Orixá, Nature And Man: One Ecosystem – Uses Of Plants In the Terreiros of Candomblé and Umbanda in Sertão of Brasil

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SANTOS, Lílian Pinto da Silva [1], SANTOS, Juracy Marques dos [2]

SANTOS, Lílian Pinto da Silva. SANTOS, Juracy Marques dos. Orixá, Nature And Man: One Ecosystem – Uses Of Plants In the Terreiros of Candomblé and Umbanda in Sertão of Brasil. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 06, Ed. 06, Vol. 01, pp. 21-37. June 2021. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


In the context of Afro-Brazilian and indigenous rituals, the use of vegetables and animals with regard to symbolic and spiritual value is essential, through mystical activities in the form of offerings, individually or collectively. The motivating question of this research was: what are the meanings of the use of plants in the sacred rituals of Candomblé and Umbanda in the Sertão? For these ancient human cultures, which bring with them a vast knowledge about the most diverse forms of proficuity of these elements, it is also by the energetic irradiations and vibrations that the therapeutic process takes place, in addition to the healing of the physical body. This study was developed through the analysis of the discourses present in the Social Cartography of the Terreiros of Paulo Afonso, Jaguarari, Petrolina and Juazeiro and Senhor do Bonfim (2009; 2010; 2015; 2018), seeking to understand the way of organization of the Terreiros of Candomblé and Umbanda and their relations with ecosystems in the Brazilian hinterland. The path we walked in this work was based on the construction of the symbolic meanings, experiences and knowledge of the peoples of Candomblé and Umbanda sertanejos highlighting the practices of these religions as narratives of the research subjects contained in this vast material resulting from more than ten years of field research.

Keywords: Terreiros, plants, religiosity


The relationship between man and nature, in an associative way, was exceeded in a domain based on the attribute of reason, which gave man the right and burden of domestication of plants and animals, according to Moura; Marques (2008). The use of biological elements of ecosystems unrelated to the body itself for the maintenance of metabolism is the vital foundation of biologically classified beings as heterotrophic, those that do not organically produce their own foods. For Huffman (1997); Hutchings et al. (2003) it is known to primates, birds, rhinos, elephants and rodents the use of minerals and vegetables as medicinal products for antidote against toxins, hormone control, control of parasites, still as antibiotics and stimulants.

For Huffman (1997); and Hutchings et al. (2003) the use of vegetables and minerals with medicinal potential is known in animals such as primates, birds, wolves, elephants, rhinos and rodents, aiming at antimicrobial, stimulant, laxative, antiparasitic, antibiotic, hormonal control and as an antidote against toxins.

Popular medicine, also called traditional medicine, benefits about 80% of the world’s population, according to an estimate by the World Health Organization. Therefore, it justifies the encouragement of ethnographic, pharmacological, medical and ecological research, which are very relevant for the reasoning. of popular knowledge in the scientific community for the purpose of acquiring new medications and therapies, as suggested by Moura; Marques (2008) and Alves (2010)

As the most abundant country in terrestrial biodiversity on the planet, Brazil is home to about 20% of the world’s animal, plant and microorganism species (NOGUEIRA et al., 2010), and stands out for being one of the countries with the greatest plant genetic diversity , with more than 55,000 cataloged species, as stated by Nodari; Guerra (1999).

Marked by a great ethnopharmacological use of several plants by local communities, the Northeast is also characterized by the transmission of this traditional and popular knowledge from generation to generation, being possible to observe a vast knowledge of therapeutic methods for the cure or relief of some diseases. (BAPTISTEL et al., 2014).

In the context of the sertão, marked by vegetation contained in an area of caatinga, determined by a predominantly semi-arid climate in which there is low water supply and is extremely variable – contrary to what was once thought – there is a wide range of environmental conditions, essential both for the emergence and for the survival of several species that adapt well to the climate of this region, as highlighted by Andrade (2013).

Currently occupying 11% of the national territory and with an extension of approximately 845,000 square kilometers, the caatinga, still according to Andrade (2013), is divided into eight very different regions regarding landscapes, vegetation, soil types. In some of these the rains do not reach thousand millimeters (mm) during the year. Despite the above circumstances, the caatinga has a wide variety of plants, many of them endemic. It is estimated that of the 6,000 species, distributed in 1,333 genera, 18 are from the region and of the 87 cactus species, 83% are unique to this ecosystem.

