Days of Wine and Roses: Spiritism and Alcohol, Self-Control or the Lack Thereof

Alcohol and Spiritual Development?
I was thinking tonight about the ways in which people hurt themselves. “The Days of Wine and Roses” is one of my favorite movies, not because it is upbeat, but because it has a solid message of downfall and redemption. This is a movie about a couple that struggles with the evils of denial and alcoholism.

That same pattern on denial and alcoholism I have seen over and over again in people who have an obvious talent for physical mediumship, but who succumb to the evils of alcoholism in the process of developing mediumship. Granted, seeing someone destroy their life in the process of seeking to develop mediumship is extreme, but sadly it is not really rare.

I think I am becoming a skeptic when it comes to spiritual development. I do not question the need to develop spiritual talents, what I am openly questioning and challenging are the methods that some folks use to bring about physical mediumship and the potentially detrimental results these often times have in those so-called mediums.

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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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One Year, Many Oddús: A Comparative Table for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States (Miami and New Jersey)

Rituals are of great importance in the Lukumí and Ifá practices, particularly those that are designed to serve as a religious compass or framework for the community at large. Each year docens of Ifá priests gather to determine which are the oddús or signs that are to set the tone for the year and what are the recommendations to avoid misfortune and maximize opportunities.

The following table provides a snapshot of such results for Cuba, Puerto Rico and for two cities of the United States. More tables will be posted soon gathering the results for other countries.

Double click on the table to be able to see it in full.

Have a blessed 2012 and remember to stay true to your eggun and to traditions.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

One Year, Many Oddús: Letra del Año 2012 for Puerto Rico and Cuba

Flag for Oddu of the Year, Puerto Rico 2012
One would wonder why there is a need to determine an Oddú of the year in each country where Santeria and Ifá are practiced, and sometimes, there is more than one oddú determined per country. Such is the case of the United States where the oddú of the year or ‘la letra de año’ is determined in California and in Miami. The other case is Cuba where two different groups of Babalawos also perform this yearly ritual.

There could be a simple explanation, or a few complicated ones. The simple route dictates that each country has particular regional challenges that need to be address as a community; this could also apply to vast countries like the U.S. A second point of view could lean towards which group is sanctioned by the political party in control versus the group which has been determining the oddú for five decades and has grandfather status, mass approval and the clout of respect and credibility that follows.

Be that as it may, the oddú of the year for Puerto Rico and Cuba made me think today of the most famous poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tió titled “Cuba y Puerto Rico son”. This poem compares Puerto Rico and Cuba with the wings of a bird, a bird that is wounded or that receives accolades over a shared heart. What would it be, accolades or wounds? That is still to be seen, but it all depends on the attitude and behavioral changes that the inhabitants of these countries apply over the next twelve months.

However, if matters continue to develop in Puerto Rico like they have, with an upsurge in the crime rate, increased abuse against children, promiscuity galore and the tarnishing of our religious beliefs, the course is set from the start for a disastrous year.

Cubans have their own set of challenges to face as a people and nation, and, I will not list them as I have not spent time there to speak from direct experience. I can speak about what Puerto Ricans face because I am a Puerto Rican who got tired of the day-to-day situation in the Island and the lack of resolve and direction to correct it.

That said, 2012 seems to be shaping as a year or trials and tribulations for both countries based on the Oddús determined today by the Council of Babalawos from the Yoruba Temple in Puerto Rico and the Lázaro Cuesta Organizing Commission of the Oddú of the Year in Cuban. However, I will let you draw your own conclusions based on this summary I am about to present.

Here is a summary of readings, more details such as the flags and ebbós are forthcoming:

Oddú 2012 Comparison Table P.R. and Cuba

In the days to follow I will post other oddús for other countries as they become available. In the meantime, I do welcome the interpretation from awós regarding their perspectives on the social, political and religious points of view associated with these two oddús from Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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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The Case of the Burning Rooster: When Politics, Money and Religion Ride in the Same Cart the Whirlwind Follows

The Case of the Burning Rooster
I am a fanatic of Frank Herbert’s Dune and it is through the words of his character Rev. Mother Ramallo that I have summarized an issue facing us as religious community, the tendency to prostitute religious practices for material gain and the inherent lack of judgment it unchains in many.

The original quote reads “When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows,” however, in our case, there is yet another volatile element added to the mix, it is called MONEY.

