Thursday, January 26, 2017

Proof of Kingship is Never the Crown (except when it is), or, Better to Reign in Hell, or, Heavy is the Head, or, RHIP

'The King in Yellow' by Santiago Caruso


“I tell you the truth, a man may not make himself king; only the blessing of him who holds the kingship can elevate a man to that high place. For sovereignty is a sacred trust that may not be bartered or sold; still less may it be stolen or taken by force.” 
― Stephen R. Lawhead, The Paradise War


A King never has to prove his King-ness. He is simply, a King. A Queen never has to boast her Queen-ness, everything she does, she does as a Queen. These are true Crowns. Quimbanda has many Kingdoms, and even more Kings and Queens. This notion of sovereignty is complex and mutable, yet necessary when understanding the relationships we all must have as we walk, sulphur-footed, into the Crossroads of Hell. Every prophet in his house, every King in their Kingdom. All under the vigilant Eyes of the Maioral.

There is a reflexivity between one's personality and one's core spirits: in working with them, truly working with them, you will be working with yourself. Here in is a great secret, and no matter what we think we know, there is always more to be revealed. What do we ask our spirits for and how? Someone at work gives you problems. Do you feed her name to your Exu and ask him to make her fall and hurt herself? Do you tell your Pomba Gira you need to find a way to work together, to sweeten her to you so that you can do your work? Do you pour burning palm oil over your Exu and demand her death and the leveling of her house? Do you ask for a transfer? Do you ask for a new job? Do you ask to be assigned to a different project? Do you make controllin
g mirongas (powders)? Sweetening? 'Hotfoot' them out? Do you ask that you learn to not be bothered by it? What are your options, how do you interact with your spirits for the needs of your day to day life? You never have to do a certain anything- but it does reveal where the head is at. Where the 'crown' may be, or not.

To take revenge halfheartedly is to court disaster;
either condemn or crown your hatred. 
- Pierre Corneille

In describing the Kingdom das Matas in an article I wrote for the first Verdant Gnosis, I referred to the pagão (pagan) spirits, as they are called in Quimbanda, in this way:
Pagão as a label can be applied to many things in Quimbanda... Related on one level to the progression of an individual Quimbandeiro’s relationship with any specific spirit, pagão can describe this first manifestation of a spirit’s power in the sorcerer’s life: an unbroken horse, a lightning strike, the first flirtations of a new love interest; it is unpredictable, unstable, yet a source of tremendous power, of great force. 
Interacting with others on this or similar paths, there can be a glorification of the 'freedom' found in the pagão phase, where a crown may be worn, but it is an aping, a masquerade, something stolen and worn like a trophy. If this is where we are, this is where we start, and it is good and fine, but not sustainable. The depletion outweighs the nurture and we must spend more and more time feeding the wild demon that is insatiable. The tether gives the illusion of power and agency, but we are still there chained, like the servants of the Devil card in the Tarot.

Perhaps it is that we are baptized, the next phase in this progression,  and the shackles of procedure and specificity of knowledge, of expectation and performance of what is expected- here chains feel freshly forged. There is less joy here- but there is much learning. Should we enter the Work here, this too is good and fine. But your work is yours, and do not let others pull the pagão out of you. You are in control. Should you return to the wild woods of the pagão phase, remember the work you did to become baptized. It is not enough to remember that you are, but that you, in some form, go through all the steps each time. Speed does not matter so much as thoroughness. 

When the true crown is won, there is a new Freedom. One that walks on its own, where agency becomes opportunity. But similarly, should some one whose spirit is in the pagão or the baptized phase not see your crown, this is not a worry. Your crown is proven by your actions, not the actions of others. Your crown is beyond reproach. 

Not all the water in the rough rude sea
Can wash the balm off from an anointed king.
-William Shakespeare, Richard II, III:2

It is not a value system. It should not be thought of as so. We are where we are. But the problem is in mistaking one for the other. Should we believe ourselves in one place and rest there in the complacency of self-deception, the vacuum we leave in ascending without supporting will pull us down the ladder, always. Again, it is not enough to remember that you are on a different rung, but that you, in some form, go through all the steps each time, as we climb the process and agency of each decision. One way of helping to remember all the steps- involve others. Remember there are many paths through the woods, and students also show their teachers new pathways, in addition to echoing old ones. The mirror of a group can support better reflection. Building new hierarchies within the spirit halls of one's firmeza will grant exactly that- foundation. But the Eye of the Warrior must be vigilant, for a King has many enemies, not the least of which is the army of traitorous I's.

