Enchanted in the middle of the people: The presence of the Prophet Saint John Mary in Santa Catarina

30/04/2020 11:40

Tânia Welter’s book will interest many readers. Her light and fluent prose stimulates us to read and to reflect on the take us through a contemporary universe in which religiosity linked to a holy figure who passes through social classes, religions and ethnicities. Stimulated by her own experience as a researcher and teacher, Tânia Welter arrives at the figure of João Maria without stopping at an exploration history of the monk João Maria and of the Contestado War, theme so widely treated by various researchers. Before, it explores the contemporaneity of the universe of social relations that it calls “Joanine”: the universe today of the devotees of the monk João Maria. Dialogues, in However, with historians and anthropologists who have dedicated themselves to the subject.

Without neglecting an appropriate methodology, showing the reader its production process, the text is not made in academic jargon restricted. However, the reader will be led to theoretical reflections and from them you’ll enjoy it if you choose to. Here begins the expression of the respect of author with those who are involved or have been involved in her work. In building the Joanine designation for her research universe, Welter is not building an ideal guy. Joanine is, rather, a interpretation device that makes it possible to show characteristics of a multifaceted universe which, as a result, makes it possible to know the extent of the social and cultural value of the figure of the monk to this day, past over 100 years from his death. This amplitude corresponds to a range of “appropriations” of the figure of the monk in rituals that propagate regardless of one’s religious affiliation and in the definition of places sanctified by him. The progressive and relatively fast introduction of Pentecostal churches into a universe primarily catholic did not bring back the devotion to the monk nor the rituals to him related. Welter’s approach opposes the folklorization of the monk and of the historical episode of its origin – the Contestado War (1912-16). Treated by the people of the Joanine universe as the Holy War, it is this is the historical fact to which the memory of John Mary refers. Welter treats also with a deep respect to the people with whom he lived during his long and extensive research work. The research work is a high point of this book, not only for the extent of the covered field but for the care with which the records were made and organized. It is worthy of notes the merit of a Tânia Welter researcher who immersed herself in her field without losing perspective on the goal of his work.

She shows, then, how John Mary is still the figure that justifies family and social structures and even, in certain cases, leads to female empowerment. It shows how the elements that constitute the holiness of John Mary unveil a universe of social values who cross classes, ethnicities and religious backgrounds. It shows how your sanctification by individuals and families leads to identification with the nature by associating the monk with clean waters and fertile fields, and that the perspective of the end of the world is present in many formulations of John Mary as prophet. It also shows that John Mary is a factor of aggregation in peasant struggles and that both political and ecclesiastical power appropriate the figure of the monk in specific ways and on specific occasions.

The book closes with a dense chapter of theoretical reflections that are responsible for the competent handling of field material. On the other hand, they are a stimulus to the birth of new questions and questions to be answered by other researches in the field of religiosity. In this book, in addition to what has been said, the purpose of inciting questions has been fully accomplished. Good answers lead to new questions.

Presentation of the book by Maria Amélia Schmidt Dickie.


WELTER, Tânia. Encantado no meio do povo: a presença do Profeta São João Maria em Santa Catarina. Sao Bonifacio: Edições do Instituto Egon Schaden, 2018.