What Is Espiritismo?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

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.

Indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico created the medicine on which espiritismo is based.
Indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico created the medicine on which espiritismo is based.

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.

Espiritistas might use tarot cards for divination.
Espiritistas might use tarot cards for divination.

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.

Espiritismo derives in part from ancestor worship, which has long been practiced by many indigenous African tribes.
Espiritismo derives in part from ancestor worship, which has long been practiced by many indigenous African tribes.
Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

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Discussion Comments


@ ana: Incorrect and semantics. The exterior cult as you describe is from the Caribbean people who mixed spiritualism with their beliefs.


Espiritismo or spiritualism does not do animal sacrifice, What you are describing is the religion of yoruban people. Some in the lucumi faith also practice espiritismo, which is a separate idea.


A lot of this information is incorrect. Spiritism doesn't believe in good and evil spirits, but that spirits are created simple and ignorant and can choose their path through life, good or evil. So they can be good or evil, because they, or we, have free will. But all spirits are perfectible, or will achieve perfection and happiness in the path of life, through evolution, which is inevitable. We, spirits, are created to become, one day, relatively perfect. And I say relatively because no spirit can become a god, or as perfect as God.

Espiritismo, or Spiritism, does not accept rituals, as this article leads one to believe. Anything that involves altars, seances, etc., is not encouraged by Espiritismo/Spiritism, because it is not necessary. However, Spiritism does believe, and encourages incessantly, the practice of prayer, which can be one of the best tools to connect one to God and to good spirits. No recipes, rituals, etc, are needed to achieve that connection, or any deed in life, for that matter. One only needs to believe and act upon that belief.

What is being described in this article is Spiritualism, and not Spiritism, as the word "Espiritismo" or "Spiritism" was actually created by Spiritist's codifier, Allan Kardec, and therefore cannot be used to describe other types of spiritualist religions, such as those that include voodoo, and other ritualistic religions. For more thorough information, one who is interest in Spiritism should consult the basic work of the Spiritist doctrine, organized (or as I said before, codified) by Allan Kardec. Those works include five books, which follow: "The Spirits' Book," "The Gospel Explained by The Spiritist Doctrine," "The Mediums' Book," "Heaven and Hell" and finally "The Genesis According to Spiritism." Other complimentary works by various mediums are also available, but for a starter, the most important ones are in the Pentateuch.


@alFredo - Seeing colors for people's energy fields or from people's energy fields is called seeing their aura, and that may be a part of some Espiritismo cultures secondary to the fact that there are so many different sects of Espiritismo.

But from what I read it is a part of purely psychic cultures. The aura colors all have meanings, but what I find interesting is that most colors have a positive or neutral meaning very few have a negative connotation.

For example, a blue aura is said to mean feelings, emotion, and smarts and yellow is positivity, youth, and dreaming.

I wonder what my aura would be?!


I have never seen anyone in person practice this religion, but I find it interesting that it borrows traditions from many other religions as it seems like most religions seem to borrow practices from each other as well as stories!

For example, I found out in the movie "Religulous" that the story about Noah and his ark actually has similar stories in other religions, I am not sure if there is any consensus on which story came first but I do not think that makes it more true or less true of a story, just an interesting fact about it.

I have heard of people being able to see people's energy fields via colors around them, is this a part of Espiritismo?


Does this have anything to do with the rise of spiritualism and interest in the occult in the Britain and America in the late 19th century?

I have seen a few programs on television about this period of history and the strange fascination with seances, spirits and unexplained spectral phenomenon.It is really interesting, and more than a little bit creepy. They even performed seances in the White House.

As far as I know though this did not really have a rebellious component so maybe they were not related. I suppose that over time lots of different groups with lots of different motivations have tried to talk to the dead.


So this is essentially the same idea as the ouija board right? There is a spirit world that exists and we can access it from our own if we just have the right tools or process.

Well, in that case I guess I am a believer. I messed around a lot with ouija boards in high school and college and even a few times in my adult life and I can't deny that there is something freaky going on. I even did it a few times by myself just to be sure that no one else was pushing it and I got a real response.

Now I'm not dumb enough to believe that I am really talking to a ghost sitting around in some afterlife answering the questions of some kid who has drank too much mountain dew. But I know something was happening, something greater than the people or place or time we were in. I think there is an energy there or a power. Maybe that is the first step towards spiritualism.


I don’t believe in Santeria which is an Afro-Cuban ritualistic type of religion that is similar to espiritismo. I grew up in a Cuban-American household as a Roman Catholic and never had any interest in this type of religion.

I do know that many of these people that believe in Santeria usually buy supplies that ward off these evil spirits from a store called a Botanica. They have them all over Miami. I think that the beliefs in this religion came more from the rural parts of Cuba.

The people that practice this religion tend to dress all in white and have even sacrificed animals in the name of their religion. I stay away from these people because some claim to also be psychic. A friend of mine went to see a psychic that also practiced Santeria and I felt they were taking advantage of her.

They kept telling her negative information so that she would be so scared that she had to continue coming back to see what was going to happen. In the meantime they were charging her every time she when which just made me a little skeptical.

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