Of an invaluable richness, the caatinga is also a biome rich in animal species, with studies that indicate the existence of approximately 327 endemic species. There are records of 178 species of mammals, 591 species of birds, 177 species of reptiles, 79 species of amphibians, 241 species of fish and 221 species of bees, according to the Ministry of the Environment, and it is also estimated that 13 species of mammals, 23 of lizards, 20 of fish and 15 of birds are typical of the caatinga.

In addition to the beauties and riches of this white forest, here we refer to the Tupi language in which the word caatinga is attributed to the vegetation of this biome. This research in the holy houses of the Terreiros de Candomblé and Umbanda in the Sertão brings a vast relationship of the traditional peoples and the means with which they relate to ecosystems through their sacred.


The processes of adaptation and resistance experienced by men and women enslaved in the past, whether indigenous or African, bequeathed us the maintenance of values of a differentiated worldview, which made languages, cultural traditions and other ways of relating to the sacred through nature survive. These values were safeguarded in the universe of terreiros, territories of African and indigenous matrix in Brazil. According to Hampaté Bâ (1982):

In African culture, everything is “History”. The great history of life comprises the history of land and water (geography); the history of vegetables (botany and pharmacopoeia); the history of the “sons of the Earth’s bosom” (mineralogy and metals); the history of the stars (astronomy, astrology), the history of the waters, and so on […] For example, the same old man will know not only the science of plants (the good and bad properties of each plant), but also “the earth sciences” (agricultural or medicinal properties of different types of soil), water science, astronomy, cosmogony, psychology… It is a science of life, whose knowledge can always favor practical use. And when we talk about “initiatory” or occult sciences, terms that can confuse the rationalist reader, it is always, for traditional Africa, an eminently practical science that consists in knowing how to enter into a proper relationship with the forces that sustain the world visible, and that can be put at the service of life (HAMPATÉ BÂ 1982, p. 195)

As for indigenous mythologies and cosmologies, they deal with themes that all men are concerned about, with a lesser or greater degree of elaboration, expression or consciousness. Camargo (1994) demonstrates that the indigenous worldview has, as a principle, the taking of life in complementarity, indicating that in communities, beings complement each other. For this author, as egalitarian societies and without division of social classes, nor separation between possessors of the means of production, indigenous communities are organized from the collective possession of land and the resources that exist in them soon, the socialization of basic knowledge is indispensable to the survival of both physical and cultural and social of its members. Thus, the incompleteness of being becomes a harmonious coexistence and a fundamental question of survival.

This is said, it is necessary to reflect on the processes of resistance of these peoples who, despite and because of the crimes of harm to humanity experienced over the centuries, have established through respect and dialogue the most legitimate exchange of ancestral knowledge. You know those who bring at its core reverence to the forces of nature as reflections of the emanations of the Orixás, Encantados and Inkises on Earth, and that, therefore, pollute the air, waste water, destroy trees, disrespect humanity are practices contrary to the learning of the sacred spaces of the Terreiros.

According to Oxóssi (2020), since the arrival of the first blacks in Brazil, traditional medicine and natural medicine have been confused in the communities and even before that, the knowledge of the magical and therapeutic properties of vegetables was already noticed through the account of the indigenous peoples who lived here and already had in nature their means of existence and survival.

For Barros; Napoleão (2011) it was through the organization of the first candomblés that this practice gained notoriety and especially for its spiritual character. For this author, it was not only the creation of places of worship of the Orixás but, spaces of memory of the origins and traditions where one celebrates the going in a very particular way.

Thus, enslaved blacks, for the purpose of adapting to their new living conditions, resignified a series of customs and rites adding to their original culture several aspects that they found here through contact with indigenous peoples and Europeans. Oxóssi (2020) adds that new ingredients and ways of working with natural elements were discovered that, despite the very similar climate, differed in various aspects of production and supply.

The material cited by the Priests and Priestesses that make up the Social Cartographies of the Terreiros of Paulo Afonso, Jaguarari, Petrolina and Juazeiro and Senhor do Bonfim (2009; 2010; 2015; 2018) was collected. The species of medicinal plants surveyed were identified and their respective names included in accordance with the APG system (THE ANGIOSPERM PHYLOGENY GROUP, 2003) and in the National Cultivar Registry. Based on the information obtained, a list of species was prepared, organized by popular names followed by scientific name, origin and number of citations.


