Sunday, October 5, 2008

Umbanda: 100 year old

In the spiritist session of November 15th of 1908, presided by Jose de Souza, in the headquarters of the Spiritist Federacy of Niterói, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, a series of strange facts happened: Spirits, that said to be of black slaves, natives and children had incorporated the house mediums, in a way that breached with the Kerdecists practices: asking for candy, tobacco and alcohol. These spirits were, then, invited by the president of the service to leave the place, warned about their state of spiritual retardation.

Then the young man Zélio Fernandino de Moraes, then only 17 years-old, that was attending this sort of service for the first time, was dominated by a strange force, that made him to spoke without him knowing what he was saying. It was the voice of the ‘Caboclo Sete Encruzilhadas’, that, out loud, refuted the thesis defended by the president that those deceased were spiritually delayed due to their ethnic background or to the social class they belonged when living.

In the 17th, in a street called Floriano Peixoto, number 30, in Neves, Zélio opened the first Umbanda Center of Brazil: the house of Nossa Senhora da Pìedade. At 8 p.m. as promised in his first appearance, the Caboclo Sete Encruzilhadas manifested himself in Zélio and declared that, at that moment, a new cult was being initiated, where the spirits of old African men - that did not find field of activity in the kardecism nor in the Candomblé - and the native indians of our land could work in benefit of their incarnated brothers, despite of color, race, creed or social condition. (1) Umbanda was established!


The Umbanda is a religious-philosophical cult developed basically in Brazil, mixing African mythology and some of the practices of candomblé, myths of the native Brazilian and Christian concepts - with influence from the catholic church as well as from Kardec´s spiritism. The Umbanda workship the Orishas, but with a different status that is given in the Candomblé. In the first one, mediuns incorporates ' guides' , the spírits of the dead, that function as messenger of gods, the orishas, which never have direct contact with the living creatures. Yet in the Candomblé, the ritual incorporation is of the Orisha himself over his 'son-of-saint' , excusing an intermediate, and even not recommending to any living creature to be incorporated or to be influenced by spirits of deceased.

Still, there are two important differences. The first one is that the Candomblé is much prior to the Umbanda, therefore it is about an African religion, brought by the black slaves to Brazil during the Empire and cultuated with a series of differences related to the ethnical groups and regions where it blossomed (as we will detail ahead). On its turn, the Umbanda is genuinely Brazilian and appeared, as we saw, in the 20th century, offspring of the syncretism of the African fetichism of the Orishas with Christ and the Catholic saints, with several alimentary and medicinal practices from the indians. Another difference it is that the Umbanda has, in common with Christianity, the moral conceptions of ‘Good’ and “Evil” and the evolutive-ethical concept that should guide social behavior. That is: it only accepts services that fit in the western concept of 'good' , while the Candomblé, loyal to a tradition not-dichotomized by the Christian moral, workship amoral gods, many times sharing, without guilt, among their main characteristics, weaknesses and passions. (2)


Thus, there is currently in the Umbanda, many degrees of aproximation and distanciation of two very antagonistic poles: the cult of the Candomblé and Kardec’s spiritism. And, clearly, inside of these extreme limits – the 'table' and the 'nation' - the movement pro Umbanda is extremely cosmopolitan and anthropophagous: there is the esoteric umbandas, influenced by occultism, by eastern religions, by astrology and by several contemporary spiritual practices. According to its adepts, the word "Umbanda" itself does not have African origin but drift from sanskrit mantras ‘Aum Bhandan' (3).

However, generally, we could say that the Umbanda is summarized in five creeds: the belief in the existence of only one God, that is almighty, everlasting and uncreated; the belief in spiritual entities on a higher level of development - orishas, angels and saints - as well as entities still in evolution - eshus, black old man, children, caboclos - that work as intermediates between the superior entities and the world of the living creatures; the belief in reincarnation and the law of cause and effect (Karma): and the belief that the Man is a synthesis, a miniature of the Universe; and, mainly, the belief in the mediumnic practice, under the most varied forms, as a way to alliviate one´s own karma and the karma of others. That is why, as the poetry of the chants from the cult summarize, " Umbanda is charity".

(1) Information from the work of the researcher Thereza Saidenberg.
(2) The Orishas and the Psychological Types
(3) Esoteric Umbanda of Brazil
is the group most important, counting with several houses and ‘terreiros’ spread over the country, some with their own web pages. For example, the Tenda de Umbanda Esotérica and the Templo da Umbanda Esotérica. Another very important group, more popular and less theorical, is the Proto Cosmic Synthesis


The ritual initiation in the Candomblé is a process of constructing a permanent psychological identity between the participant of the cult and the cultuated entity. Opposing to the mediumistic development on the spiritist conception – in which the spiritist medium temporarily renounces its proper subjectivity in favor of the subjectivity of a deceasead person - the incorporation trance in the Candomble has as main objective the reciprocal self-recognition between the ‘santo' (saint - the entity) and its `filho' (son - the devotee), the symbolic and permanent reconnection between the world of men (Ayé) and the world of gods (Orum).

This process of symbolic identification between the participants and the Orishas does not exist only at the privileged moment of the ritualistic trance; the identity between the initiate and its saint corresponds to the permanent incorporation of the orisha’s psychological characteristics in the personality of its ‘children’. This identity is not only settled through the initiation - slowly and gradually developing during the trance, but it is also periodically strengthened in the successive and renewed obligations on the public parties of the saints, when all the present community becomes a witness and guarantor of this alliance, and get benefits from it.

