“Among a people who cannot conceive human society without a monarch, the desires of radicals may be expressed in monarchical terms. Among a people who cannot conceive human existence without a religion, radical desires may speak the language of heresy.”
- Hakim Bey
Quite commonly Quimbanda is understood to be a necromantic cult, but it is surely not limited to necromancy or working with the dead per se. Quimbanda works in a greater field of multiple crossroads, vertical and horizontal where star falls into earth and we find golems in clouds. A great bar in truly comprehend what Quimbanda is rests not only in appropriation but how the human organism process experiences, a matter that changes from person to person, from time to time and place to place. Appropriation is an eternal temptation in the work of ‘making sense’, and in this field caution, care and temperance should be exercised.
Because what happens when we integrate ‘the other’ into what already is defined and understood as something of its own? What is brought in will naturally suffer the consequences of having to fit into what is already there. Hence we commit a violation on the other in the name of what is, just like any other tyrant who seeks dominion or a fool that knows no better.
We need to accept that the contemporary human being has tied its social experience to the ideals of rulers and religion and it is to go with or against these factors we become heretics, antinomians, bureaucrats or law-abiding organisms. I dare suggest this is a bias, a paradigm we have ended up not questioning because Freud, Nietzsche and democracy have become a fog for our sight and thus have ended up becoming nails and directions in not only the social compass, but the crossroad of Self. Yes Self, because Ego has in our day and age become something of a demon in its own right. No Ego equals bliss and hence a cult celebrating the Unique must by proxy be demonic. What a travesty. How thick the veils of Maya has covered our sore eyes, because void of Ego we are also void of intent and direction – and so Ego became the devil as a modern paradox in a world of ambition where everyone can be what he or she wants to be. And here comes the sadness of things into play. To want to be what you are not leads to falsity and no matter how much we shout for rights that are supposedly coming along with being born in human form, you either reap illusion or clarity as life moves on.
I dare say that we modern people tend to misappropriate most of our experiences quite frequently because of this fundamental misappropriation we constantly do of Ego, Self and Other. We do this because these are ideas that lies tar thick in the nerves of the world and we accept them as axiomatic truths and on this we spin our world and convictions.
And it is in this field Quimbanda becomes challenging, because here we are speaking of spirits that teach and do, always aimed towards the practitioners Uniqueness. We might see this interaction as the otherness of Exu being seen as a witness to our own coming into being – a process and merging typified by the crossroad. For us the crossroad is a place of choice and change – hence danger and devils is what we find there. We are no longer friends with chance or change and whatever that is not of us, is the enemy resting in the otherness.
It is imperative that we realize that this experience and approach ultimately leads us to perceive freedom as a tyrant and love as something that can only be obtained through antinomian chaos. We need to end these perception and see the Self unique and the Ego that gives intent and direction as something that is established in relationship to ‘the other’ and I mean here, not in relation to psychoanalytic dimensions of superego and id – but in relation to the mysterious that is beyond – this otherness that when we touch it gives us ‘eurekas’ and ‘ahas!’ – and for some bliss and peace. I am speaking of making a war on these concepts you and me simply adopted by being children of the spirit of modernity, because they do bar our understanding for arcane and living traditions like Quimbanda. It is only when this war have been done and won and we find ourselves in the ruins of a world we deconstructed by our own will and power we can use the memory of what once was to give new life and meaning to old signs and symbols and return to its origin. An example of this we find in Haitian Vodou from the area of Goyave, Leogane and Port-au-Prince where images of saints are used as signs for a specific mysté or mystery, hence they are no longer the saint rooted in Christian mythology, but a signpost for a greater complexity of wisdom that can be applied on the saint, but not necessarily… We get easily confused by this kind of ‘order of the other’, but it is important to at least give this deconstruction a chance and allow the devils to move in at each star of the constellation that witnesses the becoming of your Uniqueness.
These concepts hold a tremendous influence on how we should understand the Exus and Pomba Giras of Quimbanda, because what are these spirits really, what is represented in their ‘otherness’, and how can we fathom their witnessing of our Self becoming?
Some houses of Quimbanda speaks of how these spirits we know as Exu and Pomba Gira were arcane spirits assigned the command over all crossroads in the world – and with crossroads we mean every single physical place that possessed power. Clearly a reference to Bruno and his pantheist visions and ideas can be seen here in the way divine afflatus empowers the world and makes it bursting with power. We are speaking of a first principle after merging with a second principle endows the world with power as its offspring.
So, crossroads of power was spread all over the world and on these sites, plants, temples, houses, roads, cemeteries and taverns were erected and became a focus for a given potency or vibration.
Are you following me? Do you realize the fundamental premise in what is the nature of an Exu?
It is a power unique and from its otherness it calls upon the uniqueness of the one who enters into contact with this power by resonance, sign and symbol. We are the otherness to these unique powers and we are one another’s witnesses. And so it follows that upon death, Ego dissolves and sameness unites with otherness as is only logical, if you have followed my reasoning until now. In this way the primal forces gains force by death, the unique vibration gains added strength by addition, because in this a variation of difference enters the crossroad. Because of this spiritual phenomenon we have a given Exu manifesting in various ways, but always there will be features of recognition that announces what it is, but also the otherness that generated its uniqueness.
Allow me to illustrate this with a reference to the hierarchy of Quimbanda. The hierarchy have since the 1950’s been modelled on the classical western grimoires that in turn was modelled on the feudal cast system, we kind of need to get away from the structures of power embedded in this and thus away from any archontic implication.
Quimbanda is about freedom, hence we need to see the hierarchy more as a natural flow, than a political one. We can for good measure use the Platonic and neo-Platonic ideas of emanation to illustrate this. Quite simply we find a grand principle that unfolds into variations, fractions and variations until it becomes earth and matter and mirrors its origin. It has become unique as its origin remains its witness. And in this the feudal monarchy becomes a monarchic anarchy…
This means that some Exus or Pomba Giras never manifested, while others did so, repeatedly in various forms by the Unique example we lived that called upon the attention of the Otherness that affirmed what we were living. Hence, we have Pomba Giras of Star, Sun and Moon as we have Exus of ideas and actions… as much as we have and have had human beings that lived lives in a given resonance and the sum of life became an added vibration to what was from the beginning.
This means that death gives increase to the crossroads of power and death explains the concept of legion because everything that is, do go through its cycle and makes us crossroads swirling between stars and subterranean caves. And from star and cave comes our Tata, our teacher, in the form of bat, fog, fire or devil to teach what you are accepting as the otherness we are in the greater work of teaching freedom in such grand measures that we not always manage to fathom the dimensions of what is going on. In this way, Quimbanda is the circumference of death, life, origin and end, all embedded in a pulse of otherness that calls our name by any other name…
Illustration; F. Goya