I have always wanted to go to Brazil. Not for the Mardi Gras, but for Umbanda. A religion with similar roots to Santeria or Orisha voodoo. What can i say; I’m weird. On a weirder note, when you mention the religions all throughout the continents, Voodoo is always left out. Perhaps people find blood and animal sacrifice unnerving, or trance possessions to be an absolute hoax, or people have always equated voodoo with zombies. Thank you, Hollywood.
The movie “Woman on top,” is shot in Brazil and features Yemaya ( pr:Yemanja, Jhemanja, Yemaya,Yemonja). The divine mother, envisioned as a dark skinned, beautiful star crowned mermaid (i think she is the Starbucks logo though subsequent replies from local baristas proved a dead end), and watches over her children from her watery realm. She is implored for all kinds of maladies from conceiving a child, childbirth, marriage, and of course, Love.
I was told that sprawled along the crossroads of Brazil, aside from massive Orisha statues, are shrines dedicated to two of the most venerated deities in Santeria and Umbanda: Eshu / Exu and Pomba Gira. No ceremony can be started in Santeria without placating the two dieties. They are the link between the human world, and the divine. They are the first ones thanked, and the last ones honored. So at the beginning of a ceremony, the faithful offer to him first so that he will not disrupt the proceedings, and furthermore will carry their petitions to the gods. It is believed that if one sacrifices to him well, he will be fairly disposed to plead human causes before the gods.
On a deeper level, the fact that Exu is this universal agent of magic implies much more. Exu is the point of communication between the sacred and the profane, and as such, can be likened to the Greek god, Hermes, also known as Mercury (Roman), Thoth (Egyptian), and Odin (Norse). He intercedes between the people and what they consider to be their spiritual roots-an idealized Africa, or another dimension of the cosmos.
Exu is also the symbol of equilibrium-the axis of stability between humans and gods. Contrastingly, as the embodiment of equilibrium, by nature he is always in motion. One can liken him to a runner on a rocky road-always in danger of falling from one side to another, but completely steady at the point where both feet leave the ground and travel through the air. Although his behavior sometimes may seem vulgar, his essence is dextrous and clever.
In this role, many perceive him as a prankster-a kind of Brazilian Loki, the mischief-maker of Nordic myth. But his tricks are playful, not mean. He toys with human sensibilities and upsets the status quo because he represents the necessary power of disorder which must occur occasionally for one to be able rebuild on more solid ground. In this sense, he is comparable to the Tarot card, the Tower.
Exu’s and Pomba Gira’s dwelling is at the crossroadsand T-roads(?) which symbolizes his/ their aspect as the great communicator and expander of horizons. Exu stirs up action. The crossroads are where people and ideas meet, pass, and are exchanged. Things happen at crossroads: spaces open up and close down; new directions are taken. Thus, Exu is known as the ruler of intelligence, sagacity, and wisdom.
The name Pomba Gira comes from the Afro-Brazilian religion of Quimbanda. Within the confines of this religion for those socially marginalised, PombaGira’s attributes are strength and protection. She is a depicted as a dark skinned voluptuous woman with horns, wearing tacky furs and sequins, heavy gold necklaces (nipples peering quite perkily from underneath), and a massive six pointed star as a pendant. She was described as the consort of Exu, and associated with the Whore of Babylon- but actively worshipped and represented during celebration, rather than hated or lampooned.
She is the wife/consort of Exu, a trickster spirit that has in the past been mistaken for the devil. Again not to be mistaken for the Judeo-Christian devil. His images are usually represented as a devil looking man, infectiously handsone, amazing physique, complete with a full, plump, rock hard phallus. Eshu has his origins from Nigeria and Orisha worship, while Pomba Gira remains to be a purely Quimbanda, Umbanda diety.They are the tricksters. They are unadulterated lust, debauchery and primal nature. The divine pair shakes things up when you have been to complacent and lazy in your life. They are the crossroads. The apex of several possibilities. She is the protectress of the downfallen, prostitutes and the weak. She commands obedience and is considered to have a fiery constitution.
Perchance that you insult, sneer,malign, badger, or condescend on sex workers, you will, oftentimes at least, incur the fury of this fiery Goddess. She only possesses or mounts (saniban or sapian in the vernacular) transvestite or gay men and women only during her feasts.
Because she ‘serves with both hands’, an adage describing her flexible approach to how she treats humans, she is to be feared and revered. If you treat her with respect she will potentially grant you what you wish, however, if the compact is made and then broken she will unleash a surge of destruction that will leave nothing standing.
Exu and Pomba Gira perhaps, cannot be equated with an Orisha. Whatever he represents to you depends on your personal interpretation. If you believe him to be the agent of evil, surely he will rise to the occasion. If you think he is good, he will behave benevolently. If you see him as a neutral agent, again this chameleon will satisfy your expectation. Whatever Exu, or his female counterpart, Pomba-Gira, symbolize, is very much up to you.
It is this kaleidoscope of hidden depth and potential within the expression of the life world, here enfleshed, that is made manifest through ritual, tradition, and sacrifice, It is this thin veneer between the hidden and the seen, the apex of reality and the possibility for exploration into the sphere of the invisible that defines the inspiration the Crooked Path is the course which we tread, to the faint-hearted it is a journey that one should not take.
Laroye Eshu! Laroye Pomba Gira!
My personal Shrine o Eshu and Pomba Gira:
the forked branches that you see below are called Garabato and have been found in Nueva Ecija