The Candomble rituals consist basically on a set of archtypical themes - the representation\ incorporation of forces of nature personified in behaviors and stories – one following the other during the ceremony. Each entity is manifested through a characteristical trance, produced by specific images, sounds, scents, flavours, dances, rhythms, colors, suits and ornments. Invoked through static dances and three ceremonial drums (called rum, rumpi and lé), the African gods are incorporated in their `sons', making them to dramatize the great mythical facts and legends: the fight of the brothers Ogoun and Shango for the love of Oshum; the trip of Oshalufan for meeting his son, Shango; the love affairs of Oya… the entities are, at one time, psychic basis for human behaviors and mystic forces of Nature; and are represented in the rituals as sacred identities that are revealed inside of a mythical-liturgical structure of world interpretation.

Therefore, It is not a matter theatrical mis en scène or histerical catharsis: in this mythical psychodrama there is an `energetic economy', where spiritual forces are manipulated and manipulate the bodies of the participants, in a choreographic spectacle that associates theme-images to certain rhythms. These audiovisual associations are a product and an instrument of a process of constructing a symbolic identity, according to the cultural tradition of each Candomble Nation and the invoked force-entity.

One can notice in a quick comparison on the three nations that in the Voduns and the Inkices there are not only the same mystical forces that form the Ketu Orishas, but have also other forces and other concepts. In the case of the Jeje, existing in Haiti, Cuba and the Brazilian state of the Maranhão, there are more cultuated Voduns than the Orishas habitually most known in the Yoruba cult. The Voduns can be divided in man and woman; e, inside these division, into old or young people, leading to a total of forty entities. In the case of the Bantu rites, there is, due to a different conception about ancestry, entities proceeding from native brazilian mythology and also the presence of diverse types of spirits of deceasead people (caboclos, old black men, children, indians).

In Africa, the nations were ethnic identities of different geographic groups. However, the term `nation' in the context of Brazilian candomble means a cultural group with intrinsic and specific traditions of cult. There is, therefore, a big difference between the ethnic identity of `African nations' and the cultural identity of ‘Candomble nations' in Brazil. Generality, we can say that the model `Jeje-Nago' is predominant in the Brazilian Candomble. It is the most traditional, and the least permeated by the cultural changes and influences, the closest to the original African model still existing in Nigeria. In opposition to this traditionalistic tendency of the Jeje-Nagô model, the Bantu cultural group (nations of Angola and the Congo) was the one that more mixed elements. The Bantus, even after a first moment of religious autonomy and although they preserved the original name of certain entities originally from Congo, gradually saw their rituals disaggregate, giving room to African-amerindian syncretism (Catimbó, Candomblé de Caboclo, Pajelança and the cult of native entities) and to the afro-spiritism (Jurema, Umbanda) or adapted to the rules dictated by the Nagô candomble, being distinguished only by the hymns, that mix Banto and Portuguese glorification to ‘Zambi’.

Thus, if the Candomble is a manifestation of the cultural identity of the black people in Brazil, one can easily notice the existence of a Angolan line in opposition to a Nago line of development. The first one, incorporating the native and mixed ancestry, is responsible for new forms of social identity inside Brazilian reality; otherwise, the second, in contrast, serching more and more to africanize itself, evokes exclusively the orishas and keep the ceremonies with the spirit of the deceased (or ancestors) restricted to the secret rites of the ‘Sociedade dos Eguns Ilê Agbouça’, in the island of Itaparica (BA).

Besides these cultural variations of the symbolic references according to the nations - that, in Brazil, are diversified in thousand of sects and multi-syncretized cults under the Jeje-Nago hegemony – there is, still, a symbolic variation reffering to each entity inside the same ritual, where the references are organized in order to characterize the identity of each orisha. Each `Santo' has its color, its musics, its dance and, at the same time, it corresponds to a specific type of human behavior and to a vibratory band of Nature. Each entity is a beam of symbolic references. In the Xireé, the sequential order of presentation during the ritual is when one can better observe how the Orishas form the net frequencies of Candomblé as a symbolic language: in the beginning the more ctnonic and dense vibrations; in the end, the most distant and less material vibrations. It is a matter, as we said, of reuniting the Ayé (World of black and red) to the Orum (luminous universe of the white), passing through every specter of intermediate vibrations/entity.

The Jeje-Nagô or Bahian model presents, generally, sixteen main orishas: Eshu, Ogoun, Ochossi, Ozaim, Shango, Yansan, Oshum, Obá, Nanã Buruku, Omulu, Ochumare, Iroko, Ibeji, Logunedé, Iemanjá and Obatalá. Let’s see now how the symbolic references (alimentary and audiovisuais) of these sixteen entities are organized in the vaticination system of the Ifá.

Even it being a process where the identity is predominantly produced by rhythmic and chromatic frequencies, the Candomblé is not only a set of audiovisual references, but also of taste, scent and touch references, (the food, incenses and herbs). Actually, these kinaesthetic references literally `feed' the audiovisual frequencies, through offerings and sacrifices, the symbolic language need to be nourished from psychic energy, the Ase.

