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Rezadeiras and healing in the Sertao

Leite Dias, F; (2012) Rezadeiras and healing in the Sertao. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

The thesis examines the healing and ritual practices of traditional healers (known as rezadeiras) in a semi-arid interior region of the State of Pernambuco in the Northeast of Brazil, know as the Sertão. The thesis commences by introducing the field, the research methods employed and ethnological approach, and then proceeds to examine the historical origins of rezadeiras' practices and rituals in the Christianity of colonial Brazil, African and native magic and medicine and the cult of Catimbó (which assimilates native and Afro-Brazilian elements). The more recent influence on rezadeiras' practices and rituals of Popular Catholicism is also referred to. The way in which someone becomes a rezadeira is detailed, alongside an account of each of the rezadeiras who were the principal informants for the thesis. Examples of illnesses and issues treated by rezadeiras are given (for example, depression and romantic problems), and the perceived causes of those illnesses and problems (such as, for instance, in quebranto, which is magical concept explained in greater detail in the thesis), and examples of consultations and treatment of clients by rezadeiras are given. The most important ritual practices employed by rezadeiras - reza (or prayer) and responso (a local form of antiphon or antiphonary) - in treating their clients, and the medicinal herbs, healing baths and medicinal teas prepared by rezadeiras for use in their treatments are also discussed. A concluding section seeks to place rezadeiras in a more analytical context, by looking at the ways in which rezadeiras' clients embody illness, the role of metaphor in concepts of illness in the Sertão and the effectiveness of the reza.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Rezadeiras and healing in the Sertao
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1369533
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