Everything we do in our religious practices is under a magnifying glass. This is a reality that we cannot escape. Our struggle to defend religious freedom and the right to animal sacrifice have seen its day in court not once but two times. The first time was in the Supreme Court case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah and recently, in the Merced v. City of Euless. Both cases meant blood, sweat and tears for those who championed them, Oba Ernesto Pichardo and my godfather Jose R. Merced. It is thanks to their efforts that we can seek shelter in the law to practice animal sacrifice, but this must be done within the boundaries of the same law that protects us.

Here are more realities we have to live with, African Traditional Religions (ATR) are misunderstood, stereotyped and perceived by the greater majority of people in the world as superstitios practices and not real religions. Therefore, when practitioners of Palo, Santeria and Voodoo or any other ATR step out of boundary and commit acts that shine a negative light over our communities, it is imperative to take action and to analyze the situation as a community. Only those who are initiates and who belong to our communities have the right to determine the course of action that will steer us. Outsiders are free to their opinions but to me that is where the buck stops as I do not rule myself by their criticism, motivations or ideas.

Furthermore, money is not a motivating factor in my religious convictions, practices or blog opinions. I do not use my religion as money-making machine, nor I have clients or read for clients. Fine if others do, but know that when they peddle religion as a good or service they run the risk of missteps and colossal lack of judgments like the one I am about to discuss.

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Becoming a Godparent in Santería, What´s the Hurry?

In a Hurry to Reproduce?

Santería is a religion with a great deal of complexities, protocols and a rather systematic developmental approach related to the formation of its oloshas. However, ambition, communication trends and the hurried pressure of modern life are taking a rather dangerous toll on our communities.

The issue at hand is the hurry that new oloshas have to scratch the itch to ‘crown’ or initiate individuals, when they have barely come out of their own iyawó year. There are steps that iyawós must complete in order to even show their faces inside of a room where an initiation is about to take place.
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Encouraging Self-Expression and Orisha Art

Eleguá by Omimelli

The orishas manifest themselves in many ways. Some people are talented diloggún readers; they can divine with ease, grace and go beyond traditional interpretations to find new perspectives to help others see their way in life. Some others have a flair for ritual or a blessed memory to remember and share knowledge those who surround them. Then there are those whose sense of style and eye for colors help us to add elegance in the form of gorgeous thrones, initiatory tools, beading and clothes.

However, there are many more ways to express creativity in our ilés and certainly elders initiates should set a living example either by finding ways to manifest their creative gifts as well as by motivating godchildren and abures (olosha brothers and sisters) to express themselves.

As I prepared to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with my family, I started to device ways of having fun with my children. This household is always busy with either secular or religious activity, thus it is seldom that we get time to share and I wanted to make it special. I headed to the nearest art supply store with the boys and decided to encourage their artistic side. As I watched the youngest one select an immense box of crayons, coloring books and a sketch book I started to remember how much I enjoyed doodling when I was little.

You have got to love that cute cowrie face!

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Santería and Marriage: How to Increase Chances of Success

Shared Passion and Religion Strengthens a Marriage
The success rate in Santería marriages has not been, to my knowledge, officially studied and measured. However, it is common wisdom that people who share a common faith have more chances of success than those who do not.

Over coffee this morning, my husband and I started to reminisce about our life together. It has been nearly 16 years since we married. Our journey together started by with a simple question. “Do you know anything about Santeria?” We had just met at a party and he learned that I was from Puerto Rico. The conversation took off to a great start. We discovered many spiritual and mundane common interests and our relationship bloomed both spiritually and romantically.

In time I devoted my life to Yemayá and him to Obatalá. Life has tested our marriage in many ways and it is the Egun and the Orishas who keep us strong together as a family by providing us the guidance to overcome obstacles and the wisdom to follow advice even when sometimes it may not be exactly as we have foreseen.

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Lessons in Learning Spiritual Traditions

Teaching, easier said than done
Life´s lessons come from unexpected sources. Recently I had the opportunity to learn a most unexpected and valuable lesson from a person who I entrusted to be my teacher. I was surprised by an overreaction that can only be described with one word: Rudeness.

Rudeness in my book is simply an inner reflection of fears and lack of spiritual advancement. Rudeness does not know the value of temperance; it also does not know when to seek clarification and when to lash out like a bull in a china shop. Rudeness is weakness.

However, in the face of such reprehensible behavior my reaction which can be hot tempered surprised me even more, for it was one of forgiveness. Once the initial shock of the outrage wore out, I felt truly sorry for my teacher. Here is a person with so much to share yet blinded by ego and a fundamental lack of care in the way lessons and corrective courses of action are shared with students.

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…Be Inspired!    "Focussing on the experience, not the dogma"