Totaling 51 interviewees in 27 Terreiros who identify themselves as Candomblé, another 21 Terreiros de Umbanda, 02 who call themselves Umbanda with Candomblé and 01 entitled Mesa Branca, 27 plant species originating from various continents were identified. Of these, 07 are originating in Brazil Gameleira (Ficusdoliaria), Jatobá (Hymenaeacourbaril L), Jurema (Mimosa hostilisBenth) / (Mimosa tenuiflora Willd), Licuri (Sygrus Cronata), Mulungú (Erythrina verna Vell), Pau Ferro (Caesalpinialeiostachya), Pitangueira (Eugenia uniflora) Frame 1. List of species of medicinal and liturgical plants cited in the Social Cartography of The Terreiros of Paulo Afonso, Jaguarari, Petrolina and Juazeiro and Senhor do Bonfim (2009; 2010; 2015; 2018).

Frame 1. List of species of medicinal and liturgical plants cited in the Social Cartography of The Terreiros of Paulo Afonso, Jaguarari, Petrolina and Juazeiro and Senhor do Bonfim (2009; 2010; 2015; 2018).

Plant species

(popular names)

Scientific name origin Number of citations
Abacateiro Persea americana American Continent 01
Akoko Newbouldialaevis African Continent 01
Arruda Rutagraveolens L Southern Europe 01
Canela Cinnamomumzeylanicum Siri Lanka 01
Coqueiro Cocos nucifera American Continent 01
Erva-doce Pimpinellaanisum L. Asia 01
Folha de colônia Alpine speciosa Asia 01
Gameleira Ficusdoliaria Brazil 02
Guiné Panicummaximumjacq Africa 01
Jaqueira Artocarpusheterophyllus India 02
Jatobá Hymenaeacourbaril L Brazil 02
Jurema Mimosa hostilisBenth

Mimosa tenuiflora Willd.

Brazil 02
Laranjeira Citrussinensis L. Asia 02
Levante Menthavirids L. Mediterranean 01
Licuri SygrusCronata Brazil 01
Mangueira Mangifera indica India 02
Milho branco Zeamays Mexico 01
Mulungú Erythrina verna Vell Brazil 01
Pau-ferro Caesalpinialeiostachya Brazil 01
Peregun Dracaenafragance Africa 01
Pitangueira Eugenia Uniflora Brazil 01
Total species cited   27

Source: National Register of Cultivars – RNC, available in:

We chose to initially bring the speeches of the leaders of terreiros, priests and priestess, in which the herbs are mentioned and later we will make more specific comments about their uses

On the uses of herbs in sacred rituals, the Priest of terreiro de Umbanda Centro de Ogum Beira-mar, Ketu nation, located in the municipality of Paulo Afonso, Bahia, infers:

Medicinal herbs are used for cures, for baths, rue to prepare baths, leaves of oranges, stone salt, mango leaf to scare away evil spirits, the guinea leaf which is a plant that often people say: what is guinea? It’s the tipi, it’s the tipi chain. The leaf of the uprising that often people do not know that are colony leaves. Leaves of peregum which is a plant that she is born in the woods and serves to do the washing of the head for healing and is the concentration of baptism of the orixás.

Use the jurema for the bath as much as you use the peel to make the wine for the children to drink that wine as a cure. It is a wine made with the bark of the jurema, no alcohol is put because it is a purified wine, also the priests make their purified wines to accompany the body of Christ who is the host.

Here we have the host that is made with bread, with pieces of bread, slices of bread. There we do that ritual that is for the children of saint, the children of saint will spend seven days, they will eat this bread, they will eat fish, fruits and white rice. They’re not going to eat beans, they’re not going to eat the noodles, they’re not going to eat red meat because they can’t.

They will eat only chicken meat, fish, bread, fruit and white rice. The seven days they’re in the room. The bath of the jurema is to take away the bad looks, to ward off the evil eye, any kind of breaking strip with the leaves of the jurema. Take the bath and then take it, then you are prepared, because it is clean, then it does the body closure on you as if it were a baptism by the chains of the leaves of the orixás.

Because if not, it is not complete, you will enter seven days of room to give a bori, if you have not been washed, if you have not been baptized, did not help your bori, your bori did not come out full. So baptism is with bori. (MARQUES 2009;101/102/103).