The ritualistic process in which a material body is bonded to the energy of one determined orisha, is called ‘assentamento'. By reduction, the term is used also to refer to objects (ritualísticos rocks, amulets, instruments) that represent each orisha, after a ritual where the mystic energy of the entity is concentrated on their bodies. The most common fetish is `otá' (rock). It is dived in liquids and substances, kept in small bottles (‘quartinhas’) closed with colored cloths with embroidered symbols, depending on the orisha. The most common liquids are the honey, dendê oil and water macerated with the herb of the saint. Waters from different procedence are required: water of the sea, from the rivers, rain, etc., the liquids or `Abós' are ritualistically prepared with drops of animal blood and secret chants that only the Babalorixás know. There are cases, however, as in the ‘water of Shango, that the beverage is prepared with a `lightenning rock' (meteorite), where it is the otá that magnetizes the liquid from the ‘quartinha’.

All ‘assentamentos’ are periodically fed from sacrifices and characteristic offerings for each entity, thus the entities get again the energy of its specific Ase. This energy is stored in the central points of the ‘terreiro’ and it is used to dinamize new ritualistic objects or to the entities to manifest on their ‘children’. Thus, for extension, the term `assentamento' also is a mention to the basic rock of the ‘terreiro’ (where, on the occasion of the inauguration diverse objects reffering to the saint of the house are embedded) and to the process of ritual initiation of a ‘son’ (Iaô), to assign the moment where the mystic force of the orisha is fixed in the head of a devotee. We have, therefore, three distinct types of ‘assentamento’ and three spheres of energy feedback.

Every traditional Candomblés have the “assentamento’ of the house, pertaining to the Orisha to whom the place of fetichism is dedicated. These nestings are embedded on the occasion of the inauguration ceremony, in the basic rock of the house or under the `Ixé', a central mast where the flag with the graphical symbols of the chosen orisha stands. In the entrance of every ‘terreiro’, usually there is a white ‘Gameleira’, a tree consecrated to Iroko (the Time), that it is planted according to prescribed rituals and also must be considered a ‘assentamento’ of the house. This orisha responds for the climatic and meteorological changes, and it is a sort of guardian of the terreiro. When there are other natural forces in the place (waterfalls, rivers, quarries, etc.) one can also have specific ‘assentamentos’ for the corresponding orishas.

Generally, these nestings are fed in the annual Ossé - that is a great party for cleanning the altar and whole terreiro, when ritualistic food is specially served for every orishas - and in the public parties of each one the saints, according to the traditional liturgical catholic calendar.

Despite the half-matriarcal character of the African cultures, the original liturgical calendar of Candomblé was marked by the advent of the four climatic seasons, with the solstice of winter (June) dedicated to the main masculine orishas (Ogoun, Shango, Obatalá) and the solstice of summer (December) consecrated to feminine orishas (Oya, Oshum, Iemanja). There never had been a single calendar for the cult of the orishas. In Brazil, the fiscalization of the farms administrators where the African slaves worked and the general repression to the cults of candomblé made the black people to adapt, so they linked their ritualistic parties to the catholic ceremonies. 

There is, still. in the scope of the ‘terreiro’: the ‘tronqueira’, ‘assentamento’ for the protective Eshu of the house, and the Ilê-Saim, the house of the deceased (eguns) that are still identified with the material life. These nestings, that are always out of the area consecrated to the orishas, are not fed annually, but according to the lunar cycle of 28 days and the daily cycle of the tides. In candomblé, the Eshu is the entity that presents the densest frequency of the specter (red and black), and it is the only one capable of establishing a link between men and the orishas. Therefore, he is requested to initiate every ritual operations of the cult. Each orisha has its proper Eshus, that work as servants or messengers, making possible the contact with the other entities. Therefore, before any offering for the saints, always a sacrifice to the corresponding Eshu has to be made. The objective of these sacrifices is to keep the Ase of the ‘assentamento’ - the mystic force of the orishas – operating. The blood, together with alcohol and sexuality, are material vehicles that discharge the indispensable vibrations to the Eshus and to the deceasead in general to act in the material plan, and also, in the inverse direction, to men to penetrate in other states of perception and conscience.

The ‘assentamento’ of a orisha in a human being is carried out through a ceremonial process called `initiation'. These processes are carried on by obligations, and individual offerings of each initiate to their tutor orishas or to an entity with which they are momentarily disharmonized. Besides the annual ceremonies of the liturgical calendar, it exists one day of the week consecrated to each orisha, that can be used for delivering of individual obligations, made of food offerings and the accomplishment of animal sacrifices.

The alimentary restrictions also symbolically condition this permanent identity between men and gods: the prohibitions consist on not consuming the substances that vibrate in the same frequency as the saint with whom one is identified. Just in the initiation process these substances are ritualistically ingested. After this period, the characteristic food of each orisha are interdicted to its devotee. If the individual do not obey these alimentary restrictions he is submited to, he may carry on a `symbolic self-anthropophagy', suffering then the ‘quizilas’ (mourning sensation, malaise). For the same reason - the maintenance of the psychic identity between the Orisha and the initiate - the marriages between children of one same saint were considered incestuous. In Africa, since candomblés are trully ethnic identities and there are real bows of kinship between the groups that cultuate the same entity, this prohibition had a genetic meaning, that go further than the cultural and inter-subjective meanings.

