This religion boasts 800,000 worldwide followers, and they all believe they are ancient aliens who came to help advance humanity and have been reincarnated for generations ever since.
A lot of people have called the group a cult, but with the size they are now, they are starting to be officially classified as a religion by many academics. The religion is named Sunrise Valley, or Vale do Amanhecer in their native language, and they are headquartered in Brazil.
This group borrows from other dogmas and faiths, including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, the Inca, and ancient Egyptian traditions. But that’s not the most unique part of their religion, according to National Geographic.
According to Sunrise Valley followers, extraterrestrial beings landed on Earth 32,000 years ago to advance human civilizations. The beings then returned to Earth through successive incarnations across various cultures and eras. Valley members, known as mediums, believe themselves to be the beings’ latest incarnation, the Jaguars.
Sunrise Valley was established by Neiva Chaves Zelaya, known as Aunt Neiva, in 1959. A widow with four children, she was working as a truck driver in Brasilia, then under construction to replace Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s capital. There, she said, she began to experience psychic episodes, which she later believed to be visits by spirits from the extraterrestrial world.
Neiva said she was primarily guided by Pai Seta Branca, or “Father White Arrow,” a spirit emissary who is depicted in statues and drawings today as a native South American leader.
It’s a fascinating religion, complete with colorful outfits and an interesting origin story, but perhaps most interesting is how quickly it is growing. While Christianity loses its grip on the United States (and maybe the world), this faith system is one of the most quickly growing spiritual groups in Brazil.
Sunrise Valley is one of Brazil’s fastest-growing religious movements, claiming 800,000 followers and 600 affiliated temples globally, according to Kelly Hayes, associate professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Indianapolis.
Still, mainstream society and religious communities in Brazil often shun Sunrise Valley, categorizing them and other spiritualist groups as cults. Tension is especially rife between Valley members and the evangelicals who have built churches near the community, targeting members for conversion. “[The evangelicals] believe Valley members are under the influence of the devils,” Hayes says.
Even in this relatively remote area of Brazil, Christian evangelicals are there trying to convert the natives just because they consider their religion to be a cult. I don’t believe in either faith, but let’s be real and objective here. Are their beliefs really any stranger than believing in a burning bush through which God can speak? Are they crazier than believing God performs miracles and became His own son to sacrifice Himself to… Himself? Hardly.
If nothing else, Sunrise Valley provides some interesting stories and beautiful pictures. There’s value in that if not their irrational beliefs.
(Screenshot via YouTube)