Assessing Ritual Experience in Contemporary Spiritualities

The Practice of’sharing’ in a New Age Variant of Umbanda

in Religion and Society
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Seeking to attain balance and well-being through what practitioners call’spiritual development’, the ritual practice in Paris of Umbanda—an Afro-Brazilian religion—is emblematic of the orientation that characterizes contemporary spirituality. In this context, regular public mediumistic rituals are aimed at transforming participants into beings open to the teachings of’spiritual entities’, which they embody for their own and others’ benefit. In this process, specialists and participants are explicitly and systematically invited to ‘take stock’ or’share’, that is, to revisit the rituals they perform. This article argues that’sharing’, which may also be found in other forms of contemporary spirituality, is not only an exegetical exercise that participants must regularly submit to in order to assess how these rituals affect them. It may also be understood as a ritual device that the efficacy and reproduction of such practices depend upon.

Contributor Notes

VIOLA TEISENHOFFER holds a PhD in Anthropology from Université Paris Nanterre. Her doctoral research studied the formal particularities of new forms of rituality and the experiences and identity constructions that they elicit in a transnational Umbanda shrine house located in Paris. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the GSRL research center in Paris, supported by the LabEx HASTEC (History and Anthropology of Knowledge, Technologies and Beliefs). Her new research focuses on contemporary Pagan renewal in Hungary, particularly on the intertwinement of contemporary spirituality and right-wing political orientation in that context. E-mail:

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