But one should not think that men are prisoners of a fixed behavior, mere passive instruments of gods: “the saint is also possessed by its children”, they have an active role, being a part of a complex relation between orishas and the community, multiplying the relations between the entities. The speech of the initiates clearly translates this reciprocity. The same way one can speak about ‘his’ saint, also there are comments on `being the saint': “the Shango of someone is rebellious”; and inversely: “that one is the Ogoun of the house”. That is: at the same time that the divinities are properties of their children, the initiates are also properties of the orishas with whom they are identified. Thus, it occurs a constant game of exchanges between the concrete individual and the abstract principle it manifests. Thre is, therefore, a very dinamic symbolic reciprocity between the entity and the person.

And it is this reciprocity that is simultaneously developed in three levels - the annual cycle for `firming' the house, the monthly cycle of energy feedback of fetishes and abôs, and the weekly cycle of the individual obligations decurrent of the initiation. And this last cycle, however, ended up simplifying all the multiple and wild system of the Ifá in a system of seven main vibrations.

Today the foods and plants are no longer classified according to their places in the mythical space/ time, but in relation to the vibratory bands of a body turned universal. The passage from the multiple, wild and territorial system of the Orishas in the Candomblé to the seven lines of Umbanda follows a way of framing and synthesis of the frequencies in the western model of correspondence, as in the case of the seven days of the week, in detriment of the local dates and territoriality.

Thus the whole liturgical structure of the cult to orixás in candomblé can be summarized as the process of, ritualistically, accumulate, and then to transmit, Asé for the Iaôs in three levels: the annual cycle of the `firming' of the house, the monthly cycle of energy feedback of fetiches and abôs, and the daily cycle of individual obligations decurrent from the initiation.
In the center of all these relations that compose `the energetic economy' of candomblé is Ifá (Orunmilá), the Orisha of the Destiny. The more common oracle is constituted by l6 Búzios (small shells). The pai-de-santo agitates the Búzios in his hands and launches them inside a circle, formed by diverse necklaces from the orishas. The búzio can fall `open' or `closed', that is, facing where it has a crack or with the smooth side. Each one of these `falls' is a manifestation of one orisha and it has one specific meaning, once, according to the resultant ordinance, one can determine which of the Orishas is answering.

Every aspect of life is susceptible of codification by each one of the orishas that are disclosed in the game. The gods, then, become the principle of classification of the events: each one governs a type-event. Besides the ordinance of the Búzios (open and closed), that determines the entity that presides over each answer, the configuration - or the particular way as the Búzios get distributed geometrically in the space – is also fundamental for comprehension, therefore corresponds to the ‘energetic organization’ of the unconscious of the individual before a matrix force. The set of the two factors, ordinance and configuration, is called odú or fate. The System of Ifá, even being so contested by posterior researchers, relation collected and presented for Roger Bastide and Pierre Verger, today is used and until cited for some cartomances as being the traditional one.

This way, the open-closed ordinance determines which Orisha is speaking and the space configuration of the Búzioses indicates what it is saying. Through successive trows, one comes, then, to a kind of inventory of what it is happening to the person, not only in relation to his tutor Orishas, `the owners of their heads', but also as other entities are influencing positively or negatively in his life, what are its recurrent tendencies and the possibilities before destiny. Generally services and obligations for energetic balance are considered. 

The answers are deciphered through the legends and stories of the gods - that are transmitted from generation to generation through oral tradition. Therefore, `to play búzios' not only requires sufficient intuition to interpret the different configurations formed for the force-matrices, but also oral knowledge of the set of the mythical tradition of the Orishas and their symbolic universe. The priest of Ifá was, originarily, call of Babalawo. They were the oral historians of the African culture. Their initiation was much more complex than the others, therefore did not involve the identification with only one archtype and the development of its characteristics in the personality of initiate, but actually the learning of centuries of knowledge stored by the cult. Today the ‘zeladores de santo’ (saint keepers) in general menage the oracle.

By the way, two contemporary perspectives are today developed: the rescue of the symbolic patrimony of candomblé and the re-invention of the traditions by the Umbanda. The rescue of the traditional symbolism of candomblé, gained great impulse in 90´s, with research and reconstitution of histories and mythical legends, as well and mainly of the proper system of the Ifá. And, as we saw, it is in the Xireé, and the sequential order of presentation during the ritual, when better one can observe how the Orishas form the net frequencies of the Candomblé while symbolic language: each entity is a beam of symbolic references, each orisha has its color, its music, its dance and, at the same time, it corresponds to a specific type of human behavior and to a vibratory band of Nature.

The Umbanda, on its turn, adopts the musical scale of seven and the chromatic specter of the light in the rainbow: the seven lines of umbanda, where they fit, in different platforms, every Orisha, messenger, energy. There is a transformation of the symbolic-genetic identities into cultural-symbolic identities. It is the system of classification of the alimentary and audiovisual references of the Orishas (the Ifá) transformed into system of classification of psychological references of the personality. The Asé was personalized and Orishas had gradually become masks, types of people and/or psychological aspects of the personality, not only of the living creature but also of the deceased.

