Catholicism is Brazil's largest religion. Almost 90% of
Brazilians are Roman Catholics. Other religions practised include Protestantism, Judaism,
Evangelical Christianity and spiritualist religions of African origin.
Animism was the original spiritual way followed in Brazil. The Native people believe that all natural things such as trees, water, earth and wind have spirits and souls. It is important to care for the environment and honour one's ancestors.
African slaves also brought their own religions which were
rejected and condemned by the Portuguese. Nevertheless, these religions have survived
and are widely practised in Brazil today. Macumba is a voodoo-like religion based on
black magic. Candomble, a mixture of African and Indian religions, has many gods
representing natural forces.
Candomble has become mixed with Catholicism. Those caught practising the forbidden ceremonies were severely punished. To avoid persecution, the slaves concealed the identity of their gods behind the names of Catholic saints. They found the saint who most closely represented the image of each African deity. Orixas, or Candomble gods, therefore, have a Catholic saint assigned as an equivalent.
The city of Salvador in Bahia has many terreiros or sites for Candomble rituals. Pais de santo, who are Candomble priests, are well respected in their local communities.