These are two more snapshots of the Virgin moving outside of the European sphere, this time from the Kongo. The first snapshot narrowly precedes Columbus’s voyage to the Americas in the fifteenth century while the second picks up the thread of her kikongo sojourn in the seventeenth century. I’ll share each one, then link them.
I don’t want to leave this place quiet too long, so how about a smattering of what I have been reading and thinking about ?
In what follows, I am going to engage in numerous comparisons that crisscross well-defined cultural and geographic milieus. I want to talk a little about that before we get going, because the comparative modality can both nourish and starve our spiritual wellsprings. In order to nourish our wellsprings, we need to preserve their singularity, their distinctive character in place and time. Think of the network of comparisons like a net of lights lifted up over the spiritual work in which we are engaged. That net of lights isn’t intended to catch hold of anything. If you take away the net, the mysteries they illumine are still there, invisible in the dark.
Don’t get caught up in these comparisons in order to put a name on something. As soon as the comparisons become a tool for pinning down a commonality between spiritual manifestations, we’re starting to head down a dangerous road that will have us worshiping the words on our tongues and the images in our minds rather than the mystery that stimulates both. If you don’t have a spiritual presence with which you are contemplating these comparisons, well, I guess this will at most be a list of historical curiosities.
This will be another short post; I just have two developments that I want to flag for further consideration. The first comes from reading the Chilam Balam of Chumayel, the second from a bookstore/museum synchronicity.
At some point during the Quimbanda workshop at Viridis Genii, Jesse mentioned that Kalunga, the Kongo term for the great spiritual sea in which the dead swim, is generally thought to begin about handspan from the body. The dead are just that close, and during exceptionally dangerous times, even closer.
I had heard something like this before, but this time it settled against the Kabbalistic thoughts I had been posting (interesting trivia: one of the older strains of spiritualist work that feeds into Quimbanda was called, simply enough, ‘Kabbalah’). What else surrounds the material world, close but not identical with it? Chokmah and Binah, perhaps?
“Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of difference strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.
Within the interdependence of mutual (nondominant) differences lies that security which enables us to descend into the chaos of knowledge and return with true visions of our future, along with the concomitant power to effect those changes which can bring that future into being. Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.”—Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”
There are a number of things going on here that I like. Lorde gets the fundamental dimension of worldly experience, of its immersion in diversity, and I have always been a little leery of how her work has been taken by folks talking about ‘intersectionality.’ I appreciate the aims of intersectionality, but it always feels like it is trying to enforce charters on the world and act as if those charters are ‘really there.’ Lorde, here? Is bold and charges out into the scene.
Jake Stratton-Kent’s ‘What is Goetia?’ is making the rounds. His approach to doing magic, centered in the individual rather than the art, the cthonic rather than the celestial, is familiar (in the sense of being resonant with my way of doing things; see the witch / wizard discussions), but I’m going to suggest that there is a better way to approach the matter than he does in that essay, one that takes the work outside the (to my mind stultifying) conventions of talking about a Western Magical Tradition ™.