  • The rue, Rutagraveolens L, plant originating in Southern Europe is of great importance to the traditional peoples of Terreiro. Oxóssi (2020, p. 36) attributes the arruda energetic properties of spiritual protection and cut negative energies in addition to serving as an amulet for great expression eye used to designate envy- and bad fluids, intensifies the willpower helping the individual to the fulfillment of his desires.
  • Orange leaves, Citrussinensis L., have relaxing property relieving insomnia and nervousness. Energetically, for Oxóssi (2020, p. 94) helps in the development of mediumship and clairvoyance, attracts love and favors the conquest of material goods. It also relieves feelings of loneliness and abandonment. Being a leaf belonging to the Orixá Oxalá and belonging to the air element, it brings harmony and calm.
  • Mango leaves, Mangifera indicates, according to Oxóssi (2020, p. 103), belong to the Orixá Omolu and to the earth element, it is used in rituals of unloading and spiritual cleansing.
  • Guiné, Panicum maximum jacq, belonging to the Orixás Ossain and Oxóssi, indicates Oxóssi (2020, p. 87) that as well as mango leaves are also related to the earth element and its use is done in rituals of discharge and spiritual cleansing.
  • Colony/lift or lift, Menthavirids L., has the herbal property of helping to combat insomnia and nervousness. As a home remedy, it puts an end to stomach ailments if used as a tea (tassel or floral bunch). Energetically, Oxóssi (2020, p. 66) says that this plant opens paths, balances emotions, relieves trauma and emotional shocks, brings strength and courage to face challenges, in addition to bringing harmony and peace to thoughts. Its Orixás are regents Ogum and Oxalá and belongs to the fire element.
  • Peregum, Dracaenafragance, belongs to the earth element and has as Orixás regents Logunedé and Oxóssi. It opens the paths, attracts good energies, strengthens mediumship and spirituality. Oxóssi (2020, p. 122) indicates that this plant brings strength and courage to face the challenges.

On the uses of herbs, Senhora Josefa dos Santos Dias, head of the Umbanda Spiritual Center, located in the city of Jaguarari, Bahia states:

I smoke with incense, with sweet olive oil, with herbs, pitanga leaves, orange peels. The meaning is because it brings healing that is peace, makes retreat. So the inhabitants who come to accumulate incense make the retreat, it cleans (MARQUES, 2010, p. 209).

  • Pitangueira, Eugenia uniflora, has as regent the Orixá Iansã, element fire. Its leaves are used to open paths, according to Oxóssi (2020, p. 126), its leaves attract good energies and love, strengthen mediumship and also friendships. Called ìtà in Yorùbà, according to Barros belongs to the orixá Ossanyn and is classified in the land compartment. Varella e Silva (1973) make an association of this plant with the oxosssi orixá for smoking and together with cinnamon, clove, coffee and sugar to improve finances.

In the Social Cartographies of Terreiros de Petrolina, Pernambuco, we find in the speech of Babalorixá Valter d’Oxum, known as Pai Valter, priest of Terreiro Nossa Senhora das Candeias, belonging to the Ketu Nation:

Here I brought several learnings of Candomblé. I brought a lot of joy, brought a lot of samba, brought a lot of music, you know? People didn’t know how to enjoy it, you know? The akokô, this power plant that has all over Candomblé here, who brought it was me. The first foot of akokô. Initially I put a seedling in the house, then leaves distributing. (2015, p. 115)

(…) Look! All plants are fundamental in Candomblé, particularly fruit trees. But the akokô, they identified as being, not a fruit plant, but as an axé plant that existed in Africa. It’s like the gameleira, you know? Like the mulungu. For example, the jackfruit seedling is a foundation plant. There’s mango, there’s avocado, but that’s fruit plants; now, plants that did not bear fruit akokô is included as one of the plants of axé, to grow. Although it is a secret in itself, she has a saint, who I will not say the name, she has an identity with a saint, she has a lot of foundation, both for bathing and for other purposes. They call bejereçú, one of those secret things in Candomblé (MARQUES; NOVAES, 2015, p. 121)

