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Rezadeiras and Benzedeiras

Rezadeiras and benzadeiras (praying women) are distinct terms to define almost the same craft. Rezadeiras and benzadeiras differ from others who promote the cure of diseases and removal of evil because prayer is their main form of assistance, although rezadeiras often use branches of plants during their benzeduras (incantations).

Rezadeiras and Benzedeiras

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 23/03/2023

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Librarianship

Undoubtedly, popular mysticism dates to colonial Brazil, when the population used their superstitions and natural formulas to combat diseases more effectively in the face of precarious health care. Thus, according to customs and because of the limited scientific knowledge available at the time, people joined nature’s resources with their faith, beginning a pharmacopeia constituted of meizinhas (homemade remedies), garrafadas (medicinal plant drinks), infusions, teas, amulets, and offerings to saints for medical treatment. These superstitions were mixed with the cultural and religious traits of the three ethnicities that formed the Brazilian ethnic group, resulting in recipes, skills, and knowledge perpetuated orally, passed down from parent to child, from generation to generation.

Even now, people willing to exercise their knowledge by assisting physical, existential, and spiritual afflictions can be found everywhere in Brazil, especially in the rural Northeast. These people carry a mysterious aura that inspires respect and trust in those who seek them. Depending on how this knowledge is used, in a mixture of gift, solidarity, and craft, it is possible to identify different types and denominations about their performance characteristics. 

Rezadeiras and benzadeiras (praying women) are distinct terms to define almost the same craft. However, according to the book Rezas, benzeduras e simpatias, the difference is that benzedeiras are generally women, being more requested to provide services and are often the only midwives in their localities. This role is always referred to in the feminine because it is often performed by women.

Rezadeiras and benzadeiras differ from others who promote the cure of diseases and removal of evil because prayer is their main form of assistance, although rezadeiras often use branches of plants during their benzeduras (incantations). All the work of the rezadeiras, their gestures, prayers, words, and body expression, give some mysticism to the environment and provide a great power of suggestion to those present. 

Modified prayers of the Catholic Church are used in their prayers, mixed with mumbled and incomprehensible words from a corrupted Latin. These prayers cover many needs, solving family conflicts, calling people back to responsibility, ending the evil power of an environment, and other problems that contribute to the rezadeira’s credibility, such as warding the evil eye, healing low back pain, shingles, fever, sadness, scarcity, air in the head, erysipelas, pains in general, and other diseases that often vary in name according to local culture.

Because they are considered to have a special divine gift, rezadeiras do not usually charge for their services, as in general those who use these services are low- or minimal income people and with difficulties to access formal health services. However, if patients can and want to pay, they accept the contribution.

In rural areas, rezadeiras and benzedeiras commonly have a Catholic formation. In urban centers, their rituals vary following the local religious diversity according to precepts that can be Catholic, Kardecist, Adventist, Umbandist, or esoteric. However, although based on different cults or religions, rezadeiras and benzadeiras follow the same principles of humility, solidarity, justice, and daily contact with the divine. 

 

 

 

Recife, September 26, 2013.

sources consulted

ARAÚJO, Alceu Maynard. Medicina rústica. 2.ed. São Paulo: Ed. Nacional; Brasília: INL, 1977. (Brasiliana, v. 300).

BARROSO, Oswald. Rezadeiras, rezadores, curandores e curandeiras. Disponível em: http://digitalmundomiraira.com.br/Patrimonio/ReligiosidadeFe/
Rezadeiras/Rezadores%20-%20Curadores%20e%20Curandeiras.pdf
. Acesso em: 19 jul. 2012. 

MOREIRA, Neiva Marinho; WOLLF, Juçara Nair. Entre águas, galhos e rosários: mulheres benzedeiras em Xaxim. Cadernos do OCEOM, Chapecó, SC, ano 14, n. 13, p. 157-182, jun. 2001.

REZENDE, Vani (Coord.). Rezas, benzeduras, simpatias: soluções para todos os seus males. São Paulo: Ed. Três, [1986?]. 2v. il. Incluiu bibliografia. 

 

how to quote this text

ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Rezadeiras e benzedeiras. In: Pesquisa Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2013. Available at: https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/en/artigo/rezadeiras-and-benzedeiras/. Access on: month day year. (Ex.: Aug. 6, 2023.)