilian imagination as archetypes linked to pleasure, sex, and material goods. They have strong connections with their mediums and become their protectors. These Quimbanda spirits, “do not submit to the patterns of civility that colonize and subordinate others and can even express themselves in an irreverent way.[45]

A wide range of works are therefore carried out in Quimbanda. With regards to the dimension of spiritual agency, the Exu of the Quimbanda master sometimes dictates how the work must be done: what animals must be sacrificed, which objects must be purchased, and whether or not a given work must be carried out.

Spiritual works are determined through the oracle of the Exu in Quimbanda, a form of play similar to the toss of the cowrie shells in which the medium communicates with the spirits. Therefore, the Exus and the Pomba Giras play a fundamental role in the construction of religious works. They define whether the work should be done or not. When a work is completed but payment is not made, it can be undone by means of a counter-spell, in which the pai de santo asks the entity that the customer’s not be fulfilled.

Money and payment are a fundamental part of the universe of Quimbandeiro spirits. Exu works with this materiality, which in a certain way also defines him: that is, not paying for a work authorizes the pai de santo to enact the counter-gift. This is based on an offering or meal that will become an anti-ase: that will have the opposite effect on the client’s life than that which they wished for. Under the power of the spirit and in a state of trance, the medium (in this case the pai de santo) also becomes powerful[46] and has the entity’s consent to perform the spell and counter-spell. However, this relationship is complex. Entities have autonomy and are sometimes quite unpredictable.[47]

It is worth remembering that the dimension of spiritual agency is a problem that has accompanied the social sciences throughout their formation, especially with regards to the analysis of some religions, among which are the Afro-Brazilian faiths. One of the difficulties that is present in the relationship between researchers and possession faiths is the problem of how to understand the “belief” of individuals and their interaction with possession. This is especially true with regard to the interaction between the mediums and saints present in these faiths. Today’s researchers no longer equate these faiths with primitivism or psychiatric[48] interpretations[49]. For a long time, however, the idea that spirits and entities could not be part of the reality described by researchers prevailed in academic works, especially in the field of anthropology and sociology. This remained the case even when the agency of the spirits was clearly presented by mediums in their dialogues with researchers.[50]

As time passed and the social sciences matured, the question of spiritual agency began to be constituted as a debate. We agree with Birman[51] when she states that we can only gain if we adopt an analytical perspective that does not “derealize” the effects and products of possession for its practitioners. To the contrary, we accept the condition of agents that the religious attribute[52] to their saints and entities.[53] This relationship sometimes involves a complex set of issues and cannot be thought of in a simple way. At certain times, there is a conflict of interest between mediums and their spirits and between them and the people who live with these mediums on a daily basis.[54]

Therefore, like Birman, we argue that even though the relationships between mediums and spirits are complex, they must be considered and taken into account when working with narratives that present these dimensions of spirituality and possession. As Birman[55] states:

The interrelation between men and spirits is the daily bread of mediums and the daily life of religious temples: “he embraced the preto-velho”, “he heard from Caboclo what was done to him”, “he paid Tranca-Rua for an old debt…” and so on. These sometimes involve dramatic revelations, such as, for example, when a medium says that it was “her Exu” who “killed her husband’s lover”. The agency attributed to spirits largely escaped the networks of meaning traced by anthropologists and, along with this, the power and gender relations in which it interferes were also absent from this analytical field.[56]

In this way, we can see the mechanisms by which the dimension of spiritual agency is present in Quimbanda. In the case analyzed above, Exu Marabô has been fundamental in the preparation and realization of religious services, whether online or offline.

3 Conclusion

Quimbanda is a form of Afro-Brazilian faith that is becoming more fluid and more present on social media, as we have seen. There are different views about the faith that can be found on the main social media platforms. In everyday life, people incorporate technology into their habits and beliefs and the intersections between religion, social media, and digital technologies are not an exception to this general rule. The meanings of the mediations created in these processes are important for understanding how religion can be produced.[57]

The virtual presence elevates religion to other dimensions and across borders. The work of the Quimbandeiro is directly linked to the movements and character of Exu, the entity responsible for paths. In this sense, when the Exus film magical work and send the resulting videos to clients, they show how much their spiritual and technological mediation produces the religious experience. Video propagates the effects of spiritual work upon those who see it and translates into the language of Exu a guarantee for payment of services. The image is, in this case, a powerful bargaining chip.

For new practitioners, the social-networking experience can be a means of moving toward real community practices. The extension of the social relations produced by proximity is now defined by the relationship between presence and absence: the so-called[58] time–space distance.[59] Although the internet allows for the creation of geographically dispersed social relationships, it can also make geographic distance seem less distant.[60] Posts and videos not only inform us about entities and about what Quimbanda is, but also create spaces on the internet that can dispel misconceptions about religion.[61] In some cases, they also create important records for the teaching of younger generations and a way of experiencing the presence of older people who will not be present in the coming decades.[62] Practitioners’ digital capture of the spirits of the ancestors of their saint family is a way of experiencing the extension of ritual spaces and their presence across time, especially in the transnational context.[63]

It is difficult to differentiate and separate what happens digitally from what happens in person, producing a kind of spatio-temporal continuum in which online and offline intermingle. It is also a way of publicly “showing face” as a religious group in an attractive and non-stigmatizing way,[64] especially for quimbanda.

The force of words not only describes or presents the entity but also produces it. The words present in internet posts produce the idea of a Pomba Gira (or an Exu), even when there are no images or photos of women incorporating these spirits. Imagining enchantments makes visible what is not.[65] It brings us closer to the spirit, even before we see it in online images or offline, in person. The enchantment produced by words sharpens curiosity and creates sensations. The beauty of photos of the food offered to entities makes the spectators hungry, awakening the desire to eat. In this sense, Quimbanda produces extraordinary experiences, inciting the imagination regarding smells, shapes, and colors.[66] The ability of this Afro-Brazilian faith to mediate absence, transiting between online and offline experiences, produces mystery, negotiates the idea of a secret that cannot be exposed, and even captures the attention of non-face-to-face participants in its enchantments. It is in this sense that I understand that all these mediations manufacture the magical act.

  1. Funding information: The research has been financially supported by FAPERJ, CNPQ and UERJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  2. Conflict of interest: Authors state no conflict of interest.


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Received: 2023-01-28
Revised: 2023-03-02
Accepted: 2023-03-21
Published Online: 2023-05-24

© 2023 the author(s), published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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