  • The akoko plant, Newbouldialaevis, originally from the African continent, more specifically Nigeria, is one of the most important and sacred within the cult of Brazilian candomblé, being widespread and acclimated in our country. For Barros; Napoleão (2011) is considered one of the most important and sacred of the cult of the African Gods. The leaves of Akoko are so important that they are used to consecrate the honorific and religious titles that the followers of Candomblé receive. Its leaves are still used in various rituals, as well as its trunk. Its branches have a strong connection with the ancestors. There are also deities who live at the foot of this tree. In Africa, for example, there are settlements of Ogum, the Warrior God, at the foot of this tree.
  • The Gameleira, Ficusdoliaria, a plant originally from Brazil, also known as Iroko, for Oxóssi (2020, p. 83), is a plant that has the Orixás Iroko and Oxalá as regents. Its element is the air and is considered the morado of the male and female ancestors. Considered one of the trees of the creation of the world, its strength of spiritual fixation is so great that it should be used with great caution.
  • Mulungú, Erythrina verna Vell, plant that has soothing medicinal properties is widely used in the treatment of insomnia, as well as nervous system changes, especially anxiety, agitation and seizures. For the peoples of saint the Mulungu is used for bathing or smoking and there are reports in the candomblé, of the use of splinters of the trunk or the root of mulungu over the period of seclusion required of beginners in order to make them more relaxed and relaxed. The Banto peoples already knew and used many trees of the genus Erythrina, such as E. abyssinica (DC.) Lam., E. caffra Thumb., E. tomentosa (A. Rich.) R. Br., E. senegalensis Chevalier. They were known as mulungo, murungu or mungu. According to Schleier; Quirino; Rahmer (2016, p. 165), there are more than one hundred Brazilian species known as mulungu. Also for this author, in our country the shamans of various indigenous ethnicgroups, in their rituals, use erythrina species as a base of hallucinogenic drinks in addition to the preparation of the curare, which is a paralyzing part of the musculature, used to soak darts and arrows for fishing and hunting purposes.
  • Jaqueira, Artocarpusheterophyllus, considered, par excellence, the abode of the great ancestral mothers has in its fruits the power to transform the raw man into noble, valuable and enlightened. Oxóssi (2020, p. 91) infers that the jaqueira belongs to the Orixá Oxóssi and has as an element of nature, the land.
  • The Avocado Tree, Persea Americana, originally from the American continent, its leaf is used for bathing and smoking, as a cleaning function, expander. Being an herb belonging to Oxóssi brings direction and energization.[3]

Yalorixá Maria Filha de Souza, known as Mãe Laurice, responsible for the Spiritist Center of Umbanda Oxum Iafi, Petrolina- Pernambuco, adds:

Jurema is my godmother, Jesus is my protector. Jurema is a sacred cock, where Jesus rested. You who are a good teacher, teach me to work, with the strength of Jurema and the branch of the ajucá.

(…) In Jurema we prepare the bark of jurema, the jatobá bark, and several shells that serve as medicine, too. We cook or soak, and prepare after it cooked. We put cinnamon, fennel and some more to take off the lock. Sugar, honey, wine, to prepare the jurema.

(…) Now I remembered a subject I didn’t talk about. When we start taking jurema, the goat suffers. Because those guides come with those chains, calling… But, we suffer, ok?! To develop that current. When that current comes, that you are already developed in it, another [guide] comes. And so on: one comes, another comes and you go through all that. It’s suffering, ok? I fell, bounced on the floor. There was a time when I fell, I gave up my foot, my God in heaven. I thought: – I’ll never go there again. Then the guide sent me a message that I would only be better if I went there. I went, and he prayed for me, and I got well.

I did a lot of work in the woods because I had no place to do it, and I had to work in the woods anyway. It was with the spirits of the jurema, i had to work harder. I did tudim cleaning there and i’d leave it there. And today we do a clean up here, do a shake, do it outside, or do it in here. But you have to set up the salon later, you have to unload, you have to smoke, you have to wash everything. And there in the woods, there even does the cleaning and there even leaves all that, and comes clean from there (MARQUES; NOVAES, 2015, p.130, 139; 140/141).

We understand here that these are two different situations. One is the use of the plant and the other is the practice of Jurema, which for some also identify themselves as abandistas, spiritists or Catholics. According to Assunção (2010, p. 112), this plurality allows us to infer that Umbanda is a universe that permeates different religious practices. Jurema, for this author, refers to the enchanted entities of the masters and caboclos who live in the forests. Followers consider it a good, warm current. Good being understood as strong, has its immediate action in solving problems besides favoring the development of the medium.

