Brazil buzzes with end-of-the-world rumor

Associated Press, August 11, 1999
By Any Cabrera

EDT VALE DO AMANHECER, Brazil -- End-of-the-world superstition is sweeping Brazil, sending residents in search of sanctuary or revelry as they prepare for tidal waves, cosmic clouds or other forms of apocalypse that some think will accompany today's solar eclipse.

Many Brazilians have traveled to this quiet valley deep in the central high plains, looking for the Christian Spiritualist Order, a mystic sect founded by a truck driver known as Aunt Neiva.

"People are arriving to take refuge in our community to save themselves,'' said Altamir Damiao, a high official of the Order. "This end-of-the-world movement is positive because people are stopping to reflect and seek God.''

Still, Damiao tells visitors there is nothing to fear, at least for now.

"August 11 will be the same as any other day,'' he said, as hundreds of followers performed a "ritual of harmony'' at a small lake flanked by statues of Jesus and Yemanja, an African sea goddess. "The world will not end.''

But Brazil is abuzz with the rumors and speculation. Astrologers make predictions, fanatics flagellate themselves, and many plan to take advantage of the fuss for a midweek party.

"People talk about nothing else,'' said a newscaster on Globo TV, Brazil's largest network. "Is this the end?''

In the northeastern state of Pernambuco, an "end-of-the-world party'' over the weekend brought hundreds of revelers who spent the night dancing, bungee jumping or simply drinking until they dropped.

The fashionable nightclubs of Rio's beachfront district scheduled parties for Tuesday night with themes like "An Invitation from Nostradamus'' and "The Last Supper.''

In the drought-ravaged state of Ceara, Jose de Jesus assembled 13 followers and set off through the outback, whipping himself with wire and preaching that fire would consume the earth.

The National Observatory in Rio reported a flood of queries by callers asking if the end was at hand. The Roman Catholic Church in Brazil wrote on its Internet page that the prophecies of the 16th century seer

Nostradamus were vague and "shouldn't be seen as divine revelations.''


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