Those trees in whose dim shadow
The ghastly priest doth reign
The priest who slew the slayer,
And shall himself be slain.
-Thomas Babbington Macaulay, The Battle of the Lake Regillus (X)

A great majority of people's spirits are 'pagan' at first interaction. Even with the formalities of licença. Many stay that way. You can tell from how the person works their Quimabanda, and especially by the manner of possession should that occur. The advices a person's Exu or Pomba Gira whispers reveals where they both are at. As said, there is tremendous power here, but a question of who-rides-whom, who is the Master and who is bound can be asked. Should be asked.

Yet to complicate things further- one can have a 'Queen' Pomba Gira that is pagão, but she is by nature a Queen in rank. What does this mean? For a while my godchildren and I were looking at fictional characters for references to Pomba Giras and Exus. Cersei from Game of Thrones- a very Rainha das Sete Encruzilhadas character- albeit through a more English cultural lens. However- her actions do tend show her as 'pagão' more than 'coroado'. (I like 'coronado' from the Spanish better, which yes means crowned in Spanish, but it means 'horned' in Portuguese. not unlike the whole Moses' horns after Sinai... But, back to the Queen.

Pombagira Rainha das Sete Encruzilhadas 
by O.Waldo
These terms of Queen and King need to be expounded upon to fully explore this nature of the crown itself.

Queen, or King, can mean:
• a rank of hierarchy amongst a Kingdom of Spirits that denotes a certain way of interacting with other spirits, through command and allegiance
• a rank of seniority in one's personal court
• a praise title to show adulation and respect
• a 'quality' of a given Pomba Gira or Exu (pagão, batizado, coroado)

And there could be another considered- a Queen or King of a moment or situation, where a certain known speciality of força and axé with a particular situation makes a spirit the go-to, in essence, the Sovereign of your particular working.

The use of the term Queen like this is not unique to Quimbanda, or King for that matter. We all do it, and understand it by context:
• We call our lovers and mothers "my Queen", half-jokingly or sincerely.
• We note someone who has their shit together and say they are a Queen of themselves, or 'she wears her crown well', etc.
• We refer to monarchs of rank as Queen.
• We temporarily call someone a Queen when in a recognized costume or mask.
• We may refer to someone on their birthday as Queen for a Day.
• We may act 'queeny' which usually implies aggressively demanding and high maintenance, as opposed to 'acting a queen' is in command of oneself.
All these nuances are part of our language. And also, that of Quimbanda.


Each bud flowers but once and each flower has but its minute of perfect beauty; 
so, in the garden of the soul each feeling has, as it were, its flowering instant, 
its one and only moment of expansive grace and radiant kingship. 
-Henri Frederic Amiel

Calling a Pomba Gira a Queen in a ponto cantado (song of invocation) does not mean she is all these things. It is a praise title many times. Maria Mulambo, for instance, is called Queen all the time, but as my Tatá and I have discussed many times, it is strange to counter her nature with that role amongst spirits. Doesn't mean that she can't be crowned vs. pagan, or someone's personal PG (and therefore their Queen), or called such to praise her in a ponto (You're my Queen!). Similarly, the Queen of the Seven Crossroads in my lineage is always honored as the first, not second or fourth, but she maintains primacy as a Queen. She is always recognized as a Queen in song though, regardless of her position in a lineage or a personal court of spirits. Rosa Caveira, on the other hand, to be who she is, must necesssarily reject the office of 'Queenship' as rulership over other spirits. It is antithetical to her nature as assassin in the shadows and witch of the Boneyard. But she can manifest as a Queen in the sense of the last three points above. This is important too- Queen can mean any and all of these points.

For a Quimbandeiro, your Personal Pomba Gira is a Queen. Some may even have a 'Queen' Pomba Giras as their (personal) Queens. Some may even have Queens who are Queens who are Queens that we also call Queen. With me, still?


The Personal Exu is the King of each individual in their court as well. And still, each (personal) King has their own King. This is often expounded as the King that is the leader of the Kingdom your Exu is predominantly found in. If you have Exu Pemba, it would ultimately be 'upline' to Rei Omolu. And here King is also the Exu that you are 'born' from- the Exu of your Tatá or Yayá. And still, the King of your Tronco is your personal Exu, as that is his Kingdom, no matter where he is on the totem poles of a given kingdom or working or lineage. At all times, rank hath its privileges. No Exu will come to your tronco without your personal Exu's permission, for he is the King of your Tronco. Another signpost, another road, and another King would arise. We're all mad here, after all.

My crown is called content, a crown that seldom kings enjoy. 
- William Shakespeare, Henry VI, III:1

All is nurture because we treat it as such. The war is internal but is often neglected that we may wage war externally. The prongs of the pitch-fork where both must be weighed–this is our scepter. It is by acting the Crown that we polish the Crown that we lay loose the shackles and find our feet and our path, again. Sulphurous and sweet. 

I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself. - Pietro Aretino

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