About the jurema plant, Mimosa hostilis Benth/Mimosa tenuiflora Willd, Oxóssi (2020, p. 92/93) informs us that there are two types, the white jurema that belongs to the earth element and has as orixá regent Oxóssi and the jurema-preta that belongs to the element fire and has as orixá regent Exu. Both herbs serve to open ways, attract good energies, strengthen mediumship and spirituality, bring strength and courage. The jurema-preta is also used in heavy discharge baths.

  • Jatobá, Hymenaeacourbaril L, has expectorant, astringent, appetite stimulator, vermifiable, decongestant, diuretic, stomochial, combating urinary and urinary problems, intestinal infections and is healing. According to Mãe Laurice (MARQUES; NOVAES, 2015, p. 139) together with jurema and the bark of other herbs jatobá can be used in the preparation of medicines.

In the Social Cartography of Terreiros de Senhor do Bonfim, Yalorixá Mãe Davina Rodrigues da Silva, caretaker of Terreiro de Oxóssi, located in the São Jorge neighborhood, tells us:

At that time, my mother, Maria do Cézar, gave part of her farm land for the construction of the Chapel of São Jorge, a saint with whom she had devotion, because of Oxóssi. After she gave the Church made the chapel but put the name of Christ the King. It hurts a lot not to see the trees you had.

But first, God bless us all, Oxóssi and the Orixás.

Let me show you here: there is two feet of licuri, of gameleira and this is Jatobá. Jatobá is the girl. She planted here that it’s the strength of her house. She was born of two. Everything here, even the jackfruit feet, it’s all two. Sounds like something I don’t know what it’s like, you know? (MARQUES; SILVA, MARQUES, 2018, p. 16/17)

  • Licuri, Sygrus Cronata, plant of Brazilian origin, native palm tree of the caatinga biome. It can be found in the north of Minas Gerais, in the eastern and central part of Bahia to the south of Pernambuco and in the states of Sergipe and Alagoas. Its leaves are used in handicrafts, the almond produces an oil very similar to coconut oil, used in cooking and soap making. Being edible the almond is also used in the manufacture of cocadas, sweets and liqueurs in addition to other varied dishes in bahian cuisine. Waste is still used in animal feed. In addition, licuri is a sacred tree where its straws are used for prayers and blessings, adornments, cover at the entrance of settlements called mariôs, whose function is to scare away negative energies and disturbing spirits.

Still on the sacred trees, the Babalorixá Antônio Alves Sobrinho, or as he prefers to be called, Pai Antônio D’Ogundelé, leader of the Terreiro de Umbanda Pai Oxalá, also known as Terreiro Tupoiaoo, Situated in the neighborhood of Olaria, Senhor do Bonfim, Bahia inferes:

There are sacred trees that belong to the Orixás. Every tree or plant in the Terreiro is sacred. Here I have a Pau Ferro tree that is dedicated to Oxossi. Jurema is a Cabocla within the Terreiros and is one of the most sacred trees within Umbanda. Here in my terreiro it (the Jurema tree) is dedicated to Exú, Exú Orixá, ExúBará. Because there is Exú Orixá and what is not Orixá, who is a spiritual guide. Tranca Rua is the house’s spiritual guide, while the house’s Exú Orixá is Bará. (MARQUES; SILVA; MARQUES, 2018, p. 156/157).

  • Pau-ferro, Caesalpinialeiostachya, a tree native to the Atlantic Forest, in Brazil, which has a rounded and wide crown, a clear, marbled trunk and which has bipinated compound leaves, with dark green leaflets. The pau-ferro has a hard, resistant and excellent quality wood for the manufacture of guitars and violins, it can also be used in civil construction. Its bark is widely used in folk medicine, having anti-inflammatory and analgesic, anti-cancer and anti-ulcer properties. It is used for bathing and smoking. The folklorist Alceu Maynard Araújo (1964, p. 47) states that the jurema is used to prepare jurubari, the drink of the enchanted, of the caboclos, as well as other plants, such as scent umburana (Torresia acrena) and juçá-another popular name for the ironwood (Caesalpinaferrea) in infusions with cachaça.

