Male Nkisi Figure with Strips of Hide, held at the Brooklyn Museum, CC
Nkisi (plural minkisi, zinkisi or nkisi [n- concords with mi-] according to dialect). The term nkisi is the general name for a a spirit, or for any object that spirit inhabits. It is frequently applied to a variety of objects used throughout the Congo Basin in Central Africa thought to contain spiritual powers or spirits. The term and its concept have passed with the enslavement of Africans into the Americas, especially South America (in Palo Mayombe the spirits of nkisi are often called “[…]”).
The current meaning of the term derives from the root, *-kitį- referring to a spiritual entity, or material objects in which it is manifested or inhabits in Proto-Njila, an ancient subdivision of the Bantu language family.
In its earliest attestations in Kikongo dialects in the early seventeenth century it was spelled “mokissie” (in Dutch), as the mu- prefix in this noun class were still pronounced, and was reported by Dutch visitors to Loango as referring both to a material item and the spiritual entity that inhabits it. In the sixteenth century, when the Kingdom of Kongo was converted to Christianity, ukisi (a substance having characteristics of nkisi) was used to translate “holy” in the Kikongo Catechism of 1624. Continue reading
PREPARATION FOR INITIATION
by Awo Falokun Fatunmbi
The first step in preparation for initiation is to set up an ancestor shrine and to start asking the ancestors for support in the initiation process.
Building an Ancestor Shrine
In traditional Ifá culture everyone is believed to have the ability, and the obligation to communicate with the ancestors on a daily basis. According to Ifá oral tradition, communication with your ancestors is a
birthright and requires no special sanction. At times this communication can simply involve remembering a revered ancestor and making use of the memory as a basis for making an important decision. In many ways ancestor communication is an extension of the training and wisdom we receive from our parents and grand parents. In Yoruba culture it is common for the uninitiated to make direct contact with ancestors spirits. The most prevalent method of Continue reading
The Holy Piby
by Robert Athlyi Roberts (1924)
The Holy Piby, a book founded by the Holy Spirit to deliver the gospel commanded by the Almighty God for the full salvation of Ethiopia’s posterities.
In time the Piby shall contain all worthy prophecies and inspirations endowed by God upon the sons and daughters of Ethiopia, but no article shall be permitted to enter the Piby save that which is in accordance with the gospel of the twentieth century, preached by his Holiness, Shepherd Athlyi, apostle Marcus Garvey and colleague; the three apostles anointed and sent forth by the Almighty God to lay the Continue reading
PRAYERS TO THE ORISHAS
A LOOK AT SANTERÍA
By Diane Elizabeth Caudillo, 2007
Who owns your head? This provocative question means a great deal to many people around the world who practice a religion known as Santería, or alternatively La Regla de Ocha. This tradition originates among the Yoruba people of West Africa, in the area of present-day Nigeria.
A great percentage of the [enslaved Africans] who were brought to the New World were Yoruban— according to David Brown of Emory University, 500,000 Africans were taken into Cuba between 1800 and 1870, and one third were Yoruban or from Yoruban-influenced areas.1 According to Robert Farris Thompson, 40% of all Africans abstracted from Africa came from the Kongo and Angola regions.2 This fact helps explain some of the traditions observable today in the United States, in the form of yard shows, bottle trees, words like “banjo”- “mbanja” and “goober” (peanut) – “mgooba”. Many popular dance and musical styles – the Charleston, jug bands, jazz – owe Continue reading
Gideon (Guede) – Loa spirits family, which is owned by the forces of death and fertility.
Fete Gede – Day of the Dead
Start: 1 November 2015
Venue: National Cemetery, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
This annual Vodou Festival represents Day of the Dead, which is carried out for the playful Haitian spirits. Rituals carried out within a month, but the majority of them at the beginning.
The faithful gather at the main cemetery in the capital of Haiti, to honor all Gede and their father, Baron Samedi (On Saturday). At the entrance to the cemetery on a pedestal with a cross, which symbolizes the entrance into the possession of Baron Samedi. Here, people are preparing a special drink, which sprinkle the cross.
People bring gifts: beeswax candles, flowers, bottles of rum with chilli. So they warm the bones of Gede. Continue reading
By B.C. Holmes, 2001
Other Names: Papa Gede, Baron Samedi
Spheres of Influence: Death, the Lord of all Gede
Colours: Black, purple and white
Symbols: Skull, black cross, shovel, mirrored sunglasses, hot peppers fused with kleren
Offerings: Black rooster, black goat
Catholic counterparts: St. Gerard
“If Legba was the sun, at first young, then growing old, Ghede is the master of that abyss into which the sun descends. If Legba was time, Ghede is that eternal figure in black, posted at the timeless cross-roads at which all men and even the sun one day arrive. The cross upon a tomb is his symbol. But the sun is each year reborn. If Carrefour is the night death which attends each day, then Ghede is the night sun, the life which is eternally present, even in darkness. The cosmic abyss is both tomb and womb. In a Continue reading
Fet Gédé, Haiti’s Day of the Dead. Image by Paul Clammer
Understanding vodou in the Caribbean
By Paul Clammer, 2014
All too often, the Caribbean’s default tourist mode is its carefree picture of beaches and rum. Rinse and repeat: it’s a staggeringly successful formula. But it doesn’t leave much scope to get to grips with the region’s rich cultural history. The islands’ local religions – from vodou in Haiti to Jamaica’s Obeah and Cuba’s Santería – offer rich insights into Caribbean culture for the curious visitor.
These belief systems were forged from empire and slavery, and the collision of Europe and Africa in the Americas. They’re a unique blend of traditions brought over from Africa during [enslavement of Africans] Continue reading