But there is different levels of application of these criteria. In some centers that work with both Umbanda and Candomblé ('Nation'), one usually says that "a Orisha does not incorporate, irradiates". However, when dealing with the Orisha Ibeji and the 'children' of Umbanda the difference is only conceptual. By the way, to many the 'state of erê' it is more a period of the trance than a specific frequency. The same can also be said about the ‘old black men’ and orishas more aged such as Nana, Oxaguiã, Omulú. These experiences of the trance leads us more towards Jung’s archtypes of 'inner child’ and of 'old wise men' (elements of dramatization of the different moments of life) than properly of different combinations of the psychological aspects of the personality. There is also many possible interpretations and analogies between the astrological language and the Ifá, as one that compares the head orisha with the solar sign and associate orisha as the ascending sign, or secondary aspect of the personality. Others prefer to read orishas as planets and the aspects as the mythical relations between them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Mirror of Oshum

There is a legend tells that, in an immemorial time, the king Shango, orisha chosen by Obatalá to rule over the land and the others gods, had many wives. The most important was Oya (or Yansan), godess of the storms, and Oshum, whose domain is extended to the rivers, lakes and waterfalls.

A certain day, jealous about the preference of Shango for her rival; Yansan decided to revenge from Oshum and, in an intempestive ray of fury, invested against the mother of fresh water while she was bathing naked by a great lake, having only a mirror on her hands. Due to the fact of not being a warrior, but a docile and vain woman, whose only defense expedients are seduction and dissimulation; Oshun saw herself completely helpless before the entrancing anger of the Queen of the Lightenings. Oshum, then, praid for Obatalá and, in one magical instant, she noticed that the Sun shone strong on hers oponent's back. Quickly, she used her mirror to reflect the sun rays in a way that blinded Yansan.

When the king Shango knew about the victory of Oshum, he reaffirmed his preference for the godess of the waters, that is not only more beautiful and delicate but also proved to be more powerful than the godess of the Storms.

A Singular Object
The mirror is present on innumerable myths and ‘reflects' a clearly universal significance for its cognitive and epistemological value. It is a symbol of the conscience. Conciense understood not only as `social or profissional self image', but, above all as a profound psychological identity, the true face under the mask of ego, the luminous spark, the inner reflex of 'Fiat Lux'. Plato and Plotino compared it to the soul, metaphor that was later adopted by the Saints Atanasio and Gregorio Niseno. But it is with Saint Paul that the Mirror becomes a powerfull symbol of transformation, a double instrument for the antropomorphical knowledge of God and the cosmological knowledge of Man.

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit. (...) For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.”(1)

But if the Mirror is symbol of the mystic self-knowledge, of the image and similarity where Man and God reflect each other, it also appears constantly as a metaphor of the narcissistic illusion, as a confident of the beauty of the ego, as an inverted reflex of reality. The symbol of the truth is, at the same time, sign of falsehood and illusion. And certainly it was this paradoxical and contradictory characteristic that created `the fascination of the mirrors'.

Out of the innumerable narratives where this fascination is manifested we choose the Nago myth of the Mirror of Oshum, originarily collected for Pierre Verger in Africa (2), becouse it presents some symbolic elements important to characterize the archetypical functioning of the myths that constitute the specular device and its epistemological strategy. However, before we analyze the various symbolic aspects of this mythical legend, we will study how the theme of the mirror is manifested in other narratives of different cultures, trying to identify its relations with one single archetype, that may clarify the universal role that the Mirror plays in the Nago legend.

Due to the fact of not emanating proper light, but refleting it, the mirrors had been associated to the moon during all antiquity. From this key association, it arised others that relate the Mirror to the feminine and its beauty. The lunar symbolism of the mirror, however, it is not limited to the women and to the poets who sing their beauty, but also find place among the wizards and magicians, who used the reflecting surfaces to get in trance, as the Siberians Shamans.

Possibly, the tradition of magical use of the mirror has had its origin in the fact of it being used in astronomy/astrology to determine the movement of the stars in the sky. It is not without reason that the verb to speculate, a mental operation, proceeds from the Latin word especulum, that originarily meant to observe the sky, to admire and to study its constellations. As the scholars of the asters science of this time were, invariably, also wizards, the mirrors were, gradually, interiorized. ” In a way that” - says the cabala specialist Mario Satz(3) - “the mirror is not only outside of us, as a metallic artifice, a polished disc saw in the dressing tables or the harem, but it is also between the cerebral hemispheres, that invert the contemplated, swiching the left to the right and vice versa”. It is curious to observe that this double process of representation of the reality through mirrors was developed parallely in diverse ancient cultures - China, India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean - generating different astrological mythologies, but only one universal conception of representation.

The contemplation of this ‘inner mirror' is particularly substantial among the mystic sufis, that understand it in a way similar to Saint Paul, as the image of God and the Man. “God is, therefore” - Ibn Arabi de Múrcia wrote (4) - “the mirror in which you see yourself; in the same way that you are His mirror where He contemplates His names”. Another sufi mystic, Shabistari, is still more specific in his 'Garden of Mystery'

“The not-being is a mirror, the world is an image, the man is the eye of this image, and He is the light of the eye. Who had at any time saw the eye through which all the things are seen? The world had became man, and the man, world; there is no clerear explanation.” When you look intently in the heart of the materia, He is at the same time the vision, the eye, the thing that is being looked. The Holy Tradition bequeathed that and without eye nor ear it has demonstrated it”. (5)

Also the Zohar recommends that, in order to man to know its glory, to use a mirror, observing it indirectly so one will not be blinded by its own radiating luminosity. Which means to say that the subject of the Mirror is a unamimity between the mystic, whereas they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim. Perhaps this curious consensus explains the belief, also universal, that breaking a mirror causes a long period of bad luck. Also the belief that ‘creatures without soul under the human form', as the vampires and zumbies, do not have their images reflected in the Mirror; could have its origin in the universal association of the mirrors to the holographic image of God in Man, made in diverent times by different religions.