For Pires et al. (2009), the plants, in the universe of afro-indigenous religions, present an irrefutable symbolic value because they are used for ritualistic and routine purposes by the communities of the terreiros. The use of sacred plants meets the liturgical aspects of the houses of saint and also has a pharmacobotanical, empirical and individual character (BARROS, 1983; VERGER, 1995; CAMARGO, 1988).

In addition to the ancient knowledge of these peoples, one of the richest fruits of indigenous and black cultures, the need for the preservation of ecosystems for reasons intrinsic to their ways of life and respect for their ancestry.

It is evident in the speech of Babalorixá Charliton Fernandes, whose orukó[4] is Odé Irilé Taladeram Kariodé, leader of a Candomblé Terreiro of Keto and Angola nations, located in the municipality of Paulo Afonso- Bahia, all care in the preservation of ecosystems:

The Candomblé, to me, it is a superb science, millenary, a source of knowledge, is an aid, even for those who have no knowledge. Those who seek knowledge seek to know candomblé, as well as the Greeks. I think Candomblé is an exceptional culture, exceptional religion. Orixá is energy, orixá is nature, above all.

Here, in my house, I do not leave candle lit in the bush, I do not break bottle at crossroads, because I respect. If my orixá is nature, why am I going to harm nature? Then I’ll be hurting my orixá. I make sure the candle has been blown out, burned to the end, so it doesn’t cause a burn. Candomblé for me is respect, it’s dignity, it’s joy. Candomblé to me is everything! (MARQUES, 2009, p. 47/48).

Unlike western hegemonic thinking, the Afro-Brazilian religious tradition adds important values in relation to the preservation of forests since, according to Verger (1995):

In candomblé, the most important thing is the issue of leaves, of plants that are used at the moment of initiation. Nature is always present within the ceremony. Before the ceremony, we bathe certain plants, to have this axé, this force that is inside the plants.

There is still a very important issue to be highlighted by us. In the daily life of Terreiros there is a great care in obtaining and using these herbs. Ulhôa (2011) informs us that being one of the fundamental and most important principles of candomblé the harvesting of plants of nature, this activity can not be done without very specific care, such as prayers and songs, which are intended to ask permission and explain to the deity the reasons for the necessary withdrawal.

These religious spaces experience cosmologies through rites and myths where the presence of leaves is of fundamental importance. It is in this relationship of reverence and permission that the ancient knowledge brought by the Africans of the diaspora, added to the indigenous cultural knowledge and that contribute to the constitution of the Sertão of our country in a huge potential for the cult of the Orixás, are passed on.


The initial idea of surveying the plants used by the land peoples of the Sertão do Brasil, from the analysis of the discourses in the Social Cartography of the Terreiros of Paulo Afonso, Jaguarari, Petrolina and Juazeiro and Senhor do Bonfim (2009; 2010; 2015; 2018), seeking to understand the uses of plants by the holy peoples, the therapeutic system and other connections , led us to paths that pertained by the actions of these herbs in maintaining the balance of physical and spiritual health of these communities.

We observed in our research that the use of plant species connects traditional knowledge and collaborates powerfully for the maintenance and care of ecosystems because life in the Terreiros de Candomblé and Umbanda sertanejos is the very expression of nature. All Orixás are and are directly linked to the natural elements and express themselves through them. This reverence for nature and the deities that inhabit it, demonstrates that man is only part of a greater natural and harmonic set and that sensitivities are urgent to deal with deep respect and care in the protection of this immense material and immaterial heritage.

Given the context presented in the Social Cartography of the Terreiros de Candomblé and Umbanda in Sertão, it is evident to us the importance of further studies on the ethnopharmacological, ethnopharmacological and spiritual knowledge of babalorixás and Yalorixás, because through the use of plants in religious obligations and healing ceremonies, the balance of life is maintained.


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3. Source: Accessed: 13/o5/2021.

4. Orúkọ name in Yorùbá – is the expression that brings a lot of strength, a true life story of those who receive it and bring it with pride. In Candomblé names are not considered just names. Some initiates have the meaning of his name revealed only after completing 7 years, an obligation of majority within this tradition. Source: Accessed 13/05/2021

[1] Master’s student in Human Ecology, postgraduate in Neurolearning, Graduated in Pedagogy.

[2] Advisor. PhD in progress in Human Ecology.

Submitted: May, 2021

Approved: June, 2021.

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