Spiritism, known as Espiritismo in Spanish, is the religious belief in the power and ability of spirits to affect human life. This type of spiritualism is practiced by many Caribbean peoples, as well as citizens of Latin America. Practitioners believe that both good and evil spirits exist, and that both types of supernatural beings are able to affect the health and luck of human beings at will.
Espiritismo is based on the traditional medicine of indigenous peoples from areas such as Puerto Rico. It also consists of more modern elements, however, such as those from Spiritualism, a single-god religion that developed in the 1840s. Spiritualism included the belief that people who died had the power to influence human life once they entered the spirit world.
Practitioners of Espiritismo are known as Espiritistas. Many Espiritistas come from a long line of other ancient spiritual traditions, such as ancestor worship practiced by Native American and African indigenous tribes. Some believers in Espiritismo claim to be able to speak with spirits, typically when gathered with other believers who can communicate with the supernatural world. They conduct these sessions of communication in a seance-like meeting known as a misa.
Like many other monotheistic religions, Espiritismo is based on the existence of one supreme deity. Practitioners consider this god to be an all-powerful being who created the universe. How practitioners celebrate or worship this creator, however, differs widely, as there is no recognized central leader or guide to the religion. Many Espiritistas simply collect different practices and rituals from other religions, creating an agglomerate practice including tenets from Vodou, Roman Catholicism, Santeria, and other belief systems.
The ability to communicate with the spirits in Espiritismo is known as psychic ability, grace, or by other terminology. Many Espiritistas, who believe themselves to have these gifts, require that they should not be spoken of, as their spirit guides could get angry. Some also believe that speaking about their spirit guides may give other spirits consent to take their gifts away. Espiritistas may utilize many traditional channels of divination to communicate with their spirit guides, such as tarot cards. Others may simply use rituals, such as group dancing or drumming, to channel their spirit guides through their own bodies.
Use of altars, prayers, and other traditional religious components are common among Espiritistas, though every family of practitioners varies from the next. Some branches of the faith focus on healing members of the community. Exorcisms also take place in some Espiritismo rituals.