Ahead, when we analyze the legend of Oshum, we will see how, due its universal association with the moon, the mirror keeps a direct relation with the aquatic symbolism, but it differs from it for reflecting the light of the elementary fire. Now, the important thing is to understands that when talking about the symbolism of the Mirror, not only the mithological illusion of Narcissus or yet the useless feminine vanity, but also of mystic contemplation before the light of a transcendent limb.

But if the mirror is useful so that the gracious maidens and cortesans strengthen their egos and so that the mystic scholars get rid of theirs, it is also is a powerful war weapon, used to set fire. Generating fire at a distance through luminous rays, as in it the celebrated episode atributted to Archimedes de Siracusa, that, with a gigantic catoptric mirror would set on fire the ships that tried to invade the ancient island of Sicily.

Out of all the legends involving mirrors as a weapon, the most known, is, without a doubt, the fight of Kadmo against the Medusa, told by Plato in Timeu. In this narrative, the hero wins terrible gorgon, whose glance has the power to transform its opponents into rock, with the help of a mirror tied to his shield. Kadmo made the Medusa to see her own image reflected in the mirror thus having the same destination of her victims, being petrifyed forever. That is, the mirror is a weapon capable of making the other to recognize himself, making so that the adversary becomes conscious of himself and his projections. Evil, recognizing itself exactly as such, loses its effectiveness and surrender to its own conscience.

Perhaps bacause of this, in his book De Natura Deorum, Cicero remembers that the Mirror is an invention of Esculapio, the god of medicine; and that the ancient nahuas priests of Mexico used to take a mirror hung in their chest so that “other (men) discover their true face correct themselves” (6). Sadly this symbolic expedient had not worked with the Spanish conquerors. These, by the way, had carried through good part of the conquering of the Americas through the seduction of beads and mirrors, giving it out to the natives, so that while they lingered themselves with their reflexes, they did not notice what was being conspired on their backs. It would still fit to remember that the overlapping of aparently contrary subjects made the mirror symbol a metaphor of the pre-scientific epistemological paradigm, and, later, due to its passive reflexibility before the conscientious thought, the mirror started to be compared the unconscious itself - as we will detail later about the relations of the specular device with the human sciences.

The Door of the Unconscious
'Mirror, mirror of mine, is there an intellectual wiser then me? 'In a first level, the reflex on the mirror will always be a questioning of the ego about itself. But the mirror never answers, even better, it never disagrees, on the contrary, its perpetual partaker silence becomes intimate of the most immeasurable comparisons.

However, it is this first moment of reflection, even so it always reaffirms the identity, that reveals the objectiveness of the subject, therefore allows the observer to observe himself, imagining how he would be seen by the others. And, from this first reflection of the consciense is that the great ideas and the great enterprises (re)appear. “Reality or hallucination, the worlds ordered with these precise instruments discloses the reversibility of all the things: the certainty of appearance, the uncertainty of existence.” (7) Here, the Mirror is compared with a great lake of limpid and crystalline water, as a projctive field of the human experience, where men thinks and rethink his identity. Breaching with this first aesthetic perspective, the subject of entering through the Mirror in an imaginary world is present, for example, in Alice, by Lewis Carroll, and became common place in the present time, mainly in rock bands videoclips and sci-fi movies. It is interesting to observe that this ‘diving in unconsciousness' always seems to demarcate the limits of virtual reality and the daily life, to which the protagonist always returns in the end of the narrative. It is an escape of the ego to fantasy and its invariable return. In many cases, the theme of the mirror is confounded with the symbol of the Double, the Other. (8)

It is as contemplating yourself in the mirror:
The form and the reflex observe each other.
You are not the reflex.
But the reflex is you.

The reflex, however, is not only a shade: in some narratives, the double rebels against its matrix; in others, the Other releases itself from a parallel dimension through the Mirror. In every case we can observe the idea of dimensional door and in many times the idea of the reflected image, the double, as a vehicle of the I to imaginary trips, one `astral or dreaming body'. Even in the stories where the double rebels against the protagonist and acquires proper will, this relation exists, therefore the Other rebels against its original function that is to represent the form in the world of the reflexes, to duplicate the ego in an image that allows self-knowledge. However, the mirrors still keep a deeper meaning.

Among the Tibetans, the Wisdom of the Great Mirror teaches the supreme secret: that the world of the forms that is reflected there is no more than an aspect of the sunyata, of the vacuity. Patanjali (9) called this knowledge ‘moveless flow' and it is not rare to find similar stories from mystics of different traditions. To them, the Mirror is a symbol of secular transcendence, of a-historicity, of the overcoming of the continuity of the sensorial perception by the flashings of eternity.

