Ways of being, subjects and affection: the participation of plants in the composition of umbanda mediuns
Abstract This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork, carried out in an Umbanda temple placed in São Paulo city (Brazil). It analyzes the process of ‘becoming religious’ through engagement, contact and contagion that Umbanda followers set up with plants. The argument is built on reports of beginners—called ‘developing mediums’—mães and pais-de-santo and their experiences of feeling, perceiving and allowing the action of plants in the composition of their states and ways of being. The reports shared in this ethnography seek to show that, while the Umbanda followers collect, pray and prepare their plants to be used in their daily practices, as a way of self-elaboration (or, closer to the Umbanda temple language, to ‘self-develop’), the plants also develop themselves through humans: they promote meetings and constructions from their own (and autonomous) skills. In this process, it is up to humans to accept and teach the younger people a certain education and perception of affection caused by plants in the composition of what they are.