Some Tag Ends About Brazil

“The same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay.” Ano

Did you ever wonder where the name for Brazil came from? The secret: “Pau Brazil” is a famous wood from the rain forest and so important at one time it lent its name to the country. The wood is red-orange in colour and was sought after in Europe for the die extracted. That has changed but not the demand. It is coveted for making classical music instruments especially violin bows.

“Pau Brazil” in instruments allows for better timbre and high music volume. Some refer to it as “the music tree” but that quality has pushed this tree to near extinction and can only be cut with a permit. But illegal cutting continues where it is not policed or where inspectors can be bought.

Some things don’t change in Brazil—the sweet “expresso” coffee in a demitasse cup that does not give a person the jolt they might expect. You see it is roasted darker than the coffee we get here and so much of the caffeine is gone. Then there is the staple food of “arroz e feijao” which is rice and beans. Our family always liked rice and beans no matter whether it was in an uppity restaurant or the poorest of homes. It was always so well seasoned (not hot with pepper) and delicious.

Something up to date. Auditors for the preparations for the games in Rio are wondering if the subway to the Olympic Park could be ready. They stated, “No more delays.” The goal of Brazil in the games is to finish among the top three countries in medals earned. It could happen. Remember Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world and 7th in economy. Now a WOW! How about this? Brazil was first in medals in the Pan American games in Toronto for disabled persons. I feel as good about that as if Canada were at the top.

And I note that Brazil is the 2nd country in the world for sending Christian missionaries to other lands. They not only plant churches but start schools and clinics. That is remarkable for back in 1955 when we went to Brazil, I did not know of any such endeavors. But I’ve always said that Brazil has the potential to be the number one missionary-sending nation in the world.

If that interests you here are some other stats about religion. The country is Catholic, at least nominally so, with over 15% protestant with another 10% attending Spiritist centers. At the same time Spiritism influence penetrates to other religious expressions and lives with them in peaceful coexistence. One branch of Spiritism is akin to Bantu/voodoo and is supposed to have less than one percent of Brazilians as followers. My own evaluation is that this brand holds the hearts of many Brazilians and even influences the practice of Christianity.

Then I should mention another type of Spiritism—Rationalismo Cristao. I accepted an invitation once and attended their séance while living in Neves in the interior of the state of São Paulo. One medium in a trance declared that I had travelled the whole world looking for peace and was finding it there. Not quite! This I know, it was a very important religious influence in that village.

Add to that the Allan Kardek Spiritism. It is the more traditional type so when we in North America think of Spiritism, it is this particular brand. One writer notes that Brazilian Spiritism even influences psychiatric practices. Nobody can really understand religious life in Brazil without some knowledge of the three varieties of Spiritism; this movement in Brazil is considered to be the largest in the world. A world-famous promoter and practitioner is Joao de Deus–John of God.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He is a medium and psychic surgeon who is fervently believed to provide miraculous healings among his followers. He does up to 1,000 operations a day, much of it with a blunt kitchen knife and is believed to cure everything from a common cold to cancer. There are books written about him and his “faith healing” and tourists guides will get you to meet him. Google has all sorts of information about him with even Oprah having visited him. You can even watch videos of surgeries and testimonials. Make of him what you will but know this—he is an important Spiritist presence in Brazil.

So I’ve offered bit and pieces about Brazil and its religions. As for Spiritist healings they may indeed happen but I would not touch them with a ten-foot pole. An old hymn says it for me, “My hope is in the Lord who gave himself for me, who paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.” I understand that there is so much more to The Christian Faith than healing of the body.



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