We could, then, conclude that the myths of the Mirror symbolize the representation itself, not constituting or representing only one achetype, but the proper notion of 'collective unconcious' or basic unit of the symbolic experience. Representing representation itself, the mirrors are symbols of the symbolic reality, are, thus, paradigmatical image or complex device, whose ambivalence always expresses a paradox: absolute truth and temporary illusion, superficial beauty and profound wisdom, weapon and remedy, social alienation and psychic reintegration, etc...

But if we see in the Mirror this emblem of collective soul, or at least, if we find in it a symbol of the culture or the most abstract and paradigmatical metaphor of the language, we can compare its syntagmatic reflexes with the archetypes, therefore while the specular device emphasizes the difference, its specters always reaffirm the symbolic identity. On themselves, the reflexes are never ambivalent, they are only duplicated images. But the Mirror is not simply a duplicator structure because it contextualizes and even transforms the reality, once that brings the observer to a contemplation of the whole of the representation.

While the reflexes charm and deceive us as archetypical identities, the Mirror represents the conscience that some of these identities are partial and ephemeral. The Mirror is an invitation to eternity, as, by the way, is suggested by many legends that associate it with longevity and with keeping beauty by supernatural ways, out of which “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is certainly the most known.

Much more still could be said about the mirrors and its extensive symbology, however we had already congregated the elements necessary to the analysis of the Nago legend that we consider initially. Let's come back, then, to the myth of the Mirror of Oshum.

In the Universe of Nago Gods
The narrative starts saying that Obatalá, 'in a immemorial time', delegated the government of land and of the gods to Shango, bahaving as a 'oticius god' or uranian, that creates the world and hand over the administration to one of His children, minor gods. For a happy coincidence, this concept of 'God-Father' existing `beyond the sky' was established by Mircea Eliade (10) exactly studying the Yoruba culture, where Olorum go out and delivers all power to Obatalá.

The beginning of the narrative, therefore, express a duplication of the cosmological myth. It is a matter of `imemorial time', but not of `primordial time'. We could, making a coarse analogy between Greek and Nago mythologies, say that if Olorum corresponds to Uranus, Obatalá, although its eminently solar role in the analyzed legend, would be the African version of Chronos/Saturn, and even, Shango, of third divine generation to conquer the power, would correspond the Zeus/Jupiter.

By the way, as we slightly said, there are not few nor small common symbolic elements between Shango and the Greek and Roman king of gods, therefore both have sacred axes, launch lightennings from the top of their mountains, represent archetype of Justice and, over all, have multiple hierogamical love affairs with diverse goddesses that represent different aspects of the Nature, always feminine.

In our story, we have a fight, not between two women, but between two of these feminine aspects of the nature: Yansã, Queen of the Lightenning, the Wind and the Storm, mistress of the eguns and of the world of the deceased; and Oshum, the Mother of pure Water and mistress of the oracle of the Ifá. Oshum is also the goddess of love and beauty, a ‘Nago Aphrodite'.

The temper of the goddesses are very conflicting. Oshum is the example of the submissive and apparently docile woman, but, in the truth, it is seductive and dissimulated. Yansan, in contrast, incarnates the ideal of an independent and sincere woman, but of irascible genius. She is also the female orisha who has more love relationships with others gods, a characteristic that, however, does not make her less jealous and possessive. The lady of the water could do nothing against the force of the wind. Oshum could not use her customary weapons, seduction and lie, but in order to invoke the solar power of Obatalá (the self), she had to transcend its narcissistic and reflexive condition. The overcoming of this initial vanity of the mirror is what allows Oshum to use it as a real weapon and not as a 'instrument of psycho- analysis' as the hero Kadmo before the Medusa. E this is a key point of this legend: only with the aid of the element Fire, the mother of waters becomes also the lady of the Mirror and triunph over Yansan. And thus conquer definitively the preference of Shango.

One could also thing about the combat of the two goddesses as a fight between a militant feminist against a futile woman. But this way of putting things will not help to understand the outcome of the legend in other way then as a moralist warning that the more adjusted feminine behavior is the dissimulated submission and not freedom, autonomy and equality before manhood. However, this interpretation is mistaken.

Nago mythology is amoral and it is not worried about dictating moral models of behavior. In the truth, the victory of Oshum has two meanings for the Yorubas: it represents, first, on the point of view of agriculture, the preference for moderate rains attributed to Oshum as orisha of fertility then for storms symbolized by the marriage of Shango and Yansan. And, in the religious field, the victory of Oshum represents the superiority of the oracular activity symbolized by the mirror (collective unconscious) over the necromancy and the cult to the ancestors, represented for the telluric and intempestive aspect of the Queen of the lightennings.

But this eastern tendency of seeing a kind of 'Eve' in Oshum and a `Lilith' in Yansan has a reason. Let us leave this question for a moment and go back to the subject of the mirror, searching now to observe as the legend of Oshum is decisive for its understanding.

The Cave of Plato
Out of all alegories or metaphors involving the subject of the mirror, the one that has the higher epistemological significance is certainly the paradigmatical image of the Cave described by Plato (11):

Chained with their backs turned against the light in an underground jail, the prisoners can only see, out of the men, animals and figures that pass in the exterior, their projected shades in the back of the Cave. When one of the prisoners manages to get free and return to the exterior world, he is blinded by the Sun light and only in a while manages to adapt himself to the new reality. He notices, then, that the world in which he lived was unreal and unconscious, made of shades and reflexes of things. However, the prisoner would risk his life if, returning to the interior of the cave, he tryied to reveal to his old fellows the unreality of the world where they were. Probably, they would kill him.

In this brilliant image, Plato not only summarized his conception about reality and language, but also trasmited his personal experience, more precisely, its philosophical explanation for the tragic destination of his master, Socrates, forced by the Athenian authorities to drink poison due to his intransigent defense of a more objective vision of reality. And he was not the only one. Giordano Bruno generally heads a long list of martyrs of science and objective thought, victims of the ignorance of men enslaved by their subjective representations of the reality.
However, the development of the scientific thought was not, as the common sense makes us think, a gradual accumulation of information, but, in contrast, a series of methodological overturns, with successive model changes. The concept of paradigm itself - 'a joint of cognitive and espistemological structures' – came from a long methodological quarrel on the scientific revolutions (12).

Nowadays, however, we live in a moment where the scientific rationality and its objective vision of the universe had knocked out the majority of the ideological illusions of the subjective representations. We could say, using the image of Plato, that all men had freed of the cave and its mirror, and that now despise the phantom images that we were felt in captivity. In this new context, the shades had become symbols of unconscious - that 'rational men' deny, but that come back on their dreams and on the involuntary reflections of their imagination. Moved by self-knowledge, the men who currently decide to 'come back to the cave and to his old mirror' are considered wild or eccentric. It is no longer a matter of knowing the objectivity, but to observe the development of the Inter-subjective conscience, and understanding its language.
Then, for example, in the scientific paradigm of astronomy, we know that the Earth moves around the Sun; however, we keep depending symbolically on the subjective paradigm of astrology, that as language of the unconscious, conditions attitudes and behaviors. By the way, on the contrary of what the science historians think, the geocentric system does not mean that Ptolomeu believed that the Sun moved around the Earth, but actually that he placed the matter of the objective representation of the universe in a second plan ahead the idea of deciphering the destination through the specular observation of the stars.

The contemporary methodological task is to establish a third paradigm of representation that conciliates the scientific objectivity with the symbolic function of the language developed by the brain left hemisphere, that integrates our astronomical knowledge in a new astrological symbology, that relates the mirror in the bottom of the cave to the sun and the exterior world.
The modern ocultists that study the Hebrew Cabala (13) have a curious theory regarding God, Man and the Woman. For them, the fact of Man to be the image and similarity of God implies that both could never see each other face to face. But the woman, due to the fact that she have her neurological system inverted in relation to the dexterous masculine, could see God face to face. According with this rule, men in the magic rituals and religious ceremonies would have to always turn themselves back to the altar and facing the female participants - what in fact happens in many religions.

In this proposition, while Men is the image and similarity of God, the Woman is its symmetrical inverse, its mirror. Thus, Man can only see God through the woman and God needs her to give birth to His son. This position of ‘primordial reflex', of mediation between the Creator and the creature also has a universal character among the many goddesses that represent the great cosmic mother. Thus, if ‘the universe is a dream of Brahma', if ‘the world was created so that God would be reflected and get to know Himself', this mirror, a second cosmogonic moment in many mythologies is always an ‘feminine’ element’.

In this general and strictly symbolic direction it is that we can associate Oshum to Eve, an genuine feminine archetype, while Yansan, turning her back to the sun, would correspond to the archetype of the masculinized feminine. The central meaning of the narrative lies in the fact that Oshum, in the situation of imminent danger, trancended her condition of object-woman and associated with the Sun, she abandoned the traditional reflective use of her mirror to use it in a technological, rational, solar way; as a laser shotgun. The legend, then, represents the cognitive union between the brain hemispheres and the epistemological integration of the paradigms.
In the Mirror, we find the intersection of two forms of living and thinking the time: the gradual elapse of the events registered by the memory and the eternal present of the virtualized world of the ideas. Or, as Saint Augustin said, “the memory of the things of men and the memory of the things of God”.

We came to an end. Only a rememberance will remain to the ones who had not recognized themselves in this text, that no matter how hard they search to another double with which they could identify, will always find the feeling of incompletude so keen to the mirrors and to its instantaneous multiple reflexes - given the vastness and the complexity of this permanent subject.

Or perpetual?

NOTES:(1) 2Corínthians 3. l8 and 1Corínthianos l3, l2 - New Will, Bible. Paulineas editions. l988
(2) the Legend was rewrote from the version of the magazine “Planeta Especial - os Orixás. Ed. Três. l982
(3) SATZ, MARIO. O Dador Alegre. Ed. Ground. 1991.
(4) Ibdem.
(5) BALTRUSAITIS, JURGIS. El Espejo. Madrid: Miraguano. 1988. Cited by Satz, M. Ibdem.
(6) Ibdem
(7) E. MEYEROVITCH. Les Songes et leur interpretation chez le Persans, Paris, 1959.
(8) MAESTRO TOZAN. Hokyo Zan Mai, Samadhi del Ilusorio Treasure. Adiax, Barcelona. 1981.
(9) SATZ, MARIO. Ibdem.
(10) ELIADE, MIRCEA. Tratado Histórico das Religiões.
(11) Reescrito a partir da narrativa descrita no Timeu, Ed. Abril.
(12) KUNH, THOMAS. A Estrutura das Revoluções Científicas. Perspectiva
(13) FORTUNE, DION. A Cabala Mística. Ed. Pensamento. 1986.