Appropriation from African Traditional Religions

grew up in the hood (2)In the modern internet-based society, cultural appropriation from African Traditional Religions occurs often in my opinion. Everything from eclectic Paganism adopting deities, to commercial Conjure claims of being an expert on Orisa traditions, to Neopagan Vodou have collectively jumped on the bandwagon of adopting practices derived from African religions. The argument can be made that persons seeking or claiming enlightenment do so with a clean heart and good intentions. There is nothing wrong with seeking truth.

Unfortunately seeking truth is not always what happens. If you need a tooth pulled, going to a student intern who read a book on dentistry and decided to begin yanking teeth for pay with rusty vice-grips seems to me like asking for pain and trouble. Appropriation is a spiritual equivalent.

One symptom of appropriation is the monetary aspect. Yes our beloved ATR faiths do charge for certain things and rightly so. It takes time, hard work, and experience to learn the correct way of doing things within each House or group. Derechos (fees) have to be paid. Would a person consult an expert in any other field without having to pay, or a doctor? However, monetary goals seem to be at the forefront of appropriation-based issues especially from commercial internet shop owners. Fraudulent “Damballah Elekes”, “Oya grave dirt bottles”, “Yemaya La Sirene Mojos” and “Pomba Gira Homosexual Love Gris Gris bags” among other silly things seem to be increasing on the internet in my opinion. This is an unfortunate aspect of appropriation as far as fabrication of things that do not exist within the traditions being supposedly drawn upon. Caveat Emptor, indeed.
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Lady Pomba Gira, The Great Witch – Who is She?

Maria Padilha


Pomba Gira: the name has a deep mystique. Pronounced “Pohm-ba Shira”, this Brazilian female entity has a huge body of lore of her amongst the followers of Umbanda, Kimbanda, and Candomblé. She is also revered by many lay people both in Brasil and elsewhere. Her cult is undoubtedly growing in this modern time of connected communication. She is considered a “hot” and powerful spirit and can be dangerous to work with. Her lore is complex.

In order to understand Her, it is important to understand what she is not first. She is not an Orixa, a Loa, a succubus, or an angel. Although certain correspondences of energy do exist in different bodies of lore (the most common being her associated with the Klepoth) the Lady is entirely her own entity. She is not some weak new-agey entity with vaguely good intentions, nor is she entirely the devil some make her out to be.

In many ways, she is the female counterpart to Exu as given by her title Exua. She is a Lordly (or Queenly) spirit of great power, force, and puissance. She is the Great Witch, the representation of the power hidden within all women. She is a mistress of transformation, witchcraft, love, healing, and divination among many, many others. She is a warrioress that loves to spill the blood of her enemies. Her nature is born of fire and earth. One of her Pontos (sung invocations) describes Her as “Having seven husbands.” In essence, no one owns Her.

She can also be associated with “marginal” female behavior such as prostitution, drinking, sexual freedom, rejection of male control, and lewd behavior. Her nature can vary from kind to stern. She is difficult to pin down to any rigid definition by her very nature. She can be totally enchanting and quite terrifying at the same time. She is the best of allies, and also the worst of enemies. She represents the “lower soul” and the quintessential Free Woman. She represents freedom from oppression and slavery in Her own way.

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Exu de Quimbanda, Master of Reality

Ponto Riscado Exu Pimenta
Exu. Pronounced “Eshoo” in the Portuguese, this powerful entity is of an Afro-Brazilian origin born of the energies of fire and earth. The title Exu refers to both a Lordly Spirit of that name, as well as the elevated legions of deceased members of the cultus that return to “work” as Exus, also known as “Exu-Eguns.” Exu and the classification of “Exus” are entities born of the soil, heart, and Spirits of Brazil and those who came to her shores.

Portuguese deportees and enslaved Africans brought their “demons” and familiars with them and shared with other outside groups, such as native Brazilians and Latin American peoples. Exus exists within several African based traditions, including Quimbanda, Umbanda, Candomble, Batuque, Catimbo, and some lesser-known traditions. In a very real way Exu is the “God of Brazilian Witchcraft.”

His domains are the crossroads, forests, cemeteries, riverbanks, streets, beaches, the night, and other liminal spaces and times. Exu’s number is generally three, although some of the particular manifestations of the legions of Exus like may differ. In general the Exus like red palm oil, the colors red and black, roosters, cigars, various forms of hard liquors, chilies, coconuts, gunpowder, feathers, and are associated with the Trident. The Trident represents many mysteries; including past, present, and future as well as being a weapon to defeat enemies. One Exu in possession was asked about the trident, and his response was, “I use it to shovel the filth off of humanity.”

Exu is not a demon, a Lwa, an Angel, a Devil, a “thought form”, or a Grimoiric spirit. Much has been made of syncretizing the various Exus with Grimoiric or Goetic entities but yet they remain their own separate Spirit beings. There is a similarity perhaps as well as a European connection through the spirits absorbed into Quimbanda from largely Portuguese deportees, many of whom had been accused of witchcraft in the Old World. This is not the Orixa of the same name, although there may be some deeper connection between the two as expected from spirits with African cultural roots known to be tricksters.

He is the Messenger of the Gods, a mighty warrior, a master magician, a trickster, a great seer, and a sort of “Astral Police.” Exu has the power to make you happy- or to destroy you. He does either with great facility. He continually loves to test the backbone of those who approach him. One of his main lessons to those who work with him is that of self-mastery. He continually challenges a person to improve themselves once they have invited him into their lives. He also has the ability to punish those that fail to develop good character and abuse his power to the detriment of their collective society. Exu is not an entity to be approached frivolously, with disrespect, or by those in poor mental health for obvious reasons.

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