A collection of ConjureMan Ali's thoughts about magic, the occult, and spirituality.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pomba Gira: Mistress of Witchcraft

Pomba Gira, the Mistress of Witchcraft, is a spirit veiled in mystery and magic. She forms one part of the principle spirits called upon in Quimbanda though she also makes an appearance in the other Afro-Brazilian cults. Her nature, like that of her counterpart is often a mystery revealed only to those who are her devotees and initiates.

To the outsider she is known as the Lover and Mistress of the Devil; a woman of the night who embodies sensuality and witchcraft.  But to her initiates she is the wise sorceress born from a legacy of African necromancy and European witchcraft.

It is theorized that the etymology of “Pomba Gira” can be traced back to the Kongo spirit of the crossroads, Bombojila who known by some as Aluvaia. How the rather masculine figure of Aluvaia became Pomba Gira, a decidedly female spirit, rests in the nature of Aluvaia as containing both sexes. Some depictions of this spirit often showed both male and female combined into one figure.

Along with this connection to the Kongo spirit of the crossroads, the figure of Pomba Gira is also linked to the concept of the African witch. Any syncretism between the iyami and Pomba Gira would be misleading, but certainly the idea behind the African witches can be seen as the spiritual ancestor to Pomba Gira. She is the force of woman that is lethal in its power and mighty in sorcery, a nearly inhuman force of the night. From this springs the image of Pomba  Gira as a serpent descending from a tree in the middle of the crossroads.

Her European heritage can be found in the figure of the red witches of Spain and Portugal. Women who worked malefic magic for love and destruction and who find their epitome in Maria Padilha, the legendary sorceress and mistress of royalty whose name is immortalized in incantations that call upon her alongside devils and demons. The red witches, like Maria Padilha were famed for their mastery of gypsy potions and poisons, and for their mastery of the magic of the Moors and the necromancy of the ngangas.

And it is through this melding of the red witch schooled in the magics of Africa with the inhuman night witch of the West African people birthed in the fires of the crossroads ruled by Bombojila that Brazilian Pomba Gira is born.

While both Exu and Pomba Gira are deeply connected to their African roots, Pomba Gira in her various incarnations is a true spirit of Brazil. Like the nation that birthed her, she is rooted in Africa, accepts a European influence, and yet retains her own unique identity.  

Pomba Gira is legion, and like her counterpart, she is the collective of the sorcerous spirits of witches and priestess of Quimbanda, nurtured in fire and found in her respective queendoms of crossroad, tavern, ocean, forest, and cemetery among other such places of power. Her power rests in the liminal tied to the fires that spark in the night. Sometimes called Exu Woman, she is in reality no one’s woman, but her own. She represents the free woman whose powerful sexuality is both a seductive lure to men and a threat to patriarchal society which seeks to label her.

The vulgar see her as a whore to be bought, but the wise recognize her as Woman unfettered by the restraints of society and brimming with sexual potency and sorcery. She is sex for the purpose of sex, love for the purpose of love, and best knows the human heart with all its woes and troubles. To those who come with these woes to her, she offers quick solutions bringing them the love that they desire while offering them solace and comfort.

She is a demanding and voluptous mistress whose path truly is harsh. Born from a mingling of blood, fire, and sulfur, Pomba Gira is a force that sometimes defies definition and challenges you to see beyond the restrictions our socialized mind puts on her. Approaching her can be dangerous to the uninitiated for she is fiercely protective of her cult and will destroy those who try to circumvent it, though after she takes you for a ride.

While her magic is capable of anything, she is particularly skilled in all matters dealing with women, the erotic, and love. She combines her sensuality with her sorcery in the most lethal of witchcrafts; with a look she can inspire lust and love in the hearts of even the coldest of humans, or lay waste to her enemies.  She is the crossroads where death, love, and sex meet.

Where Exu is met at the four-way crossroads, Pomba Gira rules the T-crossroads. When her devotees call she arrives in a flurry of skirts to grant prophecy and work magic. Each Pomba Gira has their own tastes, but generally enjoys roses without thorns, wines, champagne, cigarillos, ribbons, fruit and fine cloths and jewels.  But for those who attempt to use her as a whore, or appropriate her from her cult, she’ll feast on them rather than the offerings.

There have been some attempts by North American and European practitioners to appropriate her into Thelemic circles as Babylon, or by others (like the so-called New Orleans Voodoo practitioners) as a Sacred Feminine. These attempts are based off incorrect ideas about her and contrary to her nature. She is neither Babylon nor is she some love goddess. She is a legion of spirits who in addition to love and sex is associated with death and destruction. Such appropriations are not only incorrect, but potentially lethal for they assume that she can be approached by anyone. She cannot. She is a demanding spirit who will burn those who dare to try to use her.

To those she takes as her devotees she is the oracular serpent of the crossroads whose words of truth bring wisdom and whose magic can weave the threads of destiny in their favor.

She is Queen, She is Legion, She is Pomba Gira. Sarava Pomba Gira!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Exu: Master of Magic

One of the primary spirits worked with in Quimbanda is Exu, the Lord of Magic who is surrounded with much mystery. The nature of Exu (pronouched “Eshoo”) is complicated to behold and often his reality is hidden as a mystery of the cult and revealed only to the devotees who fully initiate into those mysteries. Outsiders wishing to glimpse his mysteries will at best be granted but an iota of his Truth and at worse taken for a ride for lacking the proper spiritual backing (initiation and proper guidance) in approaching him. Note that Exu, despite the name he has adopted, is not the Eshu or Ellegua of the Yoruban traditions. If nothing else, Exu can be seen as the Lord of Reality and the Master of Macumba for his ability to carry out spells and works of sorcery are truly unparalleled.
Some Kimbandieros view Exu as the manifestation and emanation of Aluvaia and therefore is the first child of Nsambi the creator, who created Aluvaia to reach into the darkness with his fire and go where even Nsambi could not.  In this view, Quimbanda can be seen as the descendent of the Kongo and Angolan cults of Aluvaia and Kalunga who are transformed into Exu and Omolu/Xapana respectively in Brazil.
Through his association with Aluvaia, Exu is the force of creation, transformation, movement, and the power to change destiny. He represents the contact between the world of the unfathomable and the power to access that world. He is a being with one foot in both worlds and therefore is the lynchpin of creation and as such its shaper. Through him the Tata can work powerful magic that change the very destinies of man and transform reality.
In addition to being associated with these primal forces, Exu is also the sum of the dead priests of the cult; the ancestral teachers of Quimbanda who have passed on and returned to guide other devotees. Through this his nature can be seen as similar to the calundu spirits of Angola and the nkuyu of Kongo.  They are spirits who have resonated with the fire of Quimbanda throughout the river time and become sparks of creation through which reality is born into existence. Exu is the primal and chthonic spirit of fire who embodies the night and brings creation even into the darkest of realms while drawing his spark from the infernal and primordial. In this way he is like the saint but inversed. Where the saint withdraws from life and ascends with Light, Exu wades into life and brings the Light of creation into the world. In fact, where other spirits of the African Diaspora adopted the saints as their masks, Exu’s fire could only be contained in the mask of devils and demons complete with horns and tridents. Such is part of his mystery and the taking on of such devilish masks reveals a hint of the true depths of his fire.

Exu is the guardian that stands at all places of power, representing the liminal state between this and that. We find him at the crossroads, in the forest, at the cemetery, doorways, at taverns and even along shorelines; wherever there is an exchange, a change, or movement. He is at every place where the worlds meet and sparks fly. He is the power that has been birthed by Nsambi that connects the material world with the world of spirit. He incarnates from time to time into life while inspiring the lives of others. 
Exu is a spirit of night, fire, and sorcery. He is truly legion and his power to work magic and transform the very fabric of reality makes him among the most powerful and effective forces in the universe. He is tied directly to the passions and desires of man, linked to our psyche, especially our shadow. Because of this, walking his path is a line that can lead those weak of character or those easily swayed and obsessive into madness and insanity.  But to those individuals of unshakable character and whose spirit burn with fire, Exu can uplift them into lofty states granting wisdom and purging transformation. To those he takes as his people, he stands as guardian, guide, and worker of miracles. To his enemies, he can truly be a devil that unleashes unstoppable devestation.

And so Exu can be seen as the spirit, born first of Nsambi, tied to Aluvaia and the spirits of dead sorcerers and Tatas, who embodies the purging and searing flames of the infernal sparking through the darkness of night to bring life and power to creation called upon the living sorcerers of Quimbanda to work magic, mystery, and power.
When he manifests in the temple, or Nzo/Nzila he comes down in a blaze. He speaks truth and power to those with the courage to listen and gives solace and strength to those who seek him out. At the time of power when the clock strikes midnight he roars into life, dancing, drinking, smoking and granting his blessings and mysteries to the worthy. Sometimes he is the keeper of riddles and at times a trickster, but always he is a force of transformation and growth.

Through his priests and mediums he receives his children who seek out his help. To some he gives a word of advice, others he grants boons, and to others he carries out works of magic to save them from the hardships of their lives. Whether it is love, money, protection, or vegeance, Exu accepts them all and grants without judgement, but always with wisdom for he understands the plight of man. 

Each Exu is divided into various legions according to the Kingdom they are found in and the Line to which they belong-- a subject to which attention will be given to later-- but for now it is sufficient to see Exu as the primal force that first stirred the waters of creation and who is legion in number and terrible in might.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Interview with Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold at Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole

Check out this great interview with Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold at Deeper Down the Rabbit Hole. Nick is an initiate of several ATRs and is one of the best modern occult authors on traditional craft, Palo, and Kimbanda.

Check out the interview here where he gives an excellent introduction into Kimbanda and discusses Pomba Gira and his amazing book Pomba Gira and the Quimbanda of Mbumba Nzila.