In order to start working with Quimbanda it is useful to make an effort to know your personal spirits and those spirits benign towards you. This knowledge is commonly revealed in a gira or session at the intervention of a Tata or Yaya that is already in connection with their guardian spirits able to see and discern the spirits that gravitates towards a given person.
It is my belief that these spirits seen by the Tata or Yaya during a consult, session or gira are spirits that was with the person in question from birth, that the Exus and Pomba Giras in their capacity of being guardians of places of power will also guard our soul as a place of power. These personal spirits do reflect in the mirror of the soul, hence one’s Exu and Pomba Gira is often referred to as a Tata and a Yaya, given the bond between spirit guardians and the soul awaiting this knowledge.
We might see this as a way of understanding from where we are coming, as our personal spirits do reflect facets and aspects of us that we are aware of or try to hide. Nevertheless these qualities are with us and what we accept and deny as a part of us is still with us no matter denial or acceptance.
What is often seen is the expectation of having some powerful badass Exu or Pomba Gira as ones personal patron. If expectation is met a new challenge present itself as much as having a spirit perceived as ‘inferior’ or ‘obscure’. No matter if you are a working class woman wanting a Queen in your life or you are a necromancer horny for Omolu or Meia Noite and realize that your Exu is something completely different, a soul search should start if the expectation is rewarded or punished. To have a Queen as your patron can be as challenging as having an Exu Pagão as your patron, the dynamic is always the same, to call you into awareness of who you are and where you are.
When I gained knowledge of my personal spirits a profound increase in awareness of Self was caused and albeit with some initiate resistance I understood that this was myself teaching myself about mysteries important for my understanding of Self. It was strange times and the dreams were even stranger. A battle between confusion and understanding was instigated as I saw myself in my personal spirits in the form of a conglomerate of likes and dislikes. This went on for quite some time, until acceptance and understanding held hand with willingness.
Our personal Exu and Pomba Gira mirrors who we are in glasses darkly and brightly and we have a work to do there in a wide array of arenas. Some of us experience an immediate repulse of our personal spirit when it is revealed. This reaction just takes the pulse of our self awareness and addresses our lack of comprehension. For instance, if an Exu like Ganga/Mulambo is coming up in your session and you realize that this Exu is related to garbage, what people throws away. You might enter into the entire garbage thing, which is a good spiritual exercise, but hopefully you will realize that a spirit like this is guarding a specific power that has to do with giving value and transforming this garbage into fertile soil. When these sentiments rises themselves and we enter into a field of negativism it is always because of a lack of understand and a failure in our appreciation and understanding. Our personal spirits agrees with us and they challenge us, they serve as an awakening to realize who we are so we can understand Self and Fate better. So in concluding this analogy, Exu Ganga will enter your life question you if you are shit or if you have what takes to transform shit into something fertile and miraculously wonderful.
Then we have the spirits referred to as ‘working spirits’. They are not mirrors of who we are, but friendly spirits that do challenge us as our personal spirits do, but they are also spirits disposed to work for us no matter if it is good or bad for us. They are tricky friends, the kind of friend that never objects to your will and desire, but do what you want, no questions asked. But at some point you will ask the question and your working spirit will just say, ‘I did what you wanted’, and in this a different challenge is presented. These spirits are drawn to us by some sort of affinity, they are not mirrors of the soul, but variations of friends, and in this they remind us about the delicate order we find in the social world where friend meets friend and where a friend makes a foe as a foe makes a friend.
Spirit friends can be as deceptive as human friends. Sure they are turned towards making favours, but they give a social challenge and question how you deal with relations that gravitate towards you in following your wishes. Indeed they are tricky, but in their trickiness they also mirror how tricky you can be with your world and environment. It is all about you, but in a different level, the social. You as the one you are, the one you think you are and the one you act out in the world are always so different that they meet...
Surely, Quimbanda is about Self awareness, but it is also about smartness and the failure of being smart. It is about the lesson of the street and tavern, the wrong card played in the face of five aces and what it teaches you, as much as realizing that a immature demand do tend to explode under your left big toe. The working spirit is your true friend, the one that never question, but is ever willing to speak after you made a choice that just brought hurt. In giving a demand and reaping misfortune we often accuse the messenger – but this is only another form of self accusation.
Quimbanda is at root about becoming aware and assume responsibility. We have our mirrors and we have our friends, the personal spirits and the working spirits all have in common that they seek to challenge us to be the guardian of our soul and life, no matter what it takes... because they truly care, as